‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ by Alan Sillitoe: As the first text you’ll study for Literature in Context you will read this short story of a young working class man and his journey, both literally and metaphorically. The book raises questions about the class system, dialect and questioning our idea of morality. Here are some hints and tips as to how to best approach this short story:

It is provided in the module booklet: Hurrah, save 60p from Amazon Market Place  and spend it on toast in the morning. Any freebies (I say freebies, £9000, but who’s splitting hairs?) like this are made for highlighting and underlining, go nuts in the lecture by scrawling notes over it to help you with writing your first essay in Literature in Context.

It will be the first piece you have to write about at University: Despite being an introductory essay of 600 words there will be a ripple of fear through the room at the prospect of having to write again. Perhaps if this essay doesn’t go well, you’ll be sent back to sixth form and ridiculed? No: write how you know and benefit from the points your tutor makes, at this point everybody inevitably gets really competitive and stresses, but actually it’s best to understand you might not jump straight in to being an academic genius, and take glorious positives from however you do.

Though secondary sources aren’t necessary for this particular essay, probably try and read some: A hundred blank faces stare back as someone mentions existentialism, I won’t try and explain it here, because it gets pretty mad and I don’t have any red wine at hand. It is worth reading up on it yourself, though, to help understand Sillitoe in more depth. That said if you can’t wrap your head around it, don’t worry! Everything will be fine. However, as the module title suggests, context is important, and with so many of the secondary sources provided for you there really is a wealth of knowledge to play with.  (Possibly wondering what this has to do with anything? Me too.)

Don’t worry about the essay: As my seminar tutor last year pointed out to us doe eyed freshers scared of failure, “This is 10% of a module worth 25% of a year ultimately worth nothing” (Osborne, Krystina, 2014). In print this comes across as far less inspirational, but in essence it just means don’t start tearing your hair out about such a tiny piece: do try your best just don’t go nuts with stress.

Some people love staying up in the library doing all-nighters. It is oft-romanticised and almost a rite of passage at least once in order to retain bragging rights on your work ethic. Fun as this can be (and inevitable for anyone who finds the daytime more suited for Gilmore Girls marathons, or whatever TV trend is current and hip), your brain does need a rest to function. We all work differently and function differently depending on the time of day, but sleep deprivation is detrimental for everyone and doesn’t prove you’re doing a better job than anyone else just because you’re really, really sleepy. If you’re a night owl, fantastic, if you’re not, don’t panic that your hipster credentials aren’t up to scratch and use the evenings for things like going to the pub.

Back to the ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’, you may find it boring at first but that’s why reading around the book is so important. Understanding why it is an important text is as fulfilling as reading the text itself.

Most importantly, with a text so short it is worth re-reading once, twice, four times (a lady).

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