June 29, 2022, by UoN School of English
Enjoying a topic that I did not expect to enjoy
As someone who loved English Literature A’ Level, I couldn’t wait to get started on my English BA degree at the University of Nottingham back in 2018. There was just one small thing niggling at the back of my mind. While all the other universities that I’d applied to were for an “English Literature” course, the one I had chosen at Nottingham was just “English”. I loved the fact that this meant I could pursue my passions for Creative Writing, but wasn’t sure what to expect from this mysterious “Language and Context” module that we were also required to take. A few minutes leafing through the textbook that we’d been asked to get and I was even less convinced, seeing diagrams of the mouth and the brain felt like a flashback to the science subjects I’d happily dropped after year 11. Combined with this was the fact that my school never offered English Language for A’ Level. I’d accepted their excuse that English Literature was the more important one, and assumed English Language simply involved writing summaries like in the comprehension paper we sat for GCSE.
How wrong I was. It only took a couple of weeks and I was gushing to my parents on the phone about how interesting the Language and Context lectures had been. I have vivid memories of Kevin Harvey teaching us about how forensic linguistics has been used to solve murder cases and bring killers to justice, Snow by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers being blasted through the lecture theatre to demonstrate phonoaesthetics, and a fascinating lecture on how language is used to gender children’s toys. I’d had absolutely no idea English Language meant any of, and all, these things.
In second year, the year I’d envisaged taking the opportunity to drop Language in favour of Literature, I instead found myself jumping straight for the Language and Society module, which I followed up with Language and Feminism in third year.
Flash forward and three years later, I’m 2/3 of the way through my English Studies Masters. Half of my modules will have been in English Language and I’m about to embark on a Linguistics dissertation. The aspect that made me doubt the University of Nottingham course I’ve now realised, is one of the biggest selling points of the course, and one of the reasons I’m so glad I picked it. Moral of the story: don’t let your preconceptions of topics put you off. The topic you’re not sure about might well end up being the one you enjoy most!
– Gabrielle Cracknell, English Studies MA student
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