All the painful things you’ll know if you study English Lit

Feeling triggered at the mention of In Memoriam A.H.H.

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Us English Lit students are renowned for being among the most pretentious on campus, and people assume that all we do is sit around reading deep books that you probably wouldn’t understand – but these are just a couple of the many slanderous rumours spread about us. 

You may think we’re walking dictionaries, or that we’ve read and can recite the entire works of Shakespeare on demand, but there’s so much more to us than just books and debating critical theory. These are all the things that will be irritatingly familiar if you study English Lit at uni:

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The key to success is leaving an essay until the night before

We laugh in the faces of professors who tell us that 4,000 word essays can’t be done in a night – challenge accepted. In fact, we’ll raise you one and write an essay on a book we’ve never even opened, let alone read.

We thought we left SparkNotes behind at GCSE – we were incorrect. Diamonds are formed under pressure, and we are about to produce the crown jewels. 

We’ve learned to read at a superhuman speed

It was all fun and games at A-Level when we were studying one book a term, but the reality of English Lit hit us in Freshers’ Week when we discovered our five-page long reading list and saw the absolute unit that is The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

We’ve had to seriously up our reading speed since then, but we still spend entire seminars praying that our tutor will only want us to discuss the first half of the book.

And reading for pleasure is a thing of the past

We’re so sick of reading intellectually challenging literary works that when it comes to downtime, trash reading is all that we can tolerate. Catch us on the beach with Katie Price’s autobiography or a trashy celeb magazine – War and Peace can jog on.

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We can’t automatically pick up the subtle socio-political inferences in every novel

Most of the time we just read a book and literally just see the words on the page. It often takes someone (our lecturer) to actually tell us what on Earth is going on before we get all the clever little metaphors and comparisons. 

But once they’ve told us about the historical context of Mrs Dalloway and the way it’s presented in subtle nuances throughout the novel, you bet we’ll be passing that off as our own observations in our next essay. I mean, we would have got there eventually, right?

There are actually worse places to spend your life than in a library

Although they can feel like hellish dungeons that we’re paying nine grand to suffer in, when you think about it, libraries are actually pretty beaut. 

There’s something very peaceful about spending some peace and quiet among first editions and in the archives – plus, they can do wonders for your Insta likes.

We hate that one person in the seminar who bangs on about all the most niche literary genres

There’s nothing like the feeling of rage we feel towards Marcus who pipes up in every seminar, comparing The Tiger Who Came To Tea with an obscure ancient haiku that obviously no one has read.

Our tutor hasn’t read it, no one else in the tutorial has read it, and we would bet our student loan that Judith Kerr didn’t read it before she wrote the book either. It’s people like him that give us a bad rep, stop bringing us down with you.

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We know all the best places to read for hours on end

Need a cosy cafe with comfy armchairs? We’ve got you. Want a place with Colombian coffee and at least three alternatives to dairy? Slide into our DMs.

We’ll only learn too late that we shouldn’t have shared our knowledge so brazenly when we walk into our favourite cafe to find our personalised book nook occupied by some faker who isn’t even reading. We should have learnt the importance of hindsight when we read Atonement.

None of us will ever find it funny when you tell us we’re going to be unemployed or a teacher

It’s not that we’re suffering from a sense of humour failure because we’re sensitive, it’s just that saying “Ooooh what can you even do with that degree??” isn’t a funny joke. Omg looooool yeah my degree is so vague you are so FUNNY oh my God!! If you’re going to take on masters of language, you better come up with something a bit more creative than that.

Anyway, we’re some of the most employable students out there – English Lit helps ups rack up some serious transferrable skills. We’ve got so few contact hours that we’re amazing at managing our own time and motivating ourselves to work, plus our written abilities are on another level altogether.

Add that to the fact that we’re super analytical and have out-of-this world working stamina and attention-to-detail, and you’ve got yourself a fine specimen of an employee, in any industry. Put that in your stupid boring joke pipe and smoke it.

We do own clothes that aren’t wire-framed glasses and Dr. Martens

Only the most English-y of us have the capacity to pull of the bookworm lewk day-in, day-out – the rest of us go incognito on campus, trying not to draw attention to ourselves as English students, and thus inviting all these unwelcome, negative comments. Sometimes it’s just nice to wear jeans and a jumper and let everyone assume you study Sociology, right?

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They’re on the hunt for a variety of applicants, whether you’re analytical, technical or commercially-minded – as long as you’re motivated and hardworking, they want you

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