Immy Mason-Evans on ‘Mastering your Masters (based on experience)’

You will expect your masters to feel like the natural step up from your undergraduate degree. You will expect to feel confident and comfortable discussing theories, criticism and your own literary analysis. After the longest summer, fuelled by the success of your undergraduate achievement you will feel prepared and excited for this new journey. This is short lasting. I’m sorry. In your first seminar you will feel like your brain has replaced all literary intellect with each episode of that summer’s Love Island. Your peers will each seem like literature student deities; omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent both in and out the classroom. This is intimidating, you will sit in the least noticeable spot, feeling inherently incapable and refusing eye contact. You are incessantly aware that at any moment MI5 will storm the room with warrants and evidence of your wrongful acceptance onto the course, revealing you as the fraud you are and whisking you away in the back of a van never to be seen again (this will make it difficult to focus on Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World and make it unlikely you investigate the utopia in your end of term essay).

After a few weeks of perpetual self-torture and agonising over manuscripts and Mary Shelley you will organise a meeting with the director of your course. You reveal your fraudulence in the programme, confess your complete inadequacy and admit your inability to understand even the likes of Biff and Chip let alone Materiality and Textuality. You will plead guilty to your failure and announce you are dropping out of the course. They suggest you wait out the term, hint at brighter skies ahead and wryly muse on Imposter Syndrome. You will self-diagnose yourself with Imposter Syndrome after reading the Wiki-page on the walk home, console yourself and remind yourself of the evidence of your competence. You will then start to wonder if you might be faking the whole imposter thing and that at any moment MI5 will storm the room, reveal you as a fraudulent fraudster and whisk you away in the back of a van never to be seen again.

Regardless, I am happy to announce that the reversion to first year seminar silence only lasts the first half of first term. You will succeed in your first assignments and put the MI5 investigation into jeopardy. By second term you will have found your voice again, your deity-peers will appear more human and you will voluntarily participate in seminars. The crippling self-doubt remains – I am afraid it comes part and parcel with the pursuit of knowledge – though you will find ways to drown it out (Lo-Fi Hip-Hop Beats to Study/Relax To). You will spend all your time reading and researching, at some mundane moment at approximately 3.08pm on a Thursday you will realise this is enjoyable not terrifying. The transformation concludes with a preference for Park House over Park Bar, shocking.

I appreciate this sounds like hard work and survival. It is. Not forgetting the money worries, working part-time job(s) and maintaining a social life, it will be the hardest year of your life. Also the best. In twelve months you will make the same level of self-discovery and self-improvement that took three years during your undergraduate. Friendships will deepen, new ones will come, you will continually improve your close reading and writing. You will spend a summer writing a 15,000 word dissertation so central to your life, your dreams and your ego that upon completion you consider going to the council and registering a birth. You will surpass yourself in all ways. MI5 are no longer at the door. (This being said, I won’t feel safe until I graduate.)                    – Imogen Mason-Evans


About English Literature at Reading

The Department of English Literature at Reading has been an internationally recognised centre for research and teaching in English Studies for over a hundred years. Our teaching system, with its emphasis on seminars and tutorial work, encourages our students to discuss ideas with tutors and other students in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. All of our students have access to dedicated study advisors; our academic placement scheme and 'professional track' programme provide invaluable preparation for subsequent careers.
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