1. Liminal Space Any conversation about literature plays out on one big metaphorical topographical map. Whether it's about characterisation, plot structures or the use of language, most discussions will 'centre' on borders, territories and liminal spaces. Many interesting protagonists seem to fit into this liminal space. (N.B. By the end of your degree you will fear the words 'interesting' and 'seem' and likely cringe at the phrase 'liminal space'.) 2. Patriarchy Studying literature in 2016 is devoted to a constant recognition of the problems of patriarchal systems of power. Doing an English Literature degree is synonymous with resisting the norm. Always question the norm. Always question the patriarchy. 3. Feminist Discourse Proto-feminism, first wave and second wave feminism are worth considering when studying any literature, especially from the long eighteenth century onwards. Feminist discourse is a struggle between understanding women's writing in the past, and women's writing now, negotiating (negotiating is a useful word) the writing of women that adheres to patriarchal ideology in contemporary feminist discourse, i.e. What do you do with women's writing that isn't angry enough about male dominance? Gilbert and Gubar will no doubt find their way on to your reading list, along with Hélène Cixous. The differences between French feminism and Anglo-American feminism are also important to bear in mind. 4. The Difference Between a Comedy and a Tragedy; The Problem with Romanticism A Comedy (Renaissance Play) is not necessarily funny, but follows a structure whereby the play concludes with a happy ending, mostly signalled by a marriage. Romanticism, on the other hand, is a blanket term for writing during the 18th/19th centuries that is highly expressive/imaginative/fanciful. 5. Bildungsroman The bildungsroman is a novel about growing up, or the protagonist's formative years. The most famous, perhaps, (avoid the word 'perhaps' in an essay, btw) are Great Expectations and Jane Eyre. The Künstlerroman may also be of interest. 6. ‘The death of the author’ Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault both had similar ideas about the diminishing author. Barthes' 'The death of the author' signals a break from the 'traditional' critical view that authorship has primary meaning. Critics often judged literature through the reputation of the author so that the author's biographical relationship with their own texts took precedence and the author's intention was the primary focus. 'The death of the author' led to a decreased concern with the author's biography, in exchange for a larger contextual understanding of a text, looking at culture, language, society, book history, etc. as giving meaning to literature. 7. Poetic Terms: Elegy/Meter/Sonnet/Enjambment The language with which one talks about poetry is rather distinctive. As university teaches you to treat all texts like poetry (close-reading, always), it's good to know what elegiac means and what a sonnet signifies, why meter matters and how prose differs from poetry. 8. Etymology Many lecturers boast etymology as a side-study. The formation and history of words is itself lens through which you can analyse all sorts of ideas. Look up the etymology of family, or hysteria, for example. 9. Modernism/Post-Modernism Modernism and Post-Modernism are concepts that umbrella experimental writings at different points in time in different ways. Modernism is writing that tries to be new, using language in ways that best portray modern life. Post-Modernism is writing that sceptically recycles the old into the semi-new, knowing nothing can be new. Post-Modernism is characterised by things like metanarratives, bringing the author back into the story, whereas modernism delves deeply into the character, with techniques like stream-of-consciousness writing or free indirect discourse. I'm not an expert, though. 10. The Canon The job of literature students and academics alike is to fight to give place and give space to new and different texts in the canon. You will have heard about the white male authors that make up the majority of revered literature we study today: that is the canon. Writing enough essays and books and engaging students and publishers helps change the canon, at least a little bit.