Lighthearted · Undergraduate

Literature Student Safari

People often mention that they know I’m a Literature student before I tell them – and I often wonder, is that a compliment or an insult? I can never tell whether it’s my eclectic fashion sense or my personal musty book and tea fragrance that’s causing them to draw this conclusion. Or is it my unruly hair and eye bags which oh so subtly tell of a sleepless night blogging?

It’s a definite possibility.

But it might be because I’m holding my Wuthering Heights mug, wearing my Jane Eyre locket, donning my Gatsby tote bag, and clutching my two translations of Proust to breast. And I’m probably wearing tights. They guess correctly because it is excruciatingly obvious.

But in Literature, the obvious never gets enough credit and it never gets a First, so, with your best interests at heart, see below the definitive guide to playing Where’s Wally with English students. Or in other words – spotting our more subtle tells.

  1. We’re loitering in the Library 

Here we are in our natural habitat, and though we are not distinguishable at first sight, you may, if you pay attention, observe us running our fingers reverently over the spines and covers of the books we pass, staring at the same page of Jane Eyre or an equivalent for more than ten minutes, and hovering over books with our highlighters because we were taught as children that defacing them is as bad as shaving the cat or replacing our sister’s chapstick with glue.

Why? Because it’s barbaric, you caveman.

  1. We’re juggling books like this:

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  1. And we’re reading them feeling like this:

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  1. Whilst our rooms turn into this:

There is a lot of reading. There is a lot of reading about reading. And then there is a lot of researching the reading about reading because academic texts never really make any sense. Which is ironic, because that sentence didn’t either.

Put simply: if you see a student struggling beneath a pile books, with a similar degree of confusion as a post-probed being just dropped off by extraterrestrials, they study Literature.

  1. Our course books are always in need of some serious TLC

We often get over our initial qualms about highlighting within the first week of a semester once we have tarnished a book’s initial purity. After this is gone, no guilt remains and we will ravage it with reckless abandon in a bid to uncover and comprehend its mysteries. The spine will crack, every other page will be dog-eared, quotes that seem important will be underlined or highlighted (probably both), and the margins will be riddled with incomprehensible, hence pointless, notes. You’ll often see Literature students traipsing around with these forsaken creatures.

I’m sorry about calling you a caveman.

  1. But our personal collection is always pristine

And I mean pristine – bookmarks are used to spare the corners of pages and we’ll read the book at any awkward angle, no matter how uncomfortable (elbows in, back straight), to preserve the spine (unfortunately not ours). Collections will often be organised alphabetically and be hidden from direct sunlight to prevent the pages from yellowing.

Yes, we really care that much. No, you should not mock me – I mean us – for it.

  1. We make fashion statements…

I could say look for girls with massive glasses, brown cardigans and a book pressed lovingly to the breast, but that’s clearly a stereotype and I know you won’t buy it. We’re actually half brown cardigan types, and half alternative, blue hair and groovy tattoo types.

So I guess I’m saying – if in doubt look for merch. Mugs, bags, T-shirts, jewellery, we live in this stuff and spend most of our time searching eBay for more to prove how hardcore and dedicated we really are.

  1. But maybe only expect sloppiness and general fatigue 

You might want to disregard that last because one is often unable to convey any sort of style after a night of expressing literary genius – whether that be through writing a blog (it is currently two in the morning), a novel, or just catching up on the reading you’ve been putting off for the past week, or that essay you keep meaning to do – and a morning alarm that didn’t quite work.

I often feel as if bags beneath the eyes, messy hair, and slovenly dress are more representative of our breed.

  1. We’ll hang around the campus bookstore as a source of entertainment

If you see somebody hovering in a bookstore, perusing titles for what seems an inordinate amount of time, the chances are they are studying literature.

Or the Waterstones employees have hidden the damn lined paper again. In which case, offer help.

  1. We struggle with addition and subtraction

For most of us, the last time we did actual maths was during GCSE, and we were bad at it then. You will find us holding up queues in shops and bars as we attempt, aware of the futility of it all, to count change accurately. You will also find us in restaurants staring at bills for minutes at a time, trying to figure out how to split it fairly in our heads before finally getting out our phones and admitting defeat.

Try not to judge us for this.

  1. We’re pretty good at pointing out grammatical errors

So we’re shit at maths, but we make great grammar Nazis. We’ll be coming out of the woodwork and advertising our services during assessment season, making bare dollar off of your inability to distinguish between there, their and they’re; to and too; effect and affect.

Except we won’t actually charge. It’s okay, we’ve got you covered.

  1. And we’re seriously buff

We read a lot of books, so we carry a lot of books. Think of us when you walk to your seminar with your one textbook, listening to Taylor Swift and strutting your stuff to ‘Style’, because we can barely scuttle beneath our backpacks and we envy you.

  1. We have so many hang-ups

Expect to find us in the Career Centre working extra hard for internships as we realise in third year that an English Literature degree isn’t so employable without work experience.

Yes, I have considered what I want to do after my degree. No, it is not teaching.

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Maybe I should consider teaching.

  1. And so many tea bags

For every hang-up we have, we have thirty more tea bags. And so what, we drink a lot of tea. Why? Because we read a lot of books and we’re British. It’s part of our identity and we expect you to understand that.

  1. And we reserve the right to get excited about inclement weather. 

You might complain about wind and rain, but we’re sitting at home wrapped in our duvets with the window ajar, a cup of tea and a good book in hand.

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Or a book we really don’t want to read. At all. I’m looking at you, Proust.

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