One of the most sought-after programmes at the undergraduate level, BA (hons) English seems to hold a distinct charm for aspiring students. From Shakespeare and Milton to Keats and Dryden, students get to read some of the best novels, plays and poetry by famous litterateurs.
In the last few years, there’s been an increase in the number of English literature aspirants, thanks to a plethora of options available after graduation.
Besides doing a master’s in literature, one can go for several other options such as mass communication, journalism, translation, content writing, and publishing.
“Earlier, a lot of students who didn’t get into their preferred course would take up English (hons). But with the choice of jobs (expanding) in fields such as the BPO sector, technical writing and editing, the popularity of the course has increased by leaps and bounds. Though there are a lot of students who still go on to do an MA or MPhil in the subject,” says Usha Mudiganti, assistant professor of English at the School of Undergraduate Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD).
To help students hone their skills required in these areas, AUD is planning to implement courses designed to help students interested in pursuing different careers after English (hons).
“We will encourage students to take up supplementary courses in printing, publishing, editing that will be floated with the core subjects. Besides these, we will also tempt students to take up academics as a career by bringing in subjects that will help them train for a master’s degree. These changes are likely to be implemented from the next academic session (2012-13) and will be meant for final-year students,” Mudiganti adds.
The fact that studying literature can train you for other careers makes it even more popular among students.
“One needs to know English well to learn literature. You get to read rich texts and develop an understanding towards various issues. Literature teaches you to understand cultures, characters, content and sarcasm. It enables you to write convincingly, express yourself better and develop critical as well as other skill sets that can be applied in every field. This has made literature extremely popular among aspirants and a large number of students are taking up the subject at the masters and research levels,” says GJV Prasad, chairperson, Centre for English Studies, School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
To learn these skills, students ought to have certain qualities and attributes. “Good communication skills, a keen interest in reading, a taste to study literature, prose and poetry and the ability to express your thoughts and feelings are necessary,” says Sumanyu Satpathy, head of the English Department, DU.
“At times, people are unable to express themselves due to the lack of language skills and without these basic skills, they often end up losing marks.”
To help students improve, the department has a mentor system. “Among the new trends, we have a new kind of internal assessment and a mentor for every group of students as well as university teaching assistants to help students clear their doubts,” says Satpathy.
He also says that in the last few years, there has been a craze among students for master’s level courses in literature.
“Around 30-40% of MA English students aspire for an MPhil degree. This year, we have received around 2,200 applications for MA English so far.”
What is heartening for the JNU and DU faculty is that a number of professionals from fields such as management and engineering are showing keen interest in taking up the master’s degrees in literature.