As an English major myself, I have supreme authority on spotting the pretentious ones in our fine academic program. You've probably noticed these overzealous, brooding, kind of squirrelly people in your class before. Let's discuss them shall we?
There are two classes of pretentious English majors. The first we'll call The Brooding Coffee Shop Kids. They'll reveal themselves BCSK the first time they open their mouths in class. Not even in answering a question, it will be in their introduction. First, they will be tiny, with an impossibly small BMI. You will NEVER see a fat BCSK. Second, if they are female they will be wearing a scarf. They will not wear this scarf like you or I might, they will have no slack, it will be wrapped firmly and totally around their neck. If they are a man, they will more than likely have a beard, a creepy wispy one, and they WILL be wearing skinny jeans. In fact, all BCSK will be wearing skinny jeans. If these men don't have a beard, they will probably have an odd hat on, various styles apply. When asked what they've read lately they will probably not be telling the truth. They will reply with the following writers, Samuel Beckett, Henry James, James Joyce, or they may even throw you a curve ball and say they've read some sort of complex study lately. They will never reply with either of the Brontes, Austen, Shakespeare, or anyone from the American Modernist movement (except maybe Hemingway). They've read all those books when they were twelve or younger.
These people will not be overly participatory in class. In fact their comments will be limited. They will only open their mouths when they are utterly frustrated with the drivel coming out of everyone else's mouth. They will then become an active participant until you feel so stupid and demoralized, you concede their point. They do not show up to class every day; their presence will be limited. They have more important things to do and read than what's going on in your class.
The second kind of pretentious English major is the highly squirrelly, highly participatory, highly annoying one. These are the people that wear cat ears to class, have a glassy appearance of eagerness, and should blush at sex but talk enough about phallic imagery to make everyone else cringe. Their hair will probably be short, and if it is long, it will be greasy. This group of people is mostly made up of women, small and chubby, bouncing off their seats to talk about Chaucer and chivalry. They will raise their hand every time they have a point to make, it will always be satisfactory, but you will wonder what hole they climb into when the day closes.
It remains to be seen which of these classes of people are less annoying, or more preferable to have in your class. Perhaps, the BCSK would be better if you're really interested in learning about literature. But you'll definitely feel better about yourself when you're confronted with the squirrelly hat wearing ones.