What Can Impress an English Literature Admissions Tutor?February 20, 2019

The answer to the question, the title of this article, is another question. Are you a curious reader?

An English literature admissions tutor is a literary professional, and he (or she) wants an incoming English literature student to be more than a heavy reader. You must be willing to read books that are not listed in the syllabus. You might have a limited time in creating a list of your favourite books, which are likely to be overlooked by your soon-to-be professors, but your tutor will be impressed. Don't be afraid if he (or she) will disagree on certain tiles, if not major themes. If you can show how you value these books, like these authors are your old mates, then managing the coursework can be compared to a walk in a park.

Some may argue that the purpose of the syllabus is to give them a head start in the coursework. They have a point, but professors won't get excited about it. There are lots of students who have tried that approach before, so your tutor don’t like to hear your view on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". You can change his (or her) mind if you can give your own opinion on post-colonialism. You don't have to travel to Africa, but a holiday in Cairo (or Cape Town) should help you in giving an engaging narrative on Conrad's classic. You can cite East Asia IF you take a mental note of the ways of the locals. If you have nothing to tell other than the full-moon parties you have attended, then don't make any attempt to expound on this one. (And quoting Miss Peregrine’s defensive view on travelling won’t be good enough.) It's up to you to find a chapter or moment (in the book), which might link to that experience.

There's more to what you have read (above). If this illustration piques your curiosity, then it's time to look at the important points in reading literary books. You don't need a strategy, which may take you aback. This exercise should give you the confidence on your literary views, which is what your tutor will be looking for. If you've been doing it for a year or two, if not your younger years, then you only need to perfect it. Think of it as another kind of adventure. It’s no fun and games, as adventuring can be a real pain. Hold on, as you’ll be proud and fulfilled in the end. And you may be looking for it afterward.

A Few Suggestions

Too raucous. Rosalie Ham's "The Dressmaker" falls into this category, but you don't want to limit yourself to local works. Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines Quartet is a good attempt, such that you can do research on Sydney (or Melbourne for that matter). It can take some time to do further study on municipal darwinism, a term too familiar among Londoners. It could be worth it, though. How about Sydneysiders? Let's not leave behind the Melburnians. It's no secret that there's a rivalry between the two, and municipal darwinism may have been on the minds of some residents. You're not writing an essay on it, so stick to generalities. You may be thinking of Elfriede Jelinek's "The Piano Teacher", which is worth discussing in the Me Too movement. Joining the bandwagon may backfire on you unless you can think of other similar titles penned by local authors.

Too ambiguous. No one prohibits you to look into English literature in general. As a matter of fact, your tutor will likely to be more than impressed if you show your knowledge (or passion) in authors who didn't come from Down Under. L. Ron Hubbard may surprise your tutor at first, but you can turn it around if you can make a good guess. Hubbard's fantasy stories might make a great yarn, but you can tell that there's something between the lines. Are you hinting of Sir Haggard? It might be a comparison that your tutor finds it hard to believe unless you can cite your favorite science-fiction tale (by Hubbard). It may be too much of a stress to compare the American author to the bush poets, but you can back up your views with reference to the Golden Era of B Cinema. It's fine if you're not a film enthusiast, as you can try another approach. How about imagining your own adventure in the Outback? You don't have to pack up (after reading this).

Too deeply strange. Your tutor will certainly admire you for mentioning Lord Dunsany. (His peculiar tale about a visit to the Sphinx seems like a nightmare. On the other hand, there are historical records that prove that life is stranger than fiction.) If you happen to like Western tales, then you may be thinking of Jack Schaefer's "Shane". There are lots of unspoken words between the titular character and the family that he eventually protects from land grabbers like Luke Fletcher. This is Shaefer's very first novel, and he hasn't been to the Wild West (when he wrote his finest work). There might be more than imagination than one meets the eye. (If you happen to be a female student, then you might relate to Marian Starrett, who is more a dutiful housewife). Make up your mind on this one. And watching the celluloid version (starring Alan Ladd) can put a smile on your tutor’s face.

Finding Your Way Through Literature

You may wonder if the summer is too short for this exercise. If you spend most of your free time on reading (instead of social media), then you will be amazed at how many pages (and books) that you can read. If you will attend university next year, then this is the head start that you need. You won’t be able to read everything, but you need a number of titles and certain authors that should make you a bit of an expert in literature.

This article doesn’t suggest that you turn your back on British authors. You can profess your admiration on GK Chesterton, but make sure that you have one book of his that you won’t mind reading again. The same thing applies to Muriel Spark. Try to be passionate about this one, as you have all the time.

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