Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.
Although my reading week in Southampton was really good and all about having fun, work didn’t just stop. On top of having to do my usual work (I usually have one novel per week, some work to prepare, and many extracts, poems, theoretical essays and chapter from books to read) I had three formative assessments to complete — one for each module. I’d planned everything so that work wouldn’t bother me during the week, apart from starting Kafka’s The Trial (that I strongly recommend) on the train.
To be honest, things turned out well and it wasn’t chaotic, as I expected.
Everything was much more smooth than last year actually. This time last year had been very tough and stressful because I had three deadlines for summative (marked) coursework in week 5 or 6, and had to start thinking about my next three summative essays due in week 12. In other works, I spent the entire semester working on one essay after the other. This year, they’re trying to change things a bit and that it why we were given more formative assessments with feedback. There are pros and cons to this but honestly, I think that’s very good! It is true that now each essay is worth 100% of the whole module which doesn’t leave much leeway and it’s more risky. However, that also means you get more feedback from tutors throughout the weeks and, let’s not lie, you have less work! Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still get a lot of work. What I mean is it’s nothing compared to the heavy workload and stress of doing research and writing actual important essays.
So back to my formative assessments…
I was overjoyed and relieved to learn that one of them (for Reading and Writing Translations) was actually going to be the seminar preparation I’d done for the previous week. This was therefore out of the way! For this one, we had two options: we could either compare very briefly a novel and its film adaptation (what is referred to as “intersemiotic translation”) or produce our own short translation of any text into English. I chose the latter and translated the start of one of my favourite short stories, ‘Justine’ by Nicola Sirkis from the brilliant short story collection Les Mauvaises Nouvelles (if you like J.D. Salinger, particularly his Nine Stories, I recommended this book — Sirkis seems very inspired by him). After this, we were asked to write a short commentary explaining what we’d done in the translation and whether we’d experienced difficulties. In my case, the only difficulty was to reproduce the very oral and informal speech of an eleven-year old and to retain a certain sense of innocence without making the character sound too childish. We also had to think about what happened regarding the audience. Was the audience of the target text the same as the original one? Did we attempt to change the readership and, if so, how did we achieve this? It was an easy exercise and I’d picked a very simple text but I enjoyed doing it. I miss translation workshops a lot (it is something we did a lot at uni in France, as a way of learning English).
The second one, for Modernism, is linked to the question I will pick for the final essay. Recently, we got all the questions we can choose for the essay and for now, I’m quite interested in the problem of modernism as a reaction against modernity and in the metropolis in modernist writing. I don’t have that many ideas for the moment but I got many books on these topics out of the library the other day and have been gathering information and quotes that I might bring in as further reading in my essay.
What we needed to do was to choose three literary texts that we’d studied that are in relation to a theme or question we’d like to work on and sum them up, problematize the issues these texts are raising and tell what we found particularly interesting about them. I tried to do this fairly quickly as I’m not sure exactly what direction my essay will take. I have split and published this piece of work on my blog last week if you’d like to have a look.
And finally, the assessment for the 18th Century Writings module was about genre. The module is divided into three parts: print (the development of print culture), genre and criticism. The first formative assessments for this module earlier this semester were therefore about the influence of print culture and form on what authors produced. This time we had to write about genre in relation to either Robinson Crusoe, The Fair Penitent or The Rape of the Lock. These three texts are all different and interesting but I felt more confident working on Robinson Crusoe. As we’d studied in the lecture and seminar, I went through the different genres ventriloquised within this novel (voyage literature, journalism, realism, spiritual autobiography…). To finish, I raised a question from the lecture that I found worth thinking about: is this blending of genres and experimental style the expression of Defoe’s literary freedom or is it, on the contrary, the mirror of a society that didn’t value this new literary form (the novel)? Was Defoe trying to make his novel appear like something else (as an autobiography, for instance) to legitimize Robinson Crusoe and thus play with the expectations of the readers?
Since all this work is formative, we won’t be marked. Instead, we get feedback from our seminar tutors during one to one tutorials that we book. This is also an opportunity to discuss our work but also to talk about the module as a whole and ask questions if we have any.
There is always a million things to do and work keeps adding up at university so you’d better be hard-working and organised. Some aren’t and still manage but I have no idea how they do it! As I mentioned, I’ve slowly started working on my Modernism essay but need to hurry because it takes so much time and effort and I have two other essays. Meanwhile, I still have one last novel to read (To the Lighthouse by Woolf) and many more short stories and essays.