— Wait so, what degree do you do?
— Comparative Literature.
— What was that? English Literature?
— No no no no. Comparative Literature.
— Oh but still books and stuff, yeah?
— Well, no it’s a bit more than that. You compare and contrast different texts from different cultures, languages and continents in relation to a particular theme. So right now one of my modul—
— But, why? You won’t be able to get a job.
At first, I might be inclined to agree with you. See, I’m currently sat in a module that I picked by accident. Turns out the Modern World for scholars means eigteenth century not twenty first century. Who knew? Apparently, everyone but me.
I’m thinking, why am I here? Why am I paying 9 grand a year to be spat on by some old man on a Thursday morning at 9am? To learn about 10 topics, only to use 1 in my actual coursework, which I will have to teach myself in the space of 2 days?
I’ll tell you why:
Because all us students here, in this room, want the golden ticket – that degree thing you’re always telling me about – to enter some of the best places in the world:
High-Level Corporate Jobs.
Because I guess it’s better than sitting around for an hour listening to my professor talk about how reading Thomas Mann is like smoking 50 years’ worth of ‘dope’ and comparing Penelope from the Odyssey to Taylor Swift’s booty. At least I know I’ll be ‘doing something’,
But I actually do a lot, so let me put it in terms you’ll understand:
I am the scientist. The book is my laboratory. I spend almost every day there; my lab coat is a turtle-neck with round tortoise-shell glasses, (side note: not so sure why humanities students are so fond of turtles, maybe it’s because we must constantly protect ourselves from predators like the Tory government cutbacks). Each hypothesis must be proven in relation to a different theoretical approach, so I add different chemicals to each page to observe how the colours change – Marxist theory (turned the page a bit too red), Feminist theory (the page turned pink and then black), Post-Colonialist theory (the page blew up into a flame and crumbled away). I am the engineer, welding words together each time they try to bend themselves into a new-shape; I must build them up again on the page to construct a new story. But I do listen to the words talk of their past, I take their history and hear their origins: essay from the Latin exigaere, to compel or require, nap from proto-Germanic Norse English hnappa, and disaster from the Latin dis-astrum (ill star). I am the doctor, treating injured spines and broken page-corners as I search among the shelves. But with the Eastern languages, I take my stethoscope and trace over curvatures, trying to find their heart-beat, to revive them after century-long beatings. To them I prescribe surgery, to extract the cancer passed down by foreigners to their ancestors, to help them sing and grow.
— So you see, I am doing a lot with my degree. I’m being lots of different versions of me. But, what about you, why are you doing dentistry?
— Oh, yeah um, I don’t know.
To make a lot of money,