Bookish Discussions

Favourite University Reads:


Fast forward three years and at least one hundred books, and I’ve finally finished my undergraduate degree. Although, I am not entirely finished with university just yet. This September, I’ll be moving to the Uni of Liverpool to study a Masters in Victorian Literature (so expect some posts about my reading lists soon).

Although my undergrad degree is finished and done with, I still can’t stop talking about it. Today, as inspired by Ashleigh’s post, I wanted to discuss the handful of books that I really enjoyed. Here are my favourite four reads…

William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience:

Blake is a favourite poet of mine thanks to uni. I studied a selection of his poetry and compared it to Milton’s Paradise Lost. His collection, Songs of Innocence and Experience, is split into two phases to mirror the two phases of the human state. Humans are born pure and angelic, but they are destined to fall. Therefore, Songs of Innocence details the pure state of humanity, and Songs of Experience details the corrupt side.

I love Blake’s crafty use of children. Contemporary culture (late 18th/early 19th century) believed children were the embodiment of purity, and so Blake uses this to illustrate his points. He confronted his readers by questioning their morals; why were children sent up dirty chimneys? Why were children abandoned? Why should children be corrupted for the adult’s pleasure and needs? It’s such a radical collection of poetry, and one that is extremely accessible!

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

Macbeth is my all-time favourite play, and I have uni to thank for this! It follows a Scottish General Macbeth who, after being visited by some witches, believes he is destined to become the King of Scotland. Consumed by greed and ambition, and a victim to manipulation, Macbeth commits some awful acts to fulfil the prophecy. However, this begins to take a toll on his mental state and he is slowly dragged into the depth of madness and despair.

I’ve said this many times before, but I love Shakespeare’s analysis of guilt and paranoia being a direct result of greed and ambition, in addition to exploring the psychological and physical effects these have on the weak-minded. Shakespeare was writing way ahead of his time. I also love his characterisation of Macbeth and the witches – they’re all characters you can admire, despite their behaviour. There’s just so much packed into this tiny play.

Lord Byron’s poetry:

This blog is called Bookish Byron for a reason. In my second year of uni, I was introduced to the one and only Lord Byron. Although he isn’t my favourite poet (that spot is reserved for a mister William Wordsworth), he comes in at a close second. I mainly like Byron for his personality. He wasn’t necessarily a nice person, but that’s why he’s so interesting.

I’m really interested in how Bryon portrayed himself in his poetry, specifically ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’. If you’ve read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, you’ll be familiar with the Byronic Hero. These men are  characterised by being moody, mysterious, ruthless, cunning, highly emotional, traumatized, manipulative, violent and sexually appealing, to name but a few. It interesting to see how much cultural significance this man and his writing had in the 19th century.

Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness:

Published in 1928, The Well of Loneliness follows Stephen Gordon, an Englishwoman from an upper-class family. Although like an any aristocratic child (she fences, rides, and is a keen scholar), she is different. She doesn’t conform to the contemporary idea of femininity; she wear trousers, longs to cut her hair, and doesn’t take an interest in male suitors. She’s also a lesbian. Forced to leave her home, she travels to Paris just before the war breaks out.

I was fascinated by the way Hall depicted Stephen’s struggles, especially her sexuality and gender identity. The Well of Loneliness is considered one of the first lesbian novels, and I definitely see how it paved the way for this sort of writing. It was radical, yet not explicit – you definitely had to read between the lines. There were some minor issues (aka the ‘butch’ lesbian portrayal), but other than that I loved how refreshing it was for the early twentieth century.

…and these were my four favourite reads!

Over the past three years, I have been introduced to a wealth of material. From poetry to plays, novels to short stories, I have read a huge variety. I’ve read stuff published centuries ago as well as some relatively recent stuff too. Although I didn’t enjoy them all, I have come away with a new appreciation for literature and a handful of all-time favourite books.

Have you read any of these? I’d love to know your thoughts on them if so!

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


5 thoughts on “Favourite University Reads:

  1. I love Macbeth, too!! Although Hamlet is probably my personal favorite. Also, i haven’t read any of Lord Byron’s poetry but Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books of all time so I’m super intrigued to look into that now!


  2. I’m intrigued to see what I think of Macbeth. I’ve not read much shakespeare and have only been a fan of one of his plays so far, but I feel like Macbeth is one I’d enjoy! I have a module dedicated to him at uni next year so we’ll see 🙂


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