Ellie talks about broadening her analytical skills
Chapter details: Ellie explains that at first she thought of English Literature as reading lots of novels but later came to apply analytical skills to a wider range of texts and situations
Subject: English Literature
Student status: Home, Graduate
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Before I started the English degree I felt rather more romantic about the whole thing in the sense that, 'I'm going to be really well-read, I'll have all these books under my belt, won't that be nice?' kind of thing. It was and it is but the more I studied I realised that it's not just a case of reading a load of books and thinking, 'Oh well, that's nice, I've read those books.' Reading, for me, it wasn't just a case of what books you're reading, it's a case of thinking about anything that you read. The skills that I got, whether you're reading a newspaper or a political essay, you have these analytical skills that you've developed and you really apply them to any situation in life, really.

It's not just a case of reading a novel here and a novel there, it's about reading any kind of text whatsoever. My PhD, actually, there's very little … even though I'm doing it in the English department, there's very little actual literature in there. I ended up using skills that I'd got reading cultural studies books, philosophy books, even medical books. Lots of different kinds of texts, so the whole English Literature angle has just disappeared, it's not so broad. The skills that I have, I can apply to anything. It has changed, yeah.

Can you tell me a bit more about how you … give me an example, maybe, of how you've applied an analytical skill to a different sort of text or an everyday situation or something?

For example, with Children's Literature, I could be reading, say, Peter Pan, something like that and thinking about ideas about, say, boys and girls, gender and things like that, how they're constructed within that particular text, thinking just about, say, Peter and Wendy, looking at them, how their identities and their roles as the little boy or the little girl, how they're expected to be within that text.

Then you have other, say, sociological writing, somebody like Valerie Walkerdine or somebody, thinking about boys and girls in an educational classroom situation. She's thinking about ideas of gender and roles, how they're formed within education. I'm still thinking about this idea of child identity and gender, how they're formed and how they're made, it's just that one happens to be a fictional text and the other happens to be sociological critique but I'm still thinking of the same issues, the same sort of things, if you see what I mean?