Every person you’ll meet in an English Literature lecture
We get it, you love Marx
The one who read everything when they were 12
If you’re struggling to read Dickens, don’t tell this person. They’ll tell you it’s super-easy to read, that they went through a Great Expectations phase at age nine, and that they remember the plot page-by-page years later.
This person doesn’t need to spend any time reading now (they were ahead of you before you’d even picked your GCSEs) so they have plenty of time for eccentric hobbies including cross-stitch, dog-walking, clothes making, archery, and taking ket.
The Macbook posse
PC users are the rarest of breeds in literature seminars, with most of them leaving their laptops at home and busting out paper and pen out of embarrassment. The room is dominated with students tapping away on their £1k+ Apple gadgets.
They aren’t here to study, they’re here to hang around in groups (where everyone has a different coloured case for their baby, along with a matching Herschel backpack) and prove that they are richer than you.
The dark horse
They seem like an average kind of person. They show up to about 2/3 classes, go clubbing occasionally, work part-time in retail and have a steady romantic partner. You went for coffee with them once in first-year and you got on well, but not well enough to ever go for another coffee, so you don’t think of them often.
Then, you spot their grades/notes/essay plans and realise that you have ignored the greatest genius our generation has to offer. You also realise you should have befriended them sooner, if only so they could proof-read your work.
The perpetually hungover
Who came up with the idea to put lectures on a Thursday morning? This trooper always turns up despite having gone on a mad one at Pryzm Wednesday every week and then getting home about an hour before class.
You can spot these folks by their various hand-stamps, their under-eye bags, their grumbling stomachs and their unbrushed hair. Some will be overdramatic, bringing family packs of paracetamol and Berocca to class and moaning loudly to their friend every five minutes.
The person who you know by their empty chair
You know their name, but not their face, and you know their chair very intimately. Somehow, despite having no medical conditions, living in town, and having plenty of friends in class, they’ve not been spotted once. This may seem tricky, but in a lecture of over 100 people, it’s a piece of cake.
The secret power of this specimen is managing to actually pass the course with zero attendance and zero effort. If they ever turned up, you’d feel let-down if David Attenborough didn’t appear and start narrating their behaviour.
The person who’s trying too hard to be liberal to look cool
Their worn-out backpack is covered in patches and probably contains some vegan soup in a bio-degradable flask, a Moleskine, some weed and a critical theory book which they are reading for fun. They cycle in every day and study on the beach.
“I am not a part of the LGBT, but I have a gay friend who is like a sibling to me. And I went to see The Danish Girl movie twice”, they say. “I’ve been vegan for two weeks but I had chicken nuggets with mayo last night”, they say. Nice try, but we see through you.
They’re thirsty for Poe, they love Marx, Foucault is their bae, and they want you to know it. In seminars they keep quiet until the object of their affections is mentioned, when they will undoubtedly chime in with an enthusiastic “well, actually…”.
If their fave isn’t mentioned, they will somehow manage to twist the lecture to fit their theory/novel/poem/secret lover. Bonus points if this person actually has merchandise to show their love – I’ve seen Freud Pens, Poe shirts and even Shakespeare condoms.
“I think when Hardy talks about this like, beach he used to go to with his wife, he’s talking about, like…. the beach and his wife,” they say. You keep quiet while screaming internally. This is the person who put “passionate about reading” on their UCAS statement and hasn’t read a page since.
They’re either going to get a third or a first – there is no in-between. They message you the night before to ask if you’ve done the reading, and you dread answering either way.
The spiritual one
They waft in either 10 minutes early of a half-hour late, face still dewey from their homemade lotion or organic beard oil, re-usable coffee cup in hand. They are carrying a yoga mat, wearing clothes from Dirty Harry, and somehow bring out an iPhone and Macbook.
They know all the answers to all the reading questions effortlessly, despite spending hours a week at their part-time job at the fairtrade chilli shop and cooking three different vegan meals a day. When do they read? We may never know. Maybe they really do get help from another plane.
The one who everyone knows of
With hundreds of literature students coming to Sussex every year, each class has a guaranteed BNOC. They run five societies plus a blog plus a newspaper plus a fashion line, work at the big Sainsbury’s and the big Wetherspoons, and are always first to protest any cause.
They also just ran the marathon and are planning to run three more this year before they go interrailing and then do Route 66, before returning to climb Kilimanjaro. They never sleep, but always look as cheerful as a regular human would on 10 hours of zzzzzs.
The one who won’t let you forget that they do joint honours
“Well, according to this theory we covered last week in the History section of my degree, which I know none of you are studying…”
“I can’t come on Thursdays, I have drama assessments.” “Okay, which weeks?” “Every week indefinitely.”
“Verbs are incredibly important to the narrative, which wasn’t mentioned on your slides, but I covered in first year linguistics. Can you add a slide on this?”