“Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” – Ezra Pound, American Poet
Your heart flutters when you read a verse of well-written prose.
You believe that the noblest way to reveal your inner world is through the medium of the written word.
You have always been enraptured by the ability of writers to weave together words into pieces of literary art.
If any of the above sentences fit your description, it is quite befitting that you are considering a degree in English Literature.
Yet when it comes to a degree in English, one tends to come across quite opposing points of view. Some consider it to be the “in thing”, branding it “cool” to hold a degree in English, while others believe it to be a course with “no actual value” or being “just about reading”.
With such conflicting ideas about the course, what do you actually believe?
Despite gaining traction as one of the most sought-after courses, most students aspiring for English Honours or B.A English are not entirely clear on what it entails and what career opportunities they would have when they graduate.
So, I am here to give you a true picture of a degree in English – its course structure, scope and opportunities – so that you get into it with your eyes wide open.
Let’s take a look at all the aspects one by one.
What is English Honours all About?
English Hons. or a B.A in English is an undergraduate degree in English Literature.
It is termed a Literature degree because that is what you study. Despite the name “English” Hons., the course has very little to do with grammar or vocabulary. A lot of students get into the course expecting to master their English language skills through the course, however, this is not what the course aims at.
The aim of the course is to develop a keen sense of awareness of your surroundings through works of literature. As a student of literature, you will be taught to understand how a particular piece of work is a reflection of the sociological, historical, political, cultural, and even the psychological ethos of its time.
A lot of reading is definitely involved, but it is not reading for entertainment or reading for the sake of it. There is a purpose involved here. And the purpose is to understand the nature of human existence, culture and society.
Students of English Literature are asked and encouraged to scrutinise, understand and critically analyse each piece of work they read and share their perspective on it.
Such analysis is based on questions like,
- Why did the characters react the way they did?
- What message and theme is the author trying to convey?
- How does the narrative chosen impact the meaning of the work?
- What was the historical timeframe of the piece?
Thus, your critical thinking skills and the ability to “read between the lines” are of utmost importance to make the best out of this course.
Students who get into the course unaware of these facts often face a major shock when they realise that the course is not just about “reading a lot of books”, but there is actual thinking and analysis involved here.
Hence, it is important you evaluate whether you would enjoy engaging in such analytical reading before you take the plunge.
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What Will I Study as Part of the Course?
You will read many different classical and contemporary works of literature, both of Western and Indian origin. Not just restricted to novels, the reading list on your course will include varied forms of writing, including poems, essays, plays, articles, prose, etc.
Most courses inculcate the works of famous writers such as William Shakespeare, John Keats, Oscar Wilde, Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, R.K Narayan, Rabindranath Tagore, Mirza Ghalib, etc.
Here are the most commonly covered areas and topics in most English courses:
- Literary Theory
- British Poetry, Drama and Literature in different centuries (17th, 18th, 19th centuries)
- American Literature
- Arabic Prose, Poetry and Literature
- Classical Literature
- Contemporary Literature
- Indian Writing and Literature
- Modern European Drama
- Composition and Interpretation
Which are the Top Colleges?
Here are some of the top colleges for a degree in English (Hons.), B.A English or English Literature in India:
- Stephen’s College, Delhi University
- Hindu College, Delhi University
- Loyola College, Chennai
- Miranda House, Delhi University
- Christ University, Bangalore
- Madras Christian College, Chennai
- Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University
- Xavier’s College, Mumbai
- Stella Maris College, Chennai
- Fergusson College, Pune
- Presidency University, Kolkata
Note – This list is indicative and doesn’t indicate rankings of institutions.
What are the Career Options After English Honours?
A prevailing question amongst students aspiring for this course is, “What is the scope of English Honours?” They worry that while the course sounds interesting, they might not be left with many career options in hand beside teaching or research.
I can tell you for a fact that it is not so. Even though B.A English is not a professional course, the versatility of the course and the skills taught in it make you eligible for a wide range of professional opportunities.
So, let’s have a look at them.
Since a career in Journalism requires one to be analytical, aware of their surroundings and possess excellent communication skills, an English Hons. graduate is the perfect fit! Right from gathering information to writing, editing and broadcasting the news, the skills gained through your course will help you excel in this field.
Learn More: Career in Journalism
2. Mass Communication
Mass Communication is a broad field that encompasses Journalism, yet goes much beyond to include film-making, editing, PR, advertising, copywriting, media planning, broadcasting, etc. A very popular option with English graduates, it’s a versatile field that gives you the flexibility to choose your niche.
Learn More: Career in Mass Communication
Recommended Read: Mass Communication Vs. Journalism: Are they the Same or Different?
3. Public Relations (PR)
Yet another great option for English graduates, Public Relations involves presenting the best face of your company/client to the public. As a Public Relations professional, you would write press articles, organise press releases, search for the right PR opportunities, plan PR campaigns, etc. It is again concerned with handling the information presented to the masses, and thus as an English graduate, you would be well-placed to make your mark.
Learn More: Career in Public Relations
4. Marketing and Advertising
The perfect blend of creativity, communication skills, and business acumen, the related fields of marketing and advertising involve generating interest for a company’s products and improving brand reach. The superior level of communication skills built through your undergraduate degree are going to prove useful if you wish to steer your career into this direction.
5. Digital Marketing/Social Media Marketing
In the digital age, with brands looking to reach their potential customers through digital mediums, Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing are coming up in a big way. As an English Hons. graduate, you can combine your creativity and communication skills to write copy, build engaging campaigns and plan strategies to market the brand on social media and through other digital means.
Learn More: Career in Digital Marketing
6. Content Writing and Blogging
Are there any courses that speak out writing and content better than English Hons.? None. If you have a flair for the written word, but in a way that connects well with the audience, you can explore a career in these fields. While content writing is focused more towards writing brand-focused content, blogging is more versatile. You can write articles about anything you feel passionate about – fashion, technology, or even animals!
Learn More: Career in Blogging
7. Creative Writing
You’ve spent 3 years understanding other people’s works, so why not write your own? If you have the creative ability to weave together words into beautiful prose or poems, then your career is all set out for you. From writing novels and short stories to poems and plays, a career as a writer can prove to be very rewarding for an English Hons. graduate.
Not the most typical of career trajectories, but one that is popular nonetheless. A lot of English Hons. graduates these days go on to pursue Law after their graduation. And why not? You do develop analytical thinking and critical reasoning skills as part of your course. Those looking to go this route can take up a 3-year L.L.B course after they graduate.
Learn More: Career in Law
9. Teaching and Academia
There is no professional nobler than that of an educationist, and that holds true for English graduates too. Even though it is not considered as “glamorous” as the other options mentioned above, it is still a great career path to venture into, if you have a passion for education and teaching. Be it at the school or university level, an English Hons. degree can lead to many paths in education and academics.
Learn More: Career in Teaching
A degree in English may just be the perfect stepping stone in your career journey, if you have the right acumen for it. So research, explore and if everything adds up, dive in!
Rest assured, it will open your mind up to a range of possibilities and change your perspective of the world.
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