We asked our Writing and English Literature lecturers for their personal recommendations on books you should read, and other online resources you should check out, before joining one of our BA English Literature or Writing courses.
These recommendations come from Sarah Annes Brown, Professor of English Literature, whose interests range from Ovid and Shakespeare to the Victorian novel and modern science fiction.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Around 8 CE/AD)
This epic work by the Roman poet Ovid was written over 2,000 years ago and has been hugely influential on English literature from Chaucer to the present day. It’s a compendium of many of the most compelling and memorable mythical stories from Greece and Rome, and includes the tales of Pygmalion, Narcissus and Midas. There are many translations of the poem, several available online, including on the Poetry in Translation website.
Patience Agbabi’s ‘About Face’ (2012)
As a starting point for the Metamorphoses, why not read the tale of Actaeon on the Poetry in Translation website, then watch poet Patience Agbabi read her own response to the story on YouTube?
Shakespeare, Hamlet (1609)
This is the Shakespeare play I most often finding myself returning to – whether to read, watch, teach, or write about. There always seems something new to explore – a fresh interpretation, or an intriguing line or phrase I haven’t thought about before. You can read the full text – and all his other plays too – on MIT’s ‘Complete Works of William Shakespeare website.
Katie Chironis, Golden Glitch, Elsinore (2019)
Hamlet has influenced countless poets, painters, film makers, novelists - and, most recently, the creators of this point and click adventure game. This is a very smart, witty, well designed game with all sorts of twists and turns. The player takes on the role of Ophelia as she tries to escape from a mysterious time loop and avert tragedy.
James Wood, How Fiction Works (2008)
James Wood’s short introduction to the novel is both accessible and illuminating, inviting you to return to old favourites with fresh eyes, and fresh questions.
Jane Austen, Emma (1815)
This is one of my own favourite novels - witty, ironic, subtle, and perfect for (re)visiting in the light of James Woods’ How Fiction Works. Emma Woodhouse is beautiful, clever, rich – and certain that she knows exactly what is best for all her friends and neighbours. You can read it for free on the Project Gutenberg website.
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004)
This is a really rich, compelling novel with an unusual ‘nested’ structure which takes us from the nineteenth century South Pacific to a disturbing post-apocalyptic future – and then back again. We gradually begin to spot links of various kinds because the different sections – and their protagonists. Find out more about Cloud Atlas, or buy the book from Amazon.
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