Debunking the Myth: Studying English Literature


I remember my grandmother’s reaction when I informed her that I was going to be studying English Literature at university; a scathing look of contempt mixed with confusion. I brushed it off, putting it down to the thoughts of the ‘older generation’, but little did I expect to receive a similar reaction when revealing my choice of degree to my fellow students. There are so many misconceptions and myths surrounding an English degree, and we are subject to a whole heap of unnecessary judgement. So I put together a little guide, uncovering the real, honest truths about what it’s really like to study an English Literature degree. 

  1. Studying an English degree? You must want to be a teacher.
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NO. Believe it or not, not every English graduate has a burning desire to become a teacher. There are so many more career opportunities available to English graduates: publishing, journalism, media, and marketing. In fact the list is endless. English is a degree that develops your research and analytical skills among many others, making us a prime candidate for pretty much any job out there. Teaching may be some people’s calling, but it is by no means the calling of the masses.


2. We all want to be the next J K Rowling.

A lot of people on the course would agree that creative writing is by no means their forte. They study English purely because they enjoy reading and writing about literature. Just because we do an English degree does not mean that we want to become best-selling authors, but of course if a book deal was offered to us on a plate, we’d be stupid to turn that down. However, that isn’t the main reason why people choose to study English Literature.

3. English Literature is an ‘easy degree’. 

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If I had a pound for the amount of times I’ve heard that phrase, I’d probably be on the way to having the equivalent of J.K Rowling’s net worth. Our 8 hours of contact time might be considered miniscule compared to the 20 hours you spend in labs or lectures, but the amount of independent study time that is required from us more than makes up for it. 3 novels, 18 pages of secondary reading and long essays are all common for a week’s workload, so next time you see us buried in a book – just consider that it’s not the only one we’re tackling that week.

4. Oh, you must be an expert on all of the classics?

Just because we enjoy reading and do an English degree does not guarantee that we’re well versed in the world of popular English classic books. If you asked me to name 20 of the finest classics, there’s no denying it would be a struggle. Don’t even get me started on the insane amount of theories and theorists we cover throughout a degree – any kind of novel is a welcome change. An English degree covers texts from all kinds of periods and countries, so there’s no way that we have enough time or space on the syllabus to dedicate to just the classics.

5. We live for correcting people’s grammar and editing other people’s work.

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This may be true for some English students, but it can’t be used as a generalisation for all. We spend too much of our own time editing, drafting and re-writing our own essays to even contemplate looking at anyone else’s. My grammar is not always perfect by any means, but that being said, how difficult is it really to differentiate between ‘your’ and you’re’ and ‘there’, ‘they’re and ‘their’? Come on guys, we’re all at university now.


So there you have it, the main myths shrouding an English Literature degree uncovered. Hopefully this has provided you with enough to engage in a fully informed conversation with an English Lit student and understand that even though we’re not in lectures 24/7, we are actually hard at work.

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Third Year English student and Lifestyle Editor 2016/17.

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