It’s the week before university starts again! Eeek! I’ve had a lovely break, but it’s gone all too fast. To get myself ready for next semester, I thought I’d do a course review of my papers from last semester to get a bit of closure. So… here it is. I do hope you find it useful. I’ve already discussed the Music side of things quite a lot in this blog, so I’ll just be focussing on the two Arts papers I took: ENGLISH 112 and HISTORY 103. But first though, a few inspired words to those of you who have ever considered studying Arts.
The Crusading Bit
So I know that Arts degrees get a bad rap, and that frustrates me. Why take a BA? Well, there are several strong reasons.
- First of all, Arts courses are stimulating. Despite Arts’ reputation as the superficial ‘fun and easy’ degree, I have consistently been challenged and invigorated by my Arts papers. It’s easy to get passionate about them; they’re such fascinating questions that you’re striving to answer. Since you’re going to be devoting three or four years to your chosen area of study, you’d be well-advised to pick something you can actually enjoy.
- The Arts equip you with useful skills. They teach you how to consider points of view, how to construct arguments, how to write well. These skills will be invaluable in the working place, but more to the point will enrich your entire life. Remember, you are at university to get an education as much as to get a qualification.
- Yes, Arts degrees are not as vocational as say Law or Engineering degrees. But graduates of the Arts do still have a range of career options. For instance, we can go into teaching, into the media, into marketing, into government. We are not ‘tied down’ to a specific career direction in the same way as graduates from the vocational degrees – I know that for me, this lack of specific direction is more freeing than it is crippling. I hate the idea of being stuck on a particular career trajectory that I chose when I was too young and inexperienced to know what I really wanted to do. Besides, while it is true that many employers do not rate Arts degrees very highly, it is also true that an increasing number of employers value Arts graduates and the skills they bring to the table.
So, Arts degrees really have a lot to offer and I would recommend taking one if you’re thinking about it. And, what better place to study Arts than the University of Auckland, which was recently ranked 28th in the world in Arts and Humanities(!).
The Course Review Bit
Right. Now I move on to what I actually set out to do with this blog in the first place…
ENGLISH 112: Global Literatures: Contested Spaces
I’ll be honest: I took this paper because a timetable clash meant I couldn’t do my first preference for English (102). But you know what, I’m glad this happened because I’ve really enjoyed this course. I found it challenging but incredibly eye-opening. 112, as the title says, focusses on ‘global literature’, but more specifically on texts which deal with the ways in which colonisation was experienced and continues to be experienced around the world. The texts we studied were global in scope: we read works by writers from India, Ireland, and Nigeria, as well as by ‘indigenous’ writers within settler societies such as New Zealand and the US. I found it absolutely refreshing to be exposed to all these voices, most of which I’d never heard before, and be given an insight into their worlds so completely different to mine. The tools this course gave us to analyse these texts were eye-opening in their own right. We discussed ideas of hybridity, of authenticity, of resistance; the big realisation I took away from this course is just how life-altering and complicated the legacies of colonisation are. The only word of warning I have for this course is that there’s rather a lot of reading to do (duh, it’s an English course). There’s something like five novels, three novellas, two plays and multiple poems and short stories covered over the semester – plus secondary texts from the course reader. Obviously, it takes quite a chunk of time to read them all. But in my view it’s absolutely worth it.
HISTORY 103: Global History
Again, I thoroughly enjoyed this paper. It was ambitiously huge in scope, seeking to cover the history of the world in the past 500 years. Because of the nature of the course, content was delivered in broad brush strokes and summaries of the most important developments. In each twice-weekly lecture we’d cover a ginormous topic (‘the industrial revolution’) before moving on to something completely different and equally ginormous in the next one (‘19th century imperialism’). The lecturers were very good at making what could otherwise have been an info-dump entertaining and engaging, far from the stereotype of history as dry and lacklustre. (Did you know late-17th century Russia introduced a beard tax in an effort to modernise the country? Well now you do. What you do with that information is now up to you.)
All the same, covering so much content could still be quite daunting. Sometimes I could feel lost trying to connect everything up and make sense of it all. But all the same, my understanding of world history has improved so much through doing this course and I would really recommend it, especially if you’re thinking of majoring in history: this will be a really solid foundation for later study in history. It’s just a great shame that (all) history tutorials are apparently being abolished due to budget cuts. I found this course’s tutorials immensely helpful in cementing my understanding. So to not have those in the future will be a real loss.