I was a very poor English major because I hate to be critical. And when you are an English major, your survival (ie, your grade) is based upon your ability to be critical.
So I did it, but I didn't like it.
I read literary criticism and wrote papers regurgitating views I didn't necessarily agree with (or often fully understand).
I taught six semesters of English 111/112, and did my best to grade stacks and stacks of papers with the severe red-penned approach like that of my office mates, but was criticized for handing out too many As and Bs and not enough Cs and Ds.
My breaking point was a grad-level poetry workshop. I was thrilled get in to the class, as it was taught by a distinguished and well-loved professor. And of course, I am a poetry fan.
On the first day, we went around the room and were asked to recite a bit of a favorite poem. When it was my turn, I began, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . . " A few of my classmates sniffed at my choice, and one (who I thought was my friend) droned, "Frost is so plebeian."
I was embarrassed. Not only because of the snub, but also because I wasn't so sure what "plebeian" meant.
I went home, looked up plebeian and dropped the class a few weeks later.
(I know -- I was a quitter, I admit it. The class was REALLY hard -- deconstructionist litereary theory, eek -- my classmates were all trying to "one-up" each other, and I had two little girls at home. At the time, it was an easy -- and relieving -- decision.)
And I dropped poetry for awhile. But thanks to Garrison Keillor, and The Writer's Almanac, I rediscovered my love of poetry. Thank goodness, because some days I just need a good poem.
And speaking of good poems, here's one of my favorites, which I am sure would be considered uber-plebeian. I remember my dad reciting this one, "The Raggedy Man" and "Little Orphan Annie" to us. Riley is criticized for his use of dialect, and his provincial and sentimental themes. But just look at that third stanza -- dried corn tassels "preaching a sermon" -- that is beautiful, and touches the heart of this plebeian farmgirl poetry lover.
When the Frost is on the Punkin
James Whitcomb Riley