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The English At York Experiences Thread

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Applying to Uni? Let Universities come to you. Click here to get your perfect place 20-10-2014
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    OK I thought I'd start this because English Lit at York is a very very popular course and there are quite a few people on here who are either interested on it or are currently partway through the degree. What would be ideal would be for people to provide a small outline of what they have done and their experiences of the course, warts and all. Questions, as always, welcomed.

    General Things I Wish I'd Known Before I'd Come

    DO

    Read up extensively on theory.
    My experience of theory was frustration for the first two terms. At school I'd had no experience to critical theory and as a result understanding its use and application in essays and seminars was tough. You are recommended to buy the Norton Critical Theory and even though it's pretty expensive it's invaluable for understanding general theory and the major movements. My advice would to be to read up especially on psychoanalysis and deconstructionism as many of the academics at York have a very active interest in those philosophies
    Invaluable Book: Derrida: A Very Short Introduction

    DO THE SEMINAR READING
    I CANNOT stress this enough. Your first few seminars will be intimidating; most of the academics are very nice and friendly but putting across your opinion to 10-12 other people, many of whom might be quite vocal in their disagreement, can be quite scary. With that in mind, it is important to be confident that your argument that reading the novel/play/poem in a particular fashion is based on concrete evidence that you can reference. Do NOT half-ass your reading the night before or (worse) on the day. Academics can spot bluffers a mile away and it is VERY awkward when you see someone called out on it and admit they know nothing

    USE THE LIBRARY
    In the first few terms, regardless of seminar/workshop groups, you will be working with a very select number of texts. Although the library has a large amount of books, 200 people will exhaust the criticism very quickly. With that in mind:
    a) have your own copy of the texts required
    b) think at the start of term what texts you are most interested in
    It is my explicit recommendation that you take key critical books (ESPECIALLY the Blackwell/Cambridge critical guides) out early (not a week before an essay is due), write out the criticism that is most interesting (REMEMBER TO WRITE DOWN THE REFERENCING: author, editor, publishing date, page numbers, city, publisher) and then put it back. You'll save yourself a LOT of stress.
    Also online are the online journal sites JSTOR and Project Muse. There are others but these are the best. You log into these with your uni password. These have a huge wealth of information in journals that can really help with a specific topic but remember to use books as well - some academics are very snotty about just using JSTOR
    In addition to the main library, which is often very crowded and at certain points it's near impossible to find seats, there is the Minster Library and King's Manor library. They are both very very well stocked on books, a short bus ride/walk away and the librarians are helpful. Use them sooner rather than later.

    See Your Supervisor Reguarly
    At the start of the year you will be assigned a supervisor, who watches over your academic progress. Many people will go once a term to 'oh you're still alive' get any relevant forms signed and go away. Try not to do this. If you are struggling with criticism or an essay, a supervisor can provide a different voice. Also it shows that you are eager to make an effort and to some jaded lecturers that can make all the difference.

    Extra Hours
    Each academic has 2 hours a week where you can go to their office and ask them any questions/what you are studying with. Usually no one goes (or just postgraduates). Take advantage of these hours; book appointments with academics who know your subject but are not your seminar tutor so they know you're popping in. If you let them know what you're interested in, they might have have recommendations for books to get out or could even loan you!

    DON'T

    Say nothing/Talk over people in Seminars

    Seminars are one of the most important parts of an English course. You don't want to turn up for 1.5/2 hours and say nothing and be one of 'those' people. But likewise you don't want to talk over people. I've had to sit in seminars where people (and, generalising, it is ALWAYS Oxbridge rejects) try to turn the seminar into a one-on-one with the seminar leader. Engage with other people's ideas, give them time to speak. If you have a really pressing idea, it will always get heard.

    Blag
    Repeated for emphasis. People boast that they can bull their way through seminars and exams; good for them. Usually they come to their comeuppance in second year when all that blagging will usually nail them a low 2:2. You are usually discussing texts that the seminar tutor/lecturer will often have studied and have had works published on in great detail. They in general will be wiser than you. And to be honest, blaggers are painfully obvious.

    Just Sit There and Moan
    This is a personal gripe; nothing more. I have a few people on Facebook who never stop going on about how they wish they had more contact hours, how their essay was poorly marked, how they don't like the texts. These are, invariably, the people who never go to lectures. If you have a problem with how the course is run, see your supervisor or course rep. If you don't complain to someone relevant nothing will happen


    MODULES
    (these are the only ones I have done/am doing)

    Approaches to Literature
    Assessment: 4x1,500 word essays
    Key Texts: Norton Critical Anthology of Poetry, Beowulf, Mrs. Dalloway, Titus Andronicus (for all new students A Midsummer Night's Dream), Collected book of American Short stories, handouts in class, tons of theory
    As introductory modules go, I very much enjoyed it. Usually our reading would be a text with some general/critical theory. A lot of the discussion would be how the theory could influence the reading of the text. The lectures (especially on narrative) were enjoyable. No complaints. At this point you are still very much getting used to the university experience (i.e. going out) so it's very much an ease in, rather than being thrown in

    American Literature Up Until 1910
    Assessment: 3x2000 word essays
    Notes: THIS IS NOW A SECOND YEAR MODULE.
    Key Texts:
    The Tale of Arthur Gordon Pym, by Poe
    Moby Dick, Melville
    The Tale of Frederick Douglass An American Slave
    Incidents in the life of a slave girl, Harriet Brown
    Uncle Tom's Cabin
    Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
    Turn of the Screw, Henry James
    Sister Carrie, Dreiser
    lots of handouts and lots of theory
    This is one of my favourite modules. There was a LOT of reading and the theory that we dealt with this term (Barthes, later Freud, Jung, Derrida) was much more difficult however I came away from each seminar and lecture feeling that I had learnt a lot. My criticism of it would be that dealing with Moby Dick in just a single week seemed a bit miserly but otherwise no complaints.

    The Late Renaissance and Restoration
    Assessment: procedural essay 2,500 words, first assessed essay (33%), 2,500 words, second assessed essay (3,000 words)
    Key Texts:
    Norton Anthology of Poetry (poems by Jonson, Marvell, Herrick, Marlowe, others
    The Alchemist, Volpone, Ben Jonson
    Duchess of Malfi, The White Devil, Webster
    Coriolanus, The Tempest, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, selected sonnets, Shakespeare
    Samson Agonistes, Paradise Lost, Comus, Lycidas Milton
    Selected Poems, Donne
    The Relapse, Vanbrugh
    Oronooko, aphra benn
    The blazing world, margaret cavendish
    This was again one of my favourite modules. The teaching I received was superb, the range of texts we did was amazing (Donne, Milton and Shakespeare in a single module!) and the seminars was thoroughly enlightening. My criticism was that many of the lectures were pretty vague and not directly applicable to the module (they were all very interesting though). Apart from that, all good

    British and Irish Literature from 1910
    Assessment: Same as Late Renaissance
    Key Texts:
    The Tower, Yeats
    The Wasteland, Eliot
    Ulysses, Joyce
    To the lighthouse, Woolf
    Midnight's Children, Rushdie
    The Sea, Banville
    selected plays, Beckett,
    selected poems of Auden, MacNeice, Day-Lewis, Spender
    The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter.
    This was my most disappointing module. Don't get me wrong it was a good module, one of my favourite parts being the six-lecture-sequence on Ulysses. However, writing an essay on one of the key texts, (Woolf, yeats, Eliot, Joyce) was pretty much an impossible task, something I should have realised. This was by far one of the most popular modules so library space is always an issue. In addition to that the seminar support I received was not exemplary and feedback was brusque. If you feel passionately about the modernist poets then I urge you to take this module but the opinion of most people was a resounding 'meh'.

    High Medieval Literature
    Assessment: same as late renaissance
    Key Texts:
    The Riverside Chaucer
    Gawain and the Green Knight
    Sir Orfeo
    Tain Bo Cuailnge
    The Mabinogion
    Arthurian Romances, Chretien de Troyes
    The Lais of Marie De France
    Handouts
    Notes: FOR ALL INCOMING STUDENTS, THIS MODULE WILL CONTAIN NO CHAUCER. If you want to do Chaucer, do the Late Medieval module

    York has a renowned Medieval department so I thought I'd give this module a go and I wasn't disappointed. The lectures are linked together, were properly structured and thoroughly enjoyable. I was pleasantly suprised that the module was not 'ye olde englishe texts' only - the module places great attention on the interplay of celtic, french, latin and english literature and you really get an understanding of how it all connects. My criticism would be that this introduction of other literatures is a relatively new one and the library does not have much stock of Irish or Welsh literature. Apart from that, fantastic module

    Modules Not Yet Covered:

    Late Medieval Literature
    18th Century Literature
    The Romantics
    Literatures In English after 1910
    American Literature After 1910
    Global Literatures
    Victorian Literature
    The High Renaissance
    Special Modules (am doing one but would rather wait till it has finished)


    Any questions whatever fire away.
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    I may well be going to York so I will subscribe to this thread. *subscribes*
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    Wow! Thanks so much for this thread! Might be messaging you soon re literary theory...!
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    (Original post by Aeschylus)
    OK I thought I'd start this because English Lit at York is a very very popular course and there are quite a few people on here who are either interested on it or are currently partway through the degree. What would be ideal would be for people to provide a small outline of what they have done and their experiences of the course, warts and all. Questions, as always, welcomed.

    British and Irish Literature from 1910
    Assessment: Same as Late Renaissance
    Key Texts:
    The Tower, Yeats
    The Wasteland, Eliot
    Ulysses, Joyce
    To the lighthouse, Woolf
    Midnight's Children, Rushdie
    The Sea, Banville
    selected plays, Beckett,
    selected poems of Auden, MacNeice, Day-Lewis, Spender
    The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter.
    This was my most disappointing module. Don't get me wrong it was a good module, one of my favourite parts being the six-lecture-sequence on Ulysses. However, writing an essay on one of the key texts, (Woolf, yeats, Eliot, Joyce) was pretty much an impossible task, something I should have realised. This was by far one of the most popular modules so library space is always an issue. In addition to that the seminar support I received was not exemplary and feedback was brusque. If you feel passionately about the modernist poets then I urge you to take this module but the opinion of most people was a resounding 'meh'.
    Hey Aeschylus

    Can you explain why you said writing an essay on one of the Modernist texts was 'an impossible task.' What was the problem?
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    It was difficult because I didn't realise what I wanted to do my essay on. Looking back on it I should have swapped my first essay for my procedural essay (Woolf and macNiece respectively). Without exception, everyone plumped for a Yeats, Eliot or Woolf essay so trying to find criticism was near impossible and when you did get it it was immediately requested. I managed in the end and got a decent grade but it was a close call. This is why I recommended get the criticism out early because I've been there. Also lecturers said that after marking 20 woolf essays, fatigue sets in. They won't mark you down for doing the standard ones, far from it, but writing about a different writer gets you brownie points
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    (Original post by Aeschylus)
    It was difficult because I didn't realise what I wanted to do my essay on. Looking back on it I should have swapped my first essay for my procedural essay (Woolf and macNiece respectively). Without exception, everyone plumped for a Yeats, Eliot or Woolf essay so trying to find criticism was near impossible and when you did get it it was immediately requested. I managed in the end and got a decent grade but it was a close call. This is why I recommended get the criticism out early because I've been there. Also lecturers said that after marking 20 woolf essays, fatigue sets in. They won't mark you down for doing the standard ones, far from it, but writing about a different writer gets you brownie points
    OK, I see. Which critical texts are the most popular - a particular series like the Casebooks and New Casebooks? I must say I love all the writers in the Modernist section, although I don't think I'd be brave enough to tackle Ulysses... Maybe that'll change if it is taught especially well. How many weeks does each individual module take?
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    This is a really good thread, although I'm gutted that Chaucer isn't in the high medieval module anymore

    Do the optional modules have pre-requisites? Say, if I wanted to do an optional module on Milton, would I only be allowed to if I'd done a core module covering the 17th century?
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    (Original post by LouiseChapman)
    OK, I see. Which critical texts are the most popular - a particular series like the Casebooks and New Casebooks? I must say I love all the writers in the Modernist section, although I don't think I'd be brave enough to tackle Ulysses... Maybe that'll change if it is taught especially well. How many weeks does each individual module take?
    Blackwells, Cambridge Companions (though these are available online), Casebooks. Do Ulysses if you can the lectures on it were fantastic. Each individual module is 8 seminars long. Now the uni are changing things so there is less teaching in the summer term and things are being moved around and I'm not sure how it works for the new lot there might be more modules at the same time.

    (Original post by LostHorizons)
    This is a really good thread, although I'm gutted that Chaucer isn't in the high medieval module anymore

    Do the optional modules have pre-requisites? Say, if I wanted to do an optional module on Milton, would I only be allowed to if I'd done a core module covering the 17th century?
    The only core modules are the approaches to literature and global/victorian literatures which you'll do in the first 2 terms. In the third term you do several 4 week mini-modules. The period modules NO LONGER have a range requirement - we had to take them from several bands but that is no longer required. If you want to do Chaucer do the Late Medieval modules, which is Chaucer, Gower, Langland, Malory and the York mystery plays. So to answer your question, yes if you did a period module on the renaissance you could do the special Milton module as well
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    (Original post by Aeschylus)
    Blackwells, Cambridge Companions (though these are available online), Casebooks. Do Ulysses if you can the lectures on it were fantastic. Each individual module is 8 seminars long. Now the uni are changing things so there is less teaching in the summer term and things are being moved around and I'm not sure how it works for the new lot there might be more modules at the same time.



    The only core modules are the approaches to literature and global/victorian literatures which you'll do in the first 2 terms. In the third term you do several 4 week mini-modules. The period modules NO LONGER have a range requirement - we had to take them from several bands but that is no longer required. If you want to do Chaucer do the Late Medieval modules, which is Chaucer, Gower, Langland, Malory and the York mystery plays. So to answer your question, yes if you did a period module on the renaissance you could do the special Milton module as well
    Oh I see, the period modules no longer have a range requirement - so I could take two from the same band if I wanted to, is that what you mean? Also, by 'mini modules' are you referring to the topic modules?
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    (Original post by LouiseChapman)
    Oh I see, the period modules no longer have a range requirement - so I could take two from the same band if I wanted to, is that what you mean? Also, by 'mini modules' are you referring to the topic modules?
    They might be that I'm not really up on them. They are like 'The Big Book' 'Medieval Travel Literature' 'Literature and the City' if thats what you mean. Response from my mate is that they are very cool.
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    (Original post by Aeschylus)
    The only core modules are the approaches to literature and global/victorian literatures which you'll do in the first 2 terms. In the third term you do several 4 week mini-modules. The period modules NO LONGER have a range requirement - we had to take them from several bands but that is no longer required. If you want to do Chaucer do the Late Medieval modules, which is Chaucer, Gower, Langland, Malory and the York mystery plays. So to answer your question, yes if you did a period module on the renaissance you could do the special Milton module as well
    Would I have to do the relevant period module if I wanted to do the Milton special module, or the Chaucer special module? If I wanted to, could I take early medieval and then the Chaucer special module, or would I have to study the late medieval one to be allowed to do Chaucer in a special module?
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    Yeah, those are topic modules according to this source: http://vle.york.ac.uk/webapps/lobj-e..._Topic_Modules

    They look really awesome too actually! Excited to know what the 'Big Book' might be next year...
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    Great thread! I'll cover the Victorians, Romantics and Early Renaissance at some point next week when I'm no longer drowning in David Copperfield.
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    (Original post by LostHorizons)
    Would I have to do the relevant period module if I wanted to do the Milton special module, or the Chaucer special module? If I wanted to, could I take early medieval and then the Chaucer special module, or would I have to study the late medieval one to be allowed to do Chaucer in a special module?
    No not at all. You could do either module with no experience in either period
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    This is an amazing thread and I'm not even going to York! *still regrets not applying*
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    (Original post by rainbow drops)
    Great thread! I'll cover the Victorians, Romantics and Early Renaissance at some point next week when I'm no longer drowning in David Copperfield.
    Please do! That would be so helpful.
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    OK having just read over the page Louise has linked to I thought I'd just point out that:

    Contrary to my year in which period modules and special modules were 40 credits, the first years and incoming will have 20 credit modules. Period modules and special modules are assessed now IN THE SAME WAY (1,000 word procedural essay, 3,000 word submitted essay), and instead of taking one a term, you will take special and period essay modules CONCURRENTLY. This probably means that you will do more overall reading, but less for each module overall. In addition in contrast special modules are valued THE SAME as period modules (my year it's weighted). In addition you complete a dissertation modules which is 7,000-8,000 words long. Each 20 credit PERIOD modules has 8 lectures and 8 seminars and each special modules has 16 seminars and no lectures. I am not sure how many are actually seminars and how many are workshops (workshops have more people).
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    How many oral presentations (or things or similar ilk) do you have to do, and are they worth many marks? Can you do essays instead of orals or are they a requirement? Do some modules have more orals than others?

    I'm terrible at orals, and thought of doing them kind of scares me.
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    (Original post by Aeschylus)
    OK having just read over the page Louise has linked to I thought I'd just point out that:

    Contrary to my year in which period modules and special modules were 40 credits, the first years and incoming will have 20 credit modules. Period modules and special modules are assessed now IN THE SAME WAY (1,000 word procedural essay, 3,000 word submitted essay), and instead of taking one a term, you will take special and period essay modules CONCURRENTLY. This probably means that you will do more overall reading, but less for each module overall. In addition in contrast special modules are valued THE SAME as period modules (my year it's weighted). In addition you complete a dissertation modules which is 7,000-8,000 words long. Each 20 credit PERIOD modules has 8 lectures and 8 seminars and each special modules has 16 seminars and no lectures. I am not sure how many are actually seminars and how many are workshops (workshops have more people).
    On average, how long do your tutors give you to read a book? Say a book of 600 pages - how much time would you have to read it and be expected to talk/write about it? Sorry for so many questions... it means a lot to me :blushing:
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    (Original post by Vekeh)
    How many oral presentations (or things or similar ilk) do you have to do, and are they worth many marks? Can you do essays instead of orals or are they a requirement? Do some modules have more orals than others?

    I'm terrible at orals, and thought of doing them kind of scares me.
    For the topic modules they are assessed through a GROUP presentation. In addition you will often be asked by tutors to do presentations in seminars, single or group. The best advice I can give you is write it out, get your referencing sorted and don't panic about it - no one will yell at you!


    (Original post by LouiseChapman)
    On average, how long do your tutors give you to read a book? Say a book of 600 pages - how much time would you have to read it and be expected to talk/write about it? Sorry for so many questions... it means a lot to me :blushing:
    Haha no problem! You're given the reading list at the end of the previous term so you'll know well in advance what the big novels are. You will cover one big novel (or an aspect of it) in a seminar, maybe 2 - I do know one seminar group that had 3 seminars on Ulysses.

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