(Original post by Dann)
You make a very valid point I'm happy to acknowledge, and yet I can't help but feel that despite this the study of a piece of literature is more dynamic than you make it appear. Far from just 'diving in' the study of literature is a reflection of the times we live in; this is shown perhaps most obviously in the rise and fall of Marxist crit in both His. and Lit. If therefore your classification of Maths as a more 'academic' subject because it is an area which cannot be scholastically exhausted then I would have to argue that by the same token, English Lit. must be considered academic. It is much about coming to understand the relevance of literature to contempary audiences as anything else, and this focus on the present by its very nature makes it an inexhaustible study. The development of gender and postcolonial studies in paticular are relatively new fields which reflect our current interest in these fields. There's more to it then just reaching a certain advanced level like you said, its a constantly evolving study.
My point (albeit flimsy
) was that English lit can essentially be jumped at by anyone. It takes a lot of study to develop a critical eye and the ability to write your thoughts and feelings properly and balance arguments and so on, but you could equally well read the same book and write a (more crap) essay when you're 7. This is because English lit isn't structured - maths is. You can dive in in the middle of English lit, because the middle is all there is - there is no 'start' or 'end' to the course, so there isn't really a 'course', except one laid down by an exam board (which I'm sure you'll agree doesn't constitute true 'academia'). By this, I mean you can't just pick up a book and say "This book is where everyone
should start learning. It's the simplest book there is in the whole field of English lit, and you can build upon the knowledge, insight and skills you pick up from it. After that you branch out into these three books, these are the next simplest", and so on. You pick up a random book (normally one that receives high ratings, just so you don't get bored) and read it and analyse it. I couldn't just dive in anywhere in maths without a lot of research. It's that that leads me to think maths is 'more academic' than English, although I'm not saying either is less worthy of credit.
(Back to the maths analogy: I mean you can't dive into maths because you can't add unless you know what numbers mean, you can't use fractions unless you can add, you can't do percentages until you have the concept of a fraction. You can't do algebra until you know what numbers are, even if later on algebra and numbers become fairly separate, because you need that solid foundation in reality to be able to handle abstract concepts that come afterwards. I've never seen an example of this in English lit, but please correct me if I'm wrong - my English lit skills have all been picked up from my teachers ranting on about various books, poems and short stories which weren't really connected at all, because no one book can act as a logical linguistic progression between two other books.)
(Original post by Dann)
Saying this, your argument is persuasive, and I can see how in some respects my response may not be adequate. In comparison to your tree analogy I paint a picture of English that is far more linear, moving from one point to another, and never really branching out (excuse the pun.) I am willing to accept that in this respect, Maths is the more academic subject, but cannot concede that English is so very far from it as you may have made seem.
Cheers for the reply
Hmm... I think I would be repeating myself if I answered to this, so I won't.
It's certainly an interesting question though.
(Original post by wanderer)
As I said, that doesn't distinguish how academic something is. I think most academics working within the arts would take issue with the idea that you can 'just dive in' anyway - its not a single edifice, like maths can be (ish), but it doesn't require any less specialisation. You realise you could do a PhD on "Death of a Salesman"?
I never said it wasn't specialised. And your last point is just a reflection of how crap the education system is today.
I no more believe you should be allowed to do a PhD on "Death of a Salesman" than I believe you should be able to do one on triangles... there are huge amounts of work that can go into both but it's nowhere near
broad enough to constitute a doctorate, in my opinion.
Then again, a doctorate is a specialised, research-based degree, and to be honest, if you could find out something new and exciting (even if it was almost pointless to nearly everyone) about triangles, you could do a PhD in it.