An International Student of Literature in England.
It looks like I finally made a vlog! I hope I don’t sound too stupid (me and my French accent are doomed to live together forever) and I’m sorry I forgot about the modules I was doing, haha, it shouldn’t show too much thanks to the magic of editing! I can’t believe it – I swear it’s the stress of talking in front of a camera. Despite this, I hope I managed to make my first vlog interesting.
If you want to know exactly what studying English Literature at UEA is like or simply want to hear the beautiful sound of my voice for 13 minutes, click on the video! I talk a bit about myself, how I ended up here after growing up in France and discuss the modules I took in my first and seconds years.
In first year, I took Literature in History 1, Reading Texts 1 and Reading Translations the first semester. They were all really interesting although the start was quite rough (with Chaucer, middle-English, proto-feminism), especially for a student whose mother tongue isn’t English. Literature in History 1 offered an amazing range of texts (from the Middles Ages to the 19th century novel) and taught me the basics of English literature that we all need in order to pursue this degree. They have now changed the reading list for this module but the approach hasn’t changed.
Reading Texts 1 entirely depends on the tutor you have: we explored the notion and the role of “the readers” with various poems and one contemporary novel (The Hiding Place).
I was very excited about Reading Translations although I didn’t get to do any practical translation myself. We compared English translations (mainly poems) in class and discussed “rewriting” in the context of translated poetry. For our projects, we were free to compare anything so I worked on three or four translations of The Outside (originally L’Etranger) by Camus. I had so much fun doing that!
Although I missed the translation and things got harder, I think I preferred the second semester thanks to Literature in History 2. The syllabus has also changed but you’ll explore “realism” and “reality” in literature. As you’ll see with most novels, they do not deal with literary realism in its traditional sense at all. Instead, you’ll study one novel per week that offers one version of reality and tackles this issue differently and in creative ways. The highlight of this module was by far Nabokov’s post-modern Lolita – a novel I fell in love with.
Writing Texts didn’t involve practical writing: we studied theorists and many essays on writing, fiction, authors and finally experimental writing. This module was quite hard and I realised I’m not a bit fan of critical essays.
Like Reading Texts 1, Reading Texts 2 was different with each seminar leader. Each group had to study one novel and one critical book – I got Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
In first year, four of the modules are core modules (both Lit in History and Reading Texts), the other two are optional! The range of modules isn’t amazing but its gets much better in second year. Overall, my first year went well despite my surprise regarding the amount of work given, especially the second semester with one novel per week on top of several essays. When I look back it wasn’t much compared to what I am doing now.
Unfortunately, you need to take three pr-1789 modules between your second and third year of English Lit. I say “unfortunately” because I’m not really interested in that kind of writing (not to mention my troubles with anything not written in contemporary English) and most of it is poetry, drama and critical writing – not literary novels. I thus started the first semester with 18th Century Writings – a carefully chosen title that indicates the very nature of this module. Indeed, it does NOT focus on novels, which really became a thing in the second half of the 18th century. I was very pleasantly surprised! We worked on all kinds of writings from this century, starting with satirical writing, the first soppy “novels” (short stories) from Fantomina, to Pamela and Robinson Crusoe – two very thick novels I really enjoyed despite not being able to finish them. What particularly interested me is that since novels (new, young or recent in latin) were a completely new and unusual form, authors tried to make them appear as something else. This constraint forced and allowed writers to be more experimental and write hybrid narratives, while often pretending that their stories were true. Robinson Crusoe is a good example of this: it blends journalistic accounts, travel narratives, autobiography and religious development.
I wasn’t sure about Modernism at first since we started with poets such as T.S Eliot but we soon did one novel per week with Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Kafka which was pretty cool and what I expected from the module. I was eager to discover twentieth century writers and to see how they changed or even revolutionised the literary landscape. To me, the last couple of weeks about the city and modernism as symptoms and themes of Modernism were the best and I wrote my essay on it.
Reading and Writing Translations was awesome and a step higher from Reading Translations: we studied several translation theories, did practical workshops (for those who can speak another language – the other were allowed to compare a novel and its film adaptation or compare two translations), compared Bible translation (something I talked about here) etc. Although I usually hate writing essays and find it very hard and stressful, I had a lot of fun producing my own experimental translation of Cookie Allez’s Dominique (a recent French novel dealing with gender identity) and a commentary. I talked a lot about it and added an extract of my own translation in this article.
That semester was amazing: lectures got much better and I felt like we were really going in depth in each module after a “surface” and “overview” first year, if you see what I mean.
During the first semester, I said I didn’t understand why people complained about the second year being much harder all of a sudden… Now I do!
For the next three months or so, I’m stuck with Shakespeare. I only took it because of the requirements and I really regret it! It’s a shame because the lectures and seminars are so good and interesting but I don’t understand the language, I don’t think he’s funny, I never liked theatre and everybody else in my seminar group seems to have something very clever to say (and I’m just there trying not to be seen so I don’t have to embarrass myself in front of everyone). The main question of this module is “How does Shakespeare’s theatre work?” and we try to study different aspects of his plays and language that can be applied to all of his writing.
However, I’m very happy with my two other modules! Contemporary Fiction is very refreshing. It focuses on British novels that were published in the last ten years and explores the notion of “contemporaneity” and what authors do to genre, style and form. It’s a delight to read short and easy novels that aren’t conventionally studied in Literature. Among the writers on the syllabus are Mohsin Hamid, Jim Crace, Keith Ridway… I’ll try to review all these books on my blog!
Last but not least is European Literature: what are the boundaries of Europe? Are there formal and stylistic elements that are typically “European”? What does European literature have to say and what influences European writers? So far, we’ve done Kafka, Camus, Borges (not sure why him)…
I’ll be able to tell more about these last two modules later in the semester. The range of modules in second year is absolutely stunning. You can study pretty much anything. You can even do modules from another school of study (not only LDC), like AMA (American and Media Studies), arts, languages including sign language and PPL (translation, philosophy, history, politics). But if you want to stick to literature, you can study pretty much any kind of literary and any century (medieval, Shakespeare, romanticism, drama 17th century, 18th century, European, Contemporary)! For those who enjoy critical theory, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a module called (I think) critical theory, another one about gender and sexuality in literature etc.
For more information on all the options you get, go onto the UEA website and check out the course outline! It’s very impressive and exciting.
I didn’t think I’d write that much today but this pretty much sums up the video, with more examples of novels we read but minus my “fun jokes” and pretty face.
Do not hesitate to leave a comment here or on Youtube if you have any queries!
By the way, I’ve made a Facebook page for my blog is you want to follow me and get links for my latest articles, vlogs or photographs of UEA and Norwich. The page is called Anne-Sophie at UEA, like my blog.
See you soon! 🙂