As an English major I’ve heard a lot of the same things. I’ve been told that I must read a lot, that the person talking to me could never do what English majors do, that they can’t believe how I could enjoy reading everything that my classes have assigned. I usually just smile and nod at these assumptions, but here’s the truth: I don’t read everything assigned to me.
Sure, some of it comes from workload. When you’re taking four English classes a semester there’s no way you can get through the 20 novels assigned to you (an actual number I had at one point) and the endless amount of short stories your survey of British and American literature wants you to get through. You cut corners. You skip a poem or too. You speed read through The Martian and then through The Island and Ecotopia because who has the time? But honestly most of it comes from a very simple reason.
I don’t want to fucking read it.
I hate a lot of what I get assigned. I think Naked Lunch was trash (not an original opinion I know), I sonic sped read The Martian and didn’t even try on the other two I mentioned above. I never read short stories that are assigned to me, or poems, and barley look at academic essays, becuase while I love being an English major, reading, and discussing literature I cannot bring myself to care about a lot of what my classes cover. Maybe this makes me a bad student. Maybe this makes me a terrible English major. But honestly, I stopped caring about that too. It is a well known fact in English departments that no one reads a story the same way. Everyone brings their own baggage to a text and takes something different away from it. It’s an effective cycle that keeps discussion alive. I think there is a third part to this concept that gets ignored; not everyone considers what is considered “literature” as literature.
So that’s the not so dirty secret. I don’t read everything that is assigned to me. Not only that, but I haven’t read half of what people would have expected me to read (looking at The Great Gatsby, East of Eden, Beloved, and anything by a Russian author ever). But here’s the thing, my life isn’t any worse for this. I’m sure they’re good novels, but not reading them isn’t going to be the end of my whole existence. I also refuse to sacrifice all the good books I do read just to hold to some kind of classic standard. So yeah, maybe that makes me a lazy English major. But it sure as hell makes me a happy one.