Having studied English Literature for the last two and a half years of my life I’ve encountered a fair few hilarious and, lets face it, often degrading comments about my degree of choice; and it’s always made me wonder why people are so down on studying literature. For me, books are a wonderful, magical invention that facillitate an escape from an otherwise chaotic and stressful world. While my student days have most definitely been the best of my life to date, there really is nothing I love more than locking myself away in my tiny student room and settling down to a fantastic book.
But don’t get me wrong, English Literature is a difficult subject to study. Despite it’s constant undermining in the academic community, it’s more than just an easy going ‘book club’ – which for me just heightens it’s appeal. To begin with, the reading lists that are published every summer include roughly ten to twelve books per module. Now, the most modules I’ve had in a year was five; so fifty(ish) books per each academic year sounds pretty reasonable right?…
Who doesn’t love a challenge?
Wrong. The type of books that are scattered throughout an English Literature student’s reading list aren’t always the easy-going best sellers that you just throw in a suitcase to take to the beach on holiday! We study difficult topics such as Criticism and Theory; the study of intricate and complex theories such as Freud, Kristeva and Baudrillard. We study niche topics like absurdism, representing madness and uptopian and dystopian fiction. Hell – even the ‘straightforward’ fiction is difficult; I mean, you try reading the entirety of James Joyce’s Ulysses or T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land and genuinely understand them. If studying English Literature is a mere book club, then it’ll be the hardest book club you’ll ever attended!
However, while Literature can be hard, it’s also one of the most rewarding subjects to study (in my non-biased opinion of course…). I love its vast subjectivity and the fact that everything you read can mean something different to each person that reads it. I could never quite get my head around those who don’t enjoy their field of study at university. There’s nothing I love more than going to my lectures and seminars each week and having my mind blown by books that I’ve read over and over, having missed out on tiny details that change absolutely everything. To study an English Literature degree is to enter into mesmerising worlds and time frames, it’s to see through eyes that you’d never physically have the ability to see through, and most of all, it’s to fall in love with something so simple and so humble as the printed page.
While humanities subjects may be on the decline regarding students’ choice of degree, English Literature is a subject that will live on forever. To read a book is to embark on a journey; drumming up that same childhood excitement that I used to get in the pit of my stomach when it was time for a bedtime story. As Victor Hugo once said: ‘
To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.’
…and I for one, hope that spark never goes out.
We love English Literature here at Kettle Books! Click here to read how writer Becky Lancashire fell in love with the subject