Portrait of the Academic as a Student: Ruth Heholt


Ruth Heholt, Senior Lecturer in English, reveals her experiences as an Undergraduate Student

What did you study at university, and why did you choose that subject? 

My degree was English Literature and Language at Reading University. In the first year at Reading you were required to take three subjects and then choose. I did History and Classics as well as English and nearly changed to Classics but not being able to speak or read Latin or Greek was a bit of a draw-back and I couldn’t afford the summer schools. In the end I studied what I love best though, so it all turned out fine. I didn’t go to University until I was 24 and had mis-spent many very happy years before, so when I finally began to study I found it really wonderful and enjoyed all of it.


Which book changed the way you viewed the world or yourself? 

Jane Eyre changed the way I thought about women’s position in history and Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders shifted how I conceived of narrative and symbolism – whoever thought woodlands could connote ‘bad’ sex? Despite my dislike of poetry (am I allowed to say that??) I also really liked Paradise Lost and Spencer’s Faerie Queene and these showed me I didn’t have to be comfortable with a text to write about it effectively. The other texts which changed things for me were Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and also Elizabeth Grosz’s Volatile Bodies. Both very splendid, and they set me on the path of really exploring gender theory.


If you could give your eighteen-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Don’t go to Uni til you’re 24. (Oh look, I didn’t!)


What was the hardest thing to learn?

University is not school. I nearly left in the first month because the corridors smelt like school! However, it is a different thing entirely and an experience to be cherished. Learning to have fun studying was the key.


What was the soundtrack of your undergraduate years?

Lots of hippy stuff – Frank Zappa, Gong, Julian Cope. I’ve also always really like The Cure and Primal Scream’s Screamadelica was released as I went to Uni. The Pixies have always been there too. There was also lots of world music as WOMAD was based in Reading each year at the time.


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Dr Ruth Heholt is a Senior Lecturer in English in Falmouth University's School of Writing and Journalism. She's published widely on Ghosts and the Gothic, Victorian literature and culture, masculinity and contemporary literature. She's the founding editor of Revenant journal.