Jamie Harrison

In 2017, I became interested in doing an English Literature MA. I had been working in publishing as a copy editor for about seven years, but I had no formal qualifications above A levels, so I wasn’t sure if I could be admitted to an MA course.

I contacted the English Department at the University of Bristol to find out if it was possible to get onto the MA without a first degree, and the course director, Dr Theo Savvas, recommended Mastering English Literature

MEL turned out to be a good way to bolster my MA application as well as a practical preparation for graduate study. But it was also enjoyable and worthwhile of itself. I loved rediscovering writers such as Jane Austen and Philip Larkin from a new, critical perspective. The teaching on MEL was excellent, and the tutor, Stephen Derry, fostered a welcoming atmosphere, taking all contributions seriously. I found his efforts to connect the concerns of normal, non-academic readers with academic research particularly valuable. It became clear, from Stephen’s example, that treating literary texts as objects of analysis need not entail losing sight of them as sources of pleasure and meaning. The course also proved useful when I later came to negotiate the bureaucratic issues that arise in applying for a postgraduate course without a first degree, such as requirements for transcripts, certificates and academic references.

After completing MEL, I moved onto the MA. The step up was challenging, but thanks to the assignments and discussions that I’d engaged with on MEL, I didn’t feel entirely out of my depth. Once I was immersed in a full-time postgraduate programme, I felt doubly grateful for the knowledge and confidence I’d already gained from MEL, without which I think I would’ve found the seminars intimidating and the assignments daunting. I completed the MA in September 2018, and am now working on a proposal to do a PhD at Bristol.


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