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Not Strictly Literary: 6 Unexpected Subjects You Learn About in English

I’m currently in the last year of my English undergraduate degree. Well, kinda. I will probably have to do an extra semester to finish off my credits completely, but after next semester I will have finally finished all my English requirements.

Like many students, I kind of fell into my major. In my first year of full time studies I was seriously considering a degree in economics, or anthropology. Until I took a class in those subjects and quickly changed my mind. Once I started figuring out what kind of classes I actually liked, I started talking about doing my degree in Sociology, Political Science, or Environmental Ethics. Then, when I transferred to UVic, I decided I would take their writing program. Well I thought I was decided, until I was invited to join the English Honours program. That invitation totally went to my head and I dropped everything in order to pursue that (very structured) program.

Because of the number of required English classes (and because I blew many of my elective classes during first year), I’ve been taking pretty-well only English classes for the last two years. During that time, I began to ask myself if I had made the best choice. After all, English is really just reading books, isn’t it? Couldn’t I do that in my own time?

Ah, reading for fun/relaxation. Can’t wait until I get to do that again.

Now that I’m getting close to the end of my degree, I’m able to look back and be thankful for (almost) all of the English classes I needed to take. Yes, I still feel like there are a million others I wish I could have taken, but I think I would have felt that way regardless of my major. There are more fantastic courses out there than what you can possibly fit into one undergraduate degree.

Getting close to the end has also allowed me to reflect on the many English courses I have taken and realize just how broad a range of subjects they actually address. I’ve included a few examples below.

Linguistics

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One of the texts we are translating for our final project.

I’m currently finishing off a class on Middle English that I did not want to take. Not at all. I’m required to take a class in early English literature, so I chose this class after a friend recommended the professor. I was then pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fantastic class. It was also not at all what I was expecting.

English has evolved considerably since the 12th century, so it’s hardly surprising that trying to read Middle English texts is like reading an entirely different language.

At the beginning of the class our professor touched on many of the other languages that have influenced the formation of the English language. Then, as the class progressed, a lot of the work we did in class involved translating various works. The translation process required a basic understanding of how to parse language, something I had almost no experience with. Like many English speakers, sentence structure is something I know intuitively, not something I’ve intentionally learned. However, if my experience in Quebec this summer taught me anything, it’s that knowing how to break down language is key to learning a new one. So I’m hopeful that the linguistic skills I’ve been struggling to learn in this class will help me with my future language learning goals. Continue reading

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Evan and Gordon Talk Extra: Smoking and Society, Cont’d

EVAN: So our good friend Stew mentioned something that I should have when we first did this talk, and it has to do with second-hand smoking.

It’s something I should have mentioned because when I was in middle school a man with a hole in his throat showed up to talk to us; he’d had lung cancer and never smoked a day in his life, just been married to a woman who did often.

GORDON: I’m not going to deny the danger of second hand smoke. However, as the man you mentioned does demonstrate, for that to you happen you have to be exposed to second hand smoke in huge volumes for massive periods of time.

You can’t stand down wind of a smoker one sunny spring day and then BOOM- cancer. Besides, with the vicious regulation we have today, you can go pretty much anywhere and not have to deal with it; smokers can only really smoke in a few places. Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: Smoking and Society

GORDON: Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em, folks, this Wednesday Evan and I will be discussing our culture and smoking.

EVAN: This is largely due to us not putting up the poll until days after the last E&GT was posted, but what are you going to do.

GORDON: I will I take responsibility for this. But back to the topic at hand-

No one here is going to make the argument that smoking is good for you. But speaking as someone who occasionally enjoys a pipe or a cigar and the like, I can’t help but feel there’s a ridiculous amount of discrimination against smokers in our society.

Continue reading