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5 Reasons to Study English Literature at University

30th April, 2019

Open book

English Literature is – in its broadest sense – about studying what we can say about written texts and what written texts can say about us.

English Literature students grapple with questions such as:

  • Why do we read?
  • What is literature for?
  • Can a work of fiction ever be true?

If you are interested in answering these questions then an English degree could be for you!

Here are 5 reasons why you should consider an English degree. 

1. You can spend all your time reading 

If you don’t like the idea of spending your day reading novels, plays and poetry, an English degree probably isn’t for you.

However, if you already enjoy reading fiction (although English isn’t all about fiction!) then studying it at university gives you the opportunity to dive deeper into texts you love (and those you may not) to analyse how literature works.

You’ll be exposed to a variety of different kinds of literature. Some will excite you, others might not, but all of them will change the way you think about the world, even if only in a tiny way. 

Shakespeare performance in theatre

2. BUT You don’t have to spend ALL your time reading 

One of the brilliant things about studying English is how much it intersects with other subjects.

English essays can involve analysing texts in relation to history, philosophy, politics, language, sociology and more! There’s also the opportunity consider how literature interacts with other kinds of art, including music, film, dance, theatre, architecture and the visual arts!

Many courses even offer modules in Film Studies, the Visual Arts, or Theatre – so when you’re researching English courses, look out for where the subject might intersect with other things you’re interested in! 

3. It’s not just about ‘the classics’ 

Although you’re unlikely to be able to get through an English degree without studying Mr William Shakespeare, many courses offer a lot of flexibility about which texts you can study. There is often scope to study modern novels, plays and poetry as well as 'the Classics'. 

In recent years many university English departments have been working to broaden the curriculum to include a variety of authors from different backgrounds, including more female authors and authors of colour. Many courses now also let you study foreign language texts in translation, as well as global literature and contemporary texts. 

Map of Europe with most popular novels
Felicity Jones in Star Wars: Rogue One

4. There are a lot of Career Opportunities

An English degree prepares students to work in all sorts of different fields.

Writing, publishing and journalism are popular careers for English graduates, as well as careers in the arts, advertising and marketing. Spending three years analysing the effect of specific wording in texts also equips graduates with an attention to linguistic detail that suits careers in the law or teaching, as well as academia more generally.

Essentially, if a career involves a lot of written and verbal communication, an English graduate may well be a good fit!

Did you know that the actress Felicity Jones, who starred in Star Wars: Rogue One, graduated from Wadham College, Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature?

5. You get to discuss big ideas

Literature isn’t just about literature, it’s about history, culture, morality and the human experience. When studying for an English degree, after reading an interesting range of texts, you get to form your own opinions on big issues and practise expressing them.

By forming arguments and analysing other peoples’, you can develop your understanding of the world and become skilled at articulating your opinion on topics that matter to you.

Perhaps this is why English graduates go on to become talented novelists, passionate journalists or successful people in creative industries. 

Debate at the Oxford Union

In summary, studying English Literature at university is not only thought-provoking and enjoyable (especially if you love reading already!), but also leads to a number of interesting, varied careers.

Interested in studying English? Apply for our English course on the summer school for a taster of what studying English at university is like. You will have the opportunity to develop the skills and critical lens to effectively analyse famous works by Alfred Tennyson, William Shakespeare, EM Forster and more. You can read more about our course below.

English Course