Please, don't make me read twelfth night for the 5th time
August 15, 2007 7:47 AM   Subscribe

EnglishMajorFilter: What class(es) should I take?

I'm having a problem scheduling for the fall semester, and I need help. I cannot contact my academic adviser right now, and my friends can't seem to help with the problem, either. Here's the story: I'm a senior English/History/Gender Studies major, and I have a few classes I still need to take before I graduate, but really, my focus is on what classes are going to best prepare me for graduate school. What am I going to do for graduate school? Well, that is another question all together.

Anyways: If I decide I want to go to graduate school for education (which is one of the top choices right now), I'm going to have to take a Shakespeare class. Every single program I've looked at requires you know something about The Bard. I have no interest in Shakespeare whatsoever, but since I have to do it, I thought: I'll take the easy class. Shakespeare For Everyone, which is basically a humanities class aimed at non-humanities majors, is being offered in the fall. The pros of this: I have most of the books for free already, it will be an easy way to take a class on a subject I'm not really interested in. The cons: I will have to drop another class, probably the other, more difficult (but vastly more interesting, to me, anyways) English class I was considering taking: Asian American Literature. This wouldn't be a problem except for this: the professor teaching Asian American literature is someone who I respect and learned a lot from. I wanted to have the chance to take another class with her (I've only had one before) and I was hoping to ask her to write a letter of recommendation for me. If I don't take this class with her, I feel like she won't really have enough to write me a letter.

Should I:

(A) Take the easy Shakespeare class now, which would probably give up the opportunity to ask for a letter of recommendation from the other professor?

(B) Take Asian American Lit, and opt to take the much more difficult Shakespeare class that is offered in the spring?

(C) Try to take both even though that could potentially mean I'll be incredibly busy (I'm also taking another history class, a gym class, and my senior seminar in addition to my ridiculous amount of extra-curricular stuff.)?
posted by nuclear_soup to Education (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

(C) Try to take both even though that could potentially mean I'll be incredibly busy (I'm also taking another history class, a gym class, and my senior seminar in addition to my ridiculous amount of extra-curricular stuff.). But also it could mean I won't be THAT busy because it is supposed to be a stupidly easy class?
posted by nuclear_soup at 7:50 AM on August 15, 2007

If you're not interested in Shakespeare but do like to study literature, I would suspect that a more intricate course would hold your interest better.

Good professors are hard to find. If you have one, stick with her.

Which is to say: I vote for Shakespeare in the spring.
posted by occhiblu at 7:51 AM on August 15, 2007

Having the books isn't much of a reason to take EZ Shakespeare--the Dover thrift editions cost like a dollar a pop, and a most intro Shakespeare classes cover the same plays anyway.

Plus there isn't *that* much of a difference between easy and hard Shakespeare class, is there? They're both Shakespeare, the material's the same. Plus I know that in some cases (YMMV) graders are tougher on English majors who take these classes than they are on non-majors. I'd say option b.
posted by phoenixy at 7:54 AM on August 15, 2007

And I echo Occhiblu. The intricate course will be better and more interesting, and Shakespeare's not really that tough anyhow. I took the "tough" version of the course myself in America, found plenty to enjoy and wasn't even much put off by the language, which was harder for me than most because I'd only been speaking English for two years at that point. Don't lose contact with a good professor if you can avoid it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:56 AM on August 15, 2007

Take the real Shakespeare class -- a good prof may help you to appreciate Shakespeare, and you really don't want to read Hamlet again. You really, really don't.

(And, as an aside, stop saying "anyways." You're an English major, fer chrissake, not an extra in a western. :) )
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:02 AM on August 15, 2007

dude, take the Asian American Lit Class.

I went through college, always taking the easy class, and now that i've graduated, sometimes I feel like I didn't learn anything.

If you love the professor, go for it. He can write a rec letter for you. Take the other class in the spring. If you're applying to grad schools for Fall '08, the grade you get in the class won't matter anyway.

Push yourself and challenge yourself. It's how we grow- and what college is supposed to be about.
posted by unexpected at 8:03 AM on August 15, 2007

Definitely take the harder Shakespeare. If you want a career that involves a graduate degree/teaching, it's not going to look right that you took the equivalent of shakespeare for dummies. Can only help you in graduate level work later on.
You should also take Asian American Lit.
Find a way to do both.
posted by chickaboo at 8:04 AM on August 15, 2007

If you're worried about the course load, is it possible to take both literature classes, but arrange for Shakespeare to be pass-fail? If you know you won't need that prof for a recommendation, you could potentially scoot through the class writing C-level papers.
posted by xo at 8:04 AM on August 15, 2007

When should you take the Shakespeare class?

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks.

Let's say you take the Asian American Lit class and never even get around to a Shakespeare one. Is your grad school application going to be hindered by the dearth of Bard when you have a glowing recommendation to counter it? I doth think not.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:04 AM on August 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you take the fluff Shakespeare course, it will be non-stop complaining from the other students about the language, which may drive you crazy, and you will probably learn very little that would be of any use in graduate school from that basic a class.
posted by fidelity at 8:05 AM on August 15, 2007

I agree with those who say to take the harder Shakespeare class in the spring. You'll enjoy the challenge and you may find that working with a professor and classmates who are more knowledgeable and more serious will make a difference in your estimation of Shakespeare's work. You'll probably read some of the lesser-known and more interesting works. And if you continue to be interested in Asian-American lit, you can actually perhaps find some points of confluence which that professor can help you with. When it comes time to do papers or presentations, you might look at images of the East in Shakespeare's language or character depictions, or at choices made by modern film or stage adaptations of Shakespeare which incorporate Asian approaches or were produced in Asian nations.

Try to make connections to get some synergy out of this decision, aligning it with your personal interests and goals. Tell the professor the 'harder' Shakespeare class right up front why you made your decision (it never hurts your standing in the prof's eyes to say "I chose your class because I wanted more serious study and greater challenge," but add that your primary interest so far has been in Asian-American Literature, and ask him/her to suggest ways you can blend your interests in your independent work.

Shakespeare in Asia - A conference page, lots of dead links, but plenty of material to start Googling on

Shakespeare Renaissance in China

Also, check out JSTOR for articles on Shakespeare and images of Asia or how he dealt with the classic European East-West binary model of the world, which he did a lot.
posted by Miko at 8:22 AM on August 15, 2007

Having been around the grad school app process in the past, I can tell you that it's very possible that having the "Shakespeare for Everyone" class on your transcript (as an English major) will raise a few eyebrows. A solid rec from the Asian American Lit prof and a B in the "real" shakespeare class will make for a way stronger app than an easy A in the fall shakespeare class.
posted by somanyamys at 8:27 AM on August 15, 2007

Agreed, take the AA Lit class - especially if you haven't had a background in that before. And a good recommendation is worth its weight in gold, no matter the class.

If you're up to it - I think (B) is the best option. You can do it!
posted by jare2003 at 8:34 AM on August 15, 2007

I'm just adding another voice to the throng, but I'd go with (B), for the same reasons people have highlighted. I normally hate this phrase, but even if the more challenging course doesn't awaken any latent Shakespeare interest in you, slogging through it anyway will probably be "character building" and prepare you for some of the grind of grad school. ;)
posted by Drexen at 9:02 AM on August 15, 2007

Nthing everyone else. If the Shakespeare is a requirement, grad schools are probably going to make use of it. Much better to have more in-depth knowledge.

And I will second kittens for breakfast - "anyways" is not a word. Knock it off.
posted by bibbit at 9:04 AM on August 15, 2007

A good professor for a Shakespeare class makes all the difference. If one or the other is seen as significantly better liked by students, go for that class.

I had a great old guy for my Shakespeare class, and although the class itself seemed to go at a molasses pace sometimes, I learned a lot more and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. Shakespeare writes awesome lady-characters. Even the tried-and-true Shakespeare plays that have been drilled into you by high school English get better with a good reading and the insight you've gained in the intervening years.
posted by that girl at 9:27 AM on August 15, 2007

Harder Shakespeare, nted.

As possible additional help: I was an English Lit major. I didn't like studying Shakespeare. Until I learned the secret. The secret is to know the plot of the plays before you read them. Do this through some kind of synopsis, cliff's notes, whatever. When you can concentrate on the language without concentrating on how the story is advancing, it is SO MUCH BETTER. It starts to make sense why he's so cannonical. Of course, seeing the plays/movies is a good way to do this too, but I never did that until after I read the play. YMMV, of course, but really, give it a try.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:02 AM on August 15, 2007

Shakespeare! Lots and lots of Shakespeare! And Marlow, Spenser and Chaucer, too, if you can.

Five years after graduating with a B.A. in English and Communications, I find that Philosophy and English Lit are the only classes that left any impact on me whatsoever.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:16 AM on August 15, 2007

Oh, and I thoroughly disagree with kittens for breakfast. You do want to read Hamlet again, as many times as possible. You'll learn more every time.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the advice. I am going to go with option B, which is what I pretty much decided anyways, but I think I needed to be talked into it.
posted by nuclear_soup at 10:52 AM on August 15, 2007

Seriously, take Option B.

If you are a senior and English is your major, you will be MISERABLE in a Humanities class for non-Humanities people. They will likely have to go over a lot of stuff that you already know (ie. "What is iambic pentameter?") and you will hate it. Also, I second whoever said it would look bad on your transcript.
posted by SoftRain at 10:56 AM on August 15, 2007

I've made the mistake of taking a"X for Everyone"-type of class and two weeks into the semester I regretted it. People were only there to fulfill a requirement and they were not interested in any kind of debate or discussion. The more advanced Shakespeare class might be harder, but it will probably be more interesting and more worthwhile.
posted by sutel at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2007

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