Thursday, December 29, 2016

From Confusion to Clarity: One Major's Journey Through a Busy Semester

By Madison White

When I came to college back in the autumn of 2014, I knew that I had wanted to double major in Creative Writing and English. I knew that double majoring in these two fields would mean a lot of writing classes and a lot of English classes; that just made sense. What I did not anticipate was the confusion I experienced in my first semester of junior year here at Ashland University. This confusion, though, was bittersweet; my intellectual growth challenged me in many ways. In order to understand each course and what the professor is lecturing about, one has to pay a greater amount of attention to the lectures and thus increase understanding of that class and its content.

I had graduated high school with possibly more than nineteen English classes under my belt. I was not new to taking multiple English classes in one semester and honestly did not think anything of it while scheduling my classes each year. In high school, my English classes were vastly different from one another so there was no room for confusion. In one semester I was taking Brit Lit, American Lit, Intermediate Composition, and Yearbook Journalism. Those are all different topics in the English spectrum, but this past semester, I was challenged to the core trying to separate each class and understand the different themes of each.

Deciding it was a good idea to sign up for five English classes at the same time with a core class thrown in, I chose to take American Literature I and Eighteenth-Century Literature among others. One class dealt with American literature (as seen by the title of the course) and the other class dealt with British literature. Since I had basically done the same thing in high school, I did not see the problem. But high school and college are not the same, so I definitely saw the problem that arose by taking both at the same time: I was confusing the readings.

American Lit dealt with the novel Hope Leslie by Catharine Maria Sedgwick, which is set in the seventeenth century, though written in the nineteenth century (1827 to be exact). And in Eighteenth-Century Literature, we were reading Evelina by Frances Burney. Though a century apart, these two novels have similarities that are a little too close, which caused me to honestly forget which plot line I was reading. Though I was holding Evelina in my hands, I started to read it with the plot line of Hope Leslie in my head. This caused some difficulties when trying to remember what was happening in each book. However, this raised the idea that there were certain plot lines that American novelists gained from British novelists and themes that each wanted to explore. Both novels deal with women and coming into the world. While Evelina depicts a seventeen-year-old woman’s coming of age, Hope Leslie also deals with a young woman who acts as her own person. Hope Leslie shows that being a strong woman is possible. The ideas in both these time periods shows the condition of women back then and how far women have come. Relationships are explored in each novel, and both family and
romantic relationships are included. It seems though that family plays an important part in the lives of those back then and the ideas of what it meant to ‘be of age’. Because two of my classes were dealing with these ideas, it stressed that the idea of family is important as well as being able to speak and think for oneself.

I say all this to bring light on the fact that when scheduling classes, you may want to make sure you have a variation in what you’re learning in each class—otherwise, there may be confusion within the course and what knowledge you’re gaining from each class. Of course, if you have to take five or more English classes in one semester, the heavy workload may encourage you to cultivate a more sophisticated approach to the readings, thus increasing your intellectual growth and capacity.

Throughout this past semester, I’ve read different themes and messages from different eras and centuries and have, quite honestly, learned a lot more than I thought was possible, and made connections with contemporary literature to today’s world. So though it was a heavy workload, I didn’t mind taking five English classes at once. As long as the confusion is sorted out, it’s doable. And English is a most exciting subject to learn, don’t you agree?