As promised, this post will talk a bit about the modules I am taking as a final year English student at Leicester 🙂
To start then, as with every year, I am taking three modules. I have been able to choose two of these modules: one of them is my dissertation, and the other is one I chose from a selection which was offered- I’ve gone for “New York Stories”. The final module I am taking this semester is the compulsory Romantic to Victorian module, which progresses time wise on from the Satire to Sensibility module which I did in my second year.
Romantics to Victorians
As I said, this module is compulsory. It’s taught by two lectures a week and one seminar, and at the moment is assessed by a three hour seen exam- you get to see the questions and prepare them 48 hours beforehand. Some big names are coming up here, for instance Wordsworth, Coleridge, Austen, Dickens. In the most recent lecture I had for this course I learnt about Mary Wollstonecraft, a woman who was way ahead of her time in terms of equality for women. An interesting fact is that apparently at one point she was in love with a man who was already married. Was that a problem? Not for Mary- she suggested to the couple that she move in with them and become the man’s “spiritual companion”… needless to say, the wife declined this kind offer, but it takes a certain kind of woman to make the offer in the first place!
Special Subject: New York Stories
For this module, you get to choose from a range of classes offered. Topics covered included Old English, English language, American literature, creative writing, and various time periods- there is a real variety. You are asked to list five courses in order of preference, and everyone I has spoken to has got their first, or at most second, choice of course. You learn through a two hour seminar, most of which are assessed by a 5000 word essay, although New York Stories is assessed by two shorter ones. I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying the New York Stories module, despite the fact that it does require a book to be read a week, and would really recommend it actually.
I think people are taught to fear the dissertation, and at times it can be quite daunting. However, it’s actually a great opportunity to choose something to look at which you might not otherwise get to look at, and that you’re genuinely interested in. Also, the English dissertation is only 5000 words, including footnotes. So that traditional idea of a dissertation being a mammoth creature made from the death of a thousand trees is not quite accurate for English students at Leicester.
This is how the process works: you put a proposal in for what you want to look at by around the end of March in second year, so you have quite a long time to think about your subject and potentially do some reading around the area over summer. In order to help you come up with an idea, there is a lecture given on possible topics, and there is also a tool you can access which helps you figure out what your interests are which gets shown to you in this lecture. You’re also able to go and talk to your personal tutor about it as well.
Hopefully your topic will be approved, if not then you’ll be asked to tweak it and of course you can get help with that. You then get your dissertation tutor assigned to you in second semester of second year as well, and most of the time you have a meeting with them before the end of term so they can put you on the right track of what to do over the summer. I didn’t get to do this because I was studying in Germany, but I did have an email consultation instead.
Then you come into final year armed with ideas (or not, in my case) and you’re asked to meet with your dissertation tutor within the first couple of weeks of term. From this you get a game plan together, and then there are a series of mini deadlines (write a 500 word extract, plan a speaking presentation on your topic, hand in another 500 words, then a draft etc) that keep you on track. There are also a series of lectures which go over how to write your dissertation- the last one I had was on Friday and it was very helpful in showing me not only where I should go next, but also made me realise that this ‘lost’ place that I’m in at the moment is shared by most students, and is very normal. At the moment I am still in the researching phase of my dissertation, and I only have a very broad topic area.
So that is how my classes have worked out in my final year this semester. I hope that I’ve given you a bit of an insight, and please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below!