1. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    As a budding writer interested in both, should I minor in Classics or English?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Christopher Snape., Oct 19, 2014.

    Next year I'm beginning my very first year at university. I will be doing a Bachelor of Arts, and I know for certain that Philosophy will be my major. I've sifted through the Philosophy courses online, and it's definitely the area I wish to dedicate the most course units to. But next I need to decide on my minor and leftover elective courses.

    Before I move on, please don't discourage me from studying a Bachelor of Arts for economic reasons:

    - Here in Australia there's a stark deficiency in science funding/R&D, so the traditional 'STEM = good, arts = poverty' dichotomy does not apply - or at least not on the same level.
    - Bachelor degrees are considerably cheaper here than in the states, costing $18,000 for three years.
    - I'm not hunting for a high-paying job in a specific area, but wish to develop employability skills that can be used in a variety of different areas, such as eloquent writing, argument and communication. In a dynamic economy where the demands are constantly changing, I think I will benefit from being a 'jack of all trades' so to speak. Truth be told I'm interested in many areas, so I want a versatile skill set first. Even if it means I work as a barista while I'm writing my novels, so be it.
    - Obviously, I'm interested in Arts' subject areas the most.

    Now that that's out of the way, I want to get to the main point.

    I'm interested in both Classical Studies and English, but I can only study one of them in-depth, relegating the other to a couple of elective classes. My main focus other than developing the aforementioned skills is inspiration for my creative writing. Philosophy is essential fodder for this, allowing me to consider a variety of different views and historical contexts that can only enrich my writing. My main series that I'm planning is also somewhat steeped in Greek mythology, so Classics would be helpful as well.

    It's not a frivolous phase I'm going through recently either: Since my childhood I've wanted to make a fictional series of some sort whether it be through writing or animation (the latter was all but abandoned after primary school). Every time I made progress however I would get bored and moved onto another topic. However, this one series has been planned and mused over for three and a half years without me wanting to change my tune, and I have a series of twelve books planned. I know for certain that this is the 'one': the serious undertaking and my dream.

    Some other points to consider:

    - I have studied English at high school for three years, so I may revisit old areas if I choose it for a whole minor. Don't get me wrong, I'm not arrogant: I know there's a lot I don't know. I'm just aware that this is entry-level English open to people from all walks of life, so most likely it'll go over a lot of basic concepts.
    - I feel English may be more marketable on a job application. It encompasses a wide variety of areas, whereas Classics seems to be rather niche in its content. I may be wrong however.
    - I have also sifted through the list of societies for my university of choice, and know that there is a club based around Classics but not one for English. Meaning that if I don't study Classics in-depth, I can still be exposed to Classical concepts outside of lectures.

    The reasoning listed seems to tip ever so slightly in the favour of English, but I'm still not sure. If you have any tidbits of advice as a university veteran I'll be happy to listen. Contrariwise, if you're in the same situation as I am, feel free to respond and we can ponder the uncertain future together!
     
  2. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    I think English would be the most beneficial for a writer. I don't know how much research into classics you'll need to do to write your book.

    I'm going to change from accounting into writing and English in Australia next year. Short of being an author, I can take a graduate diploma of education and teach English. I don't know whether you'll have that option with only a minor, though.
     
  3. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suggest English, too. You mentioned the worst-case scenario being a barista, why not a secretary? Learn to touch type fast, and you'll have marketable skills that will get your feet in many ground-levels:agreed:. Your boss will find you even more valuable if you can word difficult letters for him without batting an eyebrow.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Well, as someone who did during his BA degree Classics, English Literature, Creative Writing, Linguistics and Philosophy; am an English teacher, AND currently working on an MA in English Literature, I can tell you this: you cannot really be a good reviewer and critic, or hope to understand much poetry, without knowledge of the bible and the classics.

    Most of the references in Shakespeare are to Classics (particularly Ovid) and the bible, and much of Romantic poetry makes explicit reference to the Classics when it isn't actually appropriating Classical forms. The influence and importance of Classics in modern literature has dimmed, but it has far from gone away. Take a look at the average collection of Heaney, take a look at the prefaces of T.S. Eliot's two greatest poems, he quotes Dante. And if you try to read Dante you'll need to know something of Classics.

    However, a Classics course will typically also include things other than the literature. I'm not sure how it works else where in the world, but here in the UK you'll have to pick between being a Grecian Classicist and being a Latinist Classicist. Take a guess which type of Classicist looks at which civilization. You'll then be treated to studying the architecture of Greece and Rome, and the political institutions, every day life of the average Greek or Roman, not just the mythology but how the religion worked during the Classical era, and so on and so-forth. If you want to just study the literature then there will be a lot of fluff.

    That is not to say studying the culture of Ancient Greece and Rome cannot be helpful. I'm actually glad I know the different names of the parts of an Ancient Greek theater, and about how slaves lived in 5th century Athens as it's informed a surprising amount of my reading in philosophy and also when I travel to Greece and Italy (not often enough) I am able to actually see that the stage is the Orchestra. I can remember going to the ruin of a theater in Kos and it became very easy - and I have to say a lot of fun imagining something like The Oresteia preformed in the original style, though I know only a few snatches of Ancient Greek. When my parents went to the site of Pompeii they took many pictures, and looking at them I could almost see what Pompeii must have been like as a living city. It's a great tool to have.

    However, I would hazard to say such an in-depth knowledge of Classics isn't strictly necessary to everyone's tastes. While they are great stories, some of the best, if you are focused on just writing fiction I don't think you'll need to worry too much about Perry's findings of Balkan oral poetry, and the effect this had on Homeric studies. I don't think you'll really need to read a more unfamiliar poet from the Classical period like Theocritus, unless you are interested in the development of pastoral poetry that ended up with a modern poet like Seamus Heaney.

    I can't say you must do one or the other, just know that with Classics you'll be getting a lot more than just Homer and Virgil. If you don't do anything to do with Classics then I'll make a quick list of reading materials that will REALLY help you in your interests and greater reading. I'll also put it in approximate order:

    1) Greek Mythology, published by Aram. A great collection of the Greek gods and essential myths, also with plenty of pictures and illustrations of Greek art.
    2) The Iliad - I recommend the Robert Fagles' translation to start with. It's easy to read, fun to read, full of live, and you can get a copy cheaply these days. You might end up liking another translation more, but Fagles is a very good one all the same.
    3) The Odyssey - I also recommend the Fagles translation. Do not get the Simon Armitage translation because it's more trendy, as much as I like Simon Armitage, his 'translation' of The Odyssey is no such thing.
    4) Hesiod's Works and Days and Theogony. The odd thing is that Classicists seem to agree these are not well-written works, but they also give you the Greek creation myths, and are focused purely on the mythology, so read this, but I would almost say don't expect to enjoy it. Any translation will do.
    5) Aristotle - Poetics. This will be a necessity for reading the next two with an understanding of Greek ideas of Tragedy. Any translation will do.
    6) Sophocles's three Theban plays - Antigone, Oedipus Tyrannus, and Oedipus at Colonus. These are pretty much necessary. Fagles translation will do.
    7) Aeschylus's Oresteia - I can't help but include this one. It's one of my favorite pieces of writing of all time. An amazing, profound, tragic, and beautiful examination of death, tragedy, madness and mankind fighting gods and fate. Fagles' translation is a good one, as is Ted Hughs'.
    8) Virgil's Aeneid - I love this poem, and quote it in my signature. It is the national epic of the Roman Empire. I have the Fagles' translation, and I also use the original Latin too, so I don't know many of the English translations.
    9) Ovid's Metamorphosis - There is no getting around this one. You have to know it well, really. This is the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome in one very odd, very brilliant epic poem. I recommend the translation in the Penguin Classics, though I use the Oxford Classics translation.
    10) Classical Literary Criticism - both Penguin and Oxford have basically the same collection out, I use the Oxford edition (*NOTE* This also includes Aristotle's Poetics! *NOTE*) including Horace's Ars Poetica and Longinus's 'On the Sublime', some bits of Plato, and a few other classical essays on rhetoric and criticism, this collection is an absolute must if you want to understand how the ancients viewed their poetry.

    With those 10 things under your belt you'll be in a fantastic place to go on and explore other Classics, which I would recommend, especially Catullus and Horace, and also able to recognize Classical references in modern, contemporary fiction and poetry.

    You will also most likely need to know the bible too to be a really good place to criticize published fiction.
     
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  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Just an idea. Can you double major? It will probably require taking some extra classes, but if you plan carefully, it should be doable.

    Also, keep in mind that a lot of people change majors while in college. You may end up majoring in something completely different. I was initially going to major in some science field but ended up doing philosophy. So keep an open mind while in college.

    Finally, employers are going to be more concerned with your skill set rather than your actual major. The skill sets of Philosophy, English, and Classics students are pretty much the same, so I wouldn't worry about marketability. An employer is going to place more importance on your major over your minor anyway.

    Those are all my thoughts on this. For what it's worth, if I had to make that choice, I would pick English.
     
  6. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suppose that it could be different in Australia than the US, but over here, humanities majors are interchangeable to employers and minors are basically ignored. My advice would be do whichever you enjoy more.
     
  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    English. Better applications.
     
  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Classics.

    Your written English seems competent, and you say that doing it as a minor would revisit lots of old ground.

    As Lemex said, Classics would cover a lot of non-literary ground that, IMO, would be vital to your background knowledge of the series that you've got planned.

    Finally, other opinion seems to be that Philosophy, English and Classics are all much of a muchness for an employer, especially if it's not your major.
     
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  9. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    Hmm...enjoying the variety of opinions here, thank you all so much! Lemex, I will definitely keep track of that list you posted.

    I'm still struggling to make a final decision, so I'll posit from another angle. What if I abandoned Philosophy as my first major and chose English instead? Would Philosophy still be viable as a minor/second major, or should I abandon it in place of Classics? My English teacher suggested Classics to me if when I asked him, if that counts for anything.
     
  10. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    Well classics would be more relevant than philosophy for your particular book. Maybe consider what you intend to write after that.
     
  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    From the perspective of planning to write a "Greek" series of books, English and Classics seems like a no-brainer...but is your career plan to become a best-selling author? That's a bit like the career plan of being discovered on X-Factor. (OK, you've got more chance of being an author, but the general point is that it's a small and competitive market.)

    If you intend to write, and if you make it great, but something else has got to pay the bills...you've mentioned being a barista (and I've read of pop-stars waitressing to pay the bills before their big break) but is that really going to satisfy you while you slave away in your garret? Footballer John Richards of Wolves (you may have to Google him - it's a long time ago!) studied to be an accountant before he broke into the first team.
     
  12. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    I want to study my passions but bypass the traditional stigma of Arts' graduates being completely unemployable. From what research has taught me, English and Philosophy would be the best combination. Especially if I study courses such as "Workplace Writing" and "Beginning Logic" which should make my prospects more favourable.

    From what it's worth I'm also interested in economics, and have tussled with the idea of taking a double degree. If that were the case my triple major would most likely be Economics, English and Classics.
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    To be honest, your teacher would know more than most on this forum about how your school works and what would likely be best for you, but still give it a lot of thought. As for philosophy, I have found it has come hugely in handy the higher up the academic ladder I go. Especially Hegel and Sartre, who I find myself using pretty much every week of this MA degree now.

    It's a toughie you are facing, but Marx, Hegel and Sartre are the key philosophers these days.

    Classics have gave me great beauty in my life. I wouldn't talk about it so much if I didn't love it, but my path is my own. Whatever you do, make sure you can say the same.
     
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  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    From the perspective of an accountant, Economics is a much more relevant degree.
     
  15. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Christopher,

    Lemex is coming at this from the perspective of an academic, I'm coming at it from that of an accountant who's spent his life in business.

    From what I can see, I think that there is more scope for employment within business than academia (but I could be wrong) whereas my perception of the academic year is that there tend to be larger blocks of holiday, which could be more conducive to larger blocks of writing time.

    Just thinking out loud, really...
     
  16. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    This is right. I'm thinking about it from my own experiences, we all are. I'm not trying to tempt anyone down any road, all I can say is what you'll likely find if you do Classics and Philosophy, and what you can do to help yourself if you don't do either. :)
     
  17. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    I would say English would be good for flexibility in more than one area. (sucked at grammar in high school though...I can't identify things for the life of me yet I sound correct most of the time) But going into the Classics has more relevancy to what you are writing.

    Overall, I would say which one are you more devoted to spending time with, or which one do you think could help you in the job market more? You could probably minor in English, then study the classics on your own for your books.

    Note: this is the opinion of a student currently in college for an associate's in graphic design.
     
  18. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Economics sounds fun. Idk why the heck it keeps happening but whenever i play games involving economics I end up in the millions (oh why can't life be nice and make it real?). Then one of my teachers sent me into an Academics contest that i was supposed to study for a whole month beforehand. We were given these HUGE binders... took one look at it and was like "nope." (they were as thick as my hand is long)

    Took the test and got first place in economics. Second in literature. Third in art. Third overall. Still don't know how the heck i placed that well in economics i just went on instinct as usual.

    *shrug* if you like economics then i'd say go for it. it's fun. and you clearly have much more opportunity to get more majors than the average american where you live IMHO.
     
  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You should also be thinking about long-term goals. Are you thinking of getting an MA and/or PhD? Do you want to get a job after your BA? From my experience as a student in the US, if you want to get a good job after doing a BA in the humanities, you have to do a lot of networking. Otherwise you'll probably get a job you aren't happy with.
     
  20. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Networking has been important for all college graduates that I've talked to, regardless of major. I do agree that humanities majors have it tougher, though.

    If you're going for employability, then 100% go for finance or accounting over economics.
     

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