English Literature Summer School

Overview

Join us for a three-week residential summer school at Oxford University, with options for both undergraduate and graduate-level study.

You’ll study in small interactive seminar groups with specialist tutors, and attend a lecture programme given by leading scholars and distinguished speakers. You’ll live and work at Exeter College, one of the University's oldest colleges, founded in 1314, and enjoy a range of social events, including walking tours and excursions.

The undergraduate strand of the summer school welcomes anyone aged 18 and over having an interest in serious engagement with English literature.

The graduate strand is intended for graduates with an academic background in English literature or a related subject, and teachers of English literature in schools and colleges.​​

Undergraduate students take two mandatory seminars:

  • Critical Reading
  • Shakespeare on Stage and Screen.

Graduate applicants choose two seminars from:

  • Old and Middle English Literature
  • Shakespeare and Politics: Then and Now
  • The English Romantic Poets
  • Jane Austen
  • Victorian Fiction
  • Modernist Literature: Poetry and Prose
  • Contemporary Writing
  • World Literature
  • Feminist Literature and Theory.

(See "Programme details", below, for seminar descriptions.)

Each seminar has two two-hour meetings per week, and classes will usually contain no more than 15 students.

Contact hours

The programme provides a minimum of 46.5 contact hours, comprising:

  • 24 hours of seminar meetings (12 hours per seminar); and
  • 22.5 hours of lectures (15 lectures, each lasting 1.5 hours).

Social programme

A range of optional social events will be offered throughout the summer school. These are likely to include: a walking tour of Oxford, after-dinner talks and discussions; and weekend excursions to sites of literary and/or historical interest. Most of these activities incur additional costs.

Beyond the summer school, Oxford is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a busy cultural and social scene offering a wide variety of plays and shows, concerts, films and exhibitions.

Programme details

Undergraduate seminars

Click here to view the seminar timetable.

Critical Reading

Close critical analysis is at the heart of the study of literature and one of the first skills that we need to acquire to become attentive, discriminating, critical readers. In this course we shall look at a selection of poetry and prose from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries, paying attention to different aspects of language and form, and using key concepts and terms of the critical idiom. This will enable us to develop and hone the skills required for attentive and effective analyses of literary texts.

Tutor: Dr Edward Clarke teaches English literature for OUDCE and St Catherine’s College, Oxford.

Shakespeare on Stage and Screen

In this seminar we will explore the many different ways in which Shakespeare can be performed on stage and screen. While referring to a wide range of titles, we will focus our discussion on interpretations of three plays – Much Ado About NothingHenry V and Macbeth. Viewing extracts which feature actors and directors as diverse as Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, Julie Taymor and Joss Whedon, we will explore some key differences between stage and screen Shakespeare, consider the variety of approaches taken by directors, and compare different interpretations of the same play or role.

Tutor: Dr John O’Connor is Visiting Senior Lecturer at Cornell University, USA, and was formerly Principal Lecturer in English at Westminster College, Oxford. He has also taught at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Graduate seminar options

Click here to view the graduate seminar timetable.

Old and Middle English Literature

Medieval English literature is extraordinarily diverse: it offers, amongst other things, haunting elegies, tales of adventure, pious tracts, ribald verse, biting social commentary and flocks of querulous birds. This course aims to offer a glimpse these manifold delights through a focus on dreams, visions and encounters in texts from the eighth to the fourteenth century. We begin with enigmatic poetry that asks what it means to see, before moving through texts that question the relationship between language and meaning, signs and signification, to end with debates about the purpose of debate – and a man of great authority.

Tutor: Dr Helen Appleton is a member of the Faculty of English at Oxford University. She specialises in the literatures of Britain in the medieval period, especially texts in Old and Early Middle English and their influences.

Shakespeare and Politics: Then and Now

All of Shakespeare’s plays are bound up in the politics of their time, but at given points in history some have seemed more obviously ‘political’ than others. In this seminar we shall discuss plays that had a particular political dimension in the early modern period and which have changed meanings when performed today. In discussions we shall focus mainly on Richard II, Henry V, Macbeth, Hamlet (which should be read in advance) and there will be allusions to many others (prior knowledge of which is not expected), including Henry VI Part 2, Coriolanus, The Taming of the Shrew, Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Sir Thomas More.

Tutor: Dr John O’Connor is Visiting Senior Lecturer at Cornell University, USA, and was formerly Principal Lecturer in English at Westminster College, Oxford. He has also taught at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon.

The English Romantic Poets

The ‘Romantic’ period saw one of the great flowerings of creativity in England, particularly in poetry, alongside a great radicalisation of politics. This course will consider the major poets of the period in their intellectual context, exploring their formal innovations and interests in older traditions, and their new ideas of selfhood and politics. We shall focus on the works of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, and John Keats, with opportunities to explore the works of Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Robinson, John Clare, and others.

Tutor: Dr Tom MacFaul has taught for Oxford University for a number of years and is currently Lecturer in English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. His research interests extend from the Renaissance/early modern period to the Romantics.

Jane Austen

In this course we shall be reading the work of Jane Austen’s maturity: Sense and Sensibility; Pride and Prejudice; Mansfield Park; Emma; Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. We shall read with close critical attention in order to explore the qualities that have kept those novels among the world's favourite fiction for nearly two hundred years. We shall explore the structure and analyse the style of the six major novels, and extracts (which will be provided) from some of the early works and fragments. We shall focus on the English language of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the narrative voice, focalisers and perspective, irony, dialogue, characterisation, and elements of style such as lexis and syntax.

Dr Sandie Byrne is Associate Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, and Director of the English Literature Summer School. She is the author of a number of books and articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.

Victorian Fiction

The great Victorian novelists produced searching analyses of their society, exploring with pathos, passion and humour its often contradictory values - social aspiration, romantic yearning, moral fervour and religious doubt. Dealing with such issues in compelling narratives, Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy showed how the lives of individuals were enmeshed in the cultural forces of the age. We shall examine three of their masterpieces: Bleak House, The Mill on the Floss and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. As well as discussing the novels’ central themes, the course will pay close attention to their structure and use of language.

Tutor: Dr Charlotte Jones is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, and a former lecturer at St Hilda's College, Oxford. Her research focuses on the novel, literary realism, philosophy and politics.

Modernist Literature: Poetry and Prose

What is ‘Modernist Literature’ and why is it a term we continue to use? Using this central question as a framework for discussion, this lively but intensive course will consider a selection of poetry and prose (by T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf and W. B. Yeats), to look in detail at this experimental, daring period of literature some 100 years on.

Tutor: Tara Stubbs is Associate Professor in English Literature at OUDCE, and a Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford. Her interests include Irish and American poetry, modernism, and transatlantic exchange.

Contemporary Writing

This course will consider how British and Irish writers have responded to the challenge of the contemporary in the opening decades of the twenty-first century. Through close attention to the relationship between literary form and current events, we will examine the ways that recent authors have shaped their novels, short fiction, poetry, and drama to accommodate and critique the present day. Seminar discussions will range from urgent questions about cultural identity and technology to the present state and infrastructure of the literary landscape. Authors will include: Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Seamus Heaney, China Miéville, and Jez Butterworth.

Tutor: Dr Michael Molan has taught English literature from the early modern to the contemporary at Oxford University and the University of East Anglia. His research includes the impact of literary influence on poetry and criticism from modernism to the present, and epistolary networks of writers in the twentieth century.

World Literature

‘World literature’ is a contested term and a much-debated area of literary studies. This course will explore the key debates around the terms ‘world literature’ and ‘postcolonial studies’ alongside relevant texts that have inspired and complicated these debates. Considering how the circulation of texts feeds into their reception, this course considers how and why certain texts are transnational, global, and/or postcolonial. Through the work of authors such as Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje, Junot Díaz, Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Han Kang, this course examines how texts become ‘world’ literature, what this means for their critical success or popularity and how the poetics and aesthetics of these texts present a conundrum of classification in traditional literary criticism.

Tutor: Dr Bhagya Casaba Somashekar is Lecturer (Education) in English at Brunel University, where she teaches contemporary and postcolonial writing. She has research interests in postcolonial, world, and South Asian literatures, along with representations of political crises, urban writings, speculative fiction, and literature and the Anthropocene.

Feminist Literature and Theory

The word ‘feminist’ did not appear until the 1890s, yet there have been women writing about and advocating equal rights for centuries. This course will examine the development of feminist thinking, engaging with a range of critical debates surrounding the theory and practice of feminist writing. Focusing on three novels - Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, and Jackie Kay’s Trumpet - seminars will explore how these works relate to and critique key issues such as sexuality, gender identity and race, and consider the assumptions and values about gender that are embedded within literature and language as a whole.

Tutor: Dr Terri Mullholland has taught critical theory and modernism for OUDCE. Her research interests are in women’s writing, modernism, and critical and cultural theory.

Certification

All students who complete the programme will receive an attendance certificate.

Those seeking credit at their home institution may request a detailed certificate which lists contact hours (for lectures and seminars), an assessment of their contribution to seminar discussions, grades achieved for written work, and the number of private study hours required. Certificates will usually be sent to students' home institutions within a month of the end of the summer school.

As Oxford University does not offer credit for this summer school, those wishing to obtain credit from their home institution for attending this programme must make appropriate arrangements with that institution in advance.

Fees

Residential: Standard (shared bathroom) - £3,400; Residential: En suite (private bathroom facilities) - £3,700; Non-residential (no accommodation or meals) - £1,510

Payment

Programme fees

  • Residential: Standard (shared bathroom facilities) - £3,400
    Fees include tuition (2 seminars and the daily lecture programme); access to IT facilities and libraries; accommodation in a standard single room with shared bathroom facilities for the nights of Sunday 3 July to Friday 22 July 2022 inclusive; meals in hall from dinner on Sunday 3 July to breakfast on Saturday 23 July 2022 (except lunch on Saturdays and Sundays).

  • Residential: En suite (private bathroom facilities) - £3,700
    Fees include tuition (2 seminars and the daily lecture programme); access to IT facilities and libraries; accommodation in a single en suite room with private shower and toilet for the nights of Sunday 3 July to Friday 22 July 2022 inclusive; meals in hall from dinner on Sunday 3 July to breakfast on Saturday 23 July 2022 (except lunch on Saturdays and Sundays).

  • Non-residential - £1,510
    Fees include tuition (2 seminars and the daily lecture programme); access to IT facilities and libraries; no accommodation; no meals, except the programme's formal opening and closing dinners on Sunday 3 July and Friday 22 July 2022, respectively.

There are no sources of funding (scholarships, bursaries, etc) available for applicants.

Invoicing and payment

Successful applicants who accept their offer of a place on the summer school will be invoiced for the appropriate programme fee once they have been formally enrolled on the programme.

Invoices will be emailed to students together with full instructions for payment. Fees may be paid online with a credit or debit card, or by bank transfer.

Students are required to pay the full fee within 30 days of the date on which their invoice was issued. Late applicants (see "Apply for this course", below) are required to pay the full fee within 7 days of their invoice date.

Please note that:

  • students need to purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred (see "Cancellations", below);
  • a student's place on the summer school is not confirmed until their fees have been paid in full;
  • places will not be held for students whose fees are not paid in full by the due date; and
  • in no circumstances will students be admitted to the summer school unless all fees have been paid in full.

When you have paid your fees

Your place on the summer school is confirmed as soon as your payment is received by OUDCE.

You will receive a receipt for your payment: an automated email from webpayments@conted.ox.ac.uk if paid online, or via email from literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk if paid by bank transfer.

The Programme Administrator will provide all non-UK students with a standard format pdf letter by email confirming enrolment and course details (see "Level and demands", below).

Cancellations

Undergraduate strand

All enrolments are subject to OUDCE's Open Access Terms and Conditions.

You will enter into your contract with the University when you pay the course fees in full.

You have the right to cancel your contract at any time within 14 days, beginning on the day you paid your fees. You will receive a full refund of any payments you have made.

Graduate strand

All enrolments are subject to OUDCE's Short Selective Course Terms and Conditions.

By accepting your offer of a place on the summer school you enter into your contract with the University.

You have the right to cancel your contract at any time within 14 days, beginning on the day you accepted the offer. You will receive a full refund of any payments you have made within those 14 days.

Both strands

If you cancel your place at any time after the expiry of the 14-day period you will not be entitled to a refund.

You need to purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred.

If you wish to cancel your place on the summer school you must inform the Programme Administrator by email at literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk

OUDCE reserves the right to alter details of any course should illness or any other emergency prevent a tutor from teaching, and to cancel a course or seminar if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable.

Course aims

Each seminar has its own course aim and objectives.

Teaching methods

Students will attend a lecture programme.

Elements of seminar teaching will normally include:

  • mini lectures by tutors;
  • tutor-led class discussions;
  • small group activities; and
  • individual student presentations.

Students will attend short tutorials with their tutors to receive feedback on their written work.

Learning outcomes

Each seminar has its own learning outcomes.

Assessment methods

Tutors will monitor and assess students’ contribution to class discussions.

Students are expected to submit an assignment of 2,000-3,000 words in length for assessment for each seminar taken.

Application

Before you submit your application

  • ensure you meet the admissions requirements (see "Selection criteria", below);
  • check the seminar timetable carefully to ensure that your first and second choice courses do not run at the same time (graduate applicants only);
  • make sure you have all the required supporting documents listed below;
  • ensure you are familiar with the terms and conditions of enrolment on the summer school, especially those relating to payment of fees and cancellations (see "Payment", above); and
  • read the 'Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements' (see "Level and demands", below).

The application process - undergraduate strand

Download, print and complete the application form (undergraduate strand).

Please ensure all sections are completed fully, clearly, and in BLOCK CAPITALS.

Non-native speakers of English should provide evidence of English language proficiency.

Applications should be emailed to: literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk

Application deadline

Applications will be processed on a first come, first served or rolling basis until 1 May 2022.

Subject to the availability of places, late applications may be accepted until 1 June 2022.

After you have submitted your application

Applicants will normally be offered a place by email from literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk within 14 days of their application having been received.

Applicants who are offered a place on the summer school must respond in writing within 14 days to accept or decline the offer. In accepting an offer of a place applicants are committing to paying their programme fees in full by the due date.

Late applicants will normally be offered a place within 7 days of their application having been received, and will then have 7 days in which to accept or decline the offer.

The application process - graduate strand

Download, print and complete the application form (graduate strand).

Please ensure all sections are completed fully, clearly, and in BLOCK CAPITALS.

The form must be accompanied by:

  • A brief statement of purpose (250-300 words) detailing your academic reasons for wishing to attend the summer school. This should include what you hope to get out of the programme, and what you are likely to contribute to the intellectual life of the summer school. This may include details of literature courses you have previously taken, or the relevance of the summer school to your present course of study or professional development. If you are applying for the graduate strand of the programme it is essential that you clearly state your reasons for wishing to enrol on specific seminars.
  • In the case of non-native speakers of English, official evidence of English language proficiency.

Applications should be emailed to: literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk

After you have submitted your application

You will receive an email from literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk confirming receipt of your application materials, and informing you when your application will be reviewed by the admissions panel.

Application deadlines

This summer school operates a gathered field closing date system by which applications are reviewed fairly and equally in batches at specific dates throughout the admissions period rather than on a first come, first served or rolling basis.

There is a limited number of places available on every seminar within each gathered field, and in assigning successful applicants to seminar groups the admissions panel will pay particular attention to applicants' personal statements.

There are three deadlines for applications:

  • Gathered field 1 - 1 March 2022
  • Gathered field 2 - 1 April 2022
  • Gathered field 3 - 1 May 2022

Subject to the availability of places, late applications may be considered on a first come, first served basis until 1 June 2022.

Notification of the admission panel's decision

Applicants will normally be notified of the panel's decision by email from literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk within 14 days of the relevant gathered field deadline.

Applicants who are offered a place on the summer school must respond in writing within 14 days to accept or decline the offer. In accepting an offer of a place applicants are committing to paying their programme fees in full by the due date.

Late applicants will be notified within 7 days of their materials having been received, and successful applicants will then have 7 days in which to accept or decline the offer of a place.

Enrolment - both strands

Students will be formally enrolled on the summer school once they have accepted their offer of a place.

The enrolment process includes the issuing of invoices, which will be emailed to students together with full instructions for payment (see "Payment", above).

Students will be required to provide four photographs (UK passport-sized - ie 4.5cm high x 3.5cm wide), with their full name printed on the back of each. The photographs should be posted to: English Literature Summer School, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK

Any queries?

Please contact the Programme Administrator by email at literaturesummer@conted.ox.ac.uk

Level and demands

Participants are expected to

  • undertake preparatory reading in advance of the programme;
  • attend all seminar sessions and lectures;
  • be actively engaged with their seminar topics;
  • submit an assignment of 2,000-3,000 words in length for each seminar taken; and
  • undertake approximately 96 hours of private study during the programme (elements of private study will include: reading and other preparation between seminar meetings, work in libraries, writing papers, etc).

Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements

European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss nationals (excludes Irish nationals) 

You do not need a visa to enter the UK to participate in the summer school. You can enter as a visitor for up to 6 months by using your passport or identity card at the eGates. Note that from 1 October 2021, you will not be able to use your identity card and will need to show your passport; this is explained on the UK Government website. The Programme Administrator will provide all non-UK students with a standard format pdf letter by email confirming enrolment and course details once their fees have been paid in full which you should keep in your hand luggage in case you are ever asked any questions on arrival. If you have pre-settled or settled status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme this paragraph does not apply. 

Non-EEA nationals 

a. Nationals from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, USA 

If you hold a passport from one of these countries you can enter via the eGates as a visitor for up to 6 months. However, you should still keep the standard format pdf letter we will provide you in your hand luggage in case of any queries, or in case you need to attend a staffed desk if the eGates are not working or if the eGates cannot recognise the chip in your passport. 

b. Other non-EEA nationals 

You may need to apply for a visa before coming to the UK depending on which passport you hold. You can check if you need a visa before coming to the UK on the UK Government website 

  • If the website shows that you require a visa: you must apply for a visitor visa before coming to the UK. Please check current visa processing times to find out how long getting a visa might take in the country you are applying from. 

  • If the website shows that you do not require a visa: you will still need to bring certain documents to show at the border in order to be admitted as a visitor

If you are not a national in section a. we strongly recommend that you establish whether you will require a visa before submitting your application.

You should ensure your summer school application is submitted as early as possible to allow yourself sufficient time to complete the visa application process.

The Programme Administrator will provide all non-UK students with a standard format pdf letter by email confirming enrolment and course details once their fees have been paid in full.

For legal reasons the Programme Administrator is not permitted to provide any visa advice to applicants. You can find information about visitor visas on the University visa and immigration webpages.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have taken the necessary steps to enable you to be admitted to the UK. The university takes no responsibility for a visa being denied at any point before or during a course.

If you fail to attend the course and are from a nationality that require a visa before coming to the UK, we may need to contact the Home Office if we have issued you with a standard format pdf letter for visa purposes to cancel this visa.

Please note that the standard cancellation policy applies in all cases. (See "Cancellations", above.)

Disabled students (including those with mobility difficulties)

The aim of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE) is to treat all students equally and welcomes applications from people with disabilities. Individuals' needs are taken into account as far as possible, providing reasonable adaptations and assistance within the resources available. We ask that people let us know of any disability or special need (confidentially if required) so that we can help them participate as fully as possible.

When applying for OUDCE's college-based summer schools, prospective students with mobility difficulties or visual or hearing impairments may want to make preliminary enquiries to the Programme Administrator, as the age and layout of these colleges often makes them user-unfriendly (although adaptations are often possible). Oxford, as an ancient city, tends to be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities. The number of very old buildings, designed in an age less sensitive to issues of disability, makes access to much of the city centre difficult. However, OUDCE will do as much as it is able to make study with the department possible.

Applicants should contact us if they will have problems gaining access to a bedroom or a teaching room that is located on upper or basement floors.

Selection criteria

This is an intensive programme of study taught to an informed international audience. Applicants should be confident that they are academically and linguistically prepared for such a programme.

Academic requirements

Undergraduate strand

Applications are welcomed from anyone aged 18 and over having an interest in serious engagement with English literature.

Graduate strand

Applications are welcomed from:

  • graduates with an academic background in English literature or a related subject; and
  • teachers of English literature in schools and colleges.

English language requirements

As students are expected to participate fully in seminar discussions and are required to produce written work it is important that applicants can demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in the four language skills - listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Applicants for whom English is not their first language must provide evidence of their proficiency in the form of an original certificate or a certified copy that is not more than two years old on the date the summer school starts. These applicants must satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • IELTS Academic - minimum overall score of 6.5, with not less than 6.5 in each of the four components

  • TOEFL iBT - minimum overall score of 100, with not less than 25 in each of the four components

  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) - grade C or above.

    For further information on English language qualifications:

  • Click here for IELTS

  • Click here for TOEFL

  • Click here for CAE

However, non-native speakers of English who have successfully completed a full-time degree-level programme at a university where English is the language of instruction or who have significant business and professional experience in an English-speaking environment may not need to provide a certificate of English language qualification. Please contact the Programme Administrator for further details.

Accommodation

Location

Founded in 1314, Exeter College is one of Oxford University's oldest colleges and is situated in a prime city centre location.

Bedrooms and meals

Students who choose to attend the summer school on a residential basis will have a single study bedroom.

Bedrooms are located up the four to nine floors of a staircase; bath and/or shower and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. A limited number of rooms have private bathroom facilities (shower and toilet) and these are available for a higher fee. Early application for these rooms is essential.

Students cannot be accommodated at Exeter College either prior to or beyond their programme dates. Family members and/or friends who are not enrolled on this summer school cannot be accommodated in college.

Residential students will take meals in the college's dining hall. All meals are self-service with a range of options available. The only exceptions are the summer school's opening and closing dinners, which are formal served set menu meals. Should applicants have any dietary requirements (eg vegetarian, gluten-free) they are required to complete the relevant section on the application form.

Please be aware that accommodation at Exeter College is limited and may not be available for those who submit their applications towards the end of the admissions period.

Non-residential students

Students who choose to attend the summer school on a non-residential basis are responsible for finding their own accommodation. Information on accommodation in Oxford is available at:

No meals are provided for non-residential students, except the summer school's opening and closing dinners.

IT requirements

Although it is not required, most students bring a laptop to Oxford to assist them with their studies.

For residential students, wireless internet access is available in all bedrooms; for all students, wireless access is available in communal spaces of the college.

All students will be eligible to use the computers and printer in Exeter College's computer room.