February 7, 2014, by Eve

Let Me Count the Ways

University may not be for everyone. Devoting long hours of your weekend to the perusal of Austen, Smith or Milton may sound to some people like the craziest, most grotesque form of self-punishment thinkable but for others, for me, it is the most rewarding, pleasurable pastime imaginable. To dive and swim in the imaginations of Britain’s greatest wordsmiths is an honour, a privilege and it’s what I’ve been doing for the last three years.

There’s no denying that studying English involves a lot of reading – there’s no getting around it. So it’s a good thing I like doing it. But the thing that’s so great about English at Nottingham is the diversity of texts – it’s not week after week of The Three Volume Victorian novel. I’ve wrestled ugly monsters, with Beowulf as my captain; performed Ibsen and Shakespeare with equal gusto; traced the history of detective fiction from Dickens to Doyle; sung poems about daffodils; hid behind the sofa from the likes of Alan Moore and the spirit of Blake; and, yes, I’ve hibernated for long hours, curled around that hefty ‘Middlemarch’ (and loved it dearly).

English at Nottingham is not simply books and plays and the occasional graphic novel, last term I did a module titled ‘Screen Shakespeare’ concerned with adaptations of Shakespeare in the movies. I watched ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ in the name of academia! And wrote my assessments on ‘Shakespeare in the 1950s Western’ and the Nazi-fication of Richard III.

Reading is not the only facet of studying English. The main attraction, for me, is the platform for debate and discussion the course provides. Your hours revolve around listening to enthused academics arguing about Johnson or Bronte or Forster and doing the arguing and debating yourself with equal enthusiasm. Last Tuesday, for instance, I was in a lesson where twenty people chatted about how much they loved the word ‘muffled’; then I sat in the library and discussed the hilarities of melodrama; listened to a lecture on the history of the West End; and finished off the day by examining Oscar Wilde’s handwritten copy of a letter to Bosie.

Enjoyment is the most potent stimulator available to me. I’m heavily involved extracurricular activities – I’m Arts editor for the student magazine, I write these blogs, I work at a local theatre, I spend my evening reviewing plays – but my course is my rock, the centre to my whole, wonderful experience at university. Study what you love – the phrase should be taken as literary as possible. I study because I love. I love because I study.

As a fresh-faced, over-excitable sixth former there was no question of what I would read at University: stories. As I ran my eye down the long reading lists in University prospectus, I felt a thrill, it’s hard to describe, it was like excitement or longing, thrill is the only word which come close to defining that feeling – the feeling of belonging. That thrill is hard to measure, virtually invisible to the naked eye, but it is vital for anyone who decides to study the worthy subject of English.

Posted in Eve