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English Literature – UGC NET, July 2018 – Tips, Books & Resources

UGC NET Examinations are once again knocking the doors of the future educators. I am once again addressing the English Literature aspirants who want to clear the UGC NET examination in July 2018, organised by CBSE across the nation. Are you ready? The system of the examination or in better words, the pattern, has been altered. Now, aspirants will have to appear in two papers only; previously there used to be an exam which consisted of three different papers – one paper was meant to check the general awareness, comprehension and teaching and research skills of the aspirants and two papers belonged to the subject chosen. Now, the paper one has been left as it was and paper two and three have been merged and extended into one – a second paper consisting 100 questions from the subject. In our case, the subject is English Literature. Be cautious; the patter has changed, for sure; the syllabus has not been changed – it’s the same – from the beginning of the days to the past hour. So, are you ready for NET examination in July 2018?

There’s no fear. You should be ready and charged for the exam. Let’s get it rolling; I will be discussing my predictions for the exam. I will also suggest some of the best books which will help the aspirants and because there is a little time left, you can certainly prepare very well if you begin now. I would like to start this discussion in a little different manner than my previous ones. Let’s include as many as we can.

What’s your strategy for the upcoming NET exam for English Literature? Have you thought what your approach would be? The questions are purely objective and they are 100 in number this time. So, how will you start? From where do you plan to begin your studies? If you did not plan anything yet, you should plan now. So, how to plan? How to make a strategy? How many days would you like to spend making a strategy?

You should not spend more than three days strategising. Three days are more than enough and you should be focusing on the following points:

* What are my strengths in English Literature?
* What are my weaknesses in English Literature?
* How much do I understand the part that deals with criticism and critical theories?
* Do I know the major literary movements and their prominent members?
* Do I have the overviews & a rough idea of popular and critically acclaimed novels, plays and poems? It includes important characters, major events related to protagonist and antagonist and even number of chapters, parts, acts, scenes (in a way appropriate).
* Am I sure of my abilities in comprehension?
* How aware am I about the literature other than that of English nation?
* How deep I understand Indian English Literature?
* How sure am I of literature in English translation?
* How much I truly understand the English literature post-1950?
* Am I aware of the major literary awards and their prominent winners?
* Am I aware of the major literary terms? Do I know most of the terms used in the context of rhetoric and prosody? Do I know some of the popular meters of poetry?

Once you answer all these questions, you will have a clear impression of what you need to do. Most of the students are very good in comprehension because they come from English literature background and they get the abilities to understand any given text in different layers. However, the major problems arise in literature post-1950 and local language literature of India which are translated into English and also in the Carribean, African and Middle-East literature. That’s why you need to honest where are your strengths and weaknesses! The stronger parts need only revision occasionally and the weaker parts need a thorough study within the given time.

Mode of Study:
Questions are asked of objective nature and naturally, some of the aspirants believe that memorising objective questions from guides, objective question banks or ‘study materials’ will be sufficient. That’s totally wrong! The best way to study something and becoming well-versed in whatever you studied is reading thoroughly and then yourself asking questions and giving answers. To argue for my case, I will offer you a scenario.

Suppose someone studies the Romantic Poetry section of the history of English literature. And to be clear, suppose the person studies it thoroughly – focusing on each of the important factors. Now, if the person can create questions by himself and answer them correctly, there is no need of remembering particular objective questions. If you read something minutely, you won’t have the burden of remembering the names of the books by a particular author or the names of the important characters.

Therefore, I will suggest that the proper mode of study should be a thorough study of the chapters you think you should do. On the other hand, the chapters in which you are more than strong, a casual overview will do very well. Moreover, for the novels which are important and you have already read them thoroughly, you can have an overview of them. For that purpose, I will suggest the Penguin Guide for Teachers/Readers. Follow the link below; download the guides you want; take printouts and study.

Tackle Criticism & Critical Theories:
The best method that I have known so far to tackle the questions from this part in the UGC NET English literature examination is having a clear idea of various literary theories and literary assumptions. And how can that be possible? The only way out is actually studying them and getting a clear picture of the various theories like Structuralism, Ecocriticism, Deconstruction etc. And the only book I will suggest you all for this purpose is certainly Peter Barry’s book – Beginning Theory. I will list it on the list of most important books below. Meanwhile, I have also worked on some of the literary theories which you can read by visiting my articles on the given links:


And I will work on more soon.

Going Beyond the Literature of the English Nation:
Please keep in mind that studying only history of English literature won’t help you with the questions which are asked from the African Literature, Indian Literature, Middle-Eastern Literature or saying it in an inclusive way, Third World Literature. Other than that, you should also have an average idea of the major literary figures from the USA and countries like Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and also Russia and some other countries (we cannot be certain, unfortunately).

Fortunately, for the sake of overview, we do have a very good book which covers these concerned areas of literature adequately. The book by Ian Mackean will help you a lot. This book will also be listed on the list of must-have books below.

‘Objective’ of the ‘Subjective’ Studies:
This is something that you will have to workout according to your learning and implementing abilities. The reason I emphasise on studying thoroughly and not memorising the objective questions is very simple. You will easily forget something you remember in the tense atmosphere. You will never forget something you understand completely and something that you study with a free and relaxed mind. Once you study Elizabethan Drama, you MUST be able to answer the names of the plays written by Shakespeare as well as those by Thomas Kyd or Marlowe or even by Thomas Dekker or Francis Beaumont. For that, you will have to study and understand the particular phase COMPLETELY and THOROUGHLY. Once you put your heart into it, believe me, no questions will be out of your reach!

The important thing is that you must have good books, at least two, of History of English Literature. I will list my two favourites below.

Books I Recommend:
This time, I have further precise a list of recommended books and kept it limited to only the necessary and the most useful ones. I am sure if you give your commitment and work with complete dedication, nothing will be out of reach.

History of English Literature:
David Daiches – in two volumes: This is the book that every English Literature NET aspirant MUST HAVE. I like this book because it is written in a desirable language and offer you ample information – the exact thing that you need. If you don’t have this book yet, go ahead and buy this book from the Amazon link below which will open in a new tab so that you can come back after completing your purchase.

David Daiches – two volumes on Amazon – buy now

A History of English Literature: Palgrave – I have picked this book as the best companion to David Daiches. I will suggest the aspirants read this book just after they finish David Daiches. Palgrave’s history of English literature includes a very broad coverage of the 20th-century literature which will offer you a clear picture of the literature beyond the 1950s. The chapter is titled New Beginnings – 1955-80. Even the chapter before this is broad enough and offers a comprehensive build-up of the postmodern and modern literature, as they are called. Yes, the book is a little costly according to the students’ perspective but the book is certainly worth it! You can get it for something between 2200 to 2500 on Amazon. Buy from the link below:

Palgrave’s History of English Literature – buy from Amazon

Books for Modern Literature & Comprehensive Coverage of literature other than England’s:

Which book can be better than The Essentials of Literature in English, Post-1914? This book covers everything that you need to read and learn and understand. However, the booksellers on Amazon and other platforms have gone rogue and you better get this book from any local bookseller in your locality. I got this book in 500 only but these days, the book is selling in more than 4,000 on Amazon and that’s only a place where the book is available online.

Book for Criticism and Critical Theory:

Get the very useful book Beginning Theory by Peter Barry. This book has no comparison today and for the exam, UGC NET, this is a must-have book! This will explain to you, in a nutshell, all the theories essential and all the prominent figures associated with those theories. Buy the book at the link below:

Get Peter Barry’s Beginning Theory on Amazon now

Book for Literary Terms:

Penguin’s Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory is a book that all the aspirants must have. This book will bring clear most of the literary terms that you come across every day as well as define the most difficult terms you might be asked in the examination to come. Therefore, better be equipped. Get this book from the Amazon link below:

Buy Penguin’s Literary Term and Literary Theory Dictionary on Amazon

Other than these books, for starters, get a good book on rhetoric and prosody from a bookstore near you because I don’t see any good book on Amazon or other platforms which could actually help you.

Share the progress:
Where would you share the progress that you make in your preparation? For the help of the students, I have decided to create a WhatsApp group for the UGC NET English Literature aspirants. In this group, you can share your experiences and problems and suggestions making sure that you don’t spam and you don’t annoy other participants. Those who want to join the group can let me know in the comment and I will add them all after initial verification.

And at last, do let me know if you have questions or suggestions or anything else. I will be more than happy discussing your concerns. All the best guys!

Alok Mishra

First and foremost a poet, Alok Mishra is an author next. Apart from these credentials, he is founder & Editor-in-Chief of Ashvamegh, an international literary magazine and also the founder of BookBoys PR, a company which helps writers brand themselves and promote their books. On this blog, Alok mostly writes about literary topics which are helpful for literature students and their teachers. He also shares his poems; personal thoughts and book reviews.

This Post Has 11 Comments

    1. I got it from Homeshop18 a few years ago (almost 4). The book’s price has gone very high now and you should rather wait and watch if you get a good deal on odd days.

  1. A very helpful guide for me! I am sure I will make my impression well and I will follow all the advice you have given here, Alok


  2. Very well explained. I am sure others will also benefit from these tips for students of English literature who want to clear UGC NET.

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