Making a Case for the Multi-Major

by Austin Shepard Woodruff
contributor to the Underground

Pick a major, follow the path set out ahead, and slowly tick off the requirements class by class. For most students, one major is more than enough to fill up the weeks of the quarter, and especially for programs that demand a student’s presence, attention, energy, and time outside the classroom, this single-major style of learning becomes a central focus in a student’s life. This style is often layered with repetition of a certain skill set. Upon graduation, students may have tendencies to categorize knowledge in particular ways rooted in place for the rest of their learning processes. ‘One major, one minor’ becomes a degree whose specificity marks its limitations. But this is only one way to approach an education. I believe that learning in formal educational settings is altogether more effective, more productive, and more powerful when students pursue more than one field of study.

I study literature and philosophy here at DePaul University and can vouch for the success of applying skills learned in literature classes to demands in philosophy classes. In the Humanities, especially, the skills one develops in a certain field are applicable to other fields. As a literature major, I learn to critically analyze literary texts and the construction of cultural identities; as a philosophy major I learn to engage with philosophical texts to grasp the frameworks of cultural foundations. Language and truth are as intertwined as literature and philosophy. One is the organ that functions; the other is the expression, the representation, of that function. Philosophy and literature affect one another—indeed they perpetuate one another, and frequently their respective grammars overlap.

The literature major develops a skill set that prepares a student for critical analysis; applying this faculty to other areas of learning becomes immediate and instinctual. The literature program, and other programs in the English Department, offers space for students to navigate their thought processes and explain themselves clearly in relation to specific cultural contexts. These are necessary talents for further studies and for success beyond the undergraduate degree. To study “literature” without “philosophy” may thwart the realization of potentially harmonious paths to knowledge. This is true of not only the pairing of philosophy and literature, but of all multi-majors. The multi-major shapes meaning and understanding in ways that create opportunity for further learning. Intersecting majors create a dynamic learning experience that goes beyond the usual narrow vision for opportunity in education.

Real learning happens in surpassing boundaries and overcoming limits, be they at the edge of epistemological frameworks or embedded in the very structure of belief. Ask of your discipline: what holds you? What do you hold? Ask yourself: how should we learn? How should I learn? While it is valuable to appreciate institutional strategies for organization of knowledge, so too is the questioning and reinvention of those strategies for every student.  Does ‘one major, one minor’ leave room for growth? Does it instill a sense of wonder for the multiplicity of the world? Does it inspire a thirst for meaning that defies enclosure? Readers should meditate on their choice of study carefully, especially at the beginning of every quarter and every school year. We should make a point to consider how we are learning and what we can do differently to appreciate the many changing modes of discovery in our world. Pursuing more than one major may be the first step.

Write for the Underground!

hands-coffee-cup-appleCalling all DePaul English majors! Are you looking for more ways to get your writing out there? Do you enjoy attending literary events?

The Underground is looking for student contributors to write short, informal articles for the website. Gain writing experience, build your resume, and get involved in the literary community at DePaul and beyond.

The pieces would be 1,200 words or less. We are open to interviews, event recaps, and any noteworthy topics in keeping with the Underground’s mission statement.

If you are interested in writing for the Underground, email Underground editor Anne Terashima at aterashi@depaul.edu. Anne will then email you each Monday with a list of possible article topics. If you see one that interests you, let her know by 10 a.m. Tuesday. Turnaround time is 1-3 days, depending on the topic.

Here is a sample of what next Monday’s topics email will include:

If you have an idea that is not listed, please pitch it to aterashi@depaul.edu.

We look forward to working with you!

Call for papers: 25th Annual ELL Conference

Have you written a paper you’re especially excited about? Whether it’s a research paper or creative writing, be sure to submit it to the University of St. Francis’ 25th annual English Language and Literatures Conference no later than September 15 (that’s this Thursday!).

The ELL Conference is an opportunity for students across the country to present papers, field questions, and further hone their argumentative thinking skills in a challenging but supportive environment. A special bonus for participating students is that a conference presentation looks especially good on resumes and graduate school applications.

Recent grads, current undergrads, and high school students taking Advanced Placement courses are invited to submit completed papers (approx. 2,000-3,000 words or 1,500-2,000 words for AP and introductory students) to ell@stfrancis.edu no later than Sept. 15, 2016, in any of the following categories:

  • English literatures
  • Literatures in translation
  • Comparative literature
  • Critical theory
  • Film
  • Creative writing
  • Teaching English
  • Special sessions for introductory and AP English students

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DePaul Professor Mark Turcotte Presents a Poetry Reading with Students at DPAM March 1st

DPU Prof and poet Mark Turcotte presents a poetry reading featuring a group of his students at the DePaul Art Museum on Tuesday, March 1st at 7pm. Come out and hear what your fellow students have been working on and support the creative community here at DePaul!

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DePaul English Undergrad Alex Nates-Perez Featured in DePaul Magazine

Today in the DePaul Magazine, Junior Alex Nates-Perez, an English major and environmental science minor, shares five easy steps you can take to help keep our planet healthy in the years to come.

It’s a great article, and we’re proud to have Alex represent our department so well!

Check out the article, and comment with your thoughts!

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STUDENT NEWS: English Major Emily Parenti Reading at 16th Annual Citywide Undergraduate Poetry Festival, Thursday April 2

Hello Undergrounders!  We have exciting news! English major Emily Parenti has been selected to read at the 16th Annual Citywide Undergraduate Poetry Festival. Be sure to congratulate Emily, and see her read Thursday April 2 at 5:30 at Columbia College. More info here.

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DePaul Undergraduate Student Reading Series Fiction Reading this Thursday, March 5th

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Please join the Department of English and the John T. Richardson Library for the first in an annual series of Undergraduate Readings.

The Fiction Reading will feature readings by Brian Burke, Isabelle Johnson, Michael Light, and Hannah Puckorious on Thursday, March 5th, 2015 at 6pm in Richardson 115.

We hope to see you there!