SOAS English: Academic Insights

SOAS English: Academic Insights

August 15, 2019 3 By Stanley Isaacs


– Coming to London has
been really amazing. It’s been really easy and really great to make friends here at SOAS,
because the course is so small and so you see a lot of the
same people all the time, and you just get to know them really well, and it’s kind of like a little family. Hi, my name is Melanie, I’m a third year English
student here at SOAS. The English degree started
at the same time I did. It was culminated, I guess, from other modules that already existed in terms of literature and linguistics, and they just brought them all together, introduced new ones, to
create a whole new course. The setting at SOAS has been different to the other places I had
in mind because it has, right from the first
year, a very global focus, and it’s not something that
they sort of ease you into right from the beginning of studying postcolonial literatures, and looking at English
as a global language, as opposed to just a traditional canon. What’s been great about
studying the English degree has been the way that we’ve
been able to have a lot of say, and been able to tailor the
course to our own preferences because the professors are as
new to the course as we are. So they’ve been really receptive into what kind of texts we’ve enjoyed, and which ones we think should be excluded or maybe not as focused
on, in coming years. The course has grown every year. And it’s my understanding
that second year has about 25, and now the new first years have about 35. And from what I’m told, we get new applicants and
more applicants every year. Because the course is so young, it obviously has evolved with time. My experience in my first year
was two literature modules, and one linguistics module. Those being, ways of reading, which was an introduction
to critical theory. The other being global Shakespeare. And the third linguistics module being, English in the global world. For our forth module,
we could either choose two half modules, one in
term one and one in term two, or one for the whole year. But the important thing was that that slot in your
modules could be anything, so as it was what we
call an option module, and it doesn’t have to
be related to the course. I chose basic Japanese one,
which is just the beginnings of learning the Japanese language. Despite the fact that
SOAS looks at so many, shall we say, like, unusual texts, there still is very much
a focus on the canon. So I enjoyed that, not only to
be able to read those texts, but to also then get a
different angle on them, and talk about the influence
of Shakespeare in China, and those sorts of things, as opposed to just Stratford Upon Avon. My favorite module in first
year was global Shakespeare. There were many interesting
things we learned about Shakespeare in Japan,
and the way that it influenced traditional forms of Japanese theater, such as Kabuki theater, or Noh theater, as well as Japanese cinema. We watched lots of Kurasawa adaptations of Shakespeare
plays, such as Throne of Blood, which is an adaptation of Macbeth, set in feudal times Japan. I think the way that
learning about these texts has influenced me as a writer, is that it’s made me aware of the
different perspectives that any work receives. I’m sure Shakespeare
when he wrote Macbeth, didn’t expect it to be perceived in Japan, and then studied again by English students looking at it from that angle. So, it’s been nice to sort of learn that you won’t always have
the audience you expect, but you can use that to your advantage. In terms of what to put
in your personal statement and what you should have in mind, is that, an institution like SOAS, aside from the English
degree, the school itself is really interested
in global perspectives, and in what makes you different, and your voice different,
in the wider academic world. In my personal statement I talked about being really interested
in children’s literature, both sort of classic older
things like The Hobbit, and then things like
the Harry Potter series And having studies French
and Portuguese at A level, I talked about how different languages and the opportunity to
learn more languages was really appealing to me. Most people would say that at A level, it’s probably most feasible
to take English literature, I personally didn’t, I
took English language, and obviously then that
has it’s own advantages with studying things like
English in the global word and the linguistics modules. I also think what helped
me in my application was taking languages
and a focus on languages in that wider global perspective. There’s a real focus on J.M. Coetzee, in all the years that I’ve studies at SOAS I feel like I’ve read at
least one J.M. Coetzee text, so reading one of his books would definitely put a leg
over and give you an advantage. I think a very memorable
moment for me in my degree was one of the early meetings I had with my dissertation tutor about my ideas for what I wanted my dissertation to be. And I think the first time
I had a really concrete idea about what it was gonna be about, my professor immediately was like, “Oh and you can talk about
this, and this, and this. And she said, “Oh this is so exciting.” And this idea that an idea I had was gonna be exciting in
the world of academia, and was gonna potentially
be a piece of writing that other academics were gonna
be really excited to read, was something that, I think, made me feel like it had all been worth it. Not that it hadn’t been
amazing up until that point, but it just made me really
realize how much I had grown, and how much I had become
confident in what I had to say. London, it’s alive, come to SOAS. (laughs) If you want to know more about the top tier
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