During the 2020-21 academic year, LBC | Capital added a literature minor to its undergraduate offerings. Dr. Geoffrey Reiter—a well-known lover of literature on the Lancaster campus, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Literature within the Arts & Sciences Department—talks about why studying literature benefits students in a variety of realms.
LBC | CAPITAL: Why should students across multiple majors consider a literature minor?
GEOFFREY REITER: My experience has been that students with a wide array of career goals and interests may have a love of literature. Not everyone takes to studying novels or stories or poems or plays, but those who do appreciate it often come from a broad range of backgrounds and plan to go into any number of fields. One reason to consider the minor, then, is just to continue pursuing an interest in the subject. But there are any number of other reasons. Reading literature helps us become better readers of Scripture, which is itself a work of literature, formed in multiple genres across centuries by dozens of human authors. It can also help us be better readers of culture. Many of the cultural products we experience are shaped by literary texts—not just other books but movies, television, music, comics, video games, etc. The study of literature can give us avenues to understand the history and heritage of our culture. It can also provide ways of understanding our current cultural moment, for our own sakes and also for ways to bridge the gap to friends or family who might not otherwise be open to discussing theology in explicit terms. The study of literature can also help us understand better how to be shapers of culture—to create our own cultural and artistic products to reflect God’s beauty and truth and goodness to the world. Literature also provides training in critical thinking, as well as empathy and compassion.
This can be applied to any number of specific fields. Students going into education can experience a love of books that can help when they instruct children so that reading for their students can feel less like a chore and more like a joy. Students entering into the business world might get better insights into the ways in which people think and the kinds of cultural products they value. Music students can see the ways in which other art forms intersect with what they themselves are learning. Anyone studying Bible can get a better understanding of the Bible itself as well as its own influences and its influence on writing over the past millennia. Students in communication can see examples of language used carefully and beautifully. These are just a few examples; I believe that for at least some students who have or develop of love of reading, a literature minor could amply reward their interest.
LBC: Why types of courses can students expect to take as part of the literature minor?
GR: One of my favorite aspects of the literature minor is that it can often be worked fairly smoothly into the schedules of most LBC students. The minor requires 15 credits of literature courses, nine of which must be 300-level or higher. Students looking at their advising sheets in their majors can look for openings for literature or humanities courses and may find that they’re already 40% or 60% of the way there with courses they’re already taking.
Some of our courses are more survey-oriented, like LIT 101: Poetry, Fiction and Drama or LIT 202: World Literature. Others have themes, like LIT 240: Literature for Children and Young Adults, LIT 321: C. S. Lewis or LIT 327: Major English Writers. We’ve just added LIT 305: Science Fiction, which will be taught in the fall 2021 semester for the first time. I also teach a humanities course, a section of HUM 422: Christian Perspectives that is an examination of fairy tales, and because that class content is literature-related, it can count toward the minor.
If we get more interest in the program and we see positive enrollment, I’m open to being responsive to student input as well. We can consider adding courses if it looks like people want to take them!
LBC: How will potential employers or graduate schools view a literature minor positively?
GR: One of the myths about humanities degrees is that they’re impractical and only prepare you to work in fast food restaurants. But many employers look favorably on graduates with humanities or liberal arts backgrounds because they demonstrate good use of language and communication, critical thinking skills and creative approaches. Practical skills can often be taught on the job, but the spirit of inquiry that comes from studying fields like literature isn’t as easy to “train” in the same way. And this is especially true since we’re talking about a minor, which can serve as a supplement and a balance to another major. Study after study shows that fewer than a third of people end up working in a job directly attached to their college undergraduate majors, so having an additional minor can demonstrate versatility.
And most graduate programs would look highly on someone with a literature background. Most graduate programs require extensive research and writing, which are skills our literature courses cultivate. When I went to seminary, my advisor, who had an undergraduate degree in English herself, told me she was relieved when she saw I had an English background because so many of her students coming from other majors had difficulty handling the academic expectations in writing and research. I think that reaction would be pretty common.
If anyone wants to know more, I’d love to have them contact me, and we could talk about what their possibilities or options might be.