What Can You Do
With an English Major?
Whenever I run into someone I know and they ask about school and my
major, I am never surprised by the immediate question that follows
my “English major” response: “So, are you going to teach?” While
I’m never offended by the question, it always makes me feel as if
the walls around are closing in on me. Is teaching, while a very
respectable career, the only option for an English major? The
answer is an absolute relief to say the least. There are endless
possibilities for an English major. Monmouth College may be a
small, liberal arts school, but many MC English majors have gone on
to do some amazing things.
Dr. Marlo Belschner has been working hard to improve and update the
English Department website, and as part of these efforts, she
contacted English alumni from the last fifty-seven years to see
where their lives and MC diplomas had taken them. She received
several responses, and the span of careers is unbelievable. The
following are some direct excerpts that Dr. Belschner summarized
from these responses and has posted in the “Alumni News” section of
the Monmouth College Department of English website.
University of Illinois College of Law. He graduated from the
University of Illinois College of Law with a juris doctorate degree
in 1992. Since 1992 he has worked for the litigation firm of
Williams Montgomery & John in Chicago, Illinois, first as an
associate and then as a partner. His practice has concentrated on
the defense of commercial, product liability and complex insurance
law cases. He explains that he has put the research and writing
skills he learned as an English major to good use in the last
fifteen years. He has authored over three dozen articles that have
appeared in some of the top legal journals in the country, and he
has also written or co-written four course books used by the
Institute for Paralegal Education and the National Business
Institute as well as four chapters in books published by the
Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education and the Defense
Research Institute. Early this year he served as the general editor
of the Illinois Product Liability Practice book published by the
Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education. In 2006 he was
named one of the 40 Illinois Attorneys Under 40 to Watch by the Law
Bulletin Publishing Company. Since 2002 he has served on the
Monmouth College Board of Trustees. He states, "I am married to a
wonderful woman (who is also an attorney--at British Petroleum) and
have two great kids, ages 12 and 10."
Jeff Day '94
Shady Shakespeare Company (www.shadyshakes.org) after graduation and
slowly began to do more and more theater. He directed an original
script at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival and decided
at that time to pursue an advanced degree in what he states has
always been his deepest love. He has also taken advanced creative
writing classes at Stanford, focusing primarily on short fiction.
Jeff states, "Though I didn't take full advantage of my
opportunities while at Monmouth, I nonetheless felt extremely
prepared moving into the real world and the compliments I receive on
my writing I attribute to the acute and solid guidance I received
from Dr. Watson." He is currently enrolled in the MFA Directing
program at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL.
(Wilson) McCoy '67
secondary English for five years after graduation, including two for
the DOD (U.S. dependents) in Okinawa. After that, she had a career
in property / casualty insurance claims. When she retired, she was a
claim litigation specialist, a position she "loved and was able to
achieve partly because of my English language skills, in this case
the ability to communicate cogently, plainly and briefly(!) in an
industry not particularly known for that! But I could also read and
decipher complex policy language -- most likely a result of my
studies in Middle English literature." After her retirement, she has
organized her graduating high school class including coordinating
their 40th reunion and sending out a biannual newsletter.
has had other adventures: "In the 80's, my husband and I built a
schooner, on which we were going to sail away forever. We left in
'87, traveled / lived (on the boat) down the west coasts of Mexico
and Central America. Stopped in Panama in late '89 to work, make
some money to head to the South Pacific. I worked for the Public
Affairs office at the US Naval Station, writing award applications
and -- a lot more fun -- columns about 'doings' at the station for
the Tropic Times, the American language newspaper in 'the zone.' We
were there for 'Operation Just Cause,' the American action that took
out Noriega. That first night, Apache helicopters flew about only a
hundred feet above our masts -- without lights. The second day, the
Navy sent a truck to pick me up (we couldn't travel anywhere on our
own,) to spend several days / nights at the Station riding herd on
the media (a mind-boggling challenge).
her happiest (academic) memories at Monmouth: "The semester I spent
studying Renaissance literature and history / working at the
Newberry Library on the near north side in Chicago -- there were
about 12 of us there, from various schools in the conference.... It
was wonderful. And on the same par: Adele Kennedy's senior poetry
seminar (held in her home,) Jeremy McNamara's Shakespeare classes,
Rev Weeks' comparative religion class, and Tom Fernandez's speech
classes (I think I took every class he taught...)."
These are just three examples of
what Monmouth English majors have accomplished both in their
personal and professional lives, and there are numerous other
occupational paths for an English major to discover; the
possibilities are endless. Our alumni agree that reading and
writing have helped them get where they are today, and it will
surely assist them as their lives progress even further. What can
you do with an English major? If you’re a Monmouth College
graduate, the answer is simple: anything!
** While we’ll be highlighting alumni in every
issue of The Printing Press, check it out for yourself at
An Examination of the Newly
Literature Resource Center
The Literature Resource Center is an online database, containing
many entries on almost every author you can think of. It is a great
place to find a comprehensive biography along with articles taken
from various scholarly journals. This is the database’s greatest
You can find a
summative biography of an author including a look at many of the
author’s works. This would be very useful as pre-reading before you
dive into the body of work of an author. It is also a great place
to check when doing research for a paper. This website would allow
you to get a good idea of the major events of the author’s life and
how those events figure into his/her work. Reading these
biographies gives you insight into the works of an author that you
otherwise might not have.
main weakness of this database is the search engine. The default
search is by author. If you wanted to search by title you have to
change this by following a few links. It is not very hard to
change, but even after you change the search engine to search by
title it can sometimes be hard to find what you are looking for.
Trying to refine your search is especially tedious because the
search engine resets itself to search by author after every query.
This can become annoying quite quickly. Searching by author is much
easier, but then you have to sort through every piece of work
written about that author. The author search is easy to use; if you
were looking for information about William Blake for instance, you
can enter “Blake, William” or “William Blake” and get the same
results. The database also has a “key word search” but I have been
unable to get any searches to return results pertinent to my query.
So the “key word search” appears to be almost totally useless. If
you were doing a paper about the representation children in
Wordsworth, you wouldn’t be able to search for “children and
Wordsworth” and get articles discussing the topic.
The advanced search
button allows you many different search options. You can search and
combine search terms in ways that are not available under the
default searches the Literature Resource Center has to offer. This
option yields results about more specific searches. These results
are most often very useful and really do apply to the search you are
making. This database does not have the huge numbers of articles
that MLA-IB has to draw upon. So if you are searching for a topic
that is somewhat obscure you may have trouble finding useful
articles. However, if you are looking for articles about a subject
that has been explored fairly thoroughly you should be able to find
a few useful articles with this search. A good example would be the
use of language in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” This search is
most useful in that it can cut through all the critical work that
has been written about an author and get to only the works that
pertain to your topic.
final thing that is a neat feature of this database is a literature
timeline. Say you are reading Wordsworth’s “The Ruined Cottage” and
you are wondering why the husband in this poem got a large monetary
bonus when he enlisted in the military. Using the timeline you
could type in the date that this poem was written and see that
during that time the Napoleonic Wars were going on. This then
provides an answer to your question. However, without a specific
idea or date in mind searching the timeline can become extremely
tedious to look at since there are an almost overwhelming number of
entries on the time line. This is an interesting feature and can be
useful; however, I have found that it is somewhat unwieldy.
This database contains
fewer articles than MLA-IB or even JSTOR, but the articles it does
have are lengthy articles that provide you truly useful information
to use when writing a paper or just doing some pre-reading an
author. If you look at the journal articles for Blake, for
instance, many of them focus on a specific work, this can be very
good if your focus is on just one work (assuming that the work you
are focusing on is one of the works that has an article written
about it). However, if you were doing a broader study using many
different works you may only find articles pertaining to one or two
of the works you writing about. If you couldn’t tell from my
examples I am taking Romantic Literature right now….
You may be
thinking, “Why should I trust this guy, he is only a lowly English
major like me.” Well you are probably right, but I did go to a
professional and ask her for some input. Lauren is a librarian
here. She helps students day in and day out find articles that they
are looking for using databases like the Literature Resource
Center. She said that the Literature Resource Center is an
excellent database to find introductory information about an author
or a work. It is a good starting point to “get your feet wet,” as
Lauren put it, both in regards to using online databases and with
regards to a specific author or work.
If you are looking for
a summative overview of an author’s life and works and general
trends that run through an author’s works, then this is a great
place to look. There are a few good articles about more specific
topics, but this database does not have nearly as many entries to
browse through as some of the other databases available. The
timeline can be fun and useful in a limited capacity. However, if
you are just trying to find a good scholarly source for a paper you
may just want to stick to LION, JSTOR, and the good old MLA-IB.
What We Push Away
It seems that hate is everywhere. It's in the spiteful
gossip about a friend. It's in the self-justification to treat
someone differently. It's in the vengeful drive to severely
punish those who have committed wrong. It has been woven into
our culture of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream to be
rich, rich, RICH and leave no survivors during the journey
there. We cannot escape this desire in our consumerist,
capitalist economy where (presumably) only the high and mighty
survive and the low and feeble get pissed on (trickle-down
But maybe the idea that money = happiness isn't all it's
shaped up to be. Of course there have been many more
intellectual people before me who have stated this, but I now
feel like I truly understand and see its truth.
On that drive to gain a "secure" amount of wealth, you leave
behind other things--like family and honest communication. All
those people at the top who participate in malicious competitive
maneuvers to reach their high position of power lose sight of
the love that holds people together. And in their mad rush,
they've indirectly forced people into the same situation they
are in: working endless hours and spending time away from
family and friends; except the people in poverty must work those
long hours to provide basic necessities for their family, not to
provide three cars for their son.
People miraculously get enjoyment and fulfillment out of
such hate, but it's an empty and hollow fulfillment; one that we
seek to fill with selfish indulgence (food, sex, drugs, money).
In this desire to be an independent individual (and fulfilling
only my needs and my desires) we ignore our
surroundings such as family, the youth, and the elderly. When we
ignore these things, essentially we are ignoring ourselves
because there is no such thing as the "independent individual"
in human society. Everything we do has an effect on something
else, whether we like it or not. Ultimately, we all join
together to be one and when one part is ignored, like a part on
a body, we cannot function to our fullest potential.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that we need to avoid this
hate that, I believe, is creating such a depressive state of
being in our society. If striving to get more money pushes us
away from that which society and culture have always thrived
on--family, community, communication--then we must reconsider
our choices in alienating these essentials of life and these
essentials that spawn love.
It's a bit hard for me to talk about something that I'm so
passionate in expressing to a computer screen. I would really
appreciate feedback, because then I may be able to make my point
clearer or stronger.
And What We Must Pull Back
Pretty shitty, huh? Everything seems so desolate and devoid
of anything good in our society--when you only take in the bad.
Like everything imaginable in our world, one side must have its
opposite. To down, there is up. To negative, there is positive.
To neglect, there is nurture. To hate, there is love.
So, can something as simple as love be the answer? Could it
possibly be that easy? It seems hokey and unreal, yes, I know.
Yet, perhaps that perception has been created by the complicated
tendency we give everything in our lives. Maybe it's because
hypocrisy shrouds so much of what we do, that we further and
further complicate things to justify our words and actions.
Therefore, we cannot believe something simple could cure
anything. I suppose the cliché "digging our own grave" could be
Well, I guess we can look at history here. What famous
leaders or people do we know of that incorporated hate into
their cause? Adolf Hitler, Alexander the Great, Joseph McCarthy,
Malcolm X... (uhhh, I'm no history major, so I may need a little
help with this.)
And what famous leaders do we know of that incorporated love
into their cause? Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt,
Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Princess Di, Mother Teresa...
Given these names, who would you want to follow, or rather,
who would you want to be? The people who led with hate
ultimately fell because their hate was overpowered with logic,
understanding, and love. They failed to accomplish what they
sought out because their hate was destructive and eventually
people refused to tolerate it. In the case of people who led
with love that were dismissed by the public or fading from
popular view, this could be explained by an impatience felt in
people. They were not seeing immediate change (which war or
money may provide) and so, therefore, could not tolerate the
slow progress of what love-based movements result in. And, I
understand that it's hard to wait for changes when hate is
destroying you and the people around you. It's hard to address
something like that. Especially being a sophomore in college who
has never encountered deadly hostility. But, I hear these
incredibly intellectual people promoting peace and the value of
love and I think to myself, "It is possible."
I've gotten fed up with being negative. I feel that building
my attitude on love instead of hate is helping me see things
much more clearly, in understanding people better, and,
hopefully, helping others much more successfully. And, believe
me, I still have a long long long way to go with my life
but...it's a start in the right direction.
What do you think of the power of love? Is it legit or just
another distraction from a real solution?
Most Unfortunate Tragedy of Upright Iago
I am what you
might christen a high-minded man
As Othello as
my beloved beholder I hold this to be true.
Iago the most
noble, The Judas Kiss does not ship out from my lips.
My itty bitty
pecker does not pan out like the peg on Pinocchio.
But Oh! My
heart doth sometimes ache for more.
My mission in
life is to live with the control of a Mitra.
…I, Iago who is
misunderstood, I think you should know
stories I tell are intended to ride on the shell of Venus.
tales fail me and caused the death of the friend I call Cassio
Also that most
robust, respectable and rich man Roderigo
Love for your
Desdemona may come back to haunt you.
What is your
favorite book and why?
Missy Metz- To Kill a Mockingbird
"I like the style of the writing,
and it was intriguing."
Elizabeth Towns-Law- Pride and
"I can really relate to the
S. Haas- The Bell Jar
"I see the sickness in her (Sylvia
Plath), but at the same time,
I think every girl growing up has felt that overwhelmed."
Anne Stone- The Missing Piece
"Even though it's a children's poem,
it still carries a great message about being satisfied with what
Quotes on Reading
as much by writing as by reading."
- Lord Acton
"I've traveled the
world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I've been where no-one's been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books."
"When I look back, I am
so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If
I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in
the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when
I was young."
- Maya Angelou
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