Day in the Life of a Comparative Literature Major

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Written by Paige Harris, second year Liberal Arts student

Hi! My name is Paige, and I’m a second-year Liberal Arts student at King’s, with a major in comparative literature. Liberal Arts is an interdisciplinary programme that allows me to choose modules from across many diverse arts and humanities departments in order to customise my degree to my interests. This variety is embodied in the comparative literature department, which champions a cross-cultural approach that spans a range of continents, time periods and genres. As my major, Comparative Literature now makes up 50% of my yearly credits, which has meant studying four modules in the department this year. There is a wide range of module choice and the department is so warm and welcoming! Below I’ll take you through an average Monday during first semester…

The day starts with a 2-hour lecture/ seminar on Palestinian and Israeli literature at 9am. As a stay-at-home student this does mean an early start ready for the morning commute. However, I find that the journey is a nice time to read through my previous week’s notes, have another look over the primary text, or dive into a Time Out magazine! Upon arriving at Strand (albeit still slightly sleepy,) I get swept up in the wave of students arriving through the front entrance, and feel ready for the new week to begin. This module has been a real eye-opener to the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which we’ve explored alongside the rich and varied cultural production of the region.

A picture of my bookshelf- and some of the comp. lit. titles I’ve accumulated!

Each week begins within a short introductory lecture on the autobiographical context of the author, plot and major themes. This is followed by a student presentation on the topic, some partner/group work, and then an extended class discussion on some of the major points. The discussions are always interesting, and make me reflect on some of my own interpretations of the text. The department as a whole is so receptive to students’ thoughts, opinions, and views, so it’s a great time to voice any questions and learn from others! Alongside the presentation, the module assessment also includes a short critical review of an event or talk, allowing me to explore yet another style of writing.

After class has finished, there’s time for me and a friend to grab a quick coffee and snack. There are so many coffee shops and food outlets surrounding campus, so there’s always plenty of choice (after an early start, this sometimes meant me eating mac and cheese at 11.30!) Somerset House is just next-door, and you might be able to catch an interactive exhibition in the courtyard, or see their huge Christmas tree from November! The central location of campus means there’s always something new to see and do before my next lecture- AKC. The Associateship of King’s College (AKC) is a programme unique to King’s, that brings students together from across all disciplines and faculties. This is always a large lecture, and I often bump into other comp. lit. students. This series focuses on the issue of identity and inequality within the university setting, and ties in perfectly with the identitary questions and challenges explored in the comp. lit. department.

The Maughan Library

There are a few hours to spare before my last class of the day, which means it’s time for a trip to the library. The Maughan is a great space to catch up on some reading, do some research, and spend some study time with friends, and the library and tech teams are always friendly and on hand to answer any questions. I’m still amazed by the volume of books within the library, and each time I visit I seem to find a new study space! Make sure to visit the Rolls Café on the Lower Ground Floor, it’s always bustling and offers a welcome break from the relative quiet of the rest of the library. After some study, it’s time to head back over to the Strand building for my last lecture- passing the Royal Courts of Justice on the way.

Caribbean Drama is my last class of the day, and a chance to explore a completely different part of the world to this morning. The great thing about comp. lit. is the variety of forms that we explore; from poems to short stories to novellas to films- and some texts which have no concrete genre at all!

This class is relatively small, and really reflects the close-knit community of comp. lit- in our seminar discussions there are around 10 of us- so we can share our experiences across modules we all have in common. This module explores the diverse range of cultures, languages, histories, and ethnicities across the Caribbean through the lens of drama, and shows the unique opportunities this form brings for literary criticism. This class covers a very wide range of plays, and lectures often include videos, images, and interactive questions- so are always interesting and engaging. I’m hoping to explore this area further in my dissertation- so it’s definitely captured my imagination!

‘Troy: Myth and Reality’ exhibition at the British Museum

After the lecture, I’ll either have a quick chat with friends and head home, or explore some of the great opportunities that are close to campus. Here are some of my faves:

  • The British Library- I attended a great talk on Buddhism in the West, and an exhibition exploring Buddhist texts and symbols
  • The British Museum- I really enjoyed the recent exhibition on Troy
  • The Southbank Centre- for theatre, food, and the Christmas market
  • Somerset House- for the ice-skating!

In terms of food:

  • Black Sheep- between the library and Chancery Lane station- great for bagels, cakes and coffee
  • Neal’s Yard- a real hidden gem
  • Caffè Tropea- Russell Square- an Italian owned café with great food, in a great location
  • All Bar One Kingsway- a good place for breakfast/brunch, and very handy if you’ve got class just down the road in the VWB later in the morning!

There’s loads to see and do, and the comp. lit. department encourages you to learn, experience and read more to bring to your studies!

Read More:

If you liked Paige’s post, check out Anna’s post on “Why study Liberal Arts?”.

You can also find more information about the Liberal Arts BA at King’s here.

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