Ask the Experts: Are English Books Overrated?April 26, 2018

Are English books overrated? It maybe too late to ask Banjo Paterson about it, but it won't be hard to guess the answer. You can ask your grandfather (or grandmother), who might recall the patriotic sentiments back then. Australia was trying to find its identity after the Gallipoli Campaign, looking through the Australian bush and hoping for some inspiration. The likes of Paterson were able to find one, laying the foundations of Australian literature. The next generations (of Australians) didn't turn their back on English literature, though.

P. L. Travers grew up in an unhappy environment in Queensland, spending most of her life in England. Mary Poppins could be seen as her own utopia, probably unable to let go of the pain that marked her younger years. She may have found her masterpiece in the form of a magical nanny, batty at times, prompting some students to wonder if she originated from Down Under. The stories were set in London, so there won't be any doubt about it. Moreover, the greatest literary works aren't defined by nationalities, even geography. It's a universal truth that most landscapes (or seascapes) could set the tone of a story. In this regard, many titles in English literature could be cited as fine examples. Does it mean that it's not overrated at all? It depends on the reader, but you have an assignment to do.

The question will be raised during one of your lectures, and it may (or may not) end up as an assignment. Most students will be wise not to choose it, as they look ahead (and see more assignments). Your curiosity is piqued, which is a good sign. It doesn't mean that you plan to impress your professor, even recount your memorable experiences in the Outback. (And it doesn't have anything to do with Uluru.) A few hours would be long enough to think about the possible ideas that you can discuss in your paper, even if you're tempted to consider the contemporary titles.

A Short List of Titles For Your Consideration

If English books are overrated, then there must be an alternative. This is not a question, as you can look into the popular titles from different parts of the world. As a matter of fact, your tutor might suggest it during one of your meetings. The lack of time may make you hesitant to do a research, but it might not be hard as you first think of it. Some critics would point out that English books are often studied, such that the possibility of coming up with an original argument is close to nil. You're thinking of American literature, Transcendentalism in particular. It's not a bad idea, as you can find out if the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson have their Australian counterparts. It may bolster your claim that English books aren't really in demand.

An update on bush ballad can be a good option. There are a number of stumbling blocks on this one. If you're not a fan of poetry, then you might tread though this task slower than you suspect. If you're unfamiliar with this genre, then don't be surprised if you run into trouble sooner than you think. You might spend more time in the library, as you search for recent titles on this genre. It can get you out of your comfort zone, which affects your focus and motivation. There are other options, which can make this task less difficult. Ask your tutor for advice. This is also the perfect time to socialise with your coursemates, as you hope that someone is passionate in this genre. The secretary of the English Department may turn out to be your guardian angel (in rimmed glasses). There's always a way if you want it.

You can consider the lesser-known authors in English literature. Some of them may be bitter about Jane Austen's success while others disagree with the political views of H.G. Wells. (There may have a good reason for it, they may not.) And then there are those who question the merits of Kazuo Ishiguro's works (and why he is honored with the Noble Prize). This can prompt you to spend more in reading, which can take lots of your free time. There's no guarantee that you'll be able to read all the possible titles, but you can start right away.

Here's a Good Advice For You

There's a good chance that you'll meet a member of the faculty who is into fiction. You're eager to ask for his (or her) advice, and you're likely to be granted some minutes. You may admire that author, but don't forget why you're writing your essay in the first place. You must prove to your professor that you're good in literary criticism, if not you're a work in progress.

You can ask any member of your family about it, but there's no need to mention them as your source.

What might be your best shot will be a chance to meet an Aboriginal Australian, who has an extensive knowledge of the Outback. You may not find what you're really looking for, but your imagination can turn his (or her) responses into interesting information. Don't be too obsessed with it, though. Make the most out of your possible sources. And you might have another deadline or two.

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