Advice for Students, Lectures, Second year, Studying, Top Tips

English Literature Crash Course

Often English Literature is perceived as a course where you simply read, consider the way that the colour of curtains reflects the mood of the author and essentially pull out 2000 words from nothing. This perception could not be more wrong. Currently studying English Literature at Cardiff University, I can tell you that it is a hard but rewarding course.  

Here is a crash course of how to stay on top of your English Literature degree:

Primary Texts 

Lots of people say don’t bother reading your primary texts until you get to university, you may swap modules or even degrees. I disagree. If you do not read the texts before you get to university the chances are that you will not read them at all. Second year counts towards your final degree grade and I have to say, if you haven’t read the texts you are meant to be studying … you’re going to struggle. Do I say this from experience? Yes. I currently have 12 books to read within a month and I have to say I am  

S  T  R  U  G  G  L  I  N  G  

Is this reading possible, on top of lecture material, secondary readings, and essays? No. Read the books before you start Uni. It gives you a lot more free time. 

Where to do your reading 

  • The library is an obvious answer, I prefer the ASSL library as I am a creature of habit and it just so happens that this was the first library I came across. The Science Library in the main building is a much more aesthetic choice though. The upstairs floor is like something out of Harry Potter with its old bookshelves filled with equally old looking books. It has high marble looking walls and a massive window at the end which lets in lots of natural light. The perfect place to get lost in a book. It also helps that this floor is patrolled by staff which keeps it silent. Another plus, if you fancy retracing the steps of Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock Holmes was filmed in this building! 
  • For first years living in any of the Talybont residences – the social centre is a great choice If you just can’t concentrate at home. It is close enough that you can pop home for lunch or a cup of tea, but far enough away that your flatmates can’t come and distract you for hours.  
  • A Café – this is my favourite option. Who doesn’t want to read in the comfort of a nice aesthetic café? My favourites are Blue Honey Local, Early Bird Café, Atma in the city centre, Hoffi Coffee.  
  • Don’t be afraid of your seminar leaders. They’re literally paid to help you, so if you can’t understand why Shylock in the merchant of Venice is so villainised or what the Shakespearean language actually means, then ask! 

Do the Formatives 

A formative is essentially a draft which the module leader is allowed to mark for you, give you feedback on and tell you what you can improve. What about this is not to love? Why not take the opportunity to get feedback on whether you’re on the right track before your hand-in? Ironically, most people do not do formatives. They can’t be bothered to start thinking about the essays that far ahead, preferring to leave it until 2 days before hand in. I have to say, in second year I am striving to do the formatives because I just need the feedback. What is the point of feeling around in the dark for a 2:1 or a First when you could be guided? 

Write notes as you read the book in relation to the module 

This will make it so much easier to find the good passages when you come to write your essay. You will probably have to re-read (or read for the first time if you’re like most of us) and writing notes or writing out the useful quotes and their page numbers is essential. It will help you formulate an argument and find them again.  

Use the Writing Workshop 

They give you such good advice and it’s free. Really why would you not? Just make an appointment and gain that treasure trove of knowledge. Be a 2:1 when you were a 2:2.  

Talk to people in your seminars.  

You may have already made great pals with your flat mates but who doesn’t want to be popular? You can never have too many friends at university! It is very easy to stop putting in effort once you get comfortable at university, but you may find that your new best friend has been sat next to you in a seminar for a year undiscovered! If you miss a lecture or seminar, you can ask your brand-new course mates for their notes… a definite motive.  

In conclusion, do not be disillusioned that English Literature is an easy course. It requires dedication, as all degrees do. If you stay organised and remain on top of the reading you will do well, and at the end of the day you are here to get a degree (as well as all of that fun social stuff of course).  

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