English Literature Summer School 2016

Course summary

  • Sun 03 Jul 2016 to Sat 23 Jul 2016
  • Held at Exeter College, Oxford
  • Residential (Standard) - £2,875; Residential (En suite) - £3.135; Non-residential - £1,270
  • Course code O15I050JDR
  • ipenglit@conted.ox.ac.uk
  • Closed to new applications

English Literature Summer School 2016


The English Literature Summer School examines a variety of significant literary figures and movements from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day.

The academic programme consists of

  • a daily lecture programme given by leading scholars and distinguished speakers; and
  • study in small interactive seminar groups with specialist tutors.

Graduate applicants choose two seminars from:

  • Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture
  • Shakespeare and Politics: Then and Now
  • The English Romantic Poets
  • Jane Austen
  • Victorian Fiction
  • Modernist Fiction
  • Contemporary Fiction.

Undergraduate students take two mandatory courses: Critical Reading and Shakespeare on Stage and Screen.

Each seminar has two two-hour meetings per week, and classes will usually contain no more than 12 students.

Contact hours

The programme provides a minimum of 46.5 contact hours, comprising

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

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.

Please note that most of these activities incur additional costs, which are payable by students in Oxford.

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


PDF document  Please refer to our 2016 timetable

Seminar options


Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture

The Anglo-Saxon period has been seen as a dark age, full of superstition and ignorance, but this course will argue the opposite; that the Anglo-Saxons were imaginative and sophisticated, able to create literature and artworks that can still stimulate the imagination over a millennium later. We shall explore such seminal works as the epic Beowulf, elegies, riddles, and religious poems. Alongside these texts with their evocative descriptions of lively court life and rich religious activity, we shall scrutinise works of art, including the Sutton Hoo treasures, Ruthwell Cross, and illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. Setting the literature against its complex backdrop will allow deeper insights into the many layers of meaning.

Tutor: Dr Janina Ramirez is Course Director for the Undergraduate Certificate and Diploma in the History of Art at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. She also writes and presents documentaries for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); her latest book, on the private lives of Anglo-Saxon saints, was published in 2015.

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 - notably Richard II, Richard III and Macbeth - and speculate on Shakespeare’s contribution to Sir Thomas More. We shall then consider the titles that can have political dimensions today, such as Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice.

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 is Lecturer in English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

Jane Austen

In this course we shall be reading the work of Jane Austen with close critical attention in order to explore the qualities that have kept her 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 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.

Tutor: Dr Sandie Byrne is University Lecturer in English at Oxford University and a Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford, as well as Director of the Oxford University 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. On this course we shall examine three of their masterpieces: Great Expectations, The Mill on the Floss and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. As well as discussing the books’ central themes, the course will pay close attention to their structure and use of language.

Tutor: Dr David Grylls is a tutor for Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford. His publications include books on Charles Dickens, George Gissing and Victorian parent-child relationships. He reviews contemporary fiction for The Sunday Times and critical books for the Times Literary Supplement.

Modernist Fiction

The broad range of novels and stories produced in the Modernist era was pivotal in introducing fundamental ideals of innovation and retrenchment into English fiction. Authors as diverse as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield shared a commitment to challenging prevailing narrative techniques, while at the same time seeking to realign their work with literary traditions as they found them. By examining some key prose fiction - Mrs Dalloway, Dubliners and Collected Stories- within the wider framework of their authors’ other books, and those of their contemporaries, this course aims to demonstrate the major premises motivating the Modernists’ endeavour, showing how they differed from their predecessors, and what effect their writing has had on fiction of the succeeding century.

Tutor: Dr John Ballam is Director of the Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. His research specialism is in the late-Victorian and Modernist periods.

Contemporary Fiction

This course will explore the vitality and variety of 21st-century British fiction. Dominant themes - fascination with the past, concerns about the future, and response to diversity and change in British society - will be traced. Favoured stylistic approaches, from pastiche to near-documentary, will be examined. A selection of outstanding novels of recent years will be discussed in order to display the individual, exciting and innovative ways in which prominent British novelists are writing. We shall focus on Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, Jim Crace’s Harvest, David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Marina Lewycka’s Two Caravans, Sarah Waters’s The Night Watch, and Ian McEwan’s Solar.

Tutor: Peter Kemp is the Chief Fiction Reviewer for The Sunday Times and a Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford.


Critical Reading

Close critical analysis is the basis of the study of literature. We shall look at a selection of texts from the 19th to 21st centuries, both poetry and prose, paying attention to aspects of language and form, and using key concepts and terms of the critical idiom, in order to develop and hone the skills required for an attentive, effective, critical analysis of literary texts.

Tutor: Dr Sandie Byrne is University Lecturer in English at Oxford University and a Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford, as well as Director of the Oxford University English Literature Summer School. She is the author of a number of books and articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.

Shakespeare on Stage and Screen

In this seminar we shall explore the many different ways in which Shakespeare can be performed on stage and screen. While referring to a wide range of titles, we shall focus our discussion on interpretations of three plays - Twelfth Night, Henry V and Hamlet. Viewing extracts from British and American Shakespeare films, we shall investigate 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.


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.

Please note that, 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.



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 standard 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. Breakfast and lunch are self-service with a range of options available. Dinner is a served set menu meal: should applicants have any dietary requirements (eg vegetarian, gluten-free) they are required to complete the relevant section on the application form.

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:


Students will be enrolled as readers at Oxford University`s main reference library, the Bodleian. They will also have access to the Continuing Education Library: the English Faculty Library will be closed for major building work during Summer 2016.

IT facilities

All students will be eligible to use the computers and printer in Exeter College's computer room. For residential students, wireless internet access is available in all bedrooms; for all students, wireless access is available in communal spaces of the college.



Programme fees

  • Residential: Standard - shared bathroom facilities - £2,875
    Fees include tuition; 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 2016 inclusive; meals in hall from dinner on Sunday 3 July to breakfast on Saturday 23 July 2016 (except lunch on Saturdays and Sundays).
  • Residential: En suite - private shower and toilet - £3,135
    Fees include tuition; 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 2016 inclusive; meals in hall from dinner on Sunday 3 July to breakfast on Saturday 23 July 2016 (except lunch on Saturdays and Sundays).
  • Non-residential - £1,270
    Fees include tuition; 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 2016, respectively.

Please note that 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 posted 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 are expected to take out vacation cancellation insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs (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: by email if paid online, or by post if paid by bank transfer.

If you are a non-EEA student you will receive a letter confirming your enrolment and course details which may be used to support your application for a short-term study visa: this letter will be sent by post (see 'Level and demands', above).


All enrolments are subject to OUDCE's Terms and Conditions for Course Registration and Fee Payment

A contract between OUDCE and a student comes into being when an offer of a place on the summer school is made.

You have the right to cancel this contract at any time within 14 days, beginning on the day you received the offer, by declining the offer of a place.

Please be aware that if you cancel your place at any time after the expiry of the 14-day period you will not be entitled to a refund of the price paid for the summer school.

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

You are expected to take out vacation cancellation insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs, and you should consult your travel agent and/or insurer for information and advice. Please note that OUDCE does not provide any insurance cover.

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.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 15 April 2016. If it is likely that individual seminars or the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days, and possible options clearly explained.

If you have not heard from OUDCE by 22 April 2016, you should assume that the course and your seminars will be running; there is no need to contact us to confirm. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.


Before you submit your application

  • ensure you meet the admissions criteria (see 'Level and demands', above);
  • 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', above).

The application process

Click here to download the application form

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

The form must be accompanied by:

  • A brief statement of purpose (350-400 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.
  • Copies of your university transcripts. These must be in English.
  • In the case of non-native speakers of English, official evidence of English language competency.
  • A letter of recommendation, ideally from a person who knows your academic work, though in the case of those no longer engaged in courses of academic study, recommendations from other sources (eg your employer or head teacher) will be accepted. A reference from a family member is not acceptable. Please note that the letter of recommendation must refer specifically to your application to the Oxford University English Literature Summer School.

Please note that incomplete applications will not be considered.

Applications should be posted to: English Literature Summer School, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK

You may wish to send your application by a courier service or registered post for speed and/or security of delivery.

Please note that we are currently unable to receive applications by email or fax.

After you have submitted your application

You will receive an email from ipenglit@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

Oxford University 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 graduate-level course 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 December 2015
  • Gathered field 2 - 1 February 2016
  • Gathered field 3 - 1 April 2016

Subject to the availability of places, late applications may be considered on a first come, first served basis until 1 May 2016.

Notification of the admission panel's decision

Applicants will normally be notified of the panel's decision by email from ipenglit@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.

Please note that 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.


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 posted to students together with full instructions for payment (see 'Payment', above).

Further course information

Students will receive the following information by email from ipenglit@conted.ox.ac.uk prior to the summer school:

  • In March 2016 - academic and course information, including detailed course content and required preparatory reading*
  • In March 2016 - joining instructions, containing a wealth of practical information to assist students as they prepare to travel to to the summer school (eg how to get to Oxford, arrangements at Exeter College)*
  • In April 2016 - details of the lecture programme
  • In May 2016 - details of the social programme
  • In June 2016 - confirmation of arrival day arrangements.

*Successful gathered field 3 applicants will receive this information on enrolment.

Any queries?

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

Level and demands

Who is the programme for?

Main (graduate) programme:

  • Graduates with a subject-appropriate academic background
  • Teachers of English in schools and colleges

Undergraduate strand:

  • Senior undergraduates who have completed two years of a full-time university degree course in English literature


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.

Participants are expected to

  • undertake preparatory reading in advance of the programme;
  • attend all lectures and relevant seminar sessions;
  • be actively engaged with their seminar topics;
  • submit an assignment of 2000-3000 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).

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 competency 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:

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.

Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements

If you are an European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national you do not need a visa to enter the UK to participate in the summer school. You are free to enter the UK as long as you show your EEA or Swiss passport on arrival.

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national, you may need to apply for a visa to enter the UK depending on which passport you hold. Click here to check whether you require a visa

If the system shows that you require a visa: you should apply for a short-term study visa, which allows students over the age of 18 to study either part-time or full-time for up to 6 months in the UK - click here for details

If the system 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 short-term student - click here for details

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national we strongly recommend that you establish whether you will require a visa before submitting your application. Please check current visa processing times to find out how long getting a visa might take in the country you are applying from. Please note that 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-EEA students with a standard format letter confirming enrolment and course details once their fees have been paid in full.

Please note that, for legal reasons, the Programme Administrator is not permitted to provide any visa advice to applicants: all such enquiries should be submitted to Oxford University’s student visa and immigration advisers via email at student.immigration@admin.ox.ac.uk

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, or to the college dining hall (which is reached via a flight of stairs).