Alright. Say you’re coming to this university to read English in the autumn. Say you’re looking for some things to do during the summer months so that you will be prepared for the course. Say you don’t really want to do those things so much as have them done for you, preferably by someone very knowledgeable. Now stop saying things and listen to this.
I’ve got a few suggestions here of ways you can absorb English literature knowledge that don’t involve reading. Apart from reading this blog post that is, and I rarely use words more than a foot long anyway.
The first and perhaps easiest link I have is to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. It’s a series of podcasts, all online, on most conceivable subjects. Many of those subjects are English literature, including Chaucer, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Christina Rossetti, and so on. Each podcast features Mr Bragg talking with a number of academics, sometimes ones from Leicester, in a structured discussion of the most important things the casual reader should know on the subject. It may make you feel old, but on the plus side that means that people won’t push you around no more.
There’s been a lot of talk of this gentleman Shakespeare lately, and the BBC can hardly be accused of not taking advantage of his anniversary in excessive fashion. They’re disappearing like flies from iPlayer, but if you look here you may find links to episodes of Shakespeare Uncovered, where Shakespearean actors and directors are looking at the most iconic plays and dismantling them to see the cogs and springs inside. Likewise on the TV and iPlayer are the pieces of The Hollow Crown, the BBC’s adaptation of the plays of the Henriad. Chances are you’ve seen Macbeth and Twelfth Night, but have you seen the Henry plays? Don’t lie now.
Whilst we’re on the topic of the Renaissance, you could go to The Swan theatre and see any number of Shakespeare plays, including the lesser-known King John. That’s even better than TV. Likewise you could get some very fairly-priced standing seats at The Globe in London and pretend you’re a 16th/17th century peasant. If you do that, why not round off the day with a visit to the Old and Middle English manuscripts in the British Library? For those of you who don’t know, a manuscript is a kind of 11th century Kindle.
Standing, walking around libraries… That all sounds very active. Sorry, lazy people. I failed you. At least there’s the TV stuff.