Books Every English Major Should Read

"This is one of the most gentle, most humane books about a father and son that you'll ever read. Oh yes, and there are postapocalypitc cannibals, too."

“This is one of the most gentle, most humane books about a father and son that you’ll ever read. Oh yes, and there are postapocalypitc cannibals, too.”

– Anonymous Faculty

 

"Love and death, eros and thanatos, are the systole and diastole of great literature, the living and dying impermanence of being human. The pain of facing the unguarded and raw truth of the heart leads to sundry bargains--ameliorating theologies and philosophies, manners and morals. But on rare occasion a novel simply tells the heart's deepest and bleakest truths. WH is among of the rarest of these, and the most wildly lovely."

“Love and death, eros and thanatos, are the systole and diastole of great literature, the living and dying impermanence of being human. The pain of facing the unguarded and raw truth of the heart leads to sundry bargains–ameliorating theologies and philosophies, manners and morals. But on rare occasion a novel simply tells the heart’s deepest and bleakest truths. WH is among of the rarest of these, and the most wildly lovely.”

– Anonymous Faculty

 

"Middlemarch, according to Virginia Woolf, is the 'only book in the English language for adults.' Every person who is married or hopes to be married or hopes to be a person in a society should read it." - John Bennion "Others, likely, are recommending this too. But it remains my favorite British novel: intelligent, humane, beautifully written, mature and deeply insightful in ways that even some other great novels are not. I hope that reading it would flip a switch for some of our English majors as they realize, 'Oh, this why we read great books!'" - Bruce Young "First time I read it, I disliked it. Second time, I disliked it. Third time, I was enthralled. Read it slowly--that's the trick." - Jamie Horrocks

“Middlemarch, according to Virginia Woolf, is the ‘only book in the English language for adults.’ Every person who is married or hopes to be married or hopes to be a person in a society should read it.”

– John Bennion

“Others, likely, are recommending [Middlemarch] too. But it remains my favorite British novel: intelligent, humane, beautifully written, mature and deeply insightful in ways that even some other great novels are not. I hope that reading it would flip a switch for some of our English majors as they realize, ‘Oh, this why we read great books!'”

– Bruce Young

“First time I read [Middlemarch], I disliked it. Second time, I disliked it. Third time, I was enthralled. Read it slowly–that’s the trick.”

– Jamie Horrocks

 

 

"Chaucer is very sensitive to the ethics of relations, particularly gendered relationships, and even as he satirizes pathological hierarchies, he imagines the ideal of loving reciprocity."

“Chaucer is very sensitive to the ethics of relations, particularly gendered relationships, and even as he satirizes pathological hierarchies, he imagines the ideal of loving reciprocity.”

– Anonymous Faculty

 

"The most important book in the history of English literature wasn't written in English. I'd recommend an adequate translation but there isn't one. So your only hope is to learn Latin, but that's a good thing. Nothing will pay an English major greater dividends than learning Latin. (Though if you want me to spell out the learning outcomes of learning Latin, then never mind.)" - John Talbot

“The most important book in the history of English literature wasn’t written in English. I’d recommend an adequate translation but there isn’t one. So your only hope is to learn Latin, but that’s a good thing. Nothing will pay an English major greater dividends than learning Latin. (Though if you want me to spell out the learning outcomes of learning Latin, then never mind.)”

– John Talbot

 

"Milton is instructing his audience in the critical analysis skills necessary for overcoming temptation, sin, and death--the truly heroic act, which is a strenuous intellectual exercise dependent upon good judgment/wisdom." - Nancy Christiansen

“Milton is instructing his audience in the critical analysis skills necessary for overcoming temptation, sin, and death–the truly heroic act, which is a strenuous intellectual exercise dependent upon good judgment/wisdom.”

– Nancy Christiansen

 
"Reading this book, English majors get all three of the major genres: McCullers wrote a play version and a novella version of The Member of the Wedding, and the novella's language is frequently rich enough to qualify as poetry. If an English major were to write an essay on The Member of the Wedding, they could also get into the fourth genre, nonfiction."

“Reading this book, English majors get all three of the major genres: McCullers wrote a play version and a novella version of The Member of the Wedding, and the novella’s language is frequently rich enough to qualify as poetry. If an English major were to write an essay on The Member of the Wedding, they could also get into the fourth genre, nonfiction.”

– Anonymous Faculty

 

"Donne's poems demand close attentiveness to the text through their syntactic complexity and argumentative convolution. They teach good reading skills, as the New Critics knew." - Kimberly Johnson

“Donne’s poems demand close attentiveness to the text through their syntactic complexity and argumentative convolution. They teach good reading skills, as the New Critics knew.”

– Kimberly Johnson

 

"If you haven't read it (and I mean REALLY read it), you're setting yourself up to miss what's happening in huge swathes of English literature." - Jason Kerr "He that can mark the power of Omnipotence, inscribed upon the heavens can also see God's own handwriting in the sacred volume; and he who reads it oftenest will like it best, and he who is acquainted with it, will know the hand wherever he can see it." - Joseph Smith Jr. (submitted by Paul Westover "For centuries, the Bible has been a touchstone for all other books produced in Western civilization--and not just in literary production. To be ignorant of the persons, events, and teachings of the Bible is to struggle when reading much of the literature written in English. You needn't struggle--just read the Bible. Read it for the wisdom and pleasures it yields not just for Sunday School. Read more than one translation, but do learn to appreciate the literary treasure we call the King James Bible. Take a course in the Bible as literature. Rejoice that we have this remarkable book and that its influence is felt in so much American and British literature." - Kristine Hansen

“If you haven’t read it (and I mean REALLY read it), you’re setting yourself up to miss what’s happening in huge swathes of English literature.”

– Jason Kerr

“He that can mark the power of Omnipotence, inscribed upon the heavens can also see God’s own handwriting in the sacred volume; and he who reads it oftenest will like it best, and he who is acquainted with it, will know the hand wherever he can see it.” – Joseph Smith Jr.

(submitted by Paul Westover)

“For centuries, the Bible has been a touchstone for all other books produced in Western civilization–and not just in literary production. To be ignorant of the persons, events, and teachings of the Bible is to struggle when reading much of the literature written in English. You needn’t struggle–just read the Bible. Read it for the wisdom and pleasures it yields not just for Sunday School. Read more than one translation, but do learn to appreciate the literary treasure we call the King James Bible. Take a course in the Bible as literature. Rejoice that we have this remarkable book and that its influence is felt in so much American and British literature.”

– Kristine Hansen