What is it really like: studying Literature at Westminster

By Humaira Iqbal

Me: “I’m studying English Literature.”

Queue response: “You must read a lot of Shakespeare.”

When someone hears that I’m studying English Literature, their automatic response is that I study Shakespeare, read a lot of books and that is it. And I won’t lie to you, I have studied Shakespeare and of course I’ve have had to read a lot of novels. But that’s not all I’ve done. I’m currently just over halfway through my degree and in the last year and a half I’ve studied a lot, and it hasn’t all been Shakespeare – in fact, I’ve only studied one Shakespeare text.

Throughout my time at the University of Westminster, I’ve been fortunate enough to study things that aren’t really discussed in depth much, such as 9/11, as well as slavery and the Holocaust. One of my chosen modules, Making Memory, focused solely on studying these 3 historic ‘events’ and ways in which cultural memory is formed. It was extremely interesting. We discussed texts in the broadest sense, which included documentaries and museums, as well as novels. We also discussed and presented on historic and contemporary issues, including politics and campaigns such as Black Lives Matter. Over the course of the module I learned facts that shocked me, angered me and facts that will stay with me.

In other seminars, we have discussed the concepts of imagination vs madness and the differences, as well as the similarities, between the two. We have studied so much from classics such as Jane Eyre, to superhero comic books and films. We have analysed the Victorian era, society and the class system, gender roles, children and innocence, the Industrial and French Revolutions and their impact on literature and so much more. I have also had the opportunity to discuss Youtube videos, films and museums in my assignments as primary texts.

At the University of Westminster, all students have the option to study a language as one of their modules. Available languages include: Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, French, Japanese, German and Russian. We are given the opportunity to study a language for either one, two or three years, i.e. the full duration of our degrees. Studying a language has been proven to attract employers, which the University of Westminster recognises, offering students the chance to study those mentioned above.

Throughout the course of my degree, I have studied some amazing texts and paintings and I have come to realise that people see different things when interpreting literature and paintings, which I think is amazing. The fact that two people can look at one text or painting but see different things goes to show how subjective art and literature really are.

Poetry lovers need not worry as we study a fair amount of poetry too. In my first year I even took a Poetry module. As someone who loves both reading and writing poetry, I really enjoyed this. When studying novels, I discovered that fiction isn’t as ‘false’ as it may seem, as the concepts and happenings in novels reflect society and often even challenged the ideas that society deemed traditional.

Studying English Literature at the University of Westminster has taught me a lot, including attitudes towards women in the past and how these attitudes have changed as well as just how much impact an individual’s class had on them and the ways they were perceived, just to name a few things. I have seen the evolution of literature and art over the years and have explored how movements and groups such as the Pre-Raphaelites used art and literature to campaign and to get their messages across.

English Literature at Westminster is broader than you might think, as you can select some of your modules to design a course that suits your interests. If you’re thinking about studying English Literature at the University of Westminster, let me just say this: I think you should go for it!

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