A treatise On The literary pretense

    Sometimes, stereotypes are true.

    Before you lynch me, though, I’m not talking about any racial or ethnic ones – those are mostly nonsense, and I don’t have a death wish. Instead, I’m referring specifically to a group of people to which I have belonged ever since I’ve arrived at UCSD: literature majors.

    Now, I’m aware that my people already take a lot of flak from the “”real”” majors on campus, but let’s be serious. If I punched everyone in the face who asked me, “”What are you going to do with that?”” in a condescending voice, well … let’s just say that instead of writing this column right now, I’d probably be off punching someone in the face. Overall, though, the wide perception on campus of literature majors as pretentious, hippie-dippy, eccentric and/or arrogant is not completely inaccurate in a number of cases. Allow me to illustrate what I mean.

    Presenting: The Six People You’ll Meet in a UCSD Literature Class

    1. Mr./Ms. “”I’ve Read Everything Ever Written””

    While the title might seem self-explanatory, you might be surprised to learn how prevalent this particular type of student really is. Congratulations, guy in the front row! You’re very well-read. However, that is not an open invitation to raise your hand in lecture simply to name-drop and make comments like “”Well, I was reading Nietzsche the other day, and HE says…”” No, really. Just stop right there, please. At one point or another, I’d venture that everyone likes to revel in his own unique store of knowledge, but there’s a difference between doing so in the privacy of your own home and trying to laud it over 200 other students who are regarding you with contempt.

    2. Mr./Ms. “”I’m Deeper Than You””

    This student can typically be found in his natural habitat, an upper-division writing workshop. Try as they might, neither the other students nor the professor will “”get him,”” and that won’t stop him from rolling his eyes and sneering when they critique his abstract poetry. Since clearly no one else is sophisticated enough to understand his work, he will spend workshop time drawing profound doodles while popping in occasionally to provide gems like, “”That was bourgeois.””

    3. Mr./Ms. “”I’m Poorly Disguising My Socio-Political Agenda””

    Desperately jumping on every opportunity to discuss (sometimes) relevant social issues, this person will somehow manipulate the work being read to justify modern ideology that they’re just dying to tell you all about. Did you know that there are only two female characters in Beowulf because we live in a dictatorship of heteronormative, white male oppression? Or that Beowulf was written more than 1,000 years ago and has absolutely no connection to today’s world? Well, now you do. It’s interesting to note that this applies not only to students, but to professors as well – several in the literature department seem to think that holding students’ attention and holding students hostage intellectually are synonyms. The campus has myriad clubs and organizations where like-minded people will want to listen to their biased rants – why should the rest of us have to suffer?

    4. Mr./Ms. Loving Workshopper

    Typically one of the more pleasant people you’ll come across in a literature class, this person is distinctive in that (typically she) never has a bad thing to say about anyone. She’s so much in love with life, in fact, that she will confuse this love with good writing. After hearing her comment, you might be tempted to think “”Wow! Everyone’s an amazing writer!”” Alas, this is not the case. You’ll quickly come to realize that she’s simply tuning everyone out.

    5. Mr./Ms. Disgruntled Workshopper

    The antithesis of the loving workshopper, this person (typically a male) appears to disdain everything and everyone. Often, this student has realized that he doesn’t want to be a literature major anymore, but has taken too many classes to switch and still graduate on time. So, rather than participate actively in workshop, he’ll only gaze up from whatever emo blog he’s writing when the professor calls on him specifically. Usually, his responses will be curt and superficial, but the student being critiqued will be relieved simply because he doesn’t tell the class what he’s really thinking.

    6. Everyone Else

    Naturally, the five listed above are a rare breed of literature major. After all, if everyone was like this, wouldn’t UCSD have imploded by now?

    You might be asking “”Matt, if you can’t stand these people, why don’t you just change your major and get away from them all?”” The answer to that question is the complex love-hate relationship that defines being a UCSD literature student. It goes without saying that our peers who don’t apply to any of the above conditions make suffering the others bearable, even worthwhile. There’s a special connection that you make with the perfectly reasonable person who smiles at you after someone’s hilarious tangent-rant. Likewise, you’ll know who to turn to after class when you can’t contain your laughter at the professor’s newest social hot button. These are the people who keep me a literature major.

    That, and I’ve taken too many classes to change it and graduate on time.

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