Stuart Lee is my secret boyfriend

Okay, so not really. But he’s making me fall in love with Anglo-Saxon culture and Old English and Beowulf. I want to read Bede. I pulled out my college copy of The Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume 1 (which surveys from Bede and the Middle Ages through to Johnson, Pope, and Milton). I was perusing it, being sucked in by names like Heardred and Hrothmund, when I realized that to be an English major is a Brave Thing.

Hey. I hear that snicker.

No, I used to be a bit apologetic too. “Yeah, I’m an English major, but…” was certainly common. It may have been in response to the ubiquitous “What are you going to do with that?” reply. But I realized as I leafed through this book that I loved being an English major. I loved reading as a major. Reading good stuff. I’m an Anglophile, so English literature really did mean (for the most part) the Writings of English People. (My scope has broadened since then.) I was allowed to read and write and think as my job, and I adored it and did not want to leave.

When I say that it was a Brave Thing, it means that I continued to do what I loved to do even though it wasn’t what others thought I should do. It wasn’t practical, or professional, or sexy, or lucrative. It was reading, and writing about it. The way words can completely absorb you, can wash over like rain on the hood of a car, flooding in the way that single drops connect and sheet until you can’t see it as rain but as a bath of sky leaves me weak when leaving the pages. I have to regain footing. And then I do, and then I go back in. I bless and honor each author each time I spend time in their books. The editor of the Norton Anthology writes that the poet writing Beowulf “leaves us with the impression that Beowulf’s chief reward is pagan immortality; the memory in the minds of later generations of a hero’s heroic actions” (29). Even though we don’t know his name (and feminist though I am, I know that odds are the author of this poem, written 8th century or so, was a man), he is immortalized every time one of us reads his poem. We may be galvanized, or bored, but we are thinking of him, 1200 years later. That’s immortality, or something close to.

So, English major–check.  Let’s see what other brave things I can do.

p.s. We made donuts today. Mmm. Happy Hanukkah!


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