So nowadays any article concerning graduates I avoid. Like the plague. Because let’s be honest, it scares the shit out of me. Rates of unemployment are rising, people that have firsts from top notch universities can’t even find a a job working for Waitrose. They’re losing out to some sixth former looking for a Saturday job (I don’t think I can hate said sixth former too much, I was there once.) Even a CV steroid pumped with “team player”, “hard worker”, “intuitive” won’t cut it these days. So I found myself in a bit of a panic.
The most recent lecture themes have included, Derrida (who argues that there is no universal meaning), Dada-ism (a movement that strips away existing traditions and creates something that means. . .well nothing really) and this week I embarked on the poetry of Alan Ginsberg, a beat poet whose poetry readings silence the mind and envelop you within a world of beats and chaos. It seems as soon as a movement is established there is another one, saying that previous ideologies missed the point; they were doing it all wrong. Everything seems to unravel in front of your eyes the moment you look straight at it. Where it seems that nothing is solid (or maybe the word I’m looking for is sacred), I found myself asking why on earth am I doing this degree? Now I’m sure these lectures intended to broaden the mind, and yes, if any lecturer does ever read this you did your job and yet it was unfortunately mistimed with one of those moments of paranoia and self-doubt, and I found myself asking the scariest question: what is the point? (Dadaism has a lot to answer for said break down)
When I decided to take English Literature I was surrounded by friends who were about to embark on degrees such as Physics, Computer Science, Biochemical something or other. Some, whose clearly developed right sided brain could not possibly comprehend how I could take a degree where there was no straight answer. 1+1 no longer equated to something as simple as 2, it could equal 5 or 9 or zebra as long as there was evidence in your argument (and of course, that it was fully developed and written with a solid introduction outlining your main arguement). Perhaps it frustrated them that there was no grand answer and yet, that is not to say there is nothing to be found.
I am writing this to not reduce the importance of other people’s degrees, or to brag/bitch about how it has become the love/bain of my life. It’s instead a reminder to myself, or to anyone out there who sat down and at the end of a lecture and thought. . . maybe my parents were right (I come from a strict asian background and if we’re following stereotype) then I should have done something more practical, such as accounting or medicine. In this economic climate could you really blame our parents for worrying as to what we’re going to do with our lives? My family is old school (as in they still use the word courting) and so when I answered (in their eyes, rather defiantly) that I would be studying English Literature, their immediate response was “So you’re going to be a teacher then?”. This was nothing compared to my cousin who responded with “So you’re going to read books for three years?. When times get tough the arts are the first ones to feel the pinch. In this day and age English Literature is an established degree and yet, doesn’t it seem silly to philosophise over whether or not Hamlet truly was mad, when the world is in such a chaotic state.
Yet it is important. (If only one could make the world believe that statement at face value.) Human nature demands us to create, to be creative. Something outside of ourselves, whether it be life, art, or simply a diary entry; we’re always looking for a way to make sure something stays after we are gone. This idea goes through from ‘Ode to Grecian Urn’ all the way through to why Dawkins believes we have a compassionate nature to our children. Literature is part of this, it is the written down ideas of great men and women with whom one can learn, use them and argue against. That is the point.
Nothing is for certain, yet isn’t that wonderful? Anyone that’s been through adolescence will understand the point of defiance.
Literature is lovable. It’s good for the soul. Sometimes a good book is all you need, and that in itself is the reminder.