January 30th, 2002


english crisis, part two

Anyone who has been reading this journal for a couple of months, or who has talked to me within that time, is probably aware that last semester I went through an English-major-related crisis and decided I probably didn't want to major in English anymore. Now I don't even know if I want to be a student of English anymore. I'm thinking of dropping my English class. I've only signed up for one English class; my other four classes are history (yes, that is a lot of reading!).

Let me start this again. It may seem hasty to be thinking about dropping a class when I've only been to lecture three times and discussion once, but it doesn't feel to me like I'm rushing into things. At least I hope I'm not. I'm waiting until tomorrow or Friday to drop the class because I want to make sure I'm not just sleep-deprived and lazy (which is certainly true, but I'm not sure it's related to my desire to drop English). The professor is great and the books are very interesting (even if I drop, I would like to read the books and go to lecture--though naturally that may not happen), but I just really hate the idea of participating in analytic discussions and writing more English papers. I thought about taking the class pass/no pass, but even then I'd still have to do the work, so what would I be avoiding? I don't know what it is about literary criticism, but I just can't get interested. I have a really hard time even thinking about the books we read in English classes. I either like them or I don't like them, and that's about it. I don't know if there's something I'm doing wrong or whether English is just not my thing. It's not that I just don't think when I'm reading texts, because I do, when they're for my history classes. I think a lot about my history texts, I write in the margins, I 'engage' myself in the reading and I have no problem talking in discussion. In fact sometimes I'm afraid I talk too much in history discussions.

I like history. I like the people I meet through history classes, professors and students alike. I like what we read because I find it interesting and thought-provoking. I can envision myself teaching history or studying it or writing about it. English is quite another story. Literature, I like. It's interesting and thought-provoking, generally speaking. Some of my closest friends, Berkeley and non-Berkeley, are English majors, so I can't say I don't like English majors either (although I find many of them completely neurotic, including some of my friends). I don't know about writing about literature, though. I hated it junior and senior year of high school, I hated it freshman year at Berkeley, and I still hate it. I just can't think of anything to say in an essay. I don't know why it's so difficult for English but so fun for history. I'm sure it's not merely psychological.

At any rate, I was okay with this particular English class until I got to discussion section last Friday. My GSI seemed particularly neurotic (not necessarily a bad thing, but an intimidating characteristic) and she laid out a series of tough expectations. That was already scary because I wanted to take it easy in this class and just see if I could give English another chance. This didn't seem like a good class in which to do that. Also, she set up a message board for us online where we were required to post our thoughts on the novel we are presently reading. (For those of you who are not English majors, 'thoughts on the text' means more than just 'I liked it.') That was an ominous thought which became even more frightening when people actually started posting. Not only did people sound way too polished and literary to be on online message boards (I know, that's not really relevant, but it's annoying), but I also just wasn't caring or thinking about what they were saying. I've noticed this in discussion sections. In English sections I sit there and sort of zone out while other people talk, in history sections I listen to what other people say because it's interesting.

Anyway, I'm not sure how useful it is to keep comparing English and history. All I know is I get really uncomfortable about the idea of participating in an English class and I start to really dread the idea. So I think I'm going to drop this class.

On a different note, I ran into Hung-Tzu today right before lunch. So I invited her to come to lunch with Erik and me. We went to lunch at Japanese Snacks in the food court on Durant, where the people who work there were really nice to us (one lady brought us soup for absolutely no reason! we speculate she is intrigued by the constant stream of women Erik brings to the restaurant ;) long story, but not as scandalous as it sounds.). So Hung-Tzu and some friends want to start an intramural soccer team, so she asked if we'd be interested. At the moment I was very full and had to go to the bathroom pretty badly, so the idea of running around for ninety minutes didn't sound too good. In fact I'm still full, so it still doesn't sound good. But Erik, who always perks up at anything soccer, was very happy and very interested. So I think I'll go along. I might as well get some exercise, and soccer is fun. That is, providing the practice times turn out to be compatible with my other activities. But it'll all work out, I'm sure.