The English Major at Work

by VanessaVaile

Timothy D. Robbins

Among the most potent archetypes in modern American culture is the English major cum budding novelist scriptwriter turned hipster barista. A guaranteed (if lazy) punchline, that a humanities degree ensures a middling career in the food service industry is a truism served up hottest by opportunistic politicians across the spectrum. (Here’s a right-wing governor, here’s a conservative presidential candidate, oh, and here’s the president of hope and change.) Despite the discipline’s best attempts to dispel the myth of the “impractical” English major, career marketability remains a constant source of anxiety within the walls of the academy itself.

barista-holding-coffee-cup-in-cafe-l

The most popular majors in U.S. colleges, big and small, remain those fields with ready professional tracks–Business, Psychology, Nursing, Education, Criminal Justice–and there’s good reason for it, even if, as Natalia Cecire tweeted recently, the rationale might sometimes be a case of bad faith among liberal arts practitioners (though not a necessarily malicious one, as any philosophy major could tell…

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