“As a mature student in my 40’s, I arrived at higher education older than many people do but by no means late. Initially I was daunted by the prospect of studying theory, what I perceived to be the interest of scholarly eccentrics. My love for literature thankfully eclipsed any apprehension I felt and despite an initially indolent interest, my enthusiasm for theory grows alongside each book I read.
I’m not drawn to any particular genres, rather I am motivated to read titles by recommendations from like-minded people, titles from a ‘read before you die’ list or seduced by an obscure cover. I enjoy memoirs and if they are punctuated with humour I can read them repeatedly and find something new and surprising each time. One of my favourite authors is Alan Bennett, an unassuming, Yorkshire born author and playwright who hails from my home town of Leeds. I read all of his work in his reassuring, rhythmic voice, thick with regional familiarity, despite his Oxford University education.
Prior to embarking on the English Studies course, whenever I was reading, my mind would wonder and I’d ask myself questions about the author. What is this persons history? What is their motivation for writing about this subject? Have I understood the authors intention? I’d ask myself have other readers have had the same experience of reading the text? Has my cultural and historical experiences dictated my interpretation of the text? All my questions have been answered through the study of literary theory and prompted many, many more. Theory has allowed me to contribute confidently to literary conversations, rather than sitting on the sidelines during literary gatherings, waiting for a debate that directly included novels that I’d read and loved. Book club’s have become significantly more than simply reviewing plots and characters. Above all, I feel like a valuable component of a immense, unending discourse that transcends age, culture and class.”
Drink: A single (although large) glass of good, French red wine.
Song: Black Hole Sun, Soundgarden
“I decided to pursue an education in English a few years after I finished school, after trying and failing to enter the ‘adult world’. The decision came predominantly from English being the only subject I enjoyed from school, therefore I felt it made the most sense to pursue a career in something I enjoyed if I was to do it for the rest of my life. In my time at university however, I believe now that I’m reaching a standard of learning and gaining tools that are far more helpful to me than the pathway into a career I was initially seeking. Not only that, but also I’ve discovered that I enjoy English as more than just a job. Books that interest me are the ones that focus on the underclass of society and the mundane, authors such as Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski I find capture these elements more vividly than others. As an English student, one of the main things you learn is the importance of literary theory and how it is key to understanding literature in a critical sense. Furthermore, this critical approach that I’ve adapted through my learning transcends across all the arts and humanities subjects.”
Song: Still Ill, The Smiths
“I’m Sarah my route to higher education was not the traditional route. Yes, that’s right I’m a mature student. After leaving school I completed an N.V.Q in Early years and Education. On completion I began working as a support worker for children and young people with learning disabilities, a role in which I remained in for several years.
Once married I left my role as a support worker to move overseas (my husband was in the force’s). During my time overseas we started a family. In 2014 we returned to the U.K, I decided to return to education to peruse a career in teaching. In 2018 I began studying English at Teesside University.
I have always had a passion for reading and have an eclectic taste. I enjoy the escape a good novel can provide. Some of my favourite books include Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Shining by Stephen King, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and my guilty pleasure Going Solo by Roald Dahl.”
Drink: Pear Kopparberg
Song: Dancing in the Moonlight by Jubel, NEIMY
“My route into higher education was boring, the typical progression from A Levels to degree level study. I hadn’t always planned to study English at university but as time progressed, so did my love for literature and I realised that choosing a degree I was passionate about was more important that studying something I thought I should. I can safely say that I made the right choice as I have grown so much through my studies already. My degree has allowed me to meet like-minded people to nerd out with about books I love as well as begin to apply theory and develop my understanding of literature as a craft.
I don’t have a specific genre that I favour above others as I generally try and read a range of texts and follow recommendations from my peers and tutors. If I had to pick a favourite book (a stupidly difficult question to answer) then it would probably be The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. The main attraction for me is how unique the characters are and how carefully they are developed. The characters seem human, with realistic flaws and motivations and I think that’s what I look for in any text really. I love a text with an unreliable narrator or something that strays away from typical modes of narration. Texts like Atonement by Ian McEwan are amongst my favourites for this very reason.
Hopefully this is a bit of an insight to me and my experience both as a student and a reader. The main drive behind my passion for reading is curiosity and I am always wanting to learn more and understand everything I can about the texts I’ve read. My studies have given me an outlet for that, allowing me to share reading experiences with friends and peers as we grapple with theory and try and unpick what we’ve studied. My career as a reader is only beginning really but it’s the start of an unending journey that I can’t wait to experience.”
Drink: The Godfather (Whisky, Amaretto, Coke)
Song: Here’s The Thing, Sports Team