Please check the seminar timetables carefully to ensure that your first and second choice courses do not run at the same time.
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 Fellow in Medieval English at Balliol College, Oxford. 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 changed meanings when performed today. In discussions we shall focus mainly on Richard II, Henry V, Macbeth and Hamlet; there will also be allusions to many others, 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's World
Austen’s fiction is sometimes characterised as being restricted to drawing rooms and tea tables. But Austen’s world was further reaching than this would suggest. This course will allow students to read Austen alongside texts that bring to light her global politics and style. We will read Mansfield Park with Said’s Orientalism and Equiano’s Interesting Narrative. We will find out why there are so many officers in red coats in her novels, and the part the Navy had to play in the author’s life. We will discover the importance of location and travel in Austen, and how these factors create believable worlds, characters and events.
Tutor: Dr Grace Egan gained her doctorate from Wolfson College, Oxford, writing on the epistolary style of Richardson, Sterne and Burns. She has been a postdoctoral researcher on Burns, and is currently assisting with an edition of Evelyn Waugh's short 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 a Teaching Fellow in Victorian and Modern Literature at King's College London, and a former lecturer at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Her research focuses on the novel, literary realism and philosophy.
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.
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.
British and Irish Literature, 1890-Present
Theatre in Britain and Ireland has undergone a series of radical upheavals in form and function across the last two centuries. This course will trace the evolution of British and Irish theatre from 1890 up to the present day, from Oscar Wilde through Samuel Beckett up to Tim Crouch. Although we will examine a range of dramatic forms, two lines of continued concern will unify our discussion: our playwrights’ attention to the limits and new potentialities in the dramatic form; and theatre’s concern with the world of politics and social issues beyond the walls of the auditorium.
Tutor: Hannah Simpson researches and teaches modern and contemporary theatre at Oxford University. Her work has a particular focus on the representation of pain, illness, and disability onstage, and the intersection between political culture and theatre and performance.
‘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: Chelsea Haith is a DPhil candidate in contemporary literature at Wolfson College, Oxford. She is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and her research background is in postcolonial studies, gender studies, speculative fiction, literary theory, and contemporary refugee poetry.
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.