An Introduction to English Literature and Creative Writing
So… it’s Week 7, the rain is pelting down outside (no, really, it’s hammering it down right now) and it’s quickly becoming that time of year where you’d really rather stay wrapped up warm in bed – and I’m only just making my first appearance so I guess I have a fair bit to catch up on!
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m Sophie. Hi, hello, bonjour everyone (I don’t actually speak French, although I’d like to). I won’t bore you with too many details about me as you can read all that on my profile page if you so wish, but I’m an aspiring author studying English Literature and Creative Writing here at Warwick. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you my first impressions of the course and what it’s like so far.
Of course, you can read all about the course in the prospectus and on the website, so you can find all of the official information there; this is going to be a more informal insight into what its like to study here day to day. Plus, seeing as we’re an incredibly small degree group we tend to get a bit drowned out by all the straight English Literature folks, so I thought it would be good for you to hear a voice from the Creative Writing side of things!
In the first year, all of your modules are chosen for you. We study Modes of Reading, Modes of Writing, Medieval to Renaissance English Literature, and Modern World Literatures. The only choice you have is whether you wish to swap Modern World Literatures for a Modern Language instead. The first year is designed to give you a basic grounding in studying literature and writing about it critically, as well as an introduction to creative writing. Although there’s not much choice in this year about what you study, it covers a huge range of topics and there’s a lot of choice concerning what you write about, so it’s all good!
As an English and Creative Writing student (or even just an English student) you are the envy of everyone – because of your timetable, not so much because of the essays… Due to the fact that English is a subject which obviously requires a lot of reading (don’t even try and kid yourself – there is A LOT of reading. Say hello to the library being your new best friend/second home) you have a lot of independent time. Which is both a blessing and a curse. It is far, far too easy to wake up in the morning and tell yourself that an extra half an hour in bed really won’t hurt, or decide that the best way to spend your afternoon is to binge-watch that series that everyone’s been talking about. Both of these options are acceptable parts of uni life every so often, but not all the time. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), you do actually have to use all of that free time to read the mountain of books sat on your desk and tear your hair out over that essay. Both also common parts of uni life. But it is also a huge blessing when you can spend the morning in bed reading, and come back to your room early afternoon when you’re feeling a bit rubbish and laugh at your friends doing Chemistry who are stuck in labs all day.
So how much independent time is there? I hear you ask. Well, in first year I have 7.5 contact hours (that’s time spent with a tutor) per week. Yes, you read that right. Not much, is it, when you used to spend 5 hours a day in lessons in high school! Somehow it still feels like a lot though! So yeah, there is a lot of time to yourself – use it well – but make sure you take hold of all the other social opportunities on campus here and there too!
For each of my Literature modules I have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar each week, and for my Creative Writing module I have a one and a half hour workshop every week. In lectures we listen to an expert in the field talk about a book or theory/criticism surrounding that book, and then in seminars we get to discuss our own thoughts and opinions on the book and the lecture with our tutor and other students. In my Creative Writing module, we tackle a different type of writing (eg poetry, prose, non-fiction) every half term or so, and in the workshops we look at other people’s writing, carry out our own writing exercises, and give feedback to each other.
The size of classes varies a lot depending on the nature of them. In lectures, all English students attend, so there’s around 200 people in them, but seminars tend to range between 10 and 15 students. Creative Writing only has 35 students, but even then we’re split up into three for our workshops.
The amount of reading you have to do varies a lot too. Each module differs in what they expect. For example, in Creative Writing, they will recommend various books or extracts, some of which you will have to read, but others which are not compulsory; on the other hand, in Modes of Reading, we study one book for four weeks, but in Modern World Literatures we study a different book every week – and some of them are pretty long! But reading is a part of the course you never really complete: if you’ve read the primary texts, then there’s always secondary or background reading to be getting on with!
I have had to submit two essays so far, and a third is due in next week, so things are already in full swing. Week 7 is that funny kind of time where we’re over halfway through the first term and it’s beginning to feel like we’ve been here forever, but at the same time it still only feels like yesterday that we moved in! And speaking of essays, I should probably get on with mine…
Any questions, let me know!