I’m not quite sure what it is I love about English. At Queen’s, my ideas about the subject are constantly being questioned, challenged, and pushed: for me, this is the most exciting thing about studying here. Before I came to Queen’s, I enjoyed reading because it felt like a kind of conversation, and this is one idea that has endured. With exceptional tutors, eye-opening lectures and students who share my enthusiasm, the conversation has stepped out of the page and become richer than I’d ever anticipated. The attention we get here is astonishing: we have three tutors working tirelessly to help us (even sending advice from Italy and America during the vacation!). With its tour through the history of English and unusual Old English module, the Oxford course looked a little stuffy on paper. I quickly found that, in practice, it’s anything but. Here, staple texts are taught in a way that makes them feel fresh, and alongside Beowulf, Thomas Hardy and James Joyce, I’ve written about combusting chickens and gold-mining ants in the Anglo-Saxon Wonders of the East, Gertrude Stein’s mad (and brilliant) play Four Saints in Three Acts (featuring considerably more acts and saints than it advertises), and the way poetry on Twitter can crystallise reader response theory. The emphasis throughout is on precision, inspecting literature closely and thinking very hard about it. It’s not all rigorous academic work though. We’ve handled Anglo-Saxon jewellery in the Ashmolean, staged saucy sixteenth-century plays, and even tucked in to a Medieval Yule feast: English here isn’t just about books. I looked at almost all of the colleges on open day—I chose Queen’s because I thought it would be the best place to study English, and I was right.
Elaine, BA Hons English and German
English and German were my favourite subjects at school and it was indecision, maybe even greed, that led me to do a Joint Honours Course. It was only once I started the first year that I realised how well the two complemented each other. It all comes down to a love of reading and discussing literature with people who constantly exposed me to new ideas and challenges. I’ve heard people say that when you study a book you love, it ruins it, you lose the plot (no pun intended!). But when I studied my favourite Austen novel, Persuasion, it felt like I was reading it for the first time again – discovering new angles, getting to grips with the nitty gritty. What makes Oxford special to me is the element of the unusual—the opportunity to study things that are a bit off the beaten track. One memorable evening involved a talk on trolls in Icelandic mythology by our tutor in Old English and it’s funny how things that at first glance seem wholly unrelated can actually yield interesting connections. Queen’s was especially supportive of my love of cinema and it was my German tutor Charlie Louth who first suggested the idea of starting a film society, showing films in what was then our brand new Schulman Auditorium. With the help of a team of close friends we were able to put on regular foreign film screenings not only to Queen’s students but also the general public. More than anything Oxford has given me the opportunity to share and nurture my passions.