by Juan Mendoza, an English Major at a graduate school in Los Angeles.
To his niece, Zoe,
An English major says, “That’s interesting!” to all that comes her way.
But “There is no truth” is her favorite thing to say.
An English major studies literature but not the English language.
And every text in translation, she thinks she can explain it.
What are some examples, you say? I’ll be glad to mention.
But heed my advice: be suspicious of the three masters of suspicion.
For they all pretty much said reality is one big lie.
The funny thing is when they woke up and got out of bed they trusted their eyes.
An English major will believe that the master’s economics can serve a country best.
But when his theories have been put into practice, they have often left a big mess.
An English major will psychoanalyze without having you lie on a couch.
But when she realizes his theories are essentially essentialist, she’ll close her mouth.
As for the one who proclaimed that God was dead,
It’s more interesting to read his poems to Jesus instead.
Now I know what you’re thinking; that I’ve used the word “interesting.”
I hope despite my irony, you will still be listening.
Speaking of ironies, an English major is full of them!
For the theory she reads is awash in them.
Jameson says “We’re trapped in the prison of language,” canting we cannot be free.
And he can’t fathom that Kant has provided the key.
Lyotard dismisses any grand-narrative but his own,
For intergalactic-travel he doesn’t think thrice to bemoan.
Derrida says that speech is absurd.
And when he says to not privilege one or the other,
He privileges the written word.
Just read Of Grammatology, the one that established his reputation,
Only make sure you read it in translation!
You like to wear different hats, don’t you? You think they’re fun.
As an English major, I assure you, you’ll wear more than one.
You can read about trauma theory and pretend you’re a psychologist
Or study gender, but stay away from biologists!
It’s catchy to talk about the queer, transgender body and more
But the body that’s hungry is often ignored.
You want to be a politician? Put on your cultural studies hat.
Although you might find it’s a little broader than that.
Sociology, anthropology, and pop-psychology all rolled up into one!
If it seems overwhelming, remember you can pretend to be anyone!
If its sex you want to analyze, however, here is the rub:
You cannot expound a philosophy of love.
For the main question is do our desires precede culture, or does culture create desire?
But do we desire culture? an English major doesn’t inquire.
Or maybe these aren’t ironies but rather contradictions
Either way, when you write as an English major make sure before any submissions
You write your paper the night before it’s due and say “It’s fine.”
Revisions are just more work; just change the date to an earlier time.
And should you present your paper at a conference
Just read from your text, don’t bother to talk with your audience.
For you need not skills in rhetoric or speech.
Just let them know you can write and read. And forget the MLA handbook, no one ever reads it cover to cover.
Just go to the website. With so many editions, why even bother?
There are no more schools of thought, only thoughts in school.
And once you’ve overdosed on theory you won’t know what to do.
Thoughts float around in English major’s minds as the only tool.
Try and put some theories in practice and look like a fool.
For example, you might learn that, relatively speaking, 2 plus 2 equals 5,
And you’ll have theory to thank.
But others might call this claim snide
And say you cannot take it to the bank.
Say reality is a social construct and therefore an illusion
And all political life becomes one big delusion.
It’s safer to talk about such things as these
Where brick-and-mortar provide four walls, a door, and a key.
Here we can claim reality is fluid and always changing.
Only we can halt time, keep it still, and stop it from ageing.
And only concern yourself with being smart.
For attaining wisdom and virtue is as dead as good art.
I suppose you should know the age we’re living in.
They call it postmodernism because modernism has sinned.
What should come after, who knows? But it’s coming fast!
Thanks to deconstruction we are anxious for the future, nostalgic for the past.
But there is one benefit, from all this theory, some would say.
I’ll tell you when you’re older. Enough talk, for now, go out and play.
“I would play, uncle, but I feel I’m too old for that.
Plus, it’s too bright outside, and I don’t have any hats.”
“You can borrow one of mine, dear, and don’t worry to give it back.”
And you, dear reader, if you think all I’ve said is true,
Pay close attention and read again line number two.
Juan, or Johnny, Mendoza is a guest blogger, and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree from Pasadena City College and went on to receive his B.A. and M.A. in English from California State University, Los Angeles. He has been teaching at PCC since 2015. His academic interests include learning about the rhetoric in both the humanities and scientific discourse communities. He is a husband to his incredibly gifted, entrepreneur wife, Nova, from whom he has learned about the rhetoric of business and financial literacy. Given his wide range of interests in several discourse communities, Juan teaches his students how best to communicate and navigate through various social spheres. He draws inspiration from his religious and cultural background in order to help him and his family live a life of joy and abundance.