Our Year 12 English Literature students welcomed a guest to their LitSoc seminar this month when Professor Raphael Lyne, the chair of Cambridge University's English Department, joined them for their discussion on Jonathan Swift. Mr Sewell, who leads the LitSoc group, explained how the meeting came about:
‘Professor Lyne wrote to his graduates that fewer Sixth Formers were applying to read English Literature, particularly from state schools. Many were being encouraged by parents and pressured by the threat of student loans to take Law, economics or accountancy degrees. Career paths are actually more complicated than supposed, though. Few barristers actually read law at Cambridge, preferring Literature or the Humanities, then taking a one-year, post-graduate Juris Doctorate diploma before the bar exam.
I put the case to Professor Lyne that English Literature was the queen of subjects and that the best way to encourage pupils to study it at Cambridge was a LitSoc. He wrote back:
“Your description of teaching in Newcastle, which sounds like very valuable work -- highlights a promising thought. If you can persuade someone heading towards Law that complex literary thinking is so good for them, then you're helping them see (and helping us realise) something special about the subject.”
He offered to join our next Lit Soc meeting on Jonathan Swift.
Normally, one of the sixth formers will give a presentation while I and the rest ask questions that one would expect in an Oxbridge interview. Afterwards, I give a brief, overarching response and they all try to catch me out. On Monday, Denise Tepace, one of our new Head Girls, made the presentation and Professor Lyne took my place. Her PowerPoint presentation was a synthesis of internet critiques and her own ideas, and she stood up to a barrage of questions and comments with wit and intelligence. Professor Lyne said he had had five meetings that day and ours was the most absorbing.”