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What are the Must-Reads for English Literature Students?

by Nov 22, 2015English

If you plan to do a major in English, a bit of research and study beforehand could be real good for you. It’ll not only reduce your burden to a great extent, but it’ll also give you an upper hand over other students. If you already know things which they’ll be learning for the first time, it’ll be easier for you to score better than them. Also, you get a chance to be the teacher’s favorite. Now let’s see how you can become the Hermione Granger of your class!

History of literature

Before you can get to learn pieces of literature, you’ll have to come across a huge barrier known as the History of Literature. There’s a possibility that this part will bore you to death, but it’s an exam that you’ll be required to pass in order to proceed further. History of literature teaches you about the various ages of literature, starting with the Anglo-Saxon age and ending with the Post-modern age. You’ll need to know about the litterateurs who left their marks, works which defined those times and about a lot of other historical events in general. You’ll also get to learn about the evolution of the language, which I dare say, is the only interesting part of this segment.

As you can see, there’s a lot of theory involved and you’ll be required to memorize a good deal of them. So once you’ve decided to take up the course, buy yourself a History of English literature book in advance and start doing your research. Not only will this help you to understand the lessons better in class later on, but it’ll also help you to crack the entrance exams with ease.


My daughter has a shelf in the house dedicated to the classics she never finished. If you are someone like her, by which I mean if you find it rather difficult to live through classics and reach till their end, you’ll simply have to get over that habit. Classics will be an integral and inevitable part of your syllabus and there’s just no way to escape. Also, since you’ll be a literature student, it’ll be a bit unconventional if you never read even at least a few chosen classics. If you ask me how cans a person master the English language? I’ll say it cannot be done unless you’re good with classics. So make up your mind, they can be just as intriguing as your fantasy fictions, once you put your heart into them. Some of the must-read classics that you can begin with are:

1. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte:

Eldest of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte wrote this masterpiece by drawing some of her own experiences as a Governess. Gothic in its genre, the novel is full of mystery and suspense with a constantly looming atmosphere of dark foreboding. The protagonist is the titular character Jane, and the story unravels from her perspective, offering a captivating mixture of passionate love and mystery.

2. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens:

This is a bildungsroman, or in simpler terms, a coming of age story. The protagonist Pip grows during the course of the novel and his life experiences marks the events of the story. Like all other Dickens’ novels, this too is full of captivating characters and humorous situations. The novel, in short, is a true delight.

3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen:

Just because the protagonist is a woman, many characterize this one as a feminist novel, which is just plain absurd. A novel like this can be enjoyed by men and women alike. The mother of five daughters, Mrs. Bennet is desperate to get them married and in such circumstances, two most eligible bachelors, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley arrive in town. The whole story revolves around the couples which emerge thereafter, but is always taking in consideration the socio-economic background. More than being a romantic novel, it works as a mirror reflecting the truth about the English countryside society of those times.

Alternatively, you can choose among other Austen novels like Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park or Northanger abbey.

4. Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell:

Published in 1949, this was Orwell’s vision of the future in a dystopian, totalitarian state. Orwell was an officer under the British regime and for long, he was posted in British colonies. Having closely observed the imperialist operations of the empire (which he himself secretly disapproved) from a close corner, he gave a vent to his frustrations through his often-autobiographical writings. In this particular novel, he depicts the futuristic society as he perceives it. It’s a fascinating point of view and the anomaly strikes the reader from the very first sentence. As you read it, you can go on comparing how far his vision turned out to be true.

5. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte:

Brainchild of another Bronte sister, this too is a marvelous novel. The narrative is full of drama, and the story is replete with violence, revenge and surprises. There are elements of suspense and mystery as well. The characters are intense. This text is a favorite with Universities, and while the language might put off some students, it wouldn’t be too hard for those who’ve already developed a habit of reading.

6. Thomas Hardy:

You will not be a true literature student unless you’ve read Hardy. Hardy’s language can at times appear a little hard, but perseverance is the only answer here. One can choose among the famous Hardy novels like Mayor of Caster Bridge, Far from the Madding Crowd and Jude the Obscure.

To understand your novels better:

Since you’re at a beginning stage, you might need a bit of help to understand your literature better. Here’s what you can do:

1. Get Literature Assignment Help online to know more about the pieces of literature you’re working on, or to get a clearer idea about the history part. Since this will allow you to interact with experienced teachers from across the globe, you’ll also be able to gain varied perspectives.

2. Get a teacher to help you with the texts.
3. Try reading the summaries and backgrounds from other books or from the internet for better understanding.

Start creating your reading list now, and try to be done with it before you start your English major course.