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A literary list for English students


Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: School of Creative Industries
Course: BA (Hons) Writing and English Literature
Category: All about university

7 April 2020

Sarah Brown

Check out seven must-read works of literature for English and writing students, as recommended by Prof Sarah Annes Brown, Professor of English Literature at ARU.

Ovid, Metamorphoses

This epic work by the Roman poet Ovid was written over 2,000 years ago and has been hugely influential on English literature from Chaucer to the present day. It’s a compendium of many of the most compelling and memorable mythical stories from Greece and Rome, and includes the tales of Pygmalion, Narcissus and Midas.

There are many translations of the poem, several available online, including Metamorphoses on the Poetry in Translation website.

Patience Agbabi, ‘About Face’ (2012)

As a starting point for the Metamorphoses, why not read the tale of Actaeon on the Poetry in Translation website, then watch poet Patience Agbabi read her own response to the story on YouTube?

William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1609)

This is the Shakespeare play I most often finding myself returning to – whether to read, watch, teach, or write about. There always seems something new to explore – a fresh interpretation, or an intriguing line or phrase I haven’t thought about before.

You can read the full text – and all his other plays too – on MIT’s Complete Works of William Shakespeare website.

Katie Chironis, Golden Glitch, Elsinore (2019)

Hamlet has influenced countless poets, painters, film makers, novelists - and, most recently, the creators of Elsinore, a point and click adventure game. This is a very smart, witty, well designed game with all sorts of twists and turns. The player takes on the role of Ophelia as she tries to escape from a mysterious time loop and avert tragedy.

James Wood, How Fiction Works (2008)

James Wood’s short introduction to the novel is both accessible and illuminating, inviting you to return to old favourites with fresh eyes, and fresh questions.

Jane Austen, Emma (1815)

This is one of my own favourite novels - witty, ironic, subtle, and perfect for (re)visiting in the light of James Woods’ How Fiction Works. Emma Woodhouse is beautiful, clever, rich – and certain that she knows exactly what is best for all her friends and neighbours.

You can read Emma for free on the Project Gutenberg website.

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004)

This is a really rich, compelling novel with an unusual ‘nested’ structure which takes us from the nineteenth century South Pacific to a disturbing post-apocalyptic future – and then back again. We gradually begin to spot links of various kinds because the different sections – and their protagonists.

Find out more about Cloud Atlas.

By Prof Sarah Annes Brown

Sarah is Professor of English Literature at ARU. Find out more about the courses we offer at one of our Open Days.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.