Tutor Icon  Request A Tutor
Shakespeare Wearing Sunglasses

Succeed Studying English Literature

When I applied for an English Literature degree at the University of Birmingham, my motivation was to continue learning about and enjoying the novels and plays that had me captivated during my AS and A2 level courses. I thought that Shakespeare, Dickens and the occasional Bronte or Austen novel would pop up on the syllabus, and I would leave university with a full knowledge of classic and canonical texts. After completing my degree a month ago, looking back it is funny to see how wrong I was. Indeed, Shakespeare and Dickens act as the foundation to many courses I studied, such as fifteenth and sixteenth century theatre and performance, or an amusingly titled course – ‘Victoria’s Secrets’ – exploring secrecy, the domestic sphere and crime in Victorian London, but what I gained the most from the course was an understanding of less well known texts. These texts allow you to compare the way writers deal with social and cultural issues at the time. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an iconic and culturally significant work, but Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, a text published decades before Dracula, dealing with similar themes and issues but from a female perspective, did not receive the same recognition as Stoker’s Dracula. Analyzing why this occurs, and examining social factors, such as gender, class, race and religion, allows you to understand the reasons for the success or failure of a text, and places a collection of texts, such as the gothic novel, within a wider discussion about the changes in society during the Victorian period and the rise of aestheticism and modern literature.

By reading around a topic, and exploring not just the well known works, but the more niche and unusual novels and plays, allows you to understand a literary movement or trope and compare texts within this group. The most valuable advice I received before my degree was to constantly question why things happen in literature, and to examine the reasons behind a literary publication. Following on from this, here are my five tips to prepare yourself for an English literature degree; either at the University of Birmingham or anywhere else you decide to apply. These are points I tried to follow in my three years of undergraduate study, and will guarantee confidence in your ability to succeed, as well as help you to get the most out of your course.

1. As mentioned before, always ask why. Why does Iago hate Othello? Why is Emma always looking to find matches for her friends and family? Why does Oscar Wilde use a painting to reflect Dorian Gray’s malevolence? By questioning the reasons for certain occurrences in literature, you can explore in detail both an author’s justification for writing a text, as well as the way in which an issue or theme is presented.

2. You have to love, or at least mildly tolerate, reading. Reading takes up 65% of your time at university when studying for an English Literature degree, and requires patience and a keen eye for specific phrases or repeated themes that may come up in seminar discussions. By reading a play or novel before a class that week, you will be prepared for any analysis of a specific passage or chapter, and will feel confident to speak in class, which can often impact overall grades when participation counts towards a module mark.

3. You have to check and keep up with reading lists. Your course convener has compiled them for your benefit, and any text included will enhance your understanding of a certain work. Cambridge Companion Guides are useful to have at hand if you study a course dealing with a specific time period or genre, as there will be material to assist in your understanding of that genre, be it historical, cultural or literary.

4. You have to be self-motivated and capable of independent thought. Lectures act as the springboard for your own ideas and views of a text, and ultimately you decide what a novel is saying about a specific issue. One student might argue that Ian McEwan’s Atonement is centered on themes of justice and retribution, whilst another student may view it as a study of childhood, adolescence and the process of maturity. In English, there is no right or wrong answer, just as long as you support your argument or view with textual proof and detailed analysis and explanation.

5. You have to be clear. English Literature is a degree that focuses on how well you can construct an argument. A typical essay title at undergraduate level will ask you to discuss and explore a specific topic or issue, rather than describe it. Always refer to the title question, and always make sure that any point you make links back to your argument. For example, an essay might ask you to discuss how and why disguise and costume are utilized in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Rather than simply state when disguise is present within the play, you must ensure you explain why this occurs, and any effect this produces.

I hope that these five points have explained what you need to succeed within your chosen literature course, and above all will allow you to enjoy and excel in these three years. Good luck!

Jessica M

LETS STUDY FOR YOUR EXAM TOGETHER

 
Melodie Argi
Melodie Argi
08:14 18 Oct 19
Tavistock tutors is by far the best tutor agency is London. The tutor selection is of the highest quality. Handpicked from the British intellectual elite in all sorts of disciplines. The staff is wonderfully helpful as well as being extremely attentive to feedback.read more
Henry Smith
Henry Smith
22:27 17 Oct 19
I have been employed as a tutor with Tavistock Tutors for over 5 years. I tutor mathematics and also help people with job preparation for different career routes (cv, cover letter, interview preparation and online test prep). They are simply a wonderful team of individuals who work collectively and strive to deliver the best possible service to both clients and their tutors. They work doggedly to achieve results. They are particularly honest and their feedback to tutors on how to improve is tailored, concise and always highly constructive. Even after 5 yrs, they only put me forward as a tutor if they think I am the absolute best they can find otherwise they are honest with me and explain why I was not put forward. I think this transparency is a huge reason for their success and keeps the best tutors on their books for years. Their communication on what a client wants is also clinically precise and effective and the team go out of their way to provide potential interests/passions of the client to help the tutor prepare accordingly for the lessons and nurture that interaction. Simply the finest agency and I have tutored with some of the best. World-class tutors and utmost confidentiality with respect to their clientele. I cannot be happier to work for them, a dream job with a team whose capacity for kindness, empathy and boundless intellect never ceases to amaze me. Their work ethic inspires me to relentlessly push myself to be a better tutor with their encouragement and constructive feedback.read more
Albert Tam
Albert Tam
20:50 17 Oct 19
Best tutors in London! Great experience and amazing customer service. Highly recommend, my tutors were all fantastic and a huge help. Really recommend Tavistock Tutors as I never had to worry about not getting the highest quality tutors unlike other agencies and online tutors.read more
I ME
I ME
16:13 17 Oct 19
I’ve used Tavistock multiple times and they never disappoint!I used them for myself secondary school, whilst at university and even now whilst working. Their service is second to none as are their tutors.I highly recommend them to anyone looking to better themselves academically or personally.read more
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
13:22 06 Oct 19
Why most reviewers have one contribution, namely to the Tavistock Tutors?High standards ? Mate get a real job rather than living off other's qualifications.Reality Check(See photos attached - that is the owner “looking for me” 1.5 years after leaving London and while my name and photo was on first page of Tavistock Tutor website...)read more
Jonathan Aaron
Jonathan Aaron
16:39 01 Aug 19
Amazing experience, the tutor was reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced and the company was both professional and reliable. Definitely will be using them again!read more
David T
David T
16:34 01 Aug 19
I used Tavistock for some Corporate Finance and Financial Modelling training at my firm. They were extremely helpful and the trainer, Simon, was of top quality, experience and charged a fair price. Thank you!read more
Olivia Pluss
Olivia Pluss
11:05 13 Jun 19
I had a fantastic experience with my tutor Elena and Tavistock Tutors. They were very well organized and made the entire experience so seamless and easy for me. I passed my assignment with great marks and the experience was much less stressful than if I had tried to complete the assignment without Elena's help.read more
J Mathews
J Mathews
11:27 22 May 19
My child used Glenda for HL biology. Glenda was outstanding. I would not hesitate to recommend her. Extremely intelligent, always prepared, knows how to teach/very helpful, and also just a nice person. Also, I would use Tavistock again for sure because we had such success with Glenda.read more
Alan Radford
Alan Radford
09:34 09 May 19
Tavistock Tutors were a delight to deal with, and highly professional at all times. They provided my daughter with an excellent tutor at very short notice - after my having approached them on a Thursday urgently requesting a tutor for that weekend. Tavistock Tutors immediately gave the matter their attention; they appreciated the urgency and responded quickly and efficiently, and helped to set my daughter up with exactly the right sort of tutor. Fantastic!read more
Sophie Taieb
Sophie Taieb
12:55 29 Mar 19
Very happy with Tavistock tutors services. They provide a wide range of tutors, from all backgrounds and for all types of needs. My uni son needed some help in research and methodology. We found a perfectly suited tutor in less than 3 days. He is very knowledgeable, punctual, open minded and brings the support needed to my son. I would definitely recommend Tavistock tutorsread more
Next Reviews
 

How to memorise quotes – (great for closed book exams!)

Memorising quotes can be a crucial element to your GCSE and A-level exams, so mastering the skill can be essential.Being able to use quotes in your written responses is a sure way to get marks fo...

How to choose quotes to learn for English GCSE

We know that learning quotes for a closed-book exam can be daunting, difficult and boring – especially when you’ve already been studying the text for an entire year. In our article ‘Do I need ...

Do I need to memorise quotes for English GCSE?

With the new GCSE specifications released in 2015, most English Literature GCSE exams have now become closed-book exams.

But what does this mean?

This means that in your exam, you won...

Call Now Button