Why I Love Literature

So my favourite post that has come up on my ‘On This Day’ app is this:

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Anyone that knows me at all would be surprised to read this. I am currently in my second year of studying English at degree level, and might as well inhale books with the speed and ferocity that I read. But why would I put this? And what’s changed in six years?

2009 was a huge year for me. My life was full of change and emotion and hormones and boys. Things were not how I’d pictured at all. So, in 2010, I decided to move schools and get a fresh start. Little did I know how much catching up I’d have to do as a result of this!

One of the subjects that I was thrown into the deep end with was English Literature. I’d go from writing a script for Gillian Rubinstein’s Across the Nightingale Floor to completing my first controlled assessment within a month of moving. I was assigned William Shakespeare’s Henry V and an anthology of WW2 poems. At this point, I’d been told I had an above average understanding of English Literature as a subject, but the most Shakespeare I had encountered was in Drama, performing small snippets of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet. I had no idea about the language or actually being able to read Shakespeare!

So, I gave it a shot. Not the best shot, as I didn’t actually understand half of the play, and Kenneth Branagh really annoyed fourteen-year-old me, but the poetry caught my attention. Metaphors, similes and rhyme schemes brought a whole new world to poetry that I had never seen, and WW2 was always a subject that fascinated me (enough to actually get me a Pass in History). But when I got my marks back, I was in for a shock.

40/40. That’s right. I’d achieved full marks. My teacher, Ms. Cox, called me in for a chat (I thought I was in trouble), greeting me with a huge grin. She phoned home to tell my parents and even got the work moderated to check.

I was actually good at this stuff.

From there, I wanted to get better. To learn more. Once I’d completed my GCSEs, I went to college and did an A-Level in English Literature, eventually gaining an A* in the subject, as I was completely bewitched by F Scott Fitzgerald, Edward Thomas, Eavan Boland, John Keats, Tennessee Williams and William Shakespeare. I took up my extra-curricular time with English Etc., a society run by the Head of English Lit, where we all ‘geeked out about literature’. I’ll be returning there this year to complete my work experience.

Now at university, I actually found the first year a bit dry. I’d done too much reading in all my excitement to start, and so hit the ground running. My tutors are already complaining that I do too much wider reading, and are all trying to persuade me to do different dissertation titles, one of which is on Shakespeare! My all-time favourite play is King Lear.

So… Yes, 14-year-old Hollie. You do hate English. You don’t understand Shakespeare. But not for long…


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