You’ll never regret doing English at University

Dr Alice Entwistle

Dr Alice Entwistle teaches English and English Literature at USW. You can find out more about her current work on the English Research Unit website.

Describe what you do
I get students to read, think, talk and sometimes write about different kinds of text; we look at how different kinds of writing can behave, and how different kinds of behavior can affect what a piece of writing might seem to say, to whom and why. I firmly believe that language is a very dangerous substance, which is why I devote most of my working day to encouraging students to think long and hard about how they use it for themselves.

Best thing about it?
I love writing – though I still, after all these years, find the process desperately difficult. I love reading great writing, and I love the feeling of spotting something that I want to write about. I get a kind of sensation at the back of my nose – and it doesn’t go away until I’ve got that piece done. And I love teaching. I never know exactly what will happen on any one day, or in any class, however carefully it’s been planned, and however smoothly that plan goes. I get to talk to interesting people about the kinds of things that I will never find boring: war, truth, goodness, justice, power.

Emily Dickinson, for writing almost a thousand beautifully formed, mesmerisingly ambiguous poems; Jane Austen for being so consummate a literary artist, and Virginia Woolf, because (similarly) I don’t think I’ve read anything by her that didn’t seem perfect. To these I’d add: the Johns Donne and Milton, for their literary daring and brilliance, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, for her unswerving commitment to her art, Nelson Mandela, and Emma Kirby for being the singer I’d love to imagine I could be. I’d happily include Colin Firth, but it would be cheap. 

Advice to people considering studying English?
You’ll never regret doing English at University. You get to play with a toxic substance, in the company of its most prolific and dangerous users, every day for three years. And along the way you’ll learn how to use it to tell the tale afterwards. Like eating magic mushrooms while learning how to farm, harvest, sell and cook with them all at the same time...