Semester One Recap: Snapshots from the Literary World 

by | Jan 17, 2024 | Languages and Cultures, Postgraduate | 0 comments

A master’s course can be more academically rigorous than an undergraduate degree. In my first semester as a Postgraduate Taught student studying Modern and Contemporary Literature, I noticed an increased focus in individual research and critical thinking. A taught master’s course at the University of Manchester comprises of 180 credits in total, 60 of which are credited to the dissertation. The remainder of the 120 credits are assigned to modules taken up across the two semesters. Studying a literature course is more collaborative, almost all my classes are seminars in which students discuss their insights of the course materials in groups. While there is guided reading material provided by the professor’s, students are encouraged to form their own critical viewpoint on the concepts.  

One of my favourite modules so far is ‘Approaches to Literary Studies: Historicism and the Archive.’ This module deals with the work of a Victorian novelist George Gissing. My interest in the module lies within the component that teaches us how to use archival materials for research. Most of the themes discussed in the course revolves around rediscovering a forgotten author. Throughout the semester, students were encouraged to work closely with special collections at John Rylands Library. Aside from learning how to access old issues of newspapers and magazines via online resources, I also learned how to navigate a physical archive and the precautions one needs to take while handling fragile manuscripts. As part of our assessment, we were tasked to work in groups to come up with an exhibition proposal using the materials from John Ryland’s archives. This was an incredible opportunity for me and my peers to acquire new skills in archival research.   

Being a part of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, I was also fortunate enough to attend various guest and faculty lectures throughout the semester. This enhanced my engagement with the academic space, and I learned invaluable things outside of the classroom. My most memorable lecture was the Arthur Lewis Lecture given by Professor Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o on ‘Normalised Abnormalities.’ The ease with which professor Wa Thiong’o described the politics of language, and his own journey as a writer made the lecture distinctly interactive.  

As the teaching weeks for my first semester come to an end, I am pleased to sit down and reflect on the various things I learned in these twelve weeks. Even though I had two modules for this semester, which mean two classes per week, I still had to go through vast amount of reading material. As an international student, its important for my wellbeing that I have friends and social connections outside of academics. Between making new friends, catching up on coursework, and settling down in a new city, I feel I have become more efficient with my time management, as compared to the start of the semester.  I am now all charged up to work on my final essays and gear up for the second semester! 

Written by Lavya Joshi, a Modern and Contemporary Literature MA student