Hello all you lovely people! I’ve finally found a bit of free time in between lectures and reading and all that good uni stuff, so I thought I might as well do some blogging! It’s been eleven days since my last post, which might not seem like a very long time to some people, but I’m used to blogging every day (or every other day when I’m being lazy), so I’ve really missed it! My blogging life will probably stay very irregular, as I have no way of predicting when I will have time, but I’ll try my best to not disappear into a blogging void.
On a completely unrelated note, I just wanted to quickly mention that I wrote a review of the wonderful Netflix show 3% for my university online magazine, and I would really appreciate if you guys could tell me what you think! It’s my first time publishing something on an ‘official’ platform, so I’m very excited to share it! You can find the review here if you’re interested.
But enough rambling! Today I thought I would share my reading list for the second semester of my first year at the University of East Anglia. Maybe some prospective English Literature students will find this helpful, and maybe others will simply enjoy looking through the titles. In any case, I hope you enjoy reading this!
My main reading is for the module Literature in History II, which all literature students have to take this semester, no matter if they’re just doing English Literature or a combined course with Creative Writing, History, or whatever. We have to read a total of 7 books (and some additional short texts) in 12 weeks, so it’s not overwhelming, but still a decent amount considering that we have two other modules. The semester focuses on the theme of realism.
- Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac (1835)
This wasn’t exactly the best start to the semester. The novel starts incredibly slow, with way too many descriptions of buildings and things that I just really couldn’t care less about. However, it does pick up eventually, and towards the end I started to quite enjoy it. Its main agenda is a realistic (and pessimistic) depiction of how terrible and tragic life is in Paris.
- The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield (1922)
THIS. I haven’t read the whole collection yet, because we only had to read four of the fifteen stories, but I definitely intend to. I absolutely love it so far. This woman’s writing style is just a little bit weird, not so much that it annoys me, but just enough to give each story a very unique feeling. The writing is vivid and everything feels alive. It’s a really incredible collection, with lots of interesting commentary on society. I’m definitely going to review this separately when I’ve read the whole thing.
- Henry IV pt 1 by William Shakespeare (c. 1597)
We didn’t have to buy this text, but instead got it as part of the free module dossier. I passionately dislike Middle English, and while this was written a long time after Chaucer’s texts (and, as Briana pointed out, Shakespeare is not actually Middle English!), I’m still a little terrified. It’s gonna be my first time reading Shakespeare!
- The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)
This apparently follows the rise and fall of a family, an aristocratic villain, and the abduction of a beautiful girl. I don’t really know what to make of that, but it doesn’t sound half bad and it’s a really short book, so we’ll see!
- Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)
I’m not sure what this is about, but I tend to look forward to female writers much more than male ones when it comes to classics, because (let’s be real) most men were hopelessly sexist. This is also set in the 20s, like the Katherine Mansfield collection, so I’m hoping for a similar vibe.
- The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon (1956)
The fact that this book is by an author from South America already makes me really excited to read it – we might get a bit of a different perspective than the usual middle-aged white guy. It’s also the most recent one of the books we’re reading, so I’m curious to see what made the module organisers choose it. I will most definitely report back on this one!
- Adam Bede by George Eliot (1859)
This books is way too long for my still-in-a-reading-slump self, but George Eliot was actually a woman writing with a man’s name, so there might be some stuff about gender in there. The plot sounds kind of meh, so I really hope it’s better than it seems.
- Poems by William Dunbar and John Skelton
I don’t know anything about this whatsoever, except I’m looking forward to having some poetry in the mix. The poems are also in our module dossier, just like the Shakespeare text.
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857)
I’m not sure how I feel about another French novel if it starts off as slow as Père Goriot, but the plot actually sounds really fun. It’s about a woman who marries a guy hoping to get a life of passion and luxury, the kind she’s read about in novels, but instead her marriage is terribly boring, so she takes a lover. Sounds scandalously dramatic and exciting, so bring it on!
- ‘On Experience’ by Michel de Montaigne (1580)
I’m just going to be straight-forward and admit that I haven’t the slightest clue what this is about. I guess it will be a surprise!
- Citizen Kane by Orson Welles
I’m pretty sure this is a movie, so I’m just kind of ????? I guess I’ll find out why it’s on the reading list at the end of the semester. Oh well!
This module is interesting because it confused the hell out of me at first. In our first semester we could choose between Reading Texts I and Reading Translations, and I chose the latter – however, this semester everyone has to do Reading Texts II. Seemed a bit odd that I would have to do the second part of something I hadn’t done the first part of. But of course universities aren’t stupid; this module might have the same name as the one in the first semester, but it’s completely separate.
Anyway, the people who take this module are split into different groups, and depending on which person teaches your seminar you have to read certain texts. I happen to be in the group that reads William Wordsworth, while some people are reading Proust or whatever other author has been chosen for them.
So this isn’t technically a reading list, ’cause we’re only reading two texts. In the first six weeks we’re focusing on William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, and then for the second part of the semester it’s gonna be Minima Moralia by Theodor Adorno (fun fact: no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to remember the damn name of this book or of the author). The Prelude is a gigantic and slightly intimidating epic poem which is basically Wordsworth’s autobiography. I am surprised to say this, but I actually really like it so far. It’s got lots of nature stuff going on, which I usually find boring, but in this case it’s mixed in with metaphors about creativity, and he also talks a lot about his time at university and feeling nostalgic about it, which I can somehow relate to quite a bit. We were supposed to read the whole poem over Christmas and then re-read small sections for each seminar, but the book took ages to arrive to Spain (love ya, international shipping), so I only got through a part of it. I’ve still got plenty of time to catch up though, so no biggie.
As for the other book whose name I keep forgetting, I think it’s non-fiction, so I’m really curious to see how we will work with it.
The third and final module I’m taking is particularly interesting ’cause it focuses on writing instead of reading. I was kind of apprehensive at first – there’s a reason I chose to do just English Literature, without Creative Writing – but it seems like it might actually be a lot of fun. So far we’ve discussed what goes into the process of writing a text, and how we can analyse literature to an entirely new level by re-writing texts and transforming them.
In the first week we did a really lovely exercise that consisted of re-writing a transcript. We were split into four groups, each with a slightly different challenge; one group had to adapt the transcript to a play, one to a poem, one to fiction with a bit of dialogue, and we had to re-write it as fiction without dialogue. It was really interesting, so I’m looking forward to future seminars.
As for the reading list, we don’t have any actual books, but just the texts from our module dossier, and they’re all critical reading about writing and re-writing and that kind of stuff. In each week we will be focusing on a different part of writing (for example, in week 5 we will discuss metaphor), so the theme of the critical text depends on what it is we’re talking about that week. The texts are all quite long, so I might (and probably will) fall behind at some point. Oh well!
I hope this was helpful and/or interesting, and that you, most importantly, enjoyed reading it! Feel free to talk about your own university reading in the comments below, and let me know if you’ve read any of these texts.
‘Till next time and happy reading!