I did two English lit minors, one in undergrad and one in grad school. I hated them both because the way English literature is taught is very different from the way we teach in Hispanic Studies. Every professor had a very convoluted, incomprehensible theory he or she used to connect all 15 or so novels we read in a semester.
One professor, for instance, had this theory that Virginia Woolf wrote so much about the body that her novels themselves were a physical, human body. I’ve often been accused of having a pedestrian way of thinking that’s incapable of processing abstract ideas. It’s probably true because I just don’t get it. How are novels a body? What does that mean? And most importantly, who cares? You can say it about anything. Spoons are a body. Pork chops are a body. Obligatory diversity seminars are infrastructure.
Another professor advanced this theory that Christians in the US were preparing a nuclear apocalypse. The novels we read had nothing in them about either Christians or nuclear weapons. I strained every ounce of intellect I had and still didn’t get it.
So I switched to the literature of the subcontinent, and it was blissful. No weird theories, no incomprehensible snark. The books were taught the way we teach in Hispanic Studies. What was happening in the country when the novel was written? Why was it happening? How is it reflected in the novel? Which parts speak to you and why? Which characters are memorable? Books were books, not body parts or hints at a nuclear holocaust. Professors would come to class and talk about their favorite books and why they loved them.
For the PhD exam, I had to read a large list of 19th-century British books and connect them to the literature of the subcontinent we’d been reading. It was so great. The professor made me speak for over 2 hours, making sure I didn’t miss any connections, any repeated metaphors, any important literary influences. In the end, I was elated and wanted to read more. Which I believe to be the whole point of teaching literature.