Why studying early English literature is still important in the UK today

Photo by: Bailey McIntyre

English literature is an incredibly vast medium of writing. Studying authors such as Shakespeare focuses more on creativity and setting, whereas novelists such as Jane Austen centre on story and character building.  

The University of Birmingham has approximately 20,000 full time undergraduate students studying disciplines from economics to philosophy. The college of arts and law consists of approximately 40 per cent of all undergraduate students ranging from subjects such as modern languages to history, theatre, film and English literature.  

A local university student in a class called Decadents and Moderns stated that she chose to study literature because her parents worked in the film industry and it inspired her to read manuscripts at an early age. 

 “I’ve always liked novels and prose better and that’s what led me here,” she stated. “The ability to take something old and give it a new meaning, or to create something entirely your own – that is what thrills me,” said another student in the class. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing a teacher’s assistant at the University of Birmingham with a master’s in fine arts and literature about why English literature is still important. 

“Mostly it stems from the importance of educating on subjects that cannot be repeated. There are time periods when the world is too poor to do much else than write for a dime. There are also times when worldviews are so harsh against certain groups of people that it is important to learn why we no longer act this way and acknowledge that this behaviour is wrong. As long as people remain interested in the subject matter, it will remain a relevant subject here.” 

To be able to write freely and analyse poems or words may be thrilling to some, but it’s not thrilling to everyone. However, the subject remains just as important today as it was years ago. And it looks like English Literature remains important educationally today in the U.K. for more than a few reasons.  

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