One of the many benefits of being an English literature student at UEA is the absence of end of year exams. By the end of second semester all of our essays are handed in and summer stretches ahead of you – however, this does leave the question of how you can go about filling the final few weeks of the academic year.
Well for the first year literature students this conundrum is answered in the form of the ‘Reading Matters’ Conference, a few weeks long project in which small groups of students research and write a presentation on why their book should be on next year’s first year syllabus. At the end there is a vote and the winner is added to either the Literature in History or the Reading Texts modules.
‘But Hannah, you’re not a first year!’ I hear you cry. Sadly this is true, however, having had a great time working with my team and our tutors last year I was delighted to be asked back to help out as part of a student run social media team.
Niamh and Dougie, the wonderful duo who I worked with on this, did fantastic work creating graphics and setting up a twitter account for the event. This meant that on the day we largely spent our time tweeting coverage of the event and making memes to share with the participating students and tutors – the twitter battles are one of the best parts of the conference.
The books being put forward this year were:
- The poetry of Sappho
- Antigone by Sophocles
- Paradise by Toni Morrison
- Metamorphoses by Ovid
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
- Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
- Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
- The Play Boy of the Western World by John Synge
- Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
All of the teams gave well-argued reasons for why their book should be chosen, and the choice was very hard indeed, but ultimately ‘Citizen’ won.
It’s not a book I have read yet but I will certainly now make an effort to track down a copy and I’m delighted that we are gradually seeing a diversification from the usual white male writers who take up so much room on our syllabuses.
I hope this year’s first years enjoyed the conference as much as I did, I hope they made new friends and got to know their tutors at least a little bit more, and if nothing else I hope they enjoyed the free wine and nibbles at the after party.