Hello and welcome [back] from the Bubble Literature editors for 2017! We hope you’ve enjoyed the pieces published so far and we look forward to reading your responses to our first content call. Whilst we can’t wait to hear from you, we thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves and explain some of our own answers to part of the first content call – advice for freshers and what books we brought to university.
Hi! I’m Katie, a second-year English Literature student at St Cuth’s. I’m particularly interested in twentieth century literature, especially the interwar period, and, as much as I love novels, I have to confess I have a preference for poetry. I really enjoy anthologies with unique methods of synthesising separate poems together. I’ve recently read ‘Alphabet’ by Inger Christensen, who uses the Fibonacci sequence and letters of the alphabet to organise her anthology. I would really recommend it if you’re looking for something quick but still thought-provoking to read alongside uni work! My advice for freshers who are studying English is to remember that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the huge reading lists and worry about trying to read everything. As much as I’m sure it’s beneficial, you’re only human – and you only need to prepare a small selection of texts for the exam. The statement drilled into you by your teachers since GCSE’s is right: knowing a lot about a little is better than a little about a lot.
On a more general note though still useful for English students, I’d advise you make use of the college parent system or, if you’ve applied for it, the English Literature Society mentoring scheme. I found it really useful to get a fellow student’s perspectives on the exams and they are usually more than happy to help with any questions or sell you cheap second hand books! Like Georgia, I’m happy to help anyone studying English in first year with any queries you may have – and I can give specific advice if you are studying the three compulsory English Literature modules, Classical and Biblical backgrounds to English Literature, English Language Use and Theory or the Beauty and the Beast art history module. Being a literature student I brought up quite a few non-course books to uni… However, I think that the one book that I definitely couldn’t leave behind is William Faulkner’s ‘Light in August’. Like Hannah, so much of my love for this book is tied up with the time that I read it, straight after my AS exams; I remember the excitement of having the free time to read books for pleasure again, and felt like a real reward after all that studying. The book also fascinates me on an analytical level. The non-linear structure and multiple narrators create a disconnect between the narrator and audience, which mimics the alienation of the characters, many of whom represent social minorities.
Hello! I’m Georgia, and like Katie, I’m a second year English student. I have a background in Classics, and took Latin last year…as a result of this, I have a love of Milton, whose use of epic traditions is something that intrigues me. However, Paradise Lost probably wouldn’t be my ‘go-to’ text that I had to bring with me to university. Instead, I’d argue that Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections is the must-have of every new student. I’ve chosen this book for freshers because of its treatment of anxiety and apprehension, something which gets to every Fresher at some point during the year. It follows the family life of the Lamberts, particularly charting the decline of Alfred, the father. Not the most upbeat of books, it is more thought-provoking than cheering: and yet re-reading it keeps me grounded when I feel university life is becoming overwhelming. If you are looking for a more light- hearted recommendation, I must point you in the direction of PG. Wodehouse, whose tales of Jeeves and Wooster have me chuckling out loud by myself in my room like a lunatic.
As for Freshers’ tips, I don’t have much to recommend to their Engineer or Physicist! To the humanities student, though, I would suggest getting ahead on reading, keeping reading in perspective, and not going overboard on formatives. It is more important in the long run to be prepared for your exams, and while formatives are valuable, critical reading and noting texts for exams are equally so. If you are a first year student studying Introduction to the Novel, Introduction to Poetry, Introduction to Drama, Romance and the Literature of Chivalry, Intermediate Latin 1A or Intermediate Latin 1B, and you have a question about one of your modules, do get in touch with me, especially if you would like to write on something to do with your course. Excerpts of formatives are a great way to get published on The Bubble, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Hey! I’m Hannah and I’m a 3rd year English student. Having been at Durham for a couple of years, and as I watch the end of my university days race towards me with worrying speed, my main advice to any incoming freshers is to enjoy your time here. It can be so easy to get worked up about deadlines, reading, exams, and even tutorial nerves, but as long as you keep on top of the reading (as my co-editors have already said, you really don’t have to read anything!), the degree really should be quite enjoyable. My main piece of advice for stressful academic situations is to remind yourself of your love and passion for Literature. You came to Durham to study such a wonderful subject; reading really is a joy, and if ever the pressure of deadlines or secondary reading gets to you just take a moment to step back, take a breather, and have a look at that one (or maybe several) book[s] that always inspire you & remind you of your love of words… …For me, as I have already mentioned in the content call, the book I brought with me to Freshers week was a beautifully illustrated edition of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Interestingly, this is by no means my favourite book of all time; I think the reason that this particular edition is so precious to me is its sheer beauty… This book never ceases to remind me of the multifaceted nature of literature — there are so many aspects to its aesthetic that are pleasing to both the eye and the mind, that it really does transport the reader to another realm. I think another main reason I brought this book with me (other than, as I expressed in the content call, how I felt when it was initially given to me), is that it is a novel that I have never studied. Personally, studying literature always emphasises and increases my love / passion for the work, but the concept of having a novel that I love which I have never thought about analytically is also quite liberating; it really did (and does) act as an escape from the constant analysis of this degree, as each time I open its pages I am reminded of the initial excitement as one is completely and unabashedly taken in by a good story. Personally, my academic interests include the representation of music in literature and other interdisciplinary studies involving aesthetics. My favourite literary period has got to be the war / inter-war period (of course including modernism), and my dissertation for this year incorporates both of those passions; a study of E. M. Forster’s works through a musical lens. I am hoping to continue with further study next year, where I hope to explore the Modernism in more detail, with particular emphasis on Woolf and other female writers of the period. Another (slightly rogue) interest of mine is that of popular music, in particular, an analysis of Taylor Swift from a literary perspective; I would like, at some point, (and let’s face it, this will probably happen in my free time as opposed to as part of a degree), to do an extended analysis of Swift’s lyricism as an extension of the figure of the Femme Fatale which permeates literature throughout the ages.
As the co-President of the English Literature Society (DUELS), I talk to a lot of freshers about their nerves at the beginning of the year, their simultaneous feelings of being both overwhelmed with the amount of reading, and also as though there isn’t very much to do before deadline season approaches. It is an odd time, and I think the English Department deliberately starts the work load off quite lightly so that everyone can get used to being in Durham, and find their feet around the department. Don’t worry, the work gets a lot more intense! But you also get more used to doing it, and you will probably find a routine in your approach to tutorial / formative prep as the year goes on. Keep in mind that you only need to get 40% in first year, and, as I’m sure you’ll find when you receive your first formative marks… getting a 2:1 really isn’t too hard! Remember that everyone is in the same boat, finding their feet and adjusting to a new place and a new way of studying; and there is help available if you need some guidance or just want to talk to someone who has been through it all! Socialising with other English students is also a great way to get into the course; it is pretty isolating with such few contact hours, so attending socials / forming study groups can be a really fun and casual way of expanding your studies. Other than that, keep your love & passion for the subject at the forefront if you are ever struggling academically (I remember really drawing upon this when tacking the Myth and Epic of the Norse module in first year!), and feel free to get in contact if you have any questions at all about the degree or writing for the Bubble.