SHIT SUBJECT: The Arts
VOTE NOW: We didn’t include Land Economy, just to make things a bit more interesting
Exam term has arrived with a vengeance, and any last morsel of passion you mustered at interview to convince your future DOS of your passion for 18th Century Cartography or Grecian Pottery has finally died away. We’re not going to waste your time by joking about that piece of paper you’re leaving with worth nearly thirty grand. You can thank Nick Clegg for that.
We’ve got bigger fish to fry.
You may be spending nine-thousand a year on effectively a library card and an hour each week to have someone infinitely more intelligent than you humour your half-baked attempts at writing sentences coherently, but that one niche, be it English, History, or even ASNaC that you thought would make such gross expenditure worth it has turned out to be shit too. Sure, you can theoretically actually have a life outside of your degree unlike your fellow NatScis, but that’s a small consolation when you realise your ‘transferable skills’ are akin to those of a primary school child in South Korea.
It’s time to take a stand, and let the oppressive forces that run your departments feel your discontent. Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to protest or anything, simply vote at the end of the article for 2016’s shittest Arts Tripos at Cambridge:
The subject where supervisors say “This is absurd, but that’s the law”. You frequently engage in an Orwellian doublethink while holding two contradictory legal rules in your head at once. Here, you’ll get exams which begin with a “40 year old sadist with a buttock fetish” and end with “take [her] out to eat a hot curry and slip the poison into her food to kill her”. The only consolations are the obscene amount of funding from law firms desperate to inculcate some name recognition and the ridiculous faculty building. This, at least, is a pleasant place to spend the minimum eighty hours of work you need a week to scrape a 2:1.
Pros: Can scare your friends into thinking you can successfully sue them for £££.
Cons: Won’t leave the law library long enough to make friends.
Do you want to be a social commentator? Is it your dream to write for The Guardian (only in Comment is Free, don’t get your hopes up)? Do you hate binaries? Are you a wanker? You should study HSPS, sometimes confused with HSBC, HPS, SPS, PPS, PPI and creative writing. It was invented in 2013 as an excuse to kill the archaeology department and as a consolation prize for PPE wannabes.
Pros: Transferable skills.
Cons: Nowhere to transfer them to.
English is shit because they give you literally nothing in terms of guidance and then send you away to write essays about books you hate and always will hate. Contrary to popular belief, a ‘love’ (read: vague enjoyment of Virginia Woolf) of reading is not a good reason to dedicate 7 months of your life to pretending to know stuff about literature. Like books? Go to Waterstones. Want to talk about them? Write a fucking blog.
English students brag about all their free time and impeccable Instagrams and sexual libertinism (‘you haven’t had sex until you’ve done it with a double-jointed Peruvian on a trapeze’) but really they’re just sitting sadly in front of their laptops, praying that if they do better, and become better, one day Daddy will come home early from drinking with the Russian oligarchs and almost remember their names. Daddy in this metaphor is the faculty. Well, an allegory to be precise.
Pros: Starbucks has a good base pay rate.
Cons: Waiting tables does not.
You’ll spend the first couple of years being told about how the world is scripted through geopolitical lies, before you realise the only lie you’ve really been told is that a few ‘lab sessions’ (read: a bunch of Windows XP desktops not replaced since 2003) and a couple of lectures a week amounts to nine-thousand pounds worth of value. Grand, sprawling corporate shrines are erected in the name of law when funding cuts to geography mean you only end up studying two fucking papers in first year to ‘preserve value’.
But it’s probably just as well that Part 1A has effectively been relegated to a baby creche. Because geography at Cambridge is a scandal. Since about the seventies all they’ve really done research wise is analyse a few sewage samples from bloody Saffron Walden. That’s what happens when you realise that most of the research created in your discipline’s history basically allowed colonialism, so all you’re really left with is a few rants about discourses and binaries before you realise you don’t actually study anything. Cultural Turn? More like turned to shit.
Pros: Nine-thousand pounds could pay for a damn good set of Faber Castell pencils.
Cons: You’d only end up getting them if the department could tell you where the money goes.
Their lectures aren’t even in lecture theatres because nobody even bothers turning up to them because they are so useless, but shitty little classrooms which are freezing in winter and too hot and sweaty in the summer even though it barely gets above 9 C in England anyway. And then there’s the history library.
The ominous spread of the desks means you can see everybody looking tragically despondent as they scroll through Facebook and pretend to write a 3000 word essay in the space of two hours to give their life some meaning. You might even have sympathy them as they desperately try to cram two year’s worth of material into the space of a few weeks in Easter Term when they realise exams now actually count for something. At least, you would do if they all weren’t so useless and annoying.
Pros: Knowing all the words to Horrible Histories songs
Cons: Losing friends every time you try to sing them
Classics is like if HSPS, MML, History and English had a baby and the baby is even less likely to get you a job than any of its parents. You spend half your time learning dead languages that you’ll never use outside of this degree so that you can spend the other half of your time futilely struggling over a Cicero translation only to have it read straight off the page by a private school boy studying Engineering. You essentially spend four years struggling to graduate with the knowledge of a posh 19th-century teenager.
And even though you will have to put up with people looking at you sympathetically when you tell them you’re doing an especially pointless arts degree, you still have four supervisions a week. It also doesn’t help that almost everyone in the Classics faculty is insufferably posh, privately educated and considers you to be a plebeian in both the ancient and modern sense. When you’re desperately trying to reassure your friends that your degree isn’t shit because you know what all the spells from Harry Potter mean, you’ve hit rock bottom.
Pros: Giggling over the sex bits in supervisions.
Cons: Not one of the supervisors you’re giggling with is a day under sixty.
Let’s face it, you’re never going to be as good as the international student next door who not only speaks English perfectly but also the language that you’ve spent years struggling to master while studying Medicine or something else that actually contributes to the world. With only one oral supervision a week, you actually end up getting worse at speaking the languages you study. And if you were stupid enough to start a language ab initio, you have to deal with the double headfuck of trying to reach A-Level standard in only two and a bit terms, whilst also supposedly becoming an expert in post-colonial literature.
You probably only took Spanish because you thought it would increase your sex appeal, but alas, you have yet to reap the rewards of your perfectly rolled r’s. Instead, there you sit, staring at a table of irregular verbs wondering where everything went wrong. At least you can delay the inevitable with your year abroad.
Pros: You have dreams of becoming a translator.
Cons: You eventually realise there are French school children who speak more fluent English than you do.
Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic
ASNaC is a cracking subject, if you love dragons, beards, men, beards, men ruining everything and blood feuds (and that’s just the students). You’d think it would be a conversation starter. It is. But after “blimey that’s rogue” and “why?”, it’s also a conversation finisher. No one knows what they actually do or who they are, and no one really wants to know. ASNaC is terrible if you want to make friends for life as they will all have fled to History or Archaeology or Norway by the end and there’ll only be ten people in your year plus some Facebook accounts someone made for King Offa and the Venerable Bede.
Pros: You lay claim to having the most niche Arts subject
Cons: Does anyone even care?
‘So what do you actually do in philosophy?’ Never ask a philosopher this question. And don’t even try to be witty by asking ‘meaning of life’ is either. If they learnt that, philosophy might actually be useful. Let’s dispel another stupid misconception too. They don’t smoke pot – at least not while working. But, anyhow, it’s not like we know this world is real anyway, right? Why spend your money on weed when you might be hallucinating anyway? For all we know we might not even be studying here in Cambridge, sitting here reading The Tab.
However, none of this even matters when you are confronted with the reality of your weekly hungover one-on-one supervision. When your supervisor criticises your assumptions, arguments and logic, you really wish there was another possible alternative universe.
Pros/cons: Good and bad don’t even really exist, so who can say?
Vote now for Cambridge’s shittest Arts Subject. We hope you’ve had as much fun releasing your pent up rage as we’ve had writing about it. Oh, who are we kidding? This is just one big vanity exercise, isn’t it? But you still read it, so there.
SHIT SUBJECT: The Sciences will be coming next week.