December 11, 2023, by UoN School of English

Learning to read… and re-read

Reflecting on my time as an English student, a large part of my enjoyment has come from exposure to an array of diverse literature. From Old English elegies, to gothic comics, to creative writing, I’ve certainly not been short on options.  

But accompanying this range was a feeling of ‘switching brains’ to fully engage with different texts and sources each week. I felt the need to be an expert medievalist, literary critic and linguist all at once. This was both pressuring and counterproductive. Part of the process of studying an English degree is embracing the uncertainty and putting aside perfectionism. It’s all about learning how to read. It sounds strange, after all, every English student is clearly a capable reader! But as I have come to discover, reading is an active, complex process. It’s a kind of dialogue between writer and reader with multiple layers to sift through.  

A long wall of books illuminated my hanging lightbulbsPhoto from Unsplash

Studying English has given me a new perspective. I now consider texts malleable, they can be shaped and moulded in different forms. You can be autonomous, structuring your own reading and analysis; in this variety there’s value. Across the degree you’ll stumble upon literature you love. And some texts you may leave to gather dust on the far corner of the top shelf. This is perfectly okay. Extract ideas that inspire you and try to welcome those challenging and unfamiliar.  

Of course, along with reading comes re-reading. Sometimes it can be daunting to re-enter a text with the intention of deconstructing it for an essay. But there is no better satisfaction than making sense of chaotic scribbles and highlights; solving the puzzle you’ve pieced together.  

In some ways, the act of reading has felt like a metaphor for the university experience. There’s great, enjoyable moments, where things make sense. Other times, it’s challenging and intimidating and all a bit much. But ultimately, reading is never wasted, just like experience. One day, you might just spot the answer you’re looking for, lurking on the very pages you’ve read and re-read so many times over… 

— Mia Gazza, 3rd Year BA English

Posted in Literature, 1500 to the presentStudent Words