What is the future of English Literature
From time to time we respond to questions about the future sent in via email by readers. We don’t have a lot of time for this, but when a question seems especially interesting we offer our thoughts.
I want to know what will happen with studying the English literature in the future.
A. Shamsi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Response by Glen Hiemstra, 2001
Dear A. Shamsi,
This is a very specific question, not something we have thought much about, or investigated. Obviously there are two counter-veiling trends which impact the question. One is the gradual and continuing emergence of English as the lingua franca of the world. This movement is aided by the Internet. My expectation is that by the end of the 21st Century most people in most places in the world will speak English as one of their languages. And this could encourage more people to study English literature, as a means of improving language skills if nothing else.
The second trend is in a way the opposite. The Internet and global travel both are encouraging increased exposure to languages other than English. There are at least 100,000 non-English websites, and this is bound to increase tremendously. Global travel and the accompanying trend of global migration means that the primary English speaking regions, North America and Great Britain/Australia are increasingly likely to have substantial populations for whom English is a second, not first, language. This is especially true in the United States. Thus English-speaking regions are likely to increasingly become bi-lingual. And again, the advantages of being multi-lingual will be enhanced by the Internet.
As the global population becomes more multi-lingual, assuming it does, this could encourage the study of literature other than English literature.
If your question is actually concerned with future employment for teachers of English Literature, I would not expect that to increase or decrease in any greater proportion than the general teaching profession, and perhaps decline a bit proportionally, given the power of the second trend mentioned above.