The Future of English Literature and Humanities

I am a proud, grateful and militant holder of a degree in English literature. It has enhanced and enriched my life in ways that have given me insight into the human condition.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I am a proud, grateful and militant holder of a degree in English literature. It has enhanced and enriched my life in ways that have given me insight into the human condition. It has introduced me to the great communicators and storytellers of ages past, offering wisdom, knowledge, joy, insight, clarity, and the essential power and civilizing influence of words.

I have spent a long and fruitful life surrounded by some of the great minds and amazing imaginations ever recorded and continue to populate my content bank with many more. I cannot conceive of a life without the close friendship of great storytellers like Dickens, Trollope, Austin, Hardy, the Brontes, Thackeray, Balzac, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Twain, Harte, and the literary Gods of our own American culture like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Roth, and hundreds of others of equal worth.

Indeed without the tutelage and wonder of Shakespeare what would we know about the truth of human behavior?

The case for literature and its study has long been made. From the days of our distant ancestors who told their stories on walls of caves and in scrolls, the "word" has long been the essential channel to knowledge, understanding and insight. Without such communicators we would be bereft, lost in the jungle of ignorance.

It has been claimed that an English degree on a resume will not place one on the top of a job prospect list, that the earning potential with such a degree offers few opportunities in the face of required technological skills and specialties that our society demands for its commerce.

With the decline of choices in the humanities however, even a career in academia is becoming increasingly diminished. This is true not only in English studies, but also in subjects such as Philosophy, History, Ethics, Greek and Latin, and the Classics.

For a college student faced with enormous debt on graduation, the shrinking of such interest has a bizarre logic. Sending college students into the marketplace with the burden of debt is a travesty, and an insult to our culture.

The true believer in any artistic endeavor will rarely calculate the odds against making a living plying his art. Those with this mysterious calling will never find contentment if they abandon or compromise their purpose.

There has always been a deep chasm between commerce and art, and there are those who choose to spend their lives in the study of subjects that have deep intrinsic value to them while having dubious commercial ambitions. Like the artist I alluded to they stubbornly follow their bliss. It is as necessary to them as oxygen.

I could not conceive of having made any other choice but majoring in English Literature. It was those writers that I befriended through their books, and the teachers and students who chose to live within that circle that inspired me to stake my life and future in creating works of the imagination, my stories. I never had a choice.

Yes, the decline of the humanities challenges our present. Ultimately though, their pursuit is essential to our culture and sooner or later we will realize that there truth to that old chestnut that "man does not live on bread alone," and its necessity will come roaring back.

Warren Adler recently released Target Churchill, a Cold War thriller he co-authored with Pulitzer Prize nominated Churchill biographer James C. Humes. Best known for The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated dark comedy hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, Adler has optioned and sold film rights to more than a dozen of his novels and short stories to Hollywood and major television networks. Random Hearts (starring Harrison Ford and Kristen Scott Thomas), The Sunset Gang (starring Jerry Stiller, Uta Hagen, Harold Gould and Doris Roberts), Private Lies, Funny Boys, Madeline's Miracles, Trans-Siberian Express and his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series are only a few titles that have forever left Adler's mark on contemporary American authorship from page to stage to screen. The Sunset Gang also premiered Off-Broadway as a musical with music composed by the noted composer L. Russell Brown and lyrics by Adler himself. The New York Times called it, "A bittersweet musical about aging and desire... a deeper examination of love and loyalty among people over 60."

For more information on Warren Adler visit

Go To Homepage

Before You Go

Popular in the Community