The Armchair MA: A New Project

There’s something that I’ve been percolating lately, rolling back and forth in my mind, that’s sort of a long-term project. You see, I love the reading freedom I have now that I’m basically not in school (I’m taking my last six credit hours now which, to be honest, are kind of a joke). But the eternal student in me love’s the structure of a reading list, and the reward of really, really jumping deeply in to a book. And, while I’m hoping I’ll be accepted to a local MLS (Master’s of Library Sciences, so I can go work in that building I love so much) program, I’ve decided on a goal I want to reach in the meantime regardless: I want to give myself a master’s level English education. At least, as much as I can of one relying on my favorite armchair and my local library! Now, I know many of you out there have gotten your MAs in English, and this effort is in no way meant to be an insult to the intense amount of work that I understand goes in to actually being given a Masters in a subject. However, as I cannot afford to actually attend an MA English program (the ones in my area/interests are far out of my price range!), I’m going to just do the best I can and hope that, along the line, I can learn quite a bit I didn’t know before!

So, what’s the actual meat of the plan, you ask? Well, I’m going to be reading these books for two primary purposes: to deepen my knowledge of the English canon, but to enhance my skills as a writer. Therefore, I will be examining each work read along at least one of two criteria lines, laid out in the contents of How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster and Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. The first will cover analytical content, the second stylistic. Now, I’m not saying that every work will be looked at in both ways – the point here is to make an effort to really dig in to these books. My plan for the actual works themselves is to look through this reading list provided by Northwestern University for their graduate students. I won’t be reading everything on the list, but rather to pick out titles that I’ve heard about or know to be influential. Again, the general idea here is to keep furthering my English education even though I graduate in December! The following categories will be chosen from (you can click on each time frame for a more specific list of works and authors):

  1. The Analytical Foundations
  2. Medieval Literature
  3. Early Modern/Renaissance Literature (1500-1650)
  4. 18th Century British Literature
  5. Victorian Literature/19th Century Literature
  6. American Literature
  7. 20/21st Century Modern Literature
  8. Drama in English
  9. Poetry and Poetics
  10. World Literature

Needless to say, this is not a challenge, per-se. I’m not setting any end date, and per-month requirements, none of that, but if you’d like to read a long on one, a few, or all of the books, I’d love to have you join me! Feel free to analyze and study these books using whatever frame you’d like, I’m just all for rousing conversation based on loverly, loverly books! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see if I can drudge up all those old Norton collections I have to have around here somewhere! Happy reading!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nymeth
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 19:08:16

    Wow – you’re certain braver and more committed than I suspect I’ll ever be! I’ve always loved the idea of getting an MA in English too, but eventually went for library science because I wanted something that led me to a more direct career path. It’s great to think that I can read all these books on my own over the years, though. Best of luck, Chelsea! I’ll be happy to join you for a book or two here and there.


  2. Anna
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 22:39:15

    Quite a list! I wish I were as motivated to read the classics as you are. 🙂 Since graduation, I have only been reading “fun” things.
    I can’t wait to see what you have to think about all these books! Good luck with everything!

    Also, have you read the sequel to Foster’s book? How to Read Novels Like a Professor? I have it sitting on my bookshelf, but haven’t gotten around to actually reading it yet.

    Also, also, How to Read Literature Like a Professor brings back such good DSLA memories. 🙂


  3. Iris
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:21:28

    That is such a great idea. I would love to steal it once I’m done with my actual master for those areas I always wanted but never did learn about.


    • Chelsea
      Oct 07, 2011 @ 16:18:35

      Oh, please do let me know if you decide to do this! Or I might just come hit you up for some MA chatter as I read through them myself! Either way…be prepared ;D lol


  4. softdrink
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 22:31:36

    What a great idea! I wish I was motivated and organized enough to do something like this!


    • Chelsea
      Oct 07, 2011 @ 16:20:47

      You totally are! But now you don’t even have to organize it – you have total permission just to steal from my list! hehe 😛 But in all honesty, I’d love some discussion to deepen my readings, so any of the books on the list that you read and loved (or hated) and want to discuss? I’m sure there are tons, but it never hurts to ask!


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