An Elegy To English Literature

Well not really, because I suck at writing poetry – but here are some of my thoughts on the discipline as I leave it behind.

Okay so today’s the day. Today was the last day where I was technically a student of English Literature. Of course, if anyone loves reading and continues to love it then they are always, in some way, a student of English Lit. I have studied English Lit, properly, since I was 14 at GCSE level. I don’t really count what you did before that as studying it, before that level you’re kind of just placing the building blocks for what is to come later.

I then went on to A Level English Lit which I absolutely loved – exploring the contexts and connections between authors and their works. It fascinated me to look for hidden clues in either a poem or a novel (or any other form for that matter), as to what a writer was thinking, or trying to put across as they did so. What I liked the most however, was not the analysis of the actual text itself, but to look at how it’s context had so affected it. I think this is why A Level was so awesome for me, it was about developing an understanding of where authors had got their influence from, discussing how intertextuality was rife throughout literature and making links between different themes etc. I was lucky at A Level that we got one topic which I find interesting; the literature of the First World War, and the second topic was so open ended (Love Through The Ages) that we could basically study what we wanted – within reason.

I liked Lit so much then that I decided to take it on to University in a joint major with History. And this is where the downward slide began. I was made to study texts that I didn’t care for, by writers whose style I really didn’t like. This is hardly surprising of course but it really got me down. Now don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed various aspects we did; Renaissance Sonnets, Hamlet, British Romanticism, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter etc. but some just drove me to distraction (I’m looking at you Virginia Woolf and Seamus Heaney). I just couldn’t bring myself to care about what they had to say, and I figured that this wasn’t a good thing when studying at University! Even though I love reading, and I love exploring contexts, influences and literary devices that authors and poets used, I realised that I had to be on my terms. It had to be books that I had chosen because I wanted to read ┬áthem, not because they fitted well into the section of literary theory that I should be coming to grips with at that moment in time.

So I changed my major to straight History, with a minor in Philosophy. History is one of those subjects that I am so passionate about, that even when we were studying Victorian social surveys, I still found myself moderately interested. I have a burning want to know everything there is to know about a History (even though that’s impossible), and I found my love of English wasn’t quite up to this. I figured that I should rectify this now whilst I still had the chance, before diving into ENG201 Literary Theory module next year (ew!).

I sat my last ever English exam today. I think it went alright. I feel as if I passed at least which is always a plus point! And tonight, I am going to curl up with my kindle, download something totally new (I’ve been wanting to read some Oscar Wilde for a while now) and enjoy just for the sake of it. Yes, I may wonder if Wilde’s Victorian/Edwardian context influenced his work, and how his unique position as the author affected the text… but at least I won’t have to memorise any quotes!

Until next time,

B

XO

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Book Reviews Coming Soon…

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by E.L James – Just wait to hear what I thought of this one, oh boy…

‘The Queen’s Fool’ by Phillipa Gregory

‘Goodbye To All That’ by Robert Graves

‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ by Salman Rushdie

 

The first two I have read, so those will be up fairly shortly; the third I am currently reading at the pace of a speeding train because, so far, it’s bloody good! And the fourth is on my ‘re-read’ list and I will be tackling next. It’s quite short, so I doubt it’ll take me very long. Quite a mix, huh?