I have had to ask myself that question several times over the years, starting from when I first declared it as my major to just now, moments after having put the finishing touches on my oeuvre to this point, an essay concerning the tragicomic nature of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. While the answer has occasionally oscillated in black moments of self-doubt or writer’s block, I can affirm with great certainty that yes, Virginia—there is indeed a future in English Studies.
“Like what?” a friend of mine asked me once. “I thought you didn’t want to teach because you hate kids.”
“Well, first—I don’t hate kids; I hate parents—and just because I major in English does not mean that I have to teach. I could be a dictionary editor; you know how I love new words but hate portmanteaus like ‘chillax.’ And don’t you agree it’s high time we officially recognized google as a verb?” I inquired, earnestly.
“A dictionary editor? That seems pretty dry to me.”
“Well, discussing last quarter’s ‘numbers’ seems pretty dry to me, and I can only bring myself to care as much I keep getting a paycheck.” I retorted.
As mentioned in my previous essay, The Universality and Intimacy of Writing and English Studies, language can be at once private and public. Sewn together by syntax, individual words can carry vastly different meanings, depending on what their neighbors are saying. To uncover those latent meanings and apply them to myself, the author, or the world at large; to sleuth my way through sentences: this is my passion. Sadly, pursuit of one’s passions, though noble, is not necessarily a lucrative enterprise. That being the case, I will have to contextualize the pursuit into ways meaningful to people more than just myself. The skill set an English major attains over the course of his or her academic career does dovetail fairly well into the “Real World”: strong communicative skills, keen attention to detail, and a sharp sense for the aesthetic are assets in almost any profession.
This should mean the future is wide open. But with the economy in its current state, I will have to play to my strengths other than literary analysis, such as technical writing, practical analysis, and organization. To wit, I have started investigating opportunities in the blog-writing sector. My love of technology, knowledge of online revenue streams such as SEO, PPC, and affiliate marketing, and the fact that most print media has grown obsolete, makes such a position an ideal fit for me. As much as I hate to say it, we are entering the book-less future of Fahrenheit 451 (albeit with much happier, brighter circumstances).
Between growing environmental concerns and ever-improving ways of disseminating information online, newspaper, magazine, and book publishing houses are becoming dying, unprofitable outfits. This necessarily means that the information they do publish becomes what’s commercially viable instead of what’s aesthetically pleasing. Granted, it’s a ultimately a subjective judgment, but personally, I think the world could stand fewer Dan Browns and Clive Cusslers. I know it’s elitism, and I’m OK with that.
What’s an artist to do?
Thanks to the Internet, an artist can create, compile, and constantly publish—for free. While one does need to be wary of online copyright laws, he or she should embrace the ability to show the world his or her ability to conjure something beautiful, useful, or both without having to fall down the rabbit hole that is the publishing business. What’s more is the speed at which you can publish. No sooner than when I click “PUBLISH POST” will this post—fraught with my words, my thoughts, and my ideas—be available everywhere in the world. Instant ubiquity—I like the sound of that.
In terms of immediate plans, I have to finish (read: start) a research essay about Seamus Heaney’s poetry. Then, I’ll probably get a sandwich and maybe an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Georgia State. Oh yeah—on Thursday, I have to get my emissions inspected in the morning, but I’m free after that.