The English Literature Class of 2014 celebrated their graduation with a dinner party at the Shaw Alumni House on 3 July 2014. The event was sponsored by the English Language and Literature Department, Office of Alumni Relations, and Shaw Foundation Alumni House. Once strangers, the class of seniors now found themselves gathered as friends under one roof–feasting and drinking to the fond memories of studying in one of the finest departments in the nation. Even as the reveries came to a gradual end, they saluted and cheered one another on, looking to the future with the resonant lines of a novel by James Joyce: “Welcome, O life! We go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge within the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of our race.”
One of the graduating seniors, Yip Guanhui, reflects on his years as an English Literature major:
“But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”
C. S. Lewis An Experiment in Criticism
I entered the university and came into encounter with great literature and writers. I took a wide range of modules, not just in literature but in other disciplines such as Financial Accounting and Real Estate. I came to learn that a serious literature major is one who is able to view the world (and its many disciplines) in a nuanced and coherent manner. All readings are possible; but not all readings are helpful.
I am not ashamed to say that for the greater part of four years, I spent my time reading. Reading as widely, as deeply, and as thoughtfully as possible. I learnt to look past my preconceived notions and to adopt critical thinking as a way of life. “It is the mark of an educated mind,” as Aristotle says, “to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
I have come to see that the value of a literature education lies not in the number of books read, nor in the quantity or quality of essays submitted—though it is certainly true that both are helpful: the books one imbibes, come to dye one’s soul and thoughts, while the numerous essays written, hone one’s grasp of the written language. The true value of a literature education ultimately lies in the quality of one’s mind and heart–shaped and honed through their numerous interactions with lecturers, fellow students and, indeed, the boundless imaginative worlds of literary works. As I leave NUS, it may be that I forget many aspects of the formal academic curriculum I experienced–but a critical mind and an empathetic heart will follow me for the rest of my life.
A week later on 11 July, English Language Seniors also held a graduation party.