How English Literature at Roehampton taught me about literature, London and myself

As a mature student studying for a degree in English Literature at Roehampton I had previously been out of education for some time. Returning to it in September 2016 was a little daunting! Having recently completed year two, I could not be a more steadfast advocate of study at Roehampton and all it has to offer; it has enriched my life in many ways and it is this I would like to share with you here.

The flexible structure of the course has meant I have been able to continue working while also allocating sufficient time to my studies. Nine hours per week of seminars and lectures, running over just two terms per year, allows adequate time for work, play and other commitments. For me, this has meant the manageable study requirements have been an enjoyment rather than a chore. The range of interesting modules I have been able to choose from each term has allowed me to focus on subjects which I have a genuine interest in, from late nineteenth century American Literature to Post-War, contemporary texts, to a focus on how written narratives are dealt with in the digital age.

The varied subjects have allowed me to pursue areas of interest while also introducing me to subjects I was previously unaware of. My main passion for literature is certainly being fulfilled: I am reading texts I would never have thought to read independently. The stimulating lectures and seminars have shown me a depth to reading (and critiquing) the novels in a way I never would have known before. One thing’s for sure: I won’t read another opening line of a book without questioning its narrative technique and structure! My appreciation for literature has only been enhanced as a result.

Let me go back to how the degree has impacted my life away from the classroom and computer. Not only does English Literature at Roehampton encourage you to read a wide range of texts, the course establishes these texts within the time period, the cultural and political landscape and the historical context in which they were written (and set). The enjoyment of reading and the increased knowledge which I’ve gained from studying literature has been bolstered by other interests the course has opened up. One example of this is the American Literature module which has exposed me to novels which have now become firm personal favourites. The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which explores late nineteenth century life in New Orleans, is a particular favourite of mine. Not only was this module hugely interesting, it has inspired me to travel to the US this summer to visit the setting of the book! My plan: to re-read the novel while physically immersed in the history and culture of this unique city – you really can’t get much better than that.

With its proximity to central London, the degree has incorporated various trips to literary sites of interest – the Charles Dicken’s museum in Doughty Street, the famous Mrs Dalloway walk from Westminster (from Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway) and a fascinating trip to The Royal Academy of Arts (to name just a few). I look forward to what’s in store for year three! The inclusion of these trips has complemented the content of what I have learned on the course and truly brings to life the texts I have studied. The academic skills I am learning were expected from studying a subject at undergraduate level; I had not expected to find myself travelling half way around the world to bring fiction to life.

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