ENG112 Intro to Lit Reflective Essay:
Understanding the Guidelines and Objectives
I find the subject of English fascinating because it encompasses so much more than the language, how it is used, and how it has changed over the years. I am in awe of an author’s ability to use different genres and techniques in an effort to yield a recognizable standard while also setting themselves apart from the rest. Every subject imaginable has been written about, expanding the study of English to a world of history, drama, fantasy and beyond.
In choosing an English major, I’ve decided to focus my attention on learning the important aspects of literature and writing. The informal set of personal goals I set out to accomplish during my study includes learning to better express and present my ideas in written form, to tackle my fear of speaking in public, to increase my understanding and use of language, and to learn about the technical devices and personal insights of other authors. In reading the course objectives, as well as those of the English Department, I now see that there are many facets that I had not given serious consideration.
Within the course objectives for this particular class, engaging in the activities of “the scholar and critic of literature” is one that piques my interest. I am not fully aware of the scope spanned by that phrase. To be a scholar obviously means to study, but the word “critic” is where I stumble. What does a critic do? In what ways do they critique, and from where do they gain suitable knowledge to judge the work of an individual as it stands on its own or in comparison and/or contrast with another? Does being a critic simply mean to read carefully, “critically?” I look forward to learning more. (I would look it up myself but that would ruin the surprise.)
To practice analysis and interpretation is something I’ve become more familiar with through last semester’s study of British Literature. Closely reading the text and discussing it extensively in class was extremely helpful in developing my ideas for each written paper. Making an educated and interesting assumption regarding the smallest facet of a book came somewhat easier and, with growing interest, I strengthened my skills of pushing an original idea to the edge using textual evidence as support. The process has sharpened my ability to search out the historical and social back story, moving me well beyond the idea that a novel is merely an entertaining read.
Strengthening research skills, the third portion of this objective, is an area I fully recognize as one in need. I haven’t been officially required to do research for many years and my performance was never highly polished to being with. This is not to say that I don’t research news, events and interests every day in magazines, newspapers and online. The internet in particular is a jungle of sources and stories where good judgment is necessary to determine the veracity of the information and credibility of the source. The difference that exists between my informal scanning and my college experience is that I’d like to move beyond instinctually reacting and toward a better grasp of what is truly credible and helpful in supporting my ideas.
The objective I find most interesting for this class, and which I have just experienced first hand within the English Department, is the presence of marginalization in literary study and how to widen and diversify its scope. This semester I’m very excited to be taking an English course called “New Cultural Visibility in the Post-Civil War Era” which will address this very issue. We will be looking, in depth, at the problems that faced Native Americans, women and freed slaves searching for a new life after the war through the readings of Dee Brown’s novel, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, selections from the Norton Anthology’s American Woman Regionalists, and other expressed views outside the box of what my generation understood to be American history. History tends to be written and studied from the point of view of the conquerors in any particular conflict. This concept, while seemingly quite obvious, was first brought to my attention while reading The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I found it immeasurably insightful and exciting to discover American history written from the point of view of the underdog and I look forward to delving further.
Overall, the skill set offered by this course will benefit me regardless of which class or task I am required to embark upon next. Had I completed it prior jumping into higher level courses last semester, I know I would have experienced less of a struggle. I find comfort in knowing that those to come will be easier, if only because I have a healthier academic ability to draw from.
Let’s get to it!