English graduate Elle Whitcroft talks about how one module changed her life
I chose the Literature and Media course at Brighton because like the city, it seemed diverse, interdisciplinary, and expansive — it definitely ended up being all of these things.
I was inspired by both the Media and Literature department teachers, who always encouraged my to follow my interests — feminist critiques, European cinema, Russian Literature and Comic Studies were my favourite. I still remember how much time every teacher gave me to discuss my ideas in full — they were so generous. I was always stimulated, always asking questions, and each course inspired me in a new way — I ended up joining various political and social groups which I found through the university, and these networks had a huge impact in developing my confidence and identity while in Brighton.
In my third year, I took a course called “Comics Studies”, and it completely changed how I studied image and text. During my A-levels, I took Photography, Literature, and History, and Comics Studies helped me put these interests together: how to critically read images, how context informs content, and how image and text communicate. I decided to follow the course’s content further, and wrote my dissertation on comics, for which I earned a first. After this, I knew I wanted to go further with academia, and I immediately wrote my MA application. My BA in Literature and Media was a crucial turning point in developing my communication, writing skills and confidence to think critically. The BA really provided me the space and stimulation I needed to progress my academic skills and move forward.
I think most importantly, my BA studies helped me boost my creative confidence and monitor my progress: the more I thought individually, unconventionally, and creatively, the better I did. I always loved learning, but I wasn’t great at studying during Secondary school — like a lot of students, learning wasn’t straight-forward for me. My BA really changed that — it taught me how to ask questions, follow different paths, and apply myself academically, which before undergraduate study, I didn’t really think was for me — but here I am! Now, I’m working on my own PhD project, which looks at race and trends in children’s comics — a path which started during my BA.
Since leaving Brighton University, I’ve been between non-academic jobs as well as academia, which really worked for me. I know some people take a straight academic route, from BA to MA to PhD, but I personally felt that non-academic jobs kept me grounded and up-to-date with education. After completing an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature, I worked in SEN and mainstream primary schools for two years, applying my BA and MA studies in image and text to learning and teaching. I did this for a couple of years, but when I got too comfortable, I thought “it’s now or never”, and I wrote my PhD proposal. I was accepted into the English department at Sussex University where I’m currently finishing my second year doctoral studies.
One of the great things about doing a PhD, for me, is the outreach work. I try to stay involved in primary and secondary learning alongside teaching undergraduates — I design and teach interdisciplinary courses around art history, comics, and literature to local schools. Ultimately, my goal is to keep teaching and creating interdisciplinary content; whether in university, secondary, or primary. The great thing about comics is that they reach and engage all levels of learning!