English Lit January 2016

Hello again English Literature people!  I hope you all had very merry Christmases (that word doesn’t look right) and have survived the return to school relatively unscathed. It’s now 2016, and for many of you, this will be the year you actually go to university. That means it’s definitely time to start cogitating on which offer to put as your first choice, and once again I’m here to politely cough and mutter “York!” under my breath.

For me this term is set to be a challenging but fascinating one, as I begin studying my Foreign Literature Module, Camus. York is fairly unique in encouraging literary study of foreign language texts, with every second-year English student taking one module looking at either French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Anglo-Saxon or Old Norse. There’s a reason they call it “English and Related Literature” in all the prospectuses! There are of course different modules for different levels, because not everyone arrives at uni with the same ability, but the department strongly believes that reading non-English literature is incredibly beneficial to budding literary scholars.

See? It was there the whole time, just under your nose

All this was a scary prospect for someone like me who hadn’t done any French since GCSE, but the university has some great systems in place to help. The most important one of these is that every student at York (not just English Literature) is entitled to one free year of language tuition through the Languages For All program. This currently costs £149 so getting it free is a pretty good deal, and you can take the class in any year of study. I chose to do French Level 2 (the level recommended to those with a GCSE in the language) and really improved, so that I passed the exam at the end of the year with flying colours. Well let’s not say they were flying, but I certainly passed with colours.

The LFA classes are really fun; mine last year had about 11 people in it and we all got on really well as we wrestled with the nightmare that is the subjunctive mood. The tutors are also really lovely; they make each class fun (the one on plastic surgery was particularly enjoyable) and are very sympathetic to the balancing act of language practice and uni work. Even if you don’t need to take a language class for your Foreign Literature Module you are still entitled to a free year, and with a range of options from Latin to Arabic to Chinese there’s no excuse for not doing so! More importantly, it looks incredibly cool to read books in a foreign language, so you can use it show off to all your friends.

“Woah is that French?! You’re so cool!”

One thing that was worrying me about my French literature module (beyond the difficulty) was the price of the books, as we have to buy virtually the entire works of Albert Camus in French.  English literature can get pricey for any module, but tracking down foreign texts has the potential to be even more so. Fortunately LitSoc puts on termly book fairs, where students can sell course books that they don’t want to the years below. This is great for loads of reasons: it means that the correct editions of all the books you want are together right in front of you, you can make back some money from the books you have already read, and you can save a bundle instead of buying new copies. I bought five Camus texts for £2 each this week at the fair, whereas from Amazon they would have been at least £6 each. The £20 I’ve saved can now be spent on more important student necessities like cherry bakewells.

Student Life

LitSoc, the society affiliated with English Literature, is one of the largest and most active on campus, coming runner-up in the university’s Society of the Year award last year. Other than book fairs, they also organise speakers, themed balls, cinema visits, and a yearly trip abroad during the Easter holidays. This year it is to Barcelona, and last year Prague, so there is sure to be the chance to visit some amazing cities with the society over the next few years. Making friends in English lit can be hard when you change modules and classes every ten weeks, and LitSoc does a fantastic job of making it easier to get to know fellow readers outside of a learning environment.

So there we have it, a New Year’s dose of information for all you potential students out there!  After all this I should probably say something French to prove that I have actually been having lessons, but all I can think of is “je voudrais me faire refaire le nez” so that will have to do. Once again, feel free to ask me anything in the comments, but otherwise tune in next time!

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Lewis is a 2nd year English Literature student, who uses the rare moments between books to gallivant around on stage performing improvised comedy. He spends far too much time trying to keep up with the news, but still manages to be a full-time guardian of two cacti.

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