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Student view – English Literature A-level and a career in publishing

29 January 2021  |  Jill Lundberg  |  Posted in: ,

We are delighted to hear from Florence Hall, in Year 12, who shares her love of English Literature with us. Please enjoy her feature as well as the fabulous poem that Florence has written called ‘View from my Classics room’.

During my time at Richmond School, I developed a focused passion for English Literature, which became the focal point of my studies in Year 10 and I always looked forward to discussing recent reads with my then teacher Mrs Weston. This fuelled me to pursue a career related to the subject, after rejecting the idea of becoming an architect. Since starting Sixth Form, the prospect of my future at university and the work place seems closer than ever – something both daunting and encouraging – which has led me to seek a wider range of experience, in order to enhance my personal statement and any future opportunities that may come my way.

Although my GCSE years were curtailed due to the first lockdown, I found ways to remain proactive, which helped me to cope with the change between going to school every day and suddenly having months of free time. I read a lot, of course, and discovered some of my now favourite works of literature such as The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman and The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I also had time to read the texts I am now studying for A-level, in the hope that when I started, I would already have an established overview of what I would study in more depth. The National Theatre coincidentally livestreamed their 2014 production of one of my texts, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, as part of their contribution to the public over lockdown. Having only read the play, seeing such a skilled performance of it encouraged me to think more about the visual aspects of the play, something I now recognise to be instrumental in Williams’ work.

As well as working independently, part of my time in the lockdown was thankfully occupied with bridging work for my A levels, which prompted us to share books we’d recently been enjoying, also for the teachers to let us know about opportunities such as the streaming of Streetcar. We also had some slightly less serious discussions, my favourite being the creation of a literary high street, with shops including the bakers Batch-22 and florists A Bloom of One’s Own.

Once we were allowed back into the real world in September, I began to volunteer at the book room in my local Oxfam, as I had done my year 10 work experience there and was encouraged to return by the staff. I absolutely loved working in the book room as we had so many donations to sort through – the people of Richmond had clearly had a very thorough quarantine clear out, so there was a range of books to tackle. From doing this, I learned more about which books sell and which ones don’t, how to recognise first editions and first prints, as well as contributing to my community after such a difficult time.

Although I was volunteering alongside someone else, I was given a fair amount of responsibility and scope over the book room, which encouraged me to think particularly about its presentation in conjunction with what I thought would be the best books to sell. It was also about this time that I started to write poetry. I mention this rather tentatively as I am still very new to the process of writing and some of my first poems make me cringe immensely. Despite this, over the six months that I’ve been writing, I feel that I have gained a particular perspective and a much greater appreciation of poetry which I think has come from trying to write myself. I intend to always write, even if I don’t share my own work, as it is something that I find rewarding and rather personal.

Being more involved with writing and reading poetry, I recently watched a livestream of an interview with Carol Ann Duffy, broadcast from the University of Lincoln. Such an event was valuable to me as Duffy was able to answer questions posted live by the people watching – most of which were from young writers asking for advice about their own work. Her main piece of advice was simply to write, emphasising the fact that writing, like playing an instrument, is a skill enhanced with practice. During the livestream, Duffy also read some of her own poems, which was especially enlightening to hear how she intended her own work to be read such as where she placed pauses or what sort of tone she adopted for certain lines.

Although I look forward to my future and time at university, I do love being at Sixth Form, as I find that I am able to constantly expand my knowledge around literature and I feel that I have already learned so much from my wonderful English Literature teachers Miss Weston and Mrs Wand.

by Florence Hall, Year 12 student


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