UMASS Blog

English Literature and Linguistics At University

English at university is both a rewarding challenge and an active pleasure that equips its students with the foundations that are required to be both critically and culturally aware of the societies that we live in.

library study

As a first year English Literature and Linguistics joint honours student, I have been exposed to an array of different contexts throughout my modules. In my first semester of studying literature, I became familiar with aspects of medieval Britain in my Mapping the Medieval unit, and the tribes of Suriname that exist in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko; two areas of history that I had previously never deeply delved into. Novels, poetry and dramas are all reviewed, giving the programme depth; in the course’s opening module, aptly named Reading Literature, the lecturers acclimatise undergraduates to a range of different forms of academic literature that they will be dynamically engaging with for duration of their degree, ranging from the philosophical ideologies of classical thinkers, such as Plato and Aristotle, through the continuum to new critics, like Barthes, Wimsatt and Beardsley, and Nietzsche.

  The study of linguistics and English language at university expands on the terminology and frameworks that are introduced in most A-level courses. Phonology (the study of sounds), grammar (the structural rules that govern word and clause composition), semantics and pragmatics (the study of meaning, and the influence that context plays in constructing sense) are all explored within the course, training students how languages are created, words are produced, and how successful communication is constructed.

  With both courses, the second and third years of study allow students to pick the modules that they personally find most appealing. For example, if you intend on studying a degree in English Literature, more ‘traditional’ authors like Shakespeare and Chaucer can be fused with quirkier creative writing and 20th century literature modules (such as Gender, Sexuality and Culture: Freud and After, Sex and Salvation Within Literature and Marvels, Monsters and Strangers: Encounters with the Other in Medieval Texts) in order to add variation to the units that you will be researching.

  The same can be said for linguistics. Although there are more compulsory modules than English Literature, students are encouraged to specialise in a certain branch within the field. If you enjoy learning about how language has changed over time, Introduction to Old English, Introduction to Middle English, and Language Variation and Change would be ideal. If you prefer looking at how sounds are formed physiologically and the nature of speech, or how humans learn languages, Child Language Acquisition or Experimental Phonetics may be worth concentrating on. Or, if like me, you find languages’ grammar systems interesting, Syntactic Theory, Introduction to Typology and The Grammar of English Noun Phrases may appeal. Thankfully, the University of Manchester caters for students’ needs, permitting them to fine tune and individualise their degrees. Free modules from other humanities subjects, such as history, politics, business, law and philosophy can be chosen as inter-disciplinary options!

 For more information on the units that are offered at the university, please see the following links!

 English Literature: (http://www.arts.manchester.ac.uk/subjectareas/englishamericanstudies/undergraduatestudy/course/?code=00060&pg=all)

 English Language and Linguistics modules: (http://courses.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/modulelist.html?department=45&newcode=LELA2)