Portrait of the Academic as a Student: Eleanor Yule


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

I wanted to work in the theatre initially. My parents were both actors and I had grown up back- stage, with the smell of greasepaint and make-believe. When I arrived at Glasgow University they had just set up a Film and TV department. It was a brand-new course full of academic firebrands, feminists, post–modernist theorists, psychoanalytic critics who wanted to make their mark. Caught up in their passion I defected from theatre in Fresher’s week and chose Film and TV as a joint honours with English Literature. The English Literature department was the opposite to Film and TV. It was long in the tooth, Leavisite and located in the Victorian Gothic part of the University, full of dark creaking corridors and imposing raked lecture theatres. The Film and TV department was state of the art, concrete and subterranean. My Undergrad experience straddled both the old and the new academic world.

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

It was The Magus by John Fowles. I read it when I was 18. I found it in a dusty bookshelf in Wales in the farmhouse of my first boyfriend’s eccentric parents. I was instantly captivated and read it through the night. The book follows a young English teacher, Nicolas Urfe, who, bored with life in London, accepts a teaching post on a Greek Island. What follows is mysterious and baffling. The reader is pulled into a world of mysticism and trickery which also exposes the hypocrisy of elite European societies and of the protagonist himself. The ending is unresolved and disturbing blurring the boundaries between truth and reality. I read the book just before I sat my A levels’ so the first thing I did when I finished my exams was book a cheap flight to Greece to naïvely follow in the footsteps of Nicolas Urfe around the Greek Islands. I had the book, my sleeping bag and a tiny budget for food. It was my first holiday on my own abroad and I was ill equipped for the heat, not used to sleeping on beaches and didn't speak the language. After four weeks away I came back penniless, two stone lighter, covered in mosquito bites and sunburn, but I had become an adult. Reading The Magus began a life-long love of Greece and the Greek Islands which became the backdrop, later, of many happy family holidays with my own children

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

Sorry it has to be a list.


...date Goths who still live at home.

...drink Cider and blackcurrant (even if it is on offer).

...try and jump over a high fence four weeks before your finals (after drinking Cider and black ).

...go to a disco in a polyester dress

 ...sweat the small stuff.

...compare yourself to others (yours is a unique journey)


...join clubs and societies (great way to meet older students who can show you the ropes)

...go on a time management course

...yoga and meditation (even if you think its just for vegetarians)

...believe the future is full of exciting opportunities IF you do the footwork and reach out

…get up after you’ve been knocked down (you get stronger after a fall)

What was the hardest thing to learn?

I found it very hard to take criticism and always thought that if my work was not perfect I had failed. Looking back I learned the most from the work where I made mistakes or got the wrong end of the stick. It is a blessing in disguise.

What was the soundtrack of your undergraduate years?

The Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Elvis Costello, The Beatles (late stuff), XTC, and Dexys Midnight Runners and of course 1970’s soul and DISCO

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