Reading Literature Critically


This course will introduce you to the key skills of English Studies, in particular close critical analysis and the use of contextual information.

In this course, we shall hone our skills of close critical analysis of prose, poetry, and drama. Through exercises in the analysis of sixteenth to twenty-first-century poems, plays, and narrative fiction in English, you will learn how to develop your opinions about literary texts into informed and convincing arguments. You will be introduced to key concepts and movements in literary criticism, and to key terms of the critical idiom. We shall also consider how placing texts in their literary, historical, and cultural contexts can help us to understand them.

Programme details

Course Begins: 25 April 2024

Please note: there will be no class on Thursday 30th May.

Week 1: What is literature?

Week 2: Analysing fiction 1: narrative voice and characterisation

Week 3: Analysing fiction 2: dialogue and monologue

Week 4: Poetic form 1

Week 5: Poetic form 2 and presentations

Week 6: Poetic form 3 and presentations

Week 7: Free Verse

Week 8: Drama

Week 9: Using the critical idiom and contextual material

Week 10: A sense of an ending

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend at least 80% of the classes on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS Points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Edward Clarke

Edward Clarke's latest collection of poems, Cherubims, was published by Kelsay Books at the end of 2022. A Book of Psalms was published by Paraclete Press in 2020. He is also the author of two works of criticism: The Vagabond Spirit of Poetry (Iff Books, 2014) and The Later Affluence of W.B. Yeats and Wallace Stevens (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). He teaches English literature and art history at numerous colleges in Oxford.

Course aims

To enable students to become more attentive, analytical, and critical readers.

Course Objectives:

  • To enable participants to gain knowledge of characteristic techniques employed in English literary texts.
  • To enable participants to understand the use of contextual information.
  • To enhance participants' skills of close critical analysis.

Teaching methods

Tutor talk followed by discussion; small group work; analyses of extracts provided.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have confidence in using the critical idiom;
  • be able to produce effective close critical analyses of literary texts;
  • have encountered a range of writing in different genres and styles.

Assessment methods

Formative: oral presentation

Summative: written comparative analysis   

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)