Science versus Arts? It’s not just a bar crawl which supplies Pryzm with their only piece of business for the year. It’s also an infuriating aspect of University life, and sadly, I’m on the underdog’s side.
I’m going to whisper it so that you scientists don’t start telling me about all your multiple exams but yes, I am a Literature student. Go on, throw the jokes at me. Don’t I have like, two, contact hours? Actually, it’s six. Do I just read books? Yeah, mostly. So, am I okay with my weak career prospects? No. *Cries*.
I do actually have a serious point behind all of this. I can deal with the jokes; most of the time it’s me saying them. You know why? When I make those jokes, I KNOW I am kidding - funny thing is, I do actually have faith in something I pay 9 grand a year for. However, it’s when all the non Arts students start chucking the jokes around, the context changes, because the problem is, I don’t actually think you are joking.
I don’t intend for this to be propaganda for the subject or for it to unravel into impassioned justifications for why my degree can actually be, (get ready for it) quite difficult, but I do want to clarify a few things.
Having six contact hours a week is painful. After doing the maths (or rather getting an Economics student to do the maths because I no longer have the appropriate skill set to do such calculations), it works out that every contact hour equates to roughly £65. This is purely just the contact hours, because, of course, I have books to get. Each term I have to spend roughly £60-£100 on new books. Even if you refuse to accept that my course can be intellectually demanding, at least accept that it is financially draining.
On a social level as well, the lack of contact hours makes English an incredibly anti-social degree. This isn’t to say we all end up substituting books for friends, but it is unreasonably difficult to leap from ‘tutorial acquaintance’ to ‘course mate’ when the most you have is two hours a week with them where all you really do, how ever friendly you do it, is sit next to them. Even when you do manage to get to know people, ‘working together’ is not a viable prospect, unless cowriting an essay suddenly becomes a University accepted thing. Yes, mathematicians, chemists, engineers, your questions are incredibly demanding, I appreciate that, but you do have the blessing of being able to work through things together. A small privilege I know, but appreciate it.
This brings me onto the work. To cover the basics - no, I cannot ‘wing it’, referencing is hell and don’t make me talk about Middle English. Also, I do actually have to do hours of secondary reading and research. The essay questions are also, believe it or not, intellectually demanding. I may have six contact hours a week but this does not mean I do six hours of work a week - everything is self motivated. Literature, at it’s very least, demands for you to muster together the ability to make yourself work.
I come to my most important point - everyone thinks your subject is easy, and for some reason, they also feel the need to assert their opinion on that. Not only is there the unnecessary implicit competition between the Sciences and Arts, people don’t just insist on calling your degree easy, but also unimportant. Even if you really really cannot see the point of Art, Literature, History, Journalism etc (in which case, wow) please remember the aforementioned £65 per lecture. Don’t make me cry.
The nadir of this situation lies within the ‘essays’ matter because I suspect, from experience and, admittedly assumption, that a lot of people, deep down, reckon they could read the book, write the essay and get an acceptable mark. I will say this only once - studying Great Gatsby at A-Level does not the Literature critic make.
Finally, I understand that an Arts degree will not get me a high flying job with a six figure salary, but I didn’t do my degree for that. (Looking at you Economists) I study what I do because I am passionate about it, and for that matter, I have yet to meet an Arts student who does not study what they genuinely love. I have however, talked to many people who did the degree that looks good on the CV, and inevitably, are miserable. Just saying.
I’m not trying to defend the Arts subjects as equally demanding as all degrees because it’s simply not. On top of that, I’ll admit it, the jokes are funny and moreover, they don’t just get levelled at the Arts subjects, but we do definitely get them more, and crucially, more genuinely. There is no need to compare - I can’t do your questions, but you can’t do my essay. Intelligence is not purely grounded within numerical ability, literary skill has its place too. So next time you go to tell me ‘you wish you could just sit and read all day’, remember this, when you need someone to edit your cover letter, you’ll probably be coming to me.