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English at Cambridge- Read around your subject? Watch

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    So I was thinking of applying to Cambridge for English (in future), but apparently, we need to show that we're well-read and passionate about the subject, and we should've "read around" the subject.
    Does anyone know what sort of texts prospective English applicants should read? I know Shakespeare is one; any other recommended authors/ titles? Does it necessary have to be a classic? Are modern novels counted as well?

    Thanks in advance!
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    (Original post by wanderlust98)
    So I was thinking of applying to Cambridge for English (in future), but apparently, we need to show that we're well-read and passionate about the subject, and we should've "read around" the subject.
    Does anyone know what sort of texts prospective English applicants should read? I know Shakespeare is one; any other recommended authors/ titles? Does it necessary have to be a classic? Are modern novels counted as well?

    Thanks in advance!
    Whatever you enjoy - it's supposed to be fun! We're not looking for any particular 'type' of person and there's no list of books you should read - there is a lot of literature out there, and no one has read it all! Generally it's not a bad idea to read widely so if you read lots of novels try a play or some poetry or try texts from different eras. The most important thing is that you are led by your own interests, and that you think deeply about what you have read - when you finish reading a text, spend a few minutes thinking about what the author was attempting to do, whether or not they achieved it, what you liked and did not like about it, how it is different or similar to other things you have read etc. It also helps to read more than one text by the same author, and look for patterns/discrepancies/development you can spot there.
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    There's not really anything in particular you should have read, but make sure it is LITERARY (i.e: NOT Harry Potter, Twilight, etc). It also helps if you've read different genres and different periods (e.g: Restoration and Modernism)
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    (Original post by Peterhouse Admissions)
    Whatever you enjoy - it's supposed to be fun! We're not looking for any particular 'type' of person and there's no list of books you should read - there is a lot of literature out there, and no one has read it all! Generally it's not a bad idea to read widely so if you read lots of novels try a play or some poetry or try texts from different eras. The most important thing is that you are led by your own interests, and that you think deeply about what you have read - when you finish reading a text, spend a few minutes thinking about what the author was attempting to do, whether or not they achieved it, what you liked and did not like about it, how it is different or similar to other things you have read etc. It also helps to read more than one text by the same author, and look for patterns/discrepancies/development you can spot there.
    That was very informative, thanks!
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    (Original post by XxSophie01xX)
    There's not really anything in particular you should have read, but make sure it is LITERARY (i.e: NOT Harry Potter, Twilight, etc). It also helps if you've read different genres and different periods (e.g: Restoration and Modernism)
    Thanks for the feedback. But why aren't those novels (Harry Potter, etc.) considered literature? I mean, I've heard of a term called 'children's literature'. I'm not sure about YA fiction.
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    (Original post by wanderlust98)
    Thanks for the feedback. But why aren't those novels (Harry Potter, etc.) considered literature? I mean, I've heard of a term called 'children's literature'. I'm not sure about YA fiction.
    They would be what is considered 'leisurely' reads - the writers aren't pushing any boundaries, or creating a diverse piece of literature that compels thinking.
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    (Original post by XxSophie01xX)
    They would be what is considered 'leisurely' reads - the writers aren't pushing any boundaries, or creating a diverse piece of literature that compels thinking.
    True, but there are some fiction written today that may not seem like literature, but they can be pretty subversive and thought-provoking. Though I think a majority of our books today would one day be studied by scholars in the future, sort of how we are now studying the works of authors from the eras before ours. That's just my opinion, though.
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    (Original post by wanderlust98)
    True, but there are some fiction written today that may not seem like literature, but they can be pretty subversive and thought-provoking. Though I think a majority of our books today would one day be studied by scholars in the future, sort of how we are now studying the works of authors from the eras before ours. That's just my opinion, though.
    I agree absolutely. There are some fantastic current authors - Zadie Smith and Jonathan Franzen, for example. But the likes of Stephanie Meyer and E. L. James cannot be considered literary.
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    Two main pieces of advice:
    1) Use university reading lists, whether they're for undergrad or MA level courses as a guide. I know that UCL's English department is really good at putting everything online publicly, and I used their MA in modern culture and criticism as a guide to make sure I hadn't missed anything. A little more controversial is 'the canon', popularised by Harold Bloom in... I think the early 90s. (94?). People will criticise it, and rightly so, for being full of dead white european males. But hey, it's good for getting an idea of the classical heavyweights for each era.

    2) In addition to being well read in plays, poetry, and fiction, you need to know what the ideas were underlying each work, how to think about texts, and what concepts to use to unpack them. Eagleton's 'literary theory' is a good intro, as is Bennett and Royle's guide.

    But honestly, canons and lists are best used as guides for general reading. You need to go beyond them; modern african fiction, fiction in translation, etc etc. You can have all the knowledge you want about the subject, but you'll flounder in the interview if you don't have the passion for it as well.
 
 
 
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