Class Confusion: A Chemistry Student in the Literature Department

The first English class I ever took was an introductory course to early 20th-century literature. It was mainly Anglo-American modernism and my favourite Literature class was that one in my first year at Queen’s. I initially came to study Chemistry, but I realized that my real love was English Literature. This has meant I have always been confused, to an extent, in English classes because I felt as if I was not privy to the knowledge my classmates had been learning ever since their first writer’s craft course, their advanced English classes in high school.

When my mother brought back Dubliners from a trip to Ireland she’d taken, around the time I was considering this seemingly life-changing decision, I knew I loved the words on the page, but not why. It seemed like English Lit was the best avenue for figuring out that why. I did not know I would love modernist texts, the kind we studied in that first ever English Lit class more than any other. But, Italo Calvino, Luigi Pirandello, Ford Maddox Ford, Hemingway and Eliot and Lawrence, Chandler and Carver and Cheever and Hammett are my best friends, their works are my most cherished possessions. I have even accrued three bookshelves in my lifetime, something my mother often remonstrates me for.

More than these books though, I want to accrue some knowledge of the why behind my passion for them. I want to discover what makes me so engaged with literature from this time period, I am not sure if ‘modernist’ is even the proper term, such is the insecurity of my somewhat autodidactic education.

My confusion is borne out of a need for appearance. It is not really the class itself which is confusing, because I truly do not find the courses intellectually confusing. I have gotten over this, to a degree, but I still realize how lacking my knowledge is in terms of finding my love so late in life, as the expression goes.

-Clay

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