A lot of people believe that an honors course in English is all about grammar and literature, as a continuity from the English subject taught in the school (upto 12th Standard). However, it's only when you take your first week of classes that you realize that there is so much more to it.
To start with, English Honours is not about grammar at all. Instead, the honors degree leads the student to specialize in literature. Most aspiring students of English generally (and must ideally be) love books and stories. In the course of the English Honours degree program, students get to specialize in literature, and are taught how to re-read the same stories differently. The various frameworks and approaches to going further to explore the story, its intricacies, nuances, emotions, as well as the narration styles and analysis.
As a student of English Literature myself, I can and so am giving these experiential insights into what this journey can be like. Do read on... drop in your comments and questions, please.
What is different about an English Honours degree?
If you are wondering as to whether this degree program is unique, let me say this much: a degree in English Literature has certain unique attributes and is surely different in many ways from other subjects at Delhi University. And pursuing this degree program in the ambience of Delhi University does also largely contribute to the uniqueness of this program.
Here is your chance to read more
Our generation has been in a way fortunate to see many prolific writers emerge and it is a paradise of sorts for those who love books and reading! Naturally, for such a person who loves books and loves spending time reading, this UG course is a blessing. Since this field is all about literature, you get to read all the time. And not just that, you get to also discuss your reading of the book, and its varied dimensions. Sometimes, a book that has long been in your reading list will appear in the syllabus. Then, you don’t need to find free time to read that book. Or think of it as a "mandatory coursework". You would actually DO what you really like and were looking forward to doing.
The best part about this is, you never have to restrict yourself to the syllabus. Professors at Miranda House, DU, always end up recommending a book or two that you may or may not have heard of. Most of the time, the recommendations are somehow linked to the course books, sometimes, they’re not. The nature of this subject is such that there are always ways to go beyond prescribed coursework. You'd often find the teachers as well as some fellow students having similar interests and ability to engage in this pleasure of reading and trying to understand literature. You’re automatically excelling in your subject by engaging in such pursuits.
You’re never just studying literature
People don't realize this, but literature is much more than mere entertainment or a pastime. Literature encompasses various different genres, value systems, time-periods, geographies, etc. To count a few: Classical literature, Black literature, Partition literature, British Drama and Poetry, and many others. When we study literature, and if we do it right, we can get to immerse ourselves in this broad range and this introduces us to a world beyond the stories.
If you are a student of English Honours, you’re never just studying novels. You’re studying history, politics, psychology, art, and more. Studying these subjects in school is a lot different and simplified too, which brings us to the next point.
Learning how to think critically
Critical thinking. Some might even say that it is at the core of an Honours English course. I would not disagree. Through literature, students learn how to think critically.
It’s not enough to know that Charles Dickens wrote a book called Hard Times. You need to know that he wrote it because industrialization was suffocating lives in England in the 19th century. You understand that through his book, Dickens was criticizing the contemporary world, like the writers of Partition or Black literature.
Why did slavery occur at all? What was the psychology behind treating the Blacks in that inhuman manner? Can it be justified? These are the questions you are asked to think upon.
Learning to think for yourself
As a literature connaisseur, you learn and get some perspective into art, movies, and drama. The one movie that every Honours English student should know is Dead Poets Society. In the movie, John Keating or Robin Williams says to a colleague, “We’re not talking artists, George, we’re talking free thinkers.”
Students of Literature are taught how to think for themselves. With every book you read, you'll realize that there are various justifiable answers to a single question. What you have to learn is to find the one that you agree with and which tends to match your wave-length and outlook. Most of all, never be ashamed of having an individual way of thinking, even if it doesn't fit in with the collective.
Other than academics, what happens in an English Honours student’s life?
Most of the literature students are nerds, but they always have so many other things going on in their lives. Being at the University of Delhi has a huge role to play in it.
In every DU college, there are various clubs and societies that you can become a part of when you're a fresher. For photography, debates, quizzing, dance, art, and everything else you can imagine, there will be a group of enthusiastic students. They organize annual fests, events, competitions (with prizes), and so much more.
In this manner, students are able to find identities outside the classroom, like I did. I myself have been a part of the Creative Writing Society and the Department Newsletter of my college. Through them, I’ve learned how to get along with other people while being true to myself. Together, we made goals, worked on them, made them come true despite the academic pressure.
On top of that, DU colleges are always collaborating with each other, with flower show competitions and annual festivals. So you never have to restrict yourself to the boundary of your college. You're always meeting new people in new places, traveling, and eating.
Food, you see, is a significant part of the DU life. We bond over it. We’re always looking for new places to eat and for making memories. Only as a college student have I been able to travel around Delhi like never before.
However, it doesn't matter where we go, the Miranda House canteen is me and my friends' favorite hangout spot. It's where we spend hours between classes and after examinations.
What is it like to be an Honours English student at Miranda House?
Being an English literature student at Miranda House has been the most beautiful experience of my life. Delhi University brings along a diverse population of students together. While you are unsure about who you are, you find people like you among the crowd. Then they become a second family to you.
Studying literature at MH has taught me so many things. How to think for myself and voice my opinions while accepting others’ opinions. The faculty with their experience has introduced us to a world beyond the one we live in. From encouraging us to helping us understand our flaws, our professors have always been there.
By the way... India's longest serving woman Chief Minister Smt. Sheila Dikshit is an alumnus of English Honors Under-Graduate program at Miranda House. In addition, MH is the alma mater of large number of women with eminent successes and phenomenal contribution to our Nation and many have been Padma Awardees. Some of the featured Distinguished Alumnae
Ma'am Mrs. Sheila Dikshit, Former Chief Minister of Delhi was an alumnus of Miranda House - English Honours program and she described her college days as an "experience beyond classroom" in her autobiography.
Some people don’t understand why literature is important at all, let alone why people spend time studying it. To answer that question, I would quote from Dead Poets Society one last time. “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
According to livemint.com, Miranda House saw the maximum number of admissions on the first two days of the process at Delhi University (DU) for the 2019 academic session. And over a couple of years, Miranda House College along with other women colleges are in demand as per most of the students joining DU. If you are one of them, check the official website of MirandaHouse for the admission process.