Though I loved reading when I was young, I only really became interested in English as a subject relatively late on in my education. The books that first got me reading were Enid Blyton books, which I read with my mother. My favourites were the Cherry Tree Farm series, The Wishing Chair and The Magic Faraway Tree. After that, and towards the end of primary school, I really got into Brain Jacques Redwall series, reading loads of these and revisiting them several years later. Then one of my brothers recommended Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, which I absolutely loved, and then it was on to The Lord of the Rings and Stephen King. Apparently I spent my childhood trying to live in a fantasy world!
I had never really planned on studying English, though. In fact, when I chose my A Levels I opted for Mathematics, Computing, Physics and Electronics. After a year of this I had had enough, opting to move schools and change subjects. I left electronics and physics behind (though I still have a real interest in physics) and picked up Drama and English in their places. At 6th form I was lucky enough to have a fantastic drama teacher and two great English teachers. Perhaps these figures were lurking somewhere in my subconscious when I eventually had to choose a career, but they were definitely key factors in choosing to study English at university.
Having spent twenty years in the south-east, I opted to travel as far as I realistically could for university, heading up to Lancaster and the wonderful institution there. I spent three happy years reading English (alongside Anglo-Saxon English and Philosophy in the first year) studying a range of texts, writers and movements from the fundamental course in literary criticism across Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Modernism, Gothic literature and so on. My undergraduate dissertation looked at how Gothic literature explored the challenge that emerging scientific theories and discoveries posed to the traditionally religion-centric identity of societies and individuals. I primarily looked at Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The research and writing process was so interesting that I applied for, and was accepted on to, a research MA in Shakespeare and Cultural Theory. Here, I looked at representations of witchcraft and heresy in Shakespeare’s plays, arguing that one can see Shakespeare’s shifting religious beliefs through the representations of magic in his plays.
Without being able to find any funding to do a PhD, I chose to pursue a career in teaching as it seemed the best way to continue the subject I loved so much. The day after submitting my MA dissertation, I travelled back south, celebrated by birthday, and then began my PGCSE on the Monday morning. I spent three formative and challenging years at a co-ed comprehensive in Hampshire and was very close to stopping teaching. I love my subject, but I didn’t love the behaviour management required! I was saved through a one-year maternity cover at a co-ed independent school in Surrey, which turned into a full-time position, which I held for another two years. Looking to progress my career, I was fortunate to spend six years as Head of English in an all-girls’ school in Surrey. I then moved to my current post as Director of Teaching and Learning at a different all-girls’ school in Surrey.
I try to read as broadly as possible, and I have found that the older I get, the more broad my interest are. I give myself at least an hour of personal reading each day, which is in addition to work-related reading. I enjoy switching between genres, authors, movements and forms when reading to keep things varied and interesting.
It seems most appropriate to state at this point that all of the thoughts, ideas and beliefs contained within these pages are entirely my own unless referenced otherwise. I seek to do substantial research (as any good student, analyst or critic should), but I am a strong believer in the importance of reader response and individual interpretation. To me, it is this that makes the subject so beautiful, fascinating and engaging. I will, of course, provide links to the works of others where appropriate, and please feel free to disagree as wholeheartedly as possible with the ideas I put forward.