English and Joint Schools
The College normally admits six or seven students per year for the courses involving English. It has a particularly strong tradition in English and Modern Languages. Please note that though deferred applications (i.e. for two years ahead of when you apply) are not accepted for the English sole course (English Language and Literature), they are for all the joint courses.
Studying English at Queen’s means joining a lively community of students and tutors who will encourage and support you as you encounter, read, and think about texts and ideas—some which may be familiar to you, others entirely new—from across the period range offered by the Oxford course.
The BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature at Oxford is a three-year degree. Its distinctive feature is its historical breadth: you will finish your degree having studied the full range of English literature, with compulsory papers ranging from 650 to the present day, and more specialised optional papers (in previous years these have included, for example, ‘Intersections between Language and Literature’, ‘The Icelandic Saga’, ‘From Beowulf to Lancelot’, ‘Literature and Science, 1800-Present’, ‘Children’s Literature’, ‘Post-War British Drama’, ‘The American Novel After 1945’, ‘Film Criticism’, ‘Postcolonial Literature’ and ‘Comparative Literature’). The first year course consists of four papers. ‘An Introduction to English Language and Literature’ is designed to introduce you to the disciplines of English Language and English Literature, and to a variety of approaches to literary criticism and work on the English language. The other three papers cover distinct periods of English literary history: 650-1350, 1830-1910 and 1910-present day. In the second and third years of your degree, you take further period papers, a paper on Shakespeare, choose specialist optional papers and write a dissertation. If you are taking English with another subject, you’ll study roughly half the English degree, and there is the opportunity to combine your subjects in certain papers.
Most papers are taught through a combination of Faculty lectures, and Queen’s or inter-collegiate classes (small groups) and tutorials (groups of two or three). For example, a typical period paper will be taught over one term, and made up of six tutorials, for which you will write a weekly essay, four classes on history and context, for which you will be asked to prepare assigned reading, and lectures in the Faculty, which you choose yourself, with guidance from your tutor. If you are taking English with another subject, you may take a paper over two terms, alternating between your subjects weekly. While period papers are assessed by examination, other papers—the first-year ‘Introduction to English Language and Literature’ paper, the final-year Shakespeare, special option and dissertation papers—are assessed by extended essay or portfolio. Queen’s awards an annual prize, the JA Scott Prize, for the student with the highest Finals result in English or History and their joint schools.
Queen’s Library is one of the most beautiful in the University, with an exceptionally rich collection of rare books. We regularly use these books for teaching, and you will be able to spend time with first editions of works by some of the greatest writers in English, including Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. Oxford’s English Faculty is the largest in the country, with an excellent library and electronic resources—located just ten minutes’ walk from Queen’s. The University’s research library, the Bodleian, is five minutes away.
Queen’s also provides plenty of opportunities for students to explore their literary interests beyond their tutorials. We have a literary society that meets at least once a term, a creative writing journal, The Rambler, a film society, and a drama society, The Eglesfield Players. The English students and tutors get together as a group for several events during the year, including for our annual early modern play reading and medieval Yule Feast.
As at all colleges, candidates are required to submit a UCAS form and a sample of written work (which should normally be regular marked schoolwork, and should not have been rewritten after marking). It should be an analytical discussion of a topic or topics in the field of English literature; an English language topic is permissible, but candidates should carefully consider the criteria set out on the Faculty of English admissions pages, and submit the work they believe can best demonstrate those qualities. We strongly recommend that the written work should not be a short timed essay or critical commentary on particular passages of text (practical criticism exercises), or a piece of creative writing. It should not exceed 2,000 words, but candidates are welcome to submit an excerpt from a longer piece if they believe it to represent their best work. Candidates for English, English and Modern Languages, Classics and English (but not History and English) are also required to sit the ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test), normally at their own school or college. The UCAS form, written work, and ELAT mark form the basis on which students are shortlisted for interview.
All shortlisted candidates will have two interviews. One will be based on discussion of a short literary text, which will be supplied half an hour before the interview. The other interview will be a general discussion of why the candidate has chosen to read English, and of literature they have read. The UCAS personal statement will often provide the starting point for the general interview. If the candidate is applying for English with another subject, they will typically have one interview in each subject, and the English interview will combine the discussion of a literary text and general discussion. It is very common for candidates to also be interviewed by another college or colleges during their stay in Oxford, in order to ensure that the best candidates gain places in the University regardless of the competition in their first choice college. The full range of criteria on which we evaluate candidates is available here: above all we are looking for candidates who demonstrate a genuine and independent love of literature, and the capacity to exchange and build on ideas.