A RIPON Grammar School student has been highly commended in a prestigious national essay competition which attracts more than 6,000 entries every year.
Aspiring art curator Olivia McAvoy decided to challenge herself when she entered the highly competitive Northeastern University, London (formerly New College of the Humanities) contest for sixth formers.
The 17-year-old, from outside Knaresborough, had a range of humanities and social science-based topics to choose from, including art history, which she plans to study at university.
But she stepped outside her comfort zone: “Although there was an art history question on offer, I wanted to challenge myself with the unconventional artwork - that is, literature and chose the title: 'Should the subject English literature be replaced by global literatures?'.
In her essay, Olivia boldly begins: ‘These are fast times we live in. Technology is developing, information is now at the touch of a fingertips. How many people read a physical book currentlyin this day and age?It is clearly time to bring literature into the 21st century.’
But, having weighed up the role of English literature from as far back as Anglo-Saxon times, she concludes: ‘The strongest argument would be to oppose to the replacement of ‘English literature’ by ‘global literatures.’ The substitution would cause unwanted anarchy within cultural, social, and historical context. Ultimately, ‘English literature’ is widely popular within its rights as it protects its complexity within its history and itsheritage, that has been structured over 900,000 years.
‘It does not look like the term ‘English Literature’ is going anywhere, for now, today, or tomorrow.’
Judges from the prestigious college, founded by one of Britain’s most prominent philosophers, AC Grayling, told Olivia the award was not given lightly.
“This an indication that judges were impressed with your thinking and research. It is a significant achievement and one of which you deserve to be proud.
“Your essay clearly demonstrates your academic ability and your potential to study successfully at a higher level.”
Olivia, studying English literature, classics and art at A-level, said one of the main things she learnt through the process was that there is no such thing as a perfect essay: “As I’m considering doing an extended project qualification this year, I wanted to get a feel for researching creditable sources and writing an academically independent piece where I construct my own arguments.”
Her dream profession, she says, would be working as an art curator in a gallery: “I've had a passion for fine art from a young age.”
Currently juggling her studies with extracurricular activities which include completing her lifeguarding qualification and membership of the school’s Art Society, rising to the challenge of the competition taught her much about time management, she says, adding: “And also, that a bit of self-belief is essential to the quality of the writing process.”
Should the subject English literature be replaced by global literatures?
By Olivia McAvoy
THESE are fast times we live in. Technology is developing, information is now at the touch of a fingertips. The media has us gripped by our throats mindlessly on ‘who's dating who.’We have dropped our old traditions of exploring using the magic of imagination.How many people read a physical book currentlyin this day and age?It is clearly time to bring literature into the 21st century to the level of modernisation we use day to day by replacing the term ‘English Literature’ to the ever-changing world- ‘global literature’ opening many more windows that have been unreachable before. The more contemporary term was first introduced by Goethe as ‘World literature’ in a small dutchy in Weimar Germany and later developed in Istanbul during the Second World War.‘Global Literature’ refers to the inclusive circulation of literary work all around the world, including different languages, traditions, and even religious beliefs. Thus, excepting the differences and unity, we transverse into a new world we have never experienced before, between ideas of different heritages established years apart. The use of the term ‘English literature’ is too specific, carrying elitist connotations within its legacy literature is for everyone serving as a multipurpose. To name a few of these purposes, as the great philosopher Ralph WaldoEmerson expresses “In the works of great writers we rediscoverour own neglected thoughts.” Meaning what society or our inner self conscientious judge within ourselves deemsweird, we find comfort and relatability in the words we read. Further, it allows us to ‘walk in others shoes’ to experience the hardships us ourselves are not usually exposed to, allowing us to be empathetic and even in certain times lead us into a cathartic episode.Over all, literary does not allow us to judge one dimensionally, like the contemporary media does today. So, if all literature has a nearsimilar purpose, what are the dangers of establishingthem under one official category- the relatively new term ‘Global Literature’?
Thesubstitution could be viewed by many to cause severe anarchy in the understanding of the literary and the cultural traditions of the world we live in today.
Although bringing some radical positives with the introduction of “Global Literature” such as the incorporation and better acknowledgement of other cultures (cultural relativism),something that could aid the reductionofracism that still resides in our world, countries, cities, and hometowns today. Or possibly not? This possibility is too precarious to the discard of ‘’English literature” For the use or the evidence of the English literary forms' dates to Anglo-Saxon times- 5th century- theoretically dating back to 1,618 years from the present day we are living today. With this progression of the interceded literature written in the ever-changing English language from early 5thcentury hasattracted the great artistic brilliance such as the likes of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)-an innovative poet and worldly admired playwright- not only invented “over 1,700 words” in his great literary art; but fabricated the casual phrases we use on the daily -to name a few “‘Green-eyed monster’/’In a pickle’ and the infamous ‘wear my heart on my sleeve’ which is still valid and influential in todays “a la mode” artisticpoetry- otherwise known as music- to mention one notable example would be Rihanna’s song ‘Drunk on love’ which includes the great Shakespeare impression. Another fitting example would be Victorian novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and his ineffaceable characters that carry allegoricsymbolism that includes ‘Tiny Tim’ and ‘Ebeneezer Scrooge’ from ‘A Christmas Carol’. The liberty available through English literature also welcomed the Bronte sisters and Jane Austin that are incorporated in the Great British canon that will stand the test of time. Through the window of English literature, we clearly have established heritage within these literaryartworksand their artist within learning and experiencing the context of a world now dead and buried with time. By not acknowledging the customs attached with the word ‘British,’ we lose the context built within these texts. Yet, still adhering to the title of ‘EnglishLiterature’ does not limit or intimidate its influential quality as its accessibility can be reached globally through pop culture exemplified here by Rihanna's song referencing Shakespeare’s ingenious work.
Furthermore, although ‘Global literature’ could express more cultural ideas to light as we have a habit living in our own narrative- myself included-do not always consider other’s experiences of life. However,developing from the previousargument, labelling ‘English literature’ as ‘global’ could make the cultural beliefs or tradition explored more prone to confusion or either the amalgamation of the ethnic beliefsor contextual history. This is destructive. One instance that is significantis currently the blurred barrierofideas between England and the US. Both have carried different struggles through the years, and one older than the other enriched much greater with history. For reference England has been estimated to have been inhabited from ‘around 900,000’ years whichincomparisonto the Puritan escape to ‘the new world’ during late 1420s through to the 1640s. We both share the same mother tongue: but we have different customs, laws-especially on human rights such as gun laws and current Roe vs Wade case on women's rights over her body. By losing the contextual marker here, we confuse ordinance losing individuality between countries, colonies, and continents.
If globalisation of literature occurs, the female authors perspective could feasibly be drowned out by the male counterparts' experience. Making literature ‘global’ is opening more doors for men around the world as their education is priority in many second world countries such as Afghanistan as the Taliban bans the education of young women and girls- not a rare occurrence. Women are weighed out by the male adult population, who are illiterate with nearly twothirds of the world's population, this unchanging for the past years. This ushers the male authority and highly saturated recognition on the literary world, even the most reputable women in literaturewho radically changed the score of sharing their talents with their literary texts such as the ancient Greek poet late 6th century Sappho, Jane Austen,and African- American poet Phillis Wheatley give insight on the struggles, emotional experience, or intercededperspective the male standpoint cannot offer.
However, with the more niche term women are less likely to be undermined from the amount of male literary as its narrowed down- although still a low recognition- is less likely now and in the future to be muted by the satiety of the male literary works.
In addition, the use of ‘globalisation’ in English literature could make the literary works exclusive to the 1.35 billion of the population that cannot read the English language, although widely regarded as one of the utter most prestigious languages of the planet, this means the higher use of translation to make it more accessibility. Problem solved right? The use of translation of course solves the language barrier- the first mile stone- thus far allows the exploitation of misinterpretation of these texts authorising a misinterpretation of certain translated words that can tamper and change the meaning that is meant to be communicated in the first place. For an example, the English adjective ‘silly’ that could be translated to either foolish or comedic, losing its infantile undertones creating a less serious tone than its translational counterparts. To add more, translational misinterpretation could be further disrupted by the colloquial dialect and sociolect that could be found in the Uk. In fact, there are almost 40 different dialects we are exposed to in the Uk, each having unique translations and phrases. Me, myself am exposed to the northern Yorkshire dialect‘Ey up’ as a greeting and 'love’ as the term of endearment. Another exemplar of the use of dialect is the hints of Yorkshire dialect embedded in the Bronte sisters’ literary work. A notable of Emily Bronte’s novel in that uses this directly would be the infamous ‘wuthering heights’ The use of Yorkshire dialect-spoken in the purist form by the ‘servant Joseph’- is detrimental to the storytelling would mirror the dialect used around Emily Bronte in her hometown in Howarth West Yorkshire near the Penninis. Again, by the misinterpretation we get ‘lost in translation.’ To avoid this, we must retain the term ‘English literature’ to upkeep the true context and clarity with communication with literary art work.
To conclude, weighing up the factors at hand, the strongest argument here would be to oppose to the replacement of ‘English literature’ to ‘global literature.’ The substitution would as mentioned prior cause unwanted anarchy within cultural, social, and historical context. Ultimately, here ‘English literature’ is widely popular within its rights as it protects its complexity within its history and itsheritage, that has been structured over those ‘900,000 years’. Teaching us our past, present and can even be proleptic to the future ahead of us. We learn the human psycheeffected from the social and political ideals in the ‘English literature’ Helping our understanding and critical thinking.Conceivably, we could come to a compromise as ‘English literature’ is tainted with the arrogance that some literary artworks are purely of English creation. One example that comes to mind is the highly regarded Homer’s Odyssey is considered as a rooted classic in the English canon, however is a composed piece of literary from around 8th century Greece, its original wordsforetold in ancient Greek. From Homer’s example, ironically, we ourselves are taking its historical context away itself. Yet, would other countries sacrifice their traditions such as Norway with their exchange of native literature and a chocolate at Christmas or Sweden losing their individuality and history by giving into the ‘globalisation’ of all literature around the world. Veryimprobable.It does not look like the term ‘English Literature’ is going anywhere, for now, today, or tomorrow.
Emerson, R.W, 1803-1882. (1967). Self-reliance. White Plains, N.Y.: Peter Pauper Press
Dean, E. 2011.Drunk on love. Rhianna. Talk that Talk. Epic
Bronte, E (2012). Wuthering Heights. London, England:Penguinclassics
Homer., Rieu, E.V.1& Rieu, D.C.H (2009) The Odyssey. London; New York Penguin Classics