I mention quite often on here that I’m currently an English Literature masters student, and yet I’ve realised I’ve shared very little to do with my experience. I didn’t create this blog to be about my academic life, but it’s becoming more and more of a presence. I don’t really feel like I can keep referring to it in passing (and often using it as an excuse for inconsistent posting) without doing a bit more of a deep dive.
I’ve also been on a bit of a hiatus on this blog because of my studies, so returning with a post updating you all about them feels apt.
I think the best way for me to do this (at least in regards to my postgraduate experience) is through monthly updates. I’ll use these posts to talk about the books I’ve studied, what the highlights and lowlights have been, how my dissertation is progressing, and a brief projection of what the next month has in store. As this post is being published halfway through November, I won’t be giving a projection in this post.
I’m hoping this will be interesting for people who have been or want to be literature students at the very least.
Books I’ve Studied
October’s reading was pretty well varied, and in general I enjoyed what I was required to read. Before I start talking too much about them, here is a comprehensive list of everything I read:
- Mythos by Stephen Fry
- The Twilight of the Gods by Richard Garnett
- Bisclavet by Marie de France
- This is not a Werewolf Story by Sandra Evans
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- A selection of poetry by Charles Baudelaire
- A selection of Romantic poetry (Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley etc.)
- The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe
- Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
I enjoyed a lot of the books that I studied in October, and this was enhanced by studying them. Whilst the initial reading experience for some of the 19th century texts wasn’t the best, I always find that they retrospectively gain favour once I’ve thought about them more critically. Some books like Mythos and Wuthering Heights had been on my tbr for a while, so it was nice to finally get round to reading these.
I got to study a wide variety of texts, including poetry and children’s literature. I haven’t studied poetry for years, so whilst I had completely forgotten all terminology it was fun to get back into this!
I have to confess that I didn’t like all of the books I read last month though. My least favourite was probably Uncle Tom’s Cabin, mostly because it was a difficult read. Although considered revolutionary at the time, the language and characterisation used is now really unacceptable, and as such I struggled. I found it really interesting to consider the context of the novel though, and we had a really productive conversation about it in our seminar.
Highlight of the Month
Honestly, my highlight for this month is joining such a wonderful postgraduate community through my new course. Because I did a joint honours degree at undergrad, I sometimes felt like I was stuck in between two departments, and struggled to meet people because my time was split in half. Now, I’m on a course with only 30 people, so we’re a far more cohesive group.
I’ve had so many interesting and fun discussions in seminars, and it no longer feels like we’re entering classes to have a fixed discussion about a text. The tutors are taking a week each talking about their specialist interest, so our conversations are always infused with their passion. We get to tailor our sessions to our personal interests to the extent that I haven’t really felt bored at all.
Lowlight of the Month
My lowlight of the month is the workload, which was probably quite evident from my absence on this blog. I think that as much as it was hard being stuck inside during the lockdowns of last year it really forced me to have enough time to get everything done. Now, though, the need to find a good work/life balance is a big priority, but it feels very incongruous to my workload.
I don’t think the matter has been helped by the fact that it’s open season for graduate schemes, so I’ve had that on my plate as well. Honestly, it’s not so bad on a week-to-week basis, but I’ve felt the threat of burn out coming on a couple times already and we’re only just starting to approach deadline season.
I was tempted to take this section out, purely because I think it could be embarrassing if I don’t make much progress between months. However, there’s no point in giving insight into my life and a literature student if I don’t include the bad with the good, so it’s here to stay.
At the moment, my dissertation is firmly in the initial research stage, and I’m currently just refining my topic idea. I’ve been finding it hard to fit work for it in on a weekly basis, and I really need to start deciding on some primary texts. I’m hoping that by the end of November things will have calmed down enough for me to really knuckle down with this, so hopefully in the next couple monthly updates we’ll see real advancement.
I’m not sure whether I’ll be sharing specifics about my dissertation yet (in the interest of anonymity and academic integrity), so for now I’m not going to get into the details. This could change in future monthly updates, I just need to think this through a bit more.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please wish me luck for the next month of study!