Postgraduate Diary

Daniella Kerson is pursuing her love for language and English literature

With more and more twenty-somethings coming out of university with degrees and postgraduate qualifications, and all of them jostling for space in an overcrowded job market, it's sometimes refreshing to hear of someone choosing a postgraduate course at least partially because of pure love for their chosen subject.

That explains why Daniella Kerson, 22, from Sutton in Surrey, chose to do a Masters in English literature at Loughborough University, having graduated last summer with a 2.1 in English at the same institution. "I've loved literature since I was a child," she recalls. "Thanks to having an older sister who shared a similar passion, I was able to read beyond the school curriculum and read texts that really broadened my knowledge about literature."

And to further underline Kerson's desire to customise the course to reflect her personal literary tastes, she chose what's called the negotiated pathway version of the Masters. "The thing I loved most about this Masters was the option to choose a pathway which interested me most," she explains. "So I opted to study modules in American literature, Victorian literature and contemporary literature."

"So far this year, I've studied American novelists Don DeLillo, Bret Easton Ellis, and Philip Roth; classical novelists such as Charles Dickens and James Joyce; and contemporary writers such as Téa Obreht, Percival Everett and Sebastian Barry."

There are 15 other students on the course: mostly British, but with one each from China, Australia and South Korea making up the numbers. The English and drama department is one of the university's smallest, which, for Kerson, represents an attractive characteristic.

"The lecturers really spend a great amount of time teaching, inspiring and nurturing our literary creativity. Some seminars incorporate presentations done by us on a particular text or novel and a group discussion follows. This makes it a very stimulating environment and allows us to get to grips with the text and have our ideas bounce off each other."

But Kerson also recalls how long it took her to manage the step up in expectations of a Masters student compared to an undergraduate. "It took me a lot of time to adjust to the high quality of work we are expected to produce. We get heavily penalised for even the smallest mistakes on any of our essays, and there's nothing that is overlooked."

The course is split into three sections over the year: three modules in the first semester, two in the second and a thesis over the summer. Of these, two are compulsory modules: research methods, which is taken in the first semester, and designed to give students a grounding that will support them in work towards the summer dissertation, which is the other compulsory module.

There are no exams, with assessment based on essays, assignments and presentations. Kerson has chosen the topic of national identity in Irish literature for her dissertation, and she's gearing up for a big effort. "The summer dissertation is the piece of work that will make or break your final Masters grade, so there's a lot riding on producing a great piece of work."

In her spare time, Kerson involves herself in student journalism. "This year I was the sports editor of Loughborough University's fortnightly magazine and I'm also a co-host of a sports radio programme focused around the Olympics."

After the Masters, journalism is her goal, although she chose her current course to keep as many options open as possible. "I considered doing a Masters in print journalism, but felt that might have limited my future job prospects. And I think it's important to have a strong foundation in literature before you enter the world of journalism."

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