Preparing to study English Literature at university
How to hit the ground running
Anna Sykes is a British student who is currently in her first year studying English Literature at the University of York. Here, she dispenses some invaluable advice on how to prepare for a degree in English Literature.
Wider reading is perhaps the most important thing to do in preparing to study English Literature as it gives you a broader and deeper understanding of the subject. Here are four tips to help you get the most out of it:
- Start with what you enjoy! If there are specific genres, time periods or authors that particularly grab you, begin by reading more texts from that group and finding similarities and differences between them. If you don't know where to start, head over to 'English' in the Subjects Library - you'll find three must-read pieces of fiction in the Geek Out section.
- Try to create a wider reading chain of books by taking a book you have recently read and finding something closely linked to it, then try to find something that can be linked to that book, and so on (the reading lists you can create on GoodReads are perfect for this). For example, the use of intertextuality in Ian McEwan’s Atonement may lead you to read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and then move on to Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.
- Reading critical essays or articles about texts and key theories is another great way to improve your knowledge. In your A-level course and at university you may be asked to reference critical works in your essays, so it’s vital to familiarise yourself with literary criticisms of texts. The Subject library’s Geek Out section for English lists a number of non-fiction texts and academic journals that you can begin with.
- Theatre and film adaptations of novels and plays can help you to deepen your understanding of a text, as well as encourage you to think about and analyse the way that texts are presented. In addition, podcasts such as the New Yorker Fiction and Audio Book Club can expose you to new writers and critical discussions of texts.
At your school or college there are probably a number of extracurricular activities related to English that you can get involved with. This is a great way to build your engagement with the subject, and make your Personal Statement really stand out to universities.
- Book clubs are a great way to meet other people who are passionate about English and experience regular analytical discussions about texts.
- Volunteering at your school or local library is a great way to show your passion for English and develop your leadership and communication skills.
- MOOCs are a valuable tool for discovering new topics within English that you may not have studied before. A wide range of MOOCs can be found here on Unifrog.
- Taking part in drama and theatre companies within your school or local community can also help to widen your knowledge of Literature. By getting involved with drama, you are able to study a text from the perspective of an actor or a director, helping you to develop a deeper understanding of the writer’s craft.
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