English and Joint Schools
BA Hons English Literature &Language (& Joint Schools Degrees)
Wadham College's copy of John Gower's Confessio amantis
Average intake at Wadham: 8 (including joint schools)
The English syllabus at Oxford places emphasis on studying literature in its cultural, intellectual, and historical contexts, rather than in isolation. Special attention is given to Old and Middle English and the history of the English language in a way that elicits their human and literary relevance, and students who wish to specialise in these areas, either in optional papers or by taking the specialist Course II, are encouraged to do so.
BA (Hons) English
BA (Hons) English and Modern Languages
BA (Hons) Classics and English
BA (Hons) History and English
English at Wadham
Students of English at Wadham are encouraged not simply to practise literary criticism, but to reflect upon the often hidden assumptions (political, philosophical, and aesthetic) which underlie various critical approaches.
Students usually have two tutorials a week, as well as classes with the other students in their year on language, translation, literary theory, or comparable topics. Most tutorials take place in College, although sometimes students may be taught by members of other colleges, particularly for specialised optional subjects.
The course develops not only understanding of English literature but generally applicable abilities to grasp and analyse complex material, to construct coherent arguments, and reach well-based conclusions. It thus enables students to take advantage of a wide range of possibilities in life, as well as deepening and enriching their experience.
A Student's Perspective
Anna - 2nd Year English Student
The range of material you cover in the Oxford English course is remarkable: you come out of first year having studied two centuries worth of literature - Victorian and modern - as well as a whole new language, Anglo Saxon. This is on top of a paper devoted to literary criticism and linguistic analysis, which provides you with a broader framework throughout the rest of your degree.
While the papers you study are largely compulsory, there's so much variety within them that it never feels forced or arbitrary; Wadham is particularly excellent in this sense, because tutors here specialise in such a range of subjects they'll always be able to recommend you some reading or have a discussion with you on whatever piques your interest. Coming from sixth form, where you learn from a small selection of set texts, to a system where you can choose from dozens of different texts and themes every week to write your essays on, is really liberating.
It was in first year that I realised my interest in medieval literature, which led me to take the specialist Course II for the rest of the degree. I've always been interested in languages, and taking Course II allows me to study loads of different medieval languages and literatures, from Welsh folklore and Old Norse sagas to medieval French romances. Oxford's huge range of libraries - from Wadham's 24 hour library to the Bodleian, which has just about any book you could never need, as well as the English Faculty library which is five minutes' walk away - also gives you access to so many different primary and secondary resources, including loads of unique manuscripts which Course II students get to study.
I'll generally have one or two essays to write in a week, with a few optional lectures, a tutorial and a class. It can seem intimidating at first, but you quickly get in the swing of things, and the fact that Wadham is one of the larger colleges means that the English cohort always forms a really supportive bond. English is one of the most flexible degrees time-wise, and there's no shortage of things to do alongside your academic work: this year I was part of the SU Entz committee in charge of organising our big yearly events, Queerfest and Wadstock.