Monday, August 6, 2007

In England, Literature Held in High Esteem

I am really enjoying my classes here; they're a bit smaller than my classes at USC. My Elizabethan poetry class has about 12 students, and my Shakespeare class has only 5! The Shakespeare one especially feels more like a discussion with the professor rather than being lectured by him -- which is quite neat, as he is brilliantly insightful and is considered one of the world's leading Shakespeare experts. We actually get off-topic a lot and talk about differences between English and American culture, which is very fascinating. Apparently in England, studying English literature is considered "top of the top" while studying sciences like Biology or Engineering is, according to my professor, "for people who are a bit thick." Certainly different from the United States, where some people roll their eyes at English majors, and writers have to defend themselves to nay-sayers who scoff that writing isn't a "real" profession. It was refreshing to hear that in other parts of the world, writers are held in high esteem!

Then again, this is the homeland of Harry Potter, where J.K. Rowling is the wealthiest woman second only to the Queen herself -- a writer who is also a full-fledged celebrity. However much you like (or dislike) the HP books and all their hype, I think it is incredibly inspiring to see the world get so excited about reading. I rode the train into London the weekend after the 7th book was released, and at least half of my fellow commuters had their noses buried in "Deathly Hallows." I can't remember another time when reading has been such a communal experience -- when you can go up to a stranger and strike up a conversation about a book that everyone is reading. I tip my hat to Ms. Rowling, with a congratulations and also with a thank you for reminding the world, in the face of video games and movies and computers, how much fun reading can be.