Prelimers: A Call To Arms
Is there more to finishing prelims than gloating and getting drunk? BETH SWORDS investigates.
In whom do you seek solace in exam term? In a friend? Someone as equally as wan as yourself, contaminated with their own hysterical musings? Perhaps not. In your tutor? The figure with whom, other than pleasantries, you only exchange a handshake and a pink slip of paper twice-termly? I don’t think so.
During a lengthy Facebook conversation over the Easter vacation between an English and a History student both attempting to avoid the ‘R’ word (the History student begrudgingly putting off the newest episode of ‘Biggie and Tupac’) questions were raised over that mysterious concept of ‘The Future’ and that terribly shameful question over the utility of our degrees.
The usual occupations were raised. I proffered librarian for the English student. He, in return, suggested museum curator for myself. Increasingly, the Avenue Q song comes to mind.
In the end we concluded that apart from the ‘Transferrable Skills’ to which everyone always endlessly refers (and no one ever really comprehends), there was only one other contribution we could make to the world. That one single addition… is the role an English or History student can play in Exam Term, first year.
As I sat in our common room at the end of Lent Term, refining a ‘To Do List’ with my fellow historians for our Easter Term – a list that contained setting up a Dave Brubeck cover band, making hummus and having tea at the House of Commons – I noticed a stark contrast between our position and those portrayed in others’ discussions about their sense of impending doom for the folowing few months. I tried to defend our discipline by saying, “Actually, historians have it a lot harder. Exams plus seven essays is tough”. However, this claim sounded a lot sturdier in my head and was shot down by even the feeblest of withering stares from across the room.
That was when I realised what we had to do. It was a cathartic moment to say the least – reminiscent of when Colin Firth realises his love for Aurelia in Love, Actually, or (probably more appropriately) when Jane Eyre realises she cannot marry Rochester. I realised our place in the world. It is not to incessantly claim that “history repeats itself” and that “we should learn from past mistakes”, nor is it for English students to claim they have a greater comprehension of human emotion or to advocate sesquipedality to no end.
Our role, as English and History students, is to carry out acts of benevolence, on a similar scale to Rowntree or the Webbs, for all those engaged in exams this term – as we are not. The purpose of prelims is not for English and History students to maintain momentum in getting to grips with the ‘Cambridge Essay’. Not at all. Their purpose is to test our charitable core and our capacity to help those in need.
In essence, this article is a call to arms for all those English and History students in their first year planning an Easter Term filled with frivolity and indulgence. Stop. Think. It is our duty to offer foot rubs at the sound of a bell; to sing sweet lullabies into the ears of those traumatised by overly-silent rooms; to bake cakes with the golden ratio (since learning can be fun…). If the words “how” and “is this useful?” have ever crossed your lips, then this is your time.
Fulfil your destiny, fellow pre-limers, and realise your potential as English and History degrees intended. Go forth.