1 Book, 1 Film, 1 Podcast: English
When television landed all those years ago, causing something of a storm in the media industry, to put it mildly, the cynics of the time pretty much unanimously concluded, ‘Right, that’s it for reading. In a few decades - max - people will have ceased to turn to novels as a form of entertainment’. ‘Will future generations even know what a book is?’ many asked despairingly.
The answer to that is yes, yes we do. Because fast-forward through years of cable TV, endless streaming platforms (and Youtube, for goodness’ sake!) and books are still going strong. Not only is the novel alive and well, but the digital age has allowed it to expand, mutate and take on forms that no one could have envisioned before the rise of the internet. Blogs, fanfiction and self-publishing have made a considerable dent in our perceptions of what should and shouldn’t be allowed in the public realm, democratising both the writing and reading spaces.
So it’s no wonder that, despite those who believed the novel wouldn’t make it through the last half-century, English Literature remains one of the most popular humanities subjects for UK students to study. With this in mind, here are a few recommendations for you bookworms out there to keep your literary passions aflame (though you’ll have to bear with us as only one’s actually a book):
Book: Lifespan of a Fact, 2012 by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal
This one gives a good hard yank on the limits of where the novel form can go. Just a shade off a full-on epistolary work, it consists of a semi-fictionalised argument between an essayist and his fact-checker, both with firm ideas as to what a good piece of writing entails. Their exchange spirals off into realms that jump between philosophical and hilarious, exploring questions of a writers' moral responsibilities and the limits of artistic license. If you like a good bit of metafiction that takes on the topic of writing itself, this one's for you.
Film: Capote, 2005
Another piece that asks the question of what it means to be a writer, Capote is a film that hones in on a very specific time in the celebrated novelist Truman Capote's life: the years in which he was writing his most ambitious work, 'In Cold Blood'. It's a wonderful, nuanced portrayal that depicts Capote's literary genius and his smug artistic ego in equal measure. If you love to see writers displayed on screen in all their infinite complexity, Capote's the crème de la crème.
Podcast: Grammar Girl
For too many years, we grammar nerds felt we had to hide away, shamed for our niche obsession that unenlightened folk considered dull. Not anymore! Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) unites grammar lovers on a quest to understand the fascinating quirks of the English language, and it turns out there are more of us than we thought because her podcast is incredibly popular. If you’re looking for a fun and accessible history of English told in bitesize chunks to listen to on your way to school, look no further than Grammar Girl.
British Library - The ‘Works’ section of the British Library’s website is an excellent resource for those looking to go in-depth with the classic texts they’re studying. It offers a range of critical material as well as close-ups on related collection items, like manuscripts or prints. A gift to all lit nerds!
English Department - This is primarily a teaching site where English teachers can share resources built around the UK curriculum, ask each other questions and get new ideas to bring to the classroom.
Lit Notes - A little old-school in appearance but don’t let that put you off. Lit Notes has some excellent content aimed at both English Language and Literature A-level students, including plenty of text discussion points, making it a great tool for both teachers and students.