Can English be considered a subject? Yes!

Yesterday in class, our discussion was in response to ideas presented in the first chapter of Joseph Harris’ A Teaching Subject. Soon, our conversation turned to the question, “Can English be considered a subject?”. In answering the question, most people answered yes, often citing that it is a very broad area of study encompassing multiple skill sets, but nonetheless a subject—from literary analysis and film studies, to rhetoric and writing, they all fall under the English umbrella. Many people, myself included, brought up the fact that the broadness of English as a subject is often what makes people question whether or not it can still be considered one entity. Given that new media in particular has added even more depth to the study of rhetoric and writing, one could say that English as a subject is ever-expanding. In response, I would say that I think that’s exactly the way it should be. As Harris states in the text, “We need, that is, to find ways of urging writers not simply to defend the cultures into which they were born but to imagine new public spheres which they’d like to have a hand in making.” For it is in imagining and expanding the spheres of English that English as a subject—reading, writing, rhetoric, everything—can be used as a means of invention and discovering new knowledge. Because isn’t discovering knowledge the point of studying a subject anyway?


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