English Literature

What Is an English Literature Degree?

English literature has a history that is centuries old and is comprised of many creative disciplines, including poetry, theatre and writing of many genres. Numerous artists have expressed themselves through English literature, and it is one of the oldest art forms, dating as far back as the seventh century. Famous English literary figures include Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and Doris Lessing.

Students seeking a career in writing or teaching should not underestimate the importance of an English literature degree in modern-day society, despite the topic’s overtly historical background. English literature is as important today, as it was in the days of Shakespeare and Shelley, and it provides an infallible foundation for future writers, journalists, editors, teachers and language professionals to build upon. Understanding how English literature was born and how it has evolved gives today’s literary players the upper hand in a very competitive industry.

Students with a passion for words, history and the arts are well suited to pursue an English literature degree. Students also interested in languages and linguistics benefit from studying this important topic. An English literature degree prepares students for a future in literature, which in essence opens the sky to them, because literature can be expressed in many, many forms.

Job Opportunities

There are several avenues an English literature graduate can take when selecting his or her career. Students interested in a writing or editing career, might find work being self-employed or in newspaper journalism.

Self-employed writing requires a lot of hard work and dedication, as no matter what the writer is publishing – books, blogs, Web pages, business or technical materials – he or she must achieve a certain level of success, sign with a publisher or generate a significant client base to begin making large sums of money. There is no set starting or ending salary in freelance writing. For the successful writer, however, royalties can exceed even the grandest expectations.

Newspaper journalists write pieces assigned to them by their managing editor. Because the writers are employed by the publication, salaries are generally set, with starting salaries for a newspaper ranging from £12,000 to £15,000 and increasing to as much as £85,000 for experienced national newspaper reporters.

The same holds true for self-employed editors, who must build a successful client base to earn grandiose salaries. Editors employed by publishers, however, work within salary bases similar to writers. Editorial assistants earn salaries throughout their careers ranging from £15,000 to £40,000. Publishing copy editors/proofreaders typically earn £41,000 to £55,000 plus. Editor-in-Chiefs have earning potential ranging from £22,000 to £65,000 plus.

English literature graduates are not limited to careers in writing or editing, however. Other vocations suited to this degree are teaching, becoming a lexicographer or an academic librarian. The salary ranges for these careers are £21,000 to £100,000 plus, £18,000 to £45,000 plus and £19,000 to £55,000 plus, respectively.

English Literature Curriculum

English literature curriculum is heavy in the history of literature, the many forms it takes, the different styles in which it is expressed, the ways the English language has changed over the years and extensive study of key historical and modern-day literary figures. In most cases, students learn in the classroom environment, as well as independently, and will be expected to complete a dissertation at the end of their coursework.

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