A Day in the Life of a First Year English Literature Student
The first thing I realised about English Literature was that the workload was a force to be reckoned with! Unlike in college, where I studied around five or six texts across two years, I quickly realised the pace of reading for my degree would be entirely different. English at Warwick means I read an enormous breadth of texts; it also means that we, as students, are in a position to take our learning in a direction that interests us.
For context, I have around 8-10 contact hours per week. Year One of this English degree is four compulsory modules, with each having one lecture and one seminar. Broadly speaking, each module covers a different text every week, which means that each student is reading roughly four novella-length texts each week. In order to get the most out of your degree, it’s important to not just read the texts, but to also do some critical research, often with the help of resources provided by the department or your seminar tutors. Often, your tutors will send you some articles or commentaries to read in order to centre your understanding of a text for the seminar.
A typical day, working from 9:00-17:00
Lecture and seminar preparation! On this day, I had a Medieval to Renaissance lecture and an Epic into Novel seminar. I took two hours in the morning to finish any reading for both my lecture and seminar, and to go through the seminar notes my Epic into Novel seminar tutor had sent me for the seminar later that day. My friends and I agree that the more reading you are able to do, the more you will enjoy a lecture, as you get out what you put in! I enjoy using the beginning of my day to get ahead on work for later that week as staying on top of reading is so important when it comes to productivity in English.
I had a one hour Medieval to Renaissance lecture on this day. Luckily, living on campus in my first year, means that it takes no time at all to get from your accommodation to your lecture theatre. I really enjoyed this lecture because the Medieval to Renaissance module is absolutely steeped in history, which is something I didn’t expect from this degree and has totally changed by perspective on literary analysis.
I took this hour and went for lunch with some course mates. English relies on you being an independent reader, so sometimes you need to take a break with people that do the same thing as you!
Next, I had a one hour Epic into Novel seminar. I came onto this degree with the firmly-held belief that this module simply wasn’t for me, and it was something I wasn’t going to enjoy. In reality, I love this module! One of the things I love the most is the collaborative learning that seminars facilitate. There are around 7-9 people in most of my seminars, and everyone has a different response to the texts we study, which makes for a dynamic and interesting discussion, led by the seminar tutor. Often, despite the reading you have done, the nature of the seminar means that you come away with a very different view compared to the one that you arrived with!
I had asked my seminar tutor if I could meet to discuss an upcoming essay earlier in the week. The nature of the seminar meant I had lots of new ideas for the essay title, which I felt it was best to discuss before I started writing. This is one of the most helpful things to do at University, because your seminar tutors can often show you the right path to take in the face of a daunting word count. In this instance, they directed me to some interesting critical articles that I hadn’t found before to help me formulate a better argument.
I took these final two hours to work in the library. I’m sure not only every English student, but every student at the University will agree that the library is by far the most productive place to work! I began mind-mapping the essay I discussed above, as well as looking to reading I had to finish for later that week. Another great tip for English students is to end each day with a plan of what they need to achieve tomorrow.