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Transcript: English Pathway

Hi all my name is Dr Jen Baker and I work in the English and Comparative Literary Studies Department and I teach and lecture mostly in literatures and cultures of the 19th and 20th centuries. I work on modules such as the 'English 19th Century Novel', so from your Dickens, to your Brontë, to your H. G. Wells, and your Bram Stoker; and on 'Crime Fiction, Nation and Empire' which goes through from a Dickens novel and early ideas of the detective, through Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I also teach on 'Romantic and Victorian Poetry' which is the sort of big six of Wordsworth and Byron and Keats and Shelley and Coleridge, but also through to Christina Rossetti and Emily Brontë. I also teach on 'Literature in Theory' which I'll come back to shortly.

If you embark on the English Literature (Disciplinary Interest) Pathway you could take modules like those mentioned above, or ones that focus on other time periods that are of interest to you. For example, 'Classical Literatures in Translation', so how epic poetry gets subsumed by poets like Milton and Shakespeare, how it gets reworked in drama and poetry and prose. You could think about Arthurian literature and how it's been adapted across the centuries. You could think about novels that have been published in the last five to ten years, so what we're reading now and what it tells us about the state of literature. If you're interested in particular themes like feminisms or how Asia is represented in the imagination or how Yiddish literature and the identities and cultures of the Yiddish people are reformed through the literatures of the 19th and 20th centuries. All of these things are there and more for you to mix and match and to delve into things you already love much further, or to embark on a completely new journey.

The module I teach, 'Literature in Theory', deals with an aspect that we look at across pretty much all of our modules, which is the way in which literature responds to and sometimes influences the social, the political, the cultural, the environmental, movements and moments. But they also help us to think about the multiplicities of 'a text' in its own right as language and formatting on a page, if that's something that really interests you, and as a space in which worlds are constructed through language, through rhythm, through imagery, a way a person expresses their imagination and the way a reader connects with feelings and emotions of strangers in many cases. We'll question what literature is, what does it look like, is there a hierarchy, how is that hierarchy created, who gets the right to construct this canon of good and bad literature and who now gets the right to break that down (if indeed we should break it down). We'll ask what 'a text' is and whether it's different and how it's different from 'the book' as a material object that we can touch and we can smell and through which we have visceral experiences. You could think about printing technologies and printing politics and how they affect who got to read at all and what they got to read. You could think about how the digital world that we live in now has impacted upon literature and produced new types of texts and formats like the Ebook or the Twitter story, but also how we can rethink about and reconceptualise old texts from antiquity to the present, through digital technologies and the digital humanities and what the impact of that is.

You might also want to think about what the relationship is between language and power - that's something embedded in all of our modules. It might be through something like language and empire, which leads us to think about the complex notion of an 'English' literature in a world where English is a dominant language and it has connections with violence and oppression but also with opportunity and with beauty and how can we navigate those complexities. If you're interested in the way in which literature intersects with other cultural mediums, it's got such a rich history of conversations with television and cinema, through adaptation, through complementary works, with illustrations, so illuminated manuscripts, and book illustrations and graphic novels and pop-up books, or with even music. Not only through things like opera for instance, but how sound is captured or voice, or experiences of music is captured in textual form. Also the sciences - anatomy, psychology, theories of aging - all of these you could explore for the love of it and also to think about what the purpose of literature is. Is it education, entertainment, propaganda, is it a form of therapy, and again what does it matter what its purpose is and how does that change the dynamics of how we use and produce and consume literature.

If you were going to join us just here and there on the Specialist Interest Pathway rather than the English Literature (Disciplinary Interest) Pathway and you are looking at topics such as Food Security, Sustainability, Social Justice, Culture and Identity, these form the basis of a number of our modules. We have a module called 'Food and Literature: Identity, Memory, and Diaspora' that thinks about food as a symbol in contemporary literature of imaginary homelands in times of war and conflict, for instance, of a lineage that might now be lost. Our module 'Commodity Fictions' thinks about how things like sugar plantations, coal mines, petro cultures of oil rigs, shape the content and form of policy as well as how the public perceives those things and therefore what we're going to do about those things in the future. We think about social justice historically through literatures of revolution, as well as now literatures across the globe that respond to social movements and wars, but are also complicit often as well as challenges to oppressive ideologies and regimes.

So this is just a light smattering of what's on offer to you and if you're not sure or you want to know a bit more about these you are more than welcome to come and speak to me: j dot baker dot 5 at warwick dot ac dot uk or any of our staff that you come across will be willing to talk to you about the degree as a whole. Good luck with the Liberal Arts degree and we hope to see you now and then in our English department.


  • What you might study on the English Disciplinary Interest Pathway: 0:56
  • Common themes throughout modules in the English Department: 2:16
  • What you could study in the English Department on a Specialist Interest Pathway: 6:21