So, I’m in the final year of my degree (BA) with thoughts of further study and careers looming on the horizon. Luckily for me and my class, we are too busy being preoccupied with our single subject dissertation! The single subject dissertation is an advantage that only students doing single honours can undertake in the School of English.

What is a dissertation may you ask? A dissertation is an 8,000 word research essay on a subject and title of your own choice. Many other schools within the college allow final year students to undertake a research project because it allows them to pursue an area they are interested in and develop independence with regards to academic life. The research that you undertake is all sourced yourself and nothing is handed to you on a plate. This makes the dissertation both extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. Everyone in the class is doing a different work of literature for their own dissertation so it really teaches us to think for ourselves and prepares us if we want to go on to do a masters, which also involves a lot of independent research.

The project in itself lasts for the entire year. The first trimester is mainly preparation; reading journals articles, history books on the period, listening to interviews and learning more about our writers. The second trimester involves writing, editing and reviewing the essay itself with the help of a supervisor, who is a member of staff within the school whose field of interest coincides with our topic.

The diversity of topics within my class is huge despite us being less than twenty in number! Gender is a very popular theme and features in many of the class’ topics such as performativity in T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland, the female antihero Morgan le Fey in Morte D’Arthur and Women in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.   Another popular choice of subject within my class is modern literature from the last few decades, including a study of violence in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, digital poetry and the representation of the diaspora in Meera Syal’s Anita & Me. Of course these titles might change in the next month or two during the research period because there’s such a wealth of material out there, it is difficult to decide!

For me, I chose an author who is very close to my heart and a theme that I have been very interested in for a while. I have chosen to study the role of women in matrimony in two novels by Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is a feminist writer who explores the stories of women living in a post-revolutionary independent Nigeria. My mother and her brothers were brought up in Nigeria during this period and so I have always had a connection and a keen interest in the country and its literature. My mother introduced me to Adichie’s literature when it was published in the early 2000’s. Since then, there has been a large amount of academic attention on her work with many critics hailing her as the new voice of African literature.


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Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus tells the story of a young girl growing up in a strict Catholic household filled with violence and tension and how she grows up understanding the conflicts around her.

The second, Half of a Yellow Sun, follows two sisters’ experience during the Biafra War in the 1970’s and the different paths they take as women, wives and sisters.  The novel was adapted into a film last year which I’m holding off on seeing in case it influences me too much.

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I derived my idea of investigating the wives from my elective, Gender and Development in the School of Social Justice. The module has opened my eyes a lot to issues within less developed countries involving women. These issues are not only misrepresented in media but also in literature and I believe Adichie’s work engages with the real voice of the African girl rather than the sensationalized victim that is often portrayed to western audiences.

So there we go! It’s a mammoth task but I can’t wait to get started. Watch this space to see how my project develops over the next 8 months, fingers crossed it all goes well


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