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The Role of English Literature in Studying Higher Education

The Role of English Literature in Studying Higher Education

Higher Education is an interdisciplinary subject. The role of universities and institutes of higher education system have undergone changes to adapt to the needs of society. As the socio-economic profile of students change from elite to more middle-class, universities challenged to address the need of both education and employment. The aim of this essay is to examine the similarities between English literary studies and Higher Education. There similarities will unravel how both disciplines are complimentary to each other.

The study of English literature introduces one to English language. Unlike other disciplines of humanities like philosophy and social sciences which can be taught in other languages, English Literature uses only English as its primary language of instruction. English is a global language as it allows individuals from diverse backgrounds to communicate and share ideas with each other. English is also the preferred language for science and technology. Knowledge of English language empowers one to receive new information. English is no longer a foreign language for many societies. India, which was a British colony from mid-nineteenth century to mid-twentieth century, has embraced English as the language of communication.

English literature is a very interdisciplinary subject. It reflects society through fictional representations. The poets, authors and dramatists portray society with individual struggles at the centre of it. Literary works like Homer's Iliad (8 BCE)and Salman Rushdie's The Midnight's Children (1981) are some of the well-known books as they mirror human problems that are universal in nature. In order to understand the complex nature of the relationship between man and society it is necessary to approach literary writings from diverse perspectives.

A degree in English literature allows an individual to develop analytical and critical perspectives. Theories such as Marxism, Post-colonialism, Feminism, Structuralism and Psychoanalysis function as analytical tools to study literary writings. These theories are borrowed from disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and psychology. In order to understand the complex nature of society and individuals one or all of these theoretical frameworks maybe applied to literary writings. According to Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, "Marxist approaches to literature require an understanding of the primary economic and social bases of culture since Marxist aesthetic theory sees the work of art as a product..."

Feminism challenges the system of patriarchy by questioning the subordinate role of women in society and the absence of women writers in literary history. Postmodernism "in art has included a move toward non-referential, non-linear, abstract forms; a heightened degree of self-referentiality; and the collapse of categories and conventions that had traditionally governed art."

Like English Literature the discipline of Higher Education is interdisciplinary in nature. It borrows analytical tools from social sciences and managerial theories. The role of higher education is constantly changing according to the demands of society. From an elite and religious institution in the past to a more secular and market-oriented system, the university as an institution of higher education has changed.

Universities are evolving to address the demands of society and individuals. There is a large percentage of students who are the first generation in their families to receive university education. Therefore, universities have to broaden their roles from providing education in a particular field to meeting the demands of employment. 

In conclusion, it is important to note that there is a parallel between the role of universities and English studies. The objective of English literature is to develop the critical and interpretative skills of its students. These skills are useful to pursue a career in any field. Thus, English studies does not limit its students to a particular field.

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