“But I’m an A-level English student!” I hear you cry. “I’m already good at that!” Of course you are, or you wouldn’t be applying to study at degree level, but university really turns it up a notch. I completed over one hundred essays over three years and a 12,000 word dissertation, so if that doesn’t make you a walking talking thesaurus with the unique ability to recognise an Oxford comma, I don’t know what will.
English Literature is a DIY subject, which does require some motivation to get up in the morning and power through an essay. However, it also means professors will give you the freedom to pursue your own interests and line of thought, rather than dictating what you should learn. With centuries of literature to choose from, you will be able to find your specialisation, which will make writing those essays a whole lot easier.
English Literature is the most broad and varied degree. Books are so much more than the way they’re written and are bursting with subjects, themes, theories, and contextual information that will require the same academic discipline as if you were studying subjects such as history, economics, politics, philosophy, psychology, and languages.
After studying around nine subjects at GCSEs and four at A-Levels, sometimes it’s hard to just pick one for university. That’s where dual honours steps in, a degree course that combines two or three subjects so you don’t have to resort to picking out of a hat. But how does this link with English Literature? Well, it’s one of the degrees that allows you to do dual honours, alongside other humanities courses such as modern languages or history.
This one may sound obvious, but to most English Literature is just the study of other people’s creative works, not the creation of your own. However, not only were there modules on my course where I could write poetry and prose, but a close analysis of some of the greatest works of literature inevitably contributed to the improvement of my own writing style. When you’re surrounded by creativity day in day out, you’re bound to soak up some of it yourself.
If there’s ever an old wives’ tale, it’s that English Literature will only lead to a career in teaching. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, it does appear to limit your options. However, English is one of the ‘traditional’ subjects like Maths that will always appeal to employers because of the easily transferable skills you will acquire. So start dreaming of a career in journalism, publishing, PR, marketing, advertising, or even Law, because they are all yours for the taking.
I know this sounds like something your parents would say, but cultivating a cultural appreciation is important. Nowadays, people are too focussed on getting a good job and making money and forget the finer things like in life, like philosophy and the arts. You need to care for your mind as well as your bank account, and English Literature, with its focus on deeper thoughts, ideas, and issues, will broaden your mental horizons.
As I said earlier, many people choose degree subjects as a stepping stone to a good job. Law will make you a lawyer, medicine a doctor, economics a CEO of bank. The reason why many people think English Literature is a dead-end degree for employment is because it’s what I like to call a selfish degree. It’s not directly vocational, it’s not even easy to match it with a specific career path, but that’s because most people choose it because they just love books. Other students studying other degrees will moan that they hate their subject, that they’re gritting their teeth and ploughing through it because of the fat pay check at the other side. English Literature students will seem unnaturally enthusiastic about writing an essay, and they will be laughed at, but we’ve forgotten that that’s what university should be about.
And if you’re not convinced by choosing a subject based on it being a passion of yours – who’s going to get the higher mark at the end of the degree, the person who struggled through their three years or the person who put their heart and soul into it?