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Thanks to media & pop-culture scholar David Lavery for posting about two heroic TV English majors: Brisco County, Jr. and Jack Bauer (last year!) As noted in the quote from The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., sometimes you really wish you’d gone to med school as well, but we can’t do everything. If you’re up to a double-major or a minor, however—general science is a good minor for getting English majors into medical school. And my nephew is, essentially, doing a double-major in English and engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy. He’ll be able to do anything AND write about it afterward, during, or even before—whatever the situation calls for.

A few other admirable fictional literary scholars:

Harriet Vane, who returns to her alma mater, does research for some literary criticism, and solves a mystery with a little help from Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Gaudy Night.

Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey, the contemporary scholars who research the mysteries behind (fictional) Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte in Possession, by A.S. Byatt. Actually, this book is overflowing with eccentric literary scholars. I love it.

Gary Shepherd (Peter Horton) of thirtysomething (ABC, 1987-91) was the first English professor I recall noticing on TV, perhaps because he was teaching medieval literature and at the time I was completing my PhD in medieval lit. When Gary was denied tenure for some incomprehensible reason, I think I threw something at the television.