The Cost of My Degree – A Reflection

A few weeks on from posting ‘Three Years of Books – A Reflection’ it has become my most liked, most viewed, and responded to post of all time on my blog. I’m really happy about that, I put a lot of work and thought into it and was actually pretty proud of what I’ve produced. The responses to that post have made me realise that my University experience, my falling out of love with my subject and starting a quest to reevaluate my relationship, is by no means unique. I started a poll on my Instagram story  – Did you ‘fall out of love’ with your subject at University?’ – and the overwhelming response was ‘Yes’.

I was always told to choose a subject I loved for my University degree. They should have told me to choose a subject that I loved that I’d be happy to go through a three year long tumultuous on-again-off-again relationship with, only to come out the other side in need of relationship counseling. That’s how I feel now, that’s how a lot of my friends and peers feel. Our relationship to the subjects we loved and eagerly wrote about in our UCAS personal statements are in need of reassessing and rewriting.

A friend shared with me a quote that I’m going to repost here. It really spoke to me about how I’d like to address literature going forwards as a casual reader and as a reviewer.

“This is the kind of criticism that does not pit the critic against the text, does not seek authority. It seeks instead to travel with the work and its ideas, to invite it to blossom and invite others into a conversation that might have previously seemed impenetrable, to draw out relationships that might have been locked. This is a kind of criticism that respects the essential mystery of a work of art, which is in part its beauty and its pleasure, both of which are irreducible and subjective. The worst criticism seeks to have the last word and leave the rest of us in silence; the best opens up an exchange that need never end.” – Rebecca Solnit talking about Virginia Woolf’s literary criticism

I spent a lot my academic career looking for the right answers, referencing mark schemes and past papers, reading example essays and trying to shape my ideas into something I thought that my teachers wanted to see. I realise now that whether that was the right way to go about it or not, I am free from any such restriction going forwards. I can now be a literary critic in my own way, and the first step on that journey is renaming myself simply a reader. I am a reader, maybe sometimes I’ll want to review and analyse but that task is now secondary to the primary purpose of reading a book which should be to enjoy it.

Tomorrow my results are being released, there’s a celebration with drinks in the English department. I’m not going to be there, one because I’ve already moved away from Lancaster, and two because I don’t want to be there. Whatever the result is it cost a lot more that £27,000 to get it. It cost a lot of stress, a lot of love, and a lot of looking inwards and reflecting. I may never pay that monetary debt back in full and that’s okay, but I think I owe it to myself to repay and rebuild the love for literature that I once had. It’s a journey that I’ve already started since I wrote my first reflective post after I finished University and it’s a journey I will continue through this blog.

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