masters in english literature

masters in english literature

Exploring the Depths of English Literature: A Master’s Level Study

1. Introduction to the World of English Literature

While the study of literature is fundamentally two-fold: special and general. The study is “special” in the sense that it provides subject matter for all the other fields and disciplines. It furnishes the practical uses of language through delight in the crafts of poetry, drama, the short story, or the novel, and delights in new insights about life that these arts have to offer. The study is “general” in the sense that it concerns any reader. It is an introduction to the great variety of expressions of the human experience and, as such, allows for countless needs, interests, and abilities. This makes literature accessible and utilitarian in infinite ways. Ranging from the classroom and lecture hall to the use by authors, editors, and publishers, a knowledge of the “best that has been thought and said” about life is one of the most rewarding achievements of civilized man.

Studying English Literature at any level can, at times, appear to be overwhelming for the individual who is embarking on such a journey for the first time. English Literature encompasses the study of literature written in the English language. There is a wide range of imaginative literature through the exploration of literary theory and other academic methodologies, the nature of language, and the cultural and historical contexts of texts. Studying English Literature involves the “reading of the word” but also the “reading of the world” and is an educational and cultural experience. Only through study can the rewards of communication and personal growth be garnered to their full potential.

2. Critical Approaches and Theoretical Frameworks in Literary Analysis

The theory thus viewed forms a unit with literary practice. Literary theory or science cannot exist outside the same system that it serves in one way or another to scrutinize, explain, or correct, any more than to exist without science that is uplifted by it. The definition we suggest makes theoretical science the equal in weight and significance, not an appendage to something that we call our primary engagement which consists in reading literature. True, our present cases with the literary phenomenon make a great diversity of its target resulting from particular types of interaction between literature and the multitude of sciences to such an extent that a stranger to the domain of literature may well wonder about the boundaries and indeed the contents of such a “spectacular”. From this diversity arises a number of problems manifesting themselves as often as not in invectives: many of these complaints form the present investigation of literature and interdisciplinarity which also belongs to the utmost need of literary theory.

What we call a theory in literature is a complex phenomenon consisting of unconscious primaeval notions, logical categories, and empirical knowledge of the history, formation, and operation of literary processes that together force upon us directions of literary life. In the words of Paul Valéry, theory has the power of interrogating. It is, in the first place, a quite relative, remote action directing us toward the other side from questions and hermeneutic practice. It is, so to speak, a science that reacts against literature whenever, decisively and with the intent of revealing, it asks the question “why?” The moment we turn our back upon the significance and meaning of literature as such, instead of isolating its elements, we become interested in its purposes and functions, its constituents and their relationships. We also turn the force of literary science in a direction which we call theoretical.

3. Key Movements and Periods in English Literature

First and perhaps most basically, there are what we can call movements or periods in literature. These are labels that literary scholars and critics have used through time in order to get a map of its territory. Usually, their titles introduce some of the fundamental dynamics that govern literary publishing: the movement or period of the Augustans, for instance, highlights the literary figures of the time, who implicitly work in the shadow of the real “greats” of English literature, the ancients. Or the movement or period of Romanticism emphasizes the fondness of the central poets and novelists for dramatic descriptions, out-of-the-way locales, and sentimental passion. But most essentially, such designations call attention to a time relative to great historical events: generally wars or peace treaties, when a court’s patronage or neglect can have considerable effects on the cultural product. Obviously, such literary movements and periods get complex prior to the high profile of a poet like William Shakespeare, or subsequent to the publication of a novel like Pride and Prejudice; literary history becomes less a set of changing epochs and cross-currents, and more a collection of thematic or situational concerns that different authors express during any age.

One of the fundamental problems in the study of English literature is the sheer variety of its subject matter. In this course, we will focus on select topics that represent different historical periods, literary genres and styles, and cultural contexts in a general survey. It is important to realize, however, that there are several other ways of cutting up the continuum of English literary production. The following paragraphs give a sense of how literary scholars divide the pie.

4. Exploring Major Works and Authors in English Literature

After finishing the introductory courses to the topics of English and American literature, many departments will introduce you to your first major readings of entire works or long works. This is the time you have been waiting for. Here, you will have the time to begin to examine the works of major authors and identify and explore the issues that interest you. Read as much as you can to generate ideas and maximize the time you have for study. The idea is to build a foundation of knowledge and insights into literature and works so that you can build on this knowledge during your years of professional research work and after college. Understand that you’ll never be a total expert on all literature (undergrads especially, relax, take a breath and accept it!), but a basic working knowledge is a realistic goal that you probably can manage. After all, that is the whole point of preliminary and general education courses no matter who you wind up studying literature with. Do what you can to relate to the ideas in literature and see their interest. Again, this does not matter until you are today. But understanding literature and knowing something about it will certainly make life with literature teachers ever so much more pleasant and interesting.

Exploring major works and authors in English literature

5. Research Methods and Writing Strategies in Literary Studies

In composition, one can easily justify teaching others to write and to develop their writing skills. Indeed, the increasing participation of the academy in postgraduate or graduate programmes and in lifelong learning represents a growing recognition that writing is an essential part of academia. However, students must not only learn to write in English, but understand that writing in academia involves the production of linguistic constructs which establish implicit as well as explicit stances towards knowledge. The importance assigned to writing is reinforced by the trends that are currently transforming particularly masters’ level study, dynamics within research and academia, here in Scandinavia, and specifically in a Department of English.

In trying to respond to an approach to English literature that is based upon the assumptions that learning to read ever more sophisticated and complex texts in English is a unique form of knowledge; that critical thinking and writing and valuable skills not only in terms of learning, but in making literature and literary analysis accessible to everyone, and that the skills involved in searching for different kinds of information and teaching others to do likewise are interconnected, it is useful to describe how I taught the course. I do so in the belief that my practices and philosophy might be utilized and that I am interested in the methods other people use for teaching and researching in the literature classroom. I believe I can continue learning from other people teaching English literature and writing, which in turn can help develop my teaching strategies and improve my research practices. It is important to remember that the ideas presented in the paper are employed to do something else – they are means towards an end and may be utilized in quite different ways by other people.

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