Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reading Rambo: Origins

You know how other book blogs actually, like, review books? Yeah...

 Gather round me, all ye, as I weave you a tale of academic misfortunes, misgivings and fantastical happiness. It is the tale of Alice's Journey Through the Land of Complit.

Complit, or, written out by unlazy people, Comparative Literature, is not only the best major possible, but it produces the best people possible (*coughs loudly*). The abbreviation used to be C Lit (thanks, University of Illinois), but someone finally decided that despite the stellar maturity and gravitas those at the U of I came to expect of the undergrads, maybe it would be better all around if they changed it to CWL (Comparative & World Literature). The 'World Lit' part was a giant cop-out, which I will explain in a moment. First, let me take you back! Back to the year 2003! A carefree time when I purchased my first iPod, listened to Christina Aguilera and still wore shirts primarily from Hot Topic.

I needed to pick a major, and it didn't really matter what it was. I've been studying with my voice teacher in Chicago since I was 14, and I was going to continue this during college, so I had decided not to major in opera. I wanted a major where I could take as many languages as possible, and maybe get some reading in, 'cause hey, why not?

I had not one, but TWO professors tell me complit was the path for me. One taught Victorian lit, and one taught Russian lit/cinema. They are both amazing and have the best names ever, but I shall not write them here because I still harbor vague fears left over from 1995 about what people can do with full names on the internet.

Here's the deal with complit, aside from it being awesome: It's way, way better than being an English major. I hate English majors. And yes, it's dangerous saying this on a book blog, as it's likely most of the bloggers I love were English majors, but seriously. It feels like a colossal waste of money. The primary reason I heard for wanting to be an English major? "Oh, I love to read." EHHHHH! WRONG. You love to read, you do it on the side. Almost no one's going to pay you for reading. Plus grad school (which you would probably need, as there's way too much competition even for English people with doctorates) usually makes you hate reading. So you've just destroyed your love. Good job.

If you have definite insights and a new way of thinking about a specific type of literature, by all means be an English major. If you love Jane Eyre and want to marry Mr. Darcy, omg stay away from the field. Please. Please please. *steps gingerly off soapbox*

Being a complit major means you pick two national literatures and read them in their original language. World lit is a cop-out because you don't have to read in the original language. LAME. Super, super-lame. You're in college for a reason. Pick up a new language at least, geeeeeeeeeeez.

I did 19th century British and French lit. I needed to be fluent in at least one other language for opera, and my high school Spanish isn't really that useful. So I learned French, read some Balzac, Hugo and Chateaubriand, and took classes with THE BEST PROFESSORS OF ALL TIME. I also took a bunch of English classes and met some extremely nice, smart English majors. But none of them are currently doing anything with their English degree. Because that's impossible.

"But Alice," I hear you say, possibly in an angry tone, "Your major is equally impractical." Ah, yes, but I knew that going in. I knew there is basically nothing one can do with a complit degree, and the only reason I could major in it was that I was going into the even less practical career of opera.

What did complit teach me?: That complit people are awesome; how to use the explication de texte; how to slow my reading down to the pace of a particularly meandering sort of snail (thus why I rarely review books on here, as I so rarely finish them); and how cross-cultural themes are super-cool.

Finding another complit major is like finding another member of a secret society, as so few are dumb enough to sacrifice their financial future and pick it as their major. There's hugging and general rejoicing, even though the likelihood you picked the same national literatures to study is marginal. You still made the same stupid decision, which makes it a stupidity bond. And those, my friends, are the strongest of all. (probably not)