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25 Things You Can Only Get Away With in a Literature Seminar

There are plenty of benefits to studying English Literature. Minimum contact hours, cheaper textbooks, eccentric lecturers and more. But perhaps best of all is the stuff you can get away with in seminars.

They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.

1. Needlessly dropping foreign words into sentences

Well, the novel clearly adopts the bildungsroman form while bringing in very nouvelle vague ideals.



2. Taking children’s books too seriously

Turns out that Peter Pan, Pinocchio and The Wizard of Oz weren’t written for children but for 50 year old critics.

3. Not actually reading anything

Shout out to SparkNotes, Wikipedia, CliffsNotes etc.

4. And also not even knowing the answer to something

In English Literature, everyone is correct as long as you say something.

5. Disagreeing with someone else’s answer

Yet that doesn’t stop you from thinking someone is wrong. Imagine arguing about an answer in Maths?



6. Name dropping

Authors, critics, philosophers, book shops, theorists, cities, painters, movements. Everything is game.

7. Wearing a turtle neck

Elbow patches, horn-rimmed glasses, corduroy and brogues also apply.

8. Just sitting and reading a novel

Hours and hours in class simply reading a book in silence.

9. Plagiarising

Whether it’s an author, a theorist, your mate or even yourself. It’s all up for grabs.



10. Cinematic module titles

‘Centres and Edges: Modernist and Postcolonial Quest Literature’. True story.

11. Watching a film

For wider context, obviously.

12. Then spending the class criticising it for not being as good as the book

“I can’t believe they cut out literally the most important part.”

13. Having a text that is 100 years old

If someone studying Medicine turned up with a textbook bought from Oxfam and published in 1910 they would fail.



14. Reading intentionally difficult authors and not being called out on it

Who has time to read Proust and Joyce in the real world?

15. Same goes for poetry

No one has a copy of Keats in their gym bag.

16. The luxury of not being tied to a career

Meaning hours are spent idyllically daydreaming about your glamorous future.

17. Talking about your debut novel

Your parents don’t think it will be the best use of your time.



18. …or even worse, your poetry pamphlet

No-one outside of the seminar will think this will be the best use of your time.

19. Being able to discuss “The Canon”

And people not thinking you have a weird obsession with weaponry.

20. You can get away with criticising geniuses

“Jane Austen? She is just awful and don’t get me started on Dickens.”

21. Laughing at “mainstream” novels

Literature seminars are safe havens where everyone can sit around and laugh at people who read Dan Brown.



22. Post-modernism

The only place in the world where the phrase doesn’t make people cringe. Same goes for Existentialism.

23. Literature jokes

So I tried out for a Samuel Beckett play and got cast as Godot.

24. Complain about your workload

For some reason your housemate studying Engineering never understands.

25. Falling in love with a character and admitting it

We’ll always have Nebraska, Ántonia.



Book clubs aren’t the same.

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