The massive wave of technological advancement within the last two decades has spurred more than just shifts in culture and social dynamics. The entirety of the modern world (more specifically, America, but generally and first world country will do) has morphed into a society that’s nearly unrecognizable from that of the beginning of the previous century. In 1920, the radio had just been invented. Now, 100 years later, students are finding the connections between literature and technology, and how both have an immense impact on our culture, our future, and the way we think.
If I’m being totally honest, the premise of this class confused me just a bit. In registration and the first couple of weeks of classes, I wondered what exactly was the purpose of this class. Ask me two months ago, and I would have said I’m in this class to learn about technology and literature, and how they’re related to the world we live in. While this isn’t incorrect, I realize now that there’s an ulterior motive – to change the way we, as students in this ever-changing society, think. Coming into this class as a second-semester freshman, I still hadn’t really learned just how different college English classes are from that of the ones I took in high school. In my secondary education years, English class went a little like this: read some state-mandated classic novel, analyze the dickens out of it for two and a half months, and then write an essay on it, usually some form of rhetoric analysis. Maybe there would be a multiple-choice unit, filled with generic strategies on how to pass the state testing like the Regents exam, or get a 5 on the AP. Not entirely sure why, but everything I knew led me to believe that college is just going to be a more advanced version of this – reading harder books, and more in-depth and complex essay prompts. Nothing and no one told me otherwise.
Needless to say, this semester has been a whirlwind for me. While my view on English as a discipline changed drastically over the course of the part of the semester that we had on campus, I now feel that it’s almost entirely changed since being home. Having to switch to online learning forced me to read and think in ways I hadn’t before. All my life, I have been a hands-on learner. The kind of person that needs to have a physical copy of the text in order to fully process, read, and analyze it. I prefer in-class discussions because it allows us to talk about our ideas and converse with each other informally. Reading and discussing on a screen just doesn’t do it for me, however, that only puts me at a disadvantage in the current situation.
Over the past couple of days I’ve been rereading certain chapters of Walden, and I notice that he consistently forces the reader to be self-aware of their consciousness, and of their thoughts and body. He wants us, as the readers, to not lose ourselves in everyday life, but rather go through life conscious of our choices and ability to affect others. Since quarantine has started, I’ve begun locking myself in my bedroom, not coming out for hours on end because I’m studying or doing homework. I barely talk to my siblings and only really stop to eat or dawdle. But in reading Walden, I realized that it’s so easy to lose yourself in front of a computer screen, and come out dazed, forgetting who and where you are.
Taking this English class has more than changed my view of English as a discipline, but it’s changed my view on everyday life. I now walk through my house aware of every step I am taking, and everything I say. I sat down to reread one of my favorite fantasy novels the other night, and I was constantly reminded of Walden and Thoreau’s plea to have us find meaning in everything. In rereading that novel, I came out with an entirely different point of view on the characters and their actions – they are just as unselfaware as I was.
Before this class, I had an immature and primitive view of English. The object was to read books, analyze, and write essays. What I didn’t realize, however, is just how immensely English can change the way you think – you don’t need a philosophy class for that.