We admit around nine students each year in total to study English, English and Modern Languages, and English and Classics.
Brasenose has a vital and exciting English community. The two Tutorial Fellows (Sos Eltis and Simon Palfrey) are known for their expertise in drama old and new, but they and the College lecturers have teaching strengths right across the spectrum of literature in English. We sponsor a yearly Arts festival run by students, including plays and poetry readings, and enjoy active links with the Oxford University Dramatic Society and Playhouse and Globe theatres.
The teaching of our undergraduates is split equally between one-hour tutorials (one or two students, in discussion initiated by student essays) and two-hour classes (where the whole year group of seven or so get together to explore a particular writer, genre, theory, poem, passage or historical movement). In both tutorials and classes, the accent is upon testing and exchanging ideas. The study of English at Brasenose is an interactive, intensely engaged process. It is not about being told what to think. It is, very simply, about reading widely and diversely, and exploring and developing ideas. Here at Brasenose we believe in the excitement and pleasure of intellectual and literary discovery. We consequently encourage our students to take full advantage of the unique range of choice offered by the Oxford English syllabus, and to follow their own particular interest or passions.
There are two public examinations: (i) Preliminary Examinations (Prelims) at the end of the first year; and (ii) Finals, at the end of the third year. Prelims consists of an Introduction to English Language and Literature, Early Medieval Literature (c. 650 – 1350), Victorian Literature (1830-1910) and Modern Literature (1910 to present day).
Finals (Course I) has seven papers comprising Shakespeare, the four period papers covering 1350-1830, a special option, chosen from over 20 topics, including The American Novel after 1945, Post-War British Drama, Postcolonial Literature, Writing Feminisms/Feminist Writing, Film Criticism, and Comparative Literature. The culmination of the course is a Dissertation on a topic entirely of the student’s choice.
There is also a special course (Course II) in English Language and Early Literature, which is mainly philological. About 5% of the candidates take this course each year.
The English course at Oxford is a pathway to any number of rewarding careers, including but by no means limited to the traditional professions of teaching, writing, publishing, journalism, and advertising. Some students of course go on to do postgraduate work, either as MSt students (which involves further course work) or as MLitt or DPhil students (which involves independent research). An English degree can also be the gateway to all sorts of less obvious paths. Recent English undergraduates from Brasenose now work as lawyers, actors, television producers, bankers, accountants, civil servants, management consultants, speech writers, script writers, and no doubt much else besides!
The English and Modern Language Course
Brasenose warmly welcomes applications for this course, which allows students considerable freedom in tailoring their studies to meet their interests. The first year examinations consist of four papers in the Modern Language and two papers chosen from the English Prelims course (see above for details). For finals each candidate sits four papers in Modern Languages and a choice of four papers from the English Literature Course. There is also an opportunity to write a link paper, bringing together the two sides of the course. See the Brasenose Modern Languages page for details on the Languages tutors that teach on this course.
The Classics and English Course
Brasenose also welcomes candidates for the joint course of Classics and English. If candidates are studying Latin and/or Greek to A-level this is normally a three-year course (Course I). But candidates who have not had that opportunity can take a four-year course beginning with an intensive introduction to Latin and Greek (Course II). Either version offers a superbly integrated (and truly ‘joint') course, which alongside English literature of the Renaissance and beyond and Graeco-Roman authors such as Herodotus, Euripides, Virgil, Catullus, and Juvenal also explores the rich connections between ancient and modern literature. Students can pursue whatever aspect of English or classical literature appeals to them, but we feel that the highlights of the course are the three ‘Link Papers' studied in the third year (or fourth in Course II). In these, through topics such as Epic, Tragedy, Comedy, Pastoral, and Satire, the twists and turns of literary genres can be traced from Homer to Milton and Walcott, or from Theocritus to Arnold and Heaney. See the Brasenose Classics page for details on the Classics tutors that teach on this course.