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Major of the Month: Sarah Brewer

This double major in English and Art History is set up for a career in the archives
March 1, 2017

Major Sarah Brewer on an island in Scotlan

Major Sarah Brewer on an island in Scotlan
English major Sarah Brewer on the Isle of Seil, during her study abroad in Scotland

Year: Senior
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Why did you choose to major in English?

When I was a senior in high school my English teacher wrote in my yearbook, "Brewer--Major in English!" I never thought I would, but eventually I had to stop fighting my fate, since most of the classes I wanted to take were literature classes. I was still kind of questioning my decision, because I couldn't see myself pursuing any of the "usual" English-major careers, when I realized that I wanted to be a librarian or archivist. English is giving me a great foundation for a master's degree in library science. 

What has been your favorite part of your experience with the department?

I have really enjoyed the interdisciplinary and diverse qualities of the courses I have taken in the English department. I would have been really bored if this major was only Shakespeare and Jane Austen--no hate to them, but there are many other important and great writers who I have been glad to study. 

Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or fields of interest outside of your English major? How do you feel they interact with or enhance your study of English?

I am primarily interested in studying archives and rare books, and I currently work at the James Ford Bell Rare Books Library (come visit us on the fourth floor of Wilson!!). I am also doing an internship in the Collections Department at the Minnesota Historical Society, as a writer and researcher for the World War I Daybook (launching in April!!).

I'm double majoring in English and Art History. My majors have worked really well together, as I think they enhance each other. They are also a great combination for going into library science, especially for archives and rare books, because together they give me a good background for working with a wide variety of special collections. 

What English course would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an English class?

My favorite class was Alphabet to Internet: History of Writing Technologies with Professor Michael Hancher; this class is what lead me to decide to pursue library science, but it's also a very interesting topic in general. I would also recommend Professor Qadri Ismail's Textual Analysis class, which greatly improved my writing and critical thinking skills. 

For non-majors, I would recommend taking any literature class on a topic that interests you. You will likely get new or different insight into the topic by looking at it through literature. I've taken Asian American Literature and Drama with Professor Jo Lee and GLBT Literature with Lecturer Jim Cihlar, both of which I would highly recommend. One of my roommates, who is not an English major, took The Literature and Film of Baseball and really enjoyed it.

If you studied abroad, what did you take away from the experience?

I studied abroad in Glasgow, Scotland, last spring semester. I learned a lot about the country, and a lot of what I learned was through a Scottish literature class. One of the things I found most interesting is the use of the Scots language and writing in dialect in Scottish literature. (The Scots language is what we would probably interpret as a Scottish accent, but it is actually a distinct language, and I would not recommend arguing with them about that.)

What is something about the English department that most people wouldn’t know?

When I say I'm an English major most people ask if I am planning to become a writer, but most of the English majors I know are not planning on becoming novelists. There are actually a pretty wide variety of career paths open to English majors. While I do know a few future writers and teachers (another common assumption), I also know future editors, publishers, lawyers, and many more. 

Best book or movie you’ve read/seen recently?

Hidden Figures was super good, would recommend!