Study English Literature with our Oxford Summer School 2017 | Students aged 16-18
Class Summary

This course takes in a huge swathe of English Literature from the past 500 years, from Shakespeare’s The Tempest right up to modern-day metafiction. Students will be provided with the fundamental skills for literary analysis and to build on these with the introduction of more complex texts.

Students will not only learn about literary analysis and criticism, but will also learn the key to structuring a strong Oxbridge-style essay – a skill that will be of immense value in their future studies. A wide variety of different lesson styles and approaches will be used in order to keep all students engaged, including lectures, readings, drama activities, multi-media clips, textual analysis, written tasks and discussion work. Students will be expected to contribute to the class by sharing their written work and by engaging in lively in-class discussions and debates.

The first week will focus on William Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, and teach students how to approach drama as performance as well as text. As a ‘problem’ play, The Tempest spans several narrative genres, and is thus the ideal launch-pad for a discussion of different genres including comedy, romance and post-colonialism, demonstrating how approaches to Shakespeare’s work have changed over the centuries.

The second week begins with authors and texts from the Modernist period, including James Joyce, TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf, to encourage more sophisticated literary analysis including consideration of narrative form and structure and use of criticism to inform interpretation. The week will conclude with a discussion of postmodern literature, including Kurt Vonnegut and Tim O’Brien, looking at how modernism led into postmodernism over the course of the 20th century. A particular highlight of the second week is the chance to engage in an Oxford-style tutorial discussion, which will hone your ability to present and justify your arguments in a highly effective and challenging context.

Expectations/Prerequisites

Students of this class will have in common a love of reading and a curiosity about literature. Students should have some familiarity with Shakespeare’s language (though not necessarily any formal schooling) and a desire to read a lot during these two weeks.

Suggested Reading

Students who are interested in exploring some background reading before taking this class may wish to look at any of the following, though it is by no means essential and the course will not rely on students having done so:

  • Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which will be studied in depth in the first week of the course
  • Any of Shakespeare’s comedies: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing or As You Like it are all good fun;
  • Modernist literature: Joyce’s Dubliners or Virginia Woolf’s short fiction are particularly accessible;
  • David Bradshaw’s A Concise Companion to Modernism;
  • Peter Barry’s Beginning Theory, for students who want a challenge.