Bright Young Things: Oxford and the Literary World Between the Wars


Our image of the interwar period is stubbornly shaped by memories of, and nostalgia for, its popular culture—a giddy rejection of the old post-War world in headlong pursuit of the new. Yet a century on, a reappraisal is due. Oxford was arguably the epicentre of the ‘Bright Young Things’ who typified the period, and the changes the city and university underwent reflected larger changes beyond. Through the words and lives of dozens of such varied yet interconnected writers as Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, John Betjeman, Dorothy L. Sayers, Harold Acton, W. H. Auden, Vera Brittain, and J. R. R. Tolkien, we will delve into the social, literary, and moral dynamics of this most dynamic of 20th-century eras.

Programme details

Seminar 1 : Sun, 9.00am – 10.30am

The Lost Generation: Grey Ghosts and the Long Weekend

Seminar 2 : Sun, 11.00am – 12.30pm

Oxford Town and Gown: Change Afoot in the ‘City of Aquatint’

Seminar 3 : Mon, 9.00am – 10.30am

A Question of Class: Society as Commodity; Parties as Theatre

Seminar 4 : Mon, 11.00am – 12.30pm

Embracing Mass Media: The Influence of Wireless, Cinema, and Magazines

Seminar 5 : Tue, 9.00am – 10.30am

Celebrity Culture: Gossip, Self-Promotion, and the Importance of Being Eccentric

Seminar 6 : Tue, 11.00am – 12.30pm

How to be Fashionable: Oxford Bags and Bobs, Flappers and Gaspers

Seminar 7 : Wed, 9.00am – 10.30am

The Problem of Sex: Strictures and Boundaries, Fluidity and Freedoms

Seminar 8 : Wed, 11.00am – 12.30pm

All that Jazz: Hot Jitterbugs, Iced Cocktails, and other Vices

Seminar 9 : Thu, 9.00am – 10.30am

Modernism and Modernists: Art Deco amongst Dreaming Spires

Seminar 10 : Thu, 11.00am – 12.30pm 

Oxford Abroad: Here and There with Far-Flung Chums

Seminar 11 : Fri, 9.00am – 10.30am

After the Dance: ‘The Dear Old Twenties’ as Viewed from the Thirties

Seminar 12 : Fri, 11.00am – 12.30pm

The Brideshead Legacy: Tenacious Nostalgia in the 21st Century


Description Costs
Programme Fee (No Accommodation - inc. Tuition, Lunch & Dinner) £945.00
Programme Fee (Standard Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1630.00
Programme Fee (Standard Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1365.00
Programme Fee (Superior Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1660.00
Programme Fee (Superior Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1400.00


Concessionary rates are available on a non-residential basis for those that qualify, more information can be found here

Unfortunately we do not offer any specific scholarships or funding opportunities for OUSSA programme, but you can visit our departmental funding webpage, where you may be able to find a particular source of funding that matches your requirements alongside meeting the funding criteria.


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments made via non-UK credit/debit cards and bank accounts are subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

Tuition and meals are included in the programme fee, with both residential and non-residential options available.

Course change administration fee: Please note that course transfers may be permitted in exceptional circumstances; however, in accordance with our Terms and Conditions, an administration fee of £50 will be charged.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking
  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date

Cancellations and Refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to or by post to OUSSA, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid.
  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2023 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2023 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2023 - no refunds will be made.

2. Cancellation by us

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course where there is good reason, for example, if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable. In these cases we will refund the course fees that you have already paid. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2023. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2023, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

3. Travel insurance 

The Department cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. You are advised to check cancellation policies carefully and to purchase travel insurance.


Dr Robert Mark Ritter


Dr Robert Ritter’s scholarly interest lies in the mediation and dissemination of literature, and its effects on the creative process. His DPhil was in bibliography and textual criticism. He teaches topics in English language and literature at Oxford, as well as creative writing. He is the author of several editorial reference works for Oxford University Press, including the Oxford Style Manual, and has been a contributor to many books on printing and publishing. Previously Robert spent twenty years as an editor in New York and Oxford. He is a communications consultant and director of Oxford Style Ltd. 

Course aims

This course aims to introduce students to Oxford’s dynamic interwar period, as experienced by the writers who knew it best.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. The teaching methods used during this course will include:

  • Short lectures/presentations
  • Physical handouts
  • Seminars/group discussions
  • Video recordings

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be expected to understand:

  • the surprisingly interconnected nature of Oxford authors
  • the period’s changes in a larger context, both in Britain and abroad
  • the modernist rise of mass media and celebrity culture
  • the vital distinctions between the period’s generations and eras, which are often ignored or misunderstood
  • the importance and potential danger of confected nostalgia

Assessment methods

Students are assessed during the summer school by either a 1500 word written assignment or a presentation supported by individual documentation. To successfully gain credit (10 CATS points) students should attend all classes and complete the on-course assignment. There is also a pre-course assignment of 1000 words set. Although this does not count towards credit, it is seen as an important way of developing a student's ideas and therefore its completion is mandatory.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


More information about our accommodation can be found here