Grad School? Check.

Namaskaram.

My decision to pursue a Master’s degree was solely inspired by the longing of something more felt by the academic in me. Following my insidious experience with my PGCE, I was yearning to go back into education for an experience which I felt fulfilled my hunger and passion for subjects I found joy in. I truly did not want to conclude my journey of academia with a negative experience (my PGCE). Therefore, I opted for a Masters in Modernity and Culture with a primary focus on Literature – a subject that I have continuously chosen throughout my academic years and revelled in. One that my love has grown for incessantly.

Being the first out of my family and my friend circle at the time to have applied for a Master’s degree, my decision was not entirely comprehended by some individuals. Many assumed I would begin full-time work instead of remaining in full-time education and upon receiving an unconditional offer from my desired university, my newfound commitment was scrutinised and met with a hint of bitterness. Nevertheless, I remained steadfast in my decision and visited my new university with my parents a week before I was due to start. Them showing a keen interest in where I was to study brought me a lot of happiness. We toured the campus, browsed books in the library, visited the university’s art gallery and museum, ate in the cafeteria and then took the train back home. It was such a cute day and I truly felt blessed to have my parents’ blessings and support in my studies.

I was overjoyed and thrilled to again be studying something I had a genuine and keen interest in. My Master’s degree was designed for students to acquire in-depth knowledge of, and to ameliorate our critical skills through thorough analysis of, an array of literary and cultural texts, film, 3D printing, photography, theory, and the complex cultures of modernity. The focuses of my modules spanned across 20th and 21st century literature, regional, and world literatures which explored the concepts of gender, sexuality and sex, the portrayal of violence and trauma, photography, and visual/graphic novels, the quality of heterogeneity in comedy, and the politics incorporated in film adaptation, translation and re-telling. An entire module was also dedicated to the works of the English writer Anthony Burgess, best known for his dystopian satiric novel, A Clockwork Orange.

We were continuously encouraged to get out of the classroom and exploit the university’s associations with cultural organisations, archives, museums, and libraries.

My extensive reading lists consisted of some of these titles (in no particular order):

  • Mhudi by Sol Plaatje
  • Double Vision by Pat Barker
  • I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • Hiroshima by John Hersey
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
  • On Photography by Susan Sontag
  • The Rise of the Novel by Ian Watt
  • The Novel: History and Theory by Franco Moretti
  • The Emergence of the Novel by Jeremy Hawthorn
  • Fragments by Binjamin Wilkomirski
  • The Promise of Happiness by Sara Ahmed
  • Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis
  • Bending Genre by Kazim Ali
  • The Origin of German Tragic Drama by Walter Benjamin
  • A Small History of Photography by Walter Benjamin
  • Cruel Optimism by Lauren Berlant
  • Undoing Gender by Judith Butler
  • The Normal and the Pathological by Georges Canguilhem
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism by Paul de Man
  • Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
  • Dolls’ Eyes by A.S. Byatt
  • The Sandman by E.T.A Hoffmann
  • The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms
  • Politics and the English Language by George Orwell
  • The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
  • Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
  • Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag
  • Unrecounted by W.G. Sebald
  • Writing the Dead in Two Parts by Alec Grant

To conclude the Master’s degree, we were required to develop and enhance our research interests and skills by producing a thesis on a chosen topic of our own.

Many years ago, I read Persepolis, an autobiographical graphic novel illustrated and written by Marjane Satrapi, who is an Iranian novelist. It was an intimate and comprehensive exploration of two significant periods in Iranian history: pre Iranian revolution and post. Upon reading her memoir, Satrapi sparked within me, an ongoing eager inquisitiveness into the lives of Iranian women who experienced the intensity of the Iranian revolution and had multiple aspects of their lives completely disarrayed as a result. I was inspired to embark on a quest to discover memoirs written by only Iranian women who recounted the effects of the revolution. Common running themes within the memoirs I found were culture, feminism, and identity. There was an extremely heavy and in-depth exploration of identity within all the memoirs I read which truly intrigued me. Thus, the research topic of my thesis was born: Being Female in Iran: A Study of Cultural Shock and Identity in a Memoir.

The focus for my thesis was primarily on hyphenated Iranian-American women as many of the memoirs I was consulting were written by Iranian women who had emigrated to America. I analysed the concept and formation of identity and how it oscillates between two cultures which explored the experiences of being an Iranian in America and being an American in Iran. A thorough analysis was conducted of the many features that bind together to form a memoir and I focused on the two components that the memoir embodies: the past and the present. I probed into the notion of one’s essence and researched just how self-understanding provides a greater sense of purpose for individuals who feel misplaced. Methods which inspire healing for individuals who experience escalating and intense life changes and how a feeling of wholeness can be attained were researched and experimented with also. I applied the vastness of this research to my chosen Iranian-American female memoirists’ lives and their works. The texts I consulted were Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, and The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

These texts served as reaffirmations of the ample amount of strength that womanhood brims with. They also taught me a lot about the history of Iran which I have always been interested and intrigued about. The entire procedure of piecing together this thesis was one that was very moving for me and I am thankful to be presented with the opportunity to research my evolving interests with the guidance of professionals.

My Masters gifted to me not only a well respected qualification, but lifelong friends from all over the world. The only drawback I can think of was not being able to spend enough time with my family or friends and having to miss events and occasions due to being stuck in the library or my room reading, researching, or writing. However, my inner academic was so grateful for this because I was always so completely in my element. My family and friends also understood and supported me a lot when I would feel overwhelmed with the workload.

Although I did feel very isolated many times and felt I was missing out on a lot, my efforts were rewarded when I graduated. I was extremely sick with a viral infection at the time of my graduation but having two loved individuals with me made it somewhat less daunting and more than anything, I was simply beyond proud of myself as I witnessed the fruits of my labour yet again. {:

As always, I cannot write about an experience without including a few photographs of the journey.

Something that was re-emphasised to me during this experience was that the happiness we feel when we are doing something we truly love is unmatched, and so in this life, we must ensure we choose paths that our souls desire. We will meet like minded individuals who can turn into soulmates. Our journey in this life will be full of much more substance.

My advice to individuals who are considering a postgraduate degree or are actively pursuing one is to work hard to maintain a balance with academia and one’s personal life. The workload can be overwhelming and it is very easy to lose our way in the stress. Therefore, always ground one’s self and remember your intentions. Construct a routine wherein you are paying equal amounts of attention on your physical being – whilst considering its abstract, on your loved ones, and on your academia. Remember you are holding in your hands, a very prestigious gift. Education.

I am thankful for having such a wonderful opportunity to simply just learn. For me, so much pleasure is derived from learning, ruminating on, and discussing concepts and theories, researching, reading, and writing. Being able to do this with subjects I have a true interest in was a gift. Education truly is a gift.

Here’s to class of 17/18 – Masters of Arts in Literature.

Love and gratitude, and like always, I truly appreciate the time you have spent here.

Namaste.

  1. I want to say so much about this, but you said it all. “Education is a gift,” few people see the value in education. For me, every individual is a book and I love learning from others, I love listening to the thoughts, emotions, opinions and ideas that others have; I do not need to agree 100% with the views of others, but I believe that the more we listen to each other (without judging) the better our society can be. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am so grateful for you and the way you express yourself.

    1. thank you so much for reading, Manuel. i truly appreciate your insight and cannot agree more with your perspective. i too believe that communication void of judgement with our fellow human beings not only betters our society, but broadens our own individual horizons and exposes our minds to notions we may not have even thought to consider prior, thus recalibrating and transforming our thought processes – which i believe is crucial for any human being to evolve and expand their consciousness. being educated in any form truly is a gift and i am glad you agree and are aware.✨

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