Students select two tutorial courses each semester from a wide range of options. A tutorial is a weekly meeting of one or, very occasionally two students, with the tutor responsible for a particular area of study. The tutorial is a creative and flexible teaching method that enables the teacher to adapt a course to the precise requirements of a particular student, and to give that student individual attention and supervision.

An illuminated manuscript

At the weekly meeting with each tutor, the student presents a formal essay, based on reading in primary and secondary sources. The tutor will point the student to the most important books and articles relevant to a topic, while also encouraging initiative and judgement in their selection.

The preparation and writing of an essay is a time-consuming and exacting process, so the student must be prepared to devote the greater part of each week to this work. The purpose of this exercise is not merely to test a student’s ability to amass facts, but to develop powers of critical analysis so that they can identify and interpret significant information and present facts and conclusions in a clear and precise form.

Browse the comprehensive list of tutorials currently available.

American Studies

Arabic

Tutorials are available in both Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic. The nature of the tutorial will depend on the level and needs of each individual student.

Note that Arabic is offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  You will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process. 

View in the Course Database.

Chinese

Tuition in Chinese can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests.

Note that Chinese is offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners. You will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

View in the Course Database.

Classics

Ancient Greek is offered at every level, including beginners.  It involves the study of grammar, syntax and readings from classical Greek literature.  The precise nature of the tutorial will depend on the skills and needs of each individual student.

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This course explores the history of the Greek states - especially Athens and Sparta - during the fifth century BCE.  This was a period of political rivalry and experimentation within Greece, and a series of confrontations and/or negotiations with the massive might of the Persian Empire. This period is deeply engaging in itself, and has exercised a perennial fascination in subsequent thought, not least because of the historical writings of Herodotus and Thucydides.   

Sample topics

  • The polis
  • The Persian Wars
  • Persians and Greeks
  • The Delian League and the Peloponnesian War
  • Comedy, tragedy and Athenian politics
  • Historiography: Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon
  • Art and architecture
  • Economic life

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This course explores the history of the Roman Empire from the first emperor, Augustus (died 14AD), until Hadrian (117-138AD).  It considers political, social, cultural and economic questions, as well as foreign wars and diplomacy, during the height of the Empire’s power and prestige. Sources include writings by Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus and Pliny (read in translation), complemented by material evidence such as Trajan’s column, Hadrian’s wall, and the buried city of Pompeii.  

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One of the most enduring legacies of the Classical Age was the contribution to art and architecture made by the Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman worlds. This course brings together the full range of visual and material culture that survives from these periods to examine an array of themes, set against the wider historical and archaeological context of continuity and change in the Mediterranean basin and beyond.

In these tutorials a range of artistic media may be studied, including statuary, relief sculpture, funerary monuments, mosaics, wall paintings, painted vases, jewellery, gems, coinage, and buildings. The uses of image, expressions of identity and power, and cultural influence and change are just a few of the themes which will be explored through an examination of the styles and traditions seen to have developed in the use of these materials.

In particular, buildings are some of the most impressive and best preserved ‘artefacts’ from the ancient world, and whose design was highly symbolic of the society within which they were built. From palaces, temples, and public buildings such as stoas, fora, basilicas, and bathhouses, to domestic buildings, the technology, materials, styles, ornament, and functions of Classical architecture provide substantial insight into ancient daily life, class structures, identity, and the culture of display.

The Ashmolean Museum (in central Oxford, five minutes’ walk from St Michael’s Hall) has a world-class array of artefacts which can be seen first-hand and might be brought into tutorial discussions, including in particular their collection of painted vases, and also the contents of the Cast Gallery, which houses plaster copies of many important sculptural monuments from the period.

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This course involved the careful study of grammar, syntax and readings from classical Latin literature.  It is possible to take this at any language level, including beginner.  Students’ level will be assessed as part of the pre-arrival process.

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This course charts the development of classical western philosophy from the Athenians to Augustine of Hippo, exploring the principal writers in their intellectual and historical context. At the core of this course is reading key works in translation.  The cornerstones of the western intellectual tradition are scrutinised in terms of the specific questions they address, and read as part of a continuing narrative in philosophical culture.

Sample Topics:

  • Plato, Republic, Symposium
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics
  • Plotinus, Enneads
  • Proclus, Elements of Theology
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • Lucretius, De rerum natura
  • Augustine, Confessions, City of God

View in the Course Database.

This course covers the political thought of the ancient world, from Classical Athens to the Roman Empire.  This period saw the formulation of fundamental elements in political thought: the state, justice, citizenship, notions of democracy, aristocracy and monarchy, and the concept of politics in itself. At the end of the period, Augustine of Hippo integrated elements of classical political thought into his Christian theology. Key thinkers are explored with reference to their historical and intellectual context.

Sample topics

Plato, The Republic

Plato, The Laws

Aristotle, Politics

Epicurean political thought

Cicero’s political thought (On Duties and other texts)

Seneca’s political thought

Augustine, The City of God

View in the Course Database.

This course explores the religions of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  It considers religious myths, beliefs and practices in the context of the history and cultures of the classical world.  Readings include some of the most powerful texts produced in the ancient world, including those by Homer, Virgil and Ovid (in English translation). 

Sample Syllabus:

  • Ancient religion: an overview
  • The gods in Homer
  • Greek tragedy and the divine
  • Lyric poetry and divine inspiration
  • Philosophers and religion
  • The Aeneid and Rome’s gods
  • Ovid: the Metamorphoses and the Fasti

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It is sometimes possible to arrange teaching in classics beyond the tutorials listed.  This provides the opportunity to explore a subject in classics in depth, through one-to-one tutorials and writing weekly essays.

This will usually be of interest to students who have already taken  classes in classics, and have a specific interest that they wish to pursue, and/or a specific requirement that they need to fulfil. 

Please note that this is subject to agreement by both the programme and the applicant’s home institution.   Applicants should contact the Senior Tutor directly to discuss this possibility.

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The earliest texts of Western literature were created in performance by illiterate bards, and yet they offer richness and complexity in their storytelling, characterisation and moral outlook. The Iliad explores the tragedy and glory of being a hero, with martial frenzy, but also pathos and forgiveness. The Odyssey responds to the Iliad and contrasts with it, incorporating fantasy, folktale and realism, and building up to the dramatic climax of Odysseus’s revenge against the suitors of his wife Penelope.

Texts:

The Iliad

The Odyssey

Sample topics:

  1. Divine spectators and domestic dramas on Olympus
  2. Foreshadowing, flashbacks and the structure of the Iliad
  3. Gods, heroes and morality
  4. Mortal women and goddesses
  5. The heroism of Hector and Achilles
  6. The epic simile and formulaic structures
  7. Stories and story-tellers in the Odyssey
  8. The Trojan War in history and archaeology

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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The most influential ancient Greek historians are studied from a literary perspective, with the emphasis on the presentation of their narrative and the characters in it. Thucydides and Xenophon were writing about their own time, while Herodotus’ epic ‘Histories’ explores the Persian wars in the light of the distant past, with many suggestive parallels between past and present.

Texts

Herodotus, Histories Book 3

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War Book 3

Xenophon, Anabasis Books 1-4

Sample topics:

  1. Leaders and leadership in historical narrative
  2. The function of digressions in history-writing
  3. Historians’ understanding and presentation of war
  4. Religious issues and the depiction of the gods
  5. The use of speeches in historical narrative
  6. Historians’ concept of research and their presentation of their sources
  7. The extent to which women are a marginalised group in historical narrative
  8. The treatment of foreign cultures by Greek historians

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation. However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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Through the genres of history, lyric and drama, this course explores the life and thinking of fifth-century BCE Greek city-states, with new ideas about morality and identity being introduced to Athens by the Sophists, while some hold on to the aristocratic values of the Homeric hero.

Texts:

Herodotus, Histories Books 1 and 7

Pindar, Pythian 1 and 9 and Olympian 1

Sophocles, Ajax

Euripides, Hippolytus

Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae

Sample topics:

  1. Herodotus’ approach to the differences between Greeks and barbarians
  2. Pindar’s use of myths and imagery to praise victors
  3. The treatment of the themes of community and honour in the Ajax
  4. Psychology and religion in the Hippolytus
  5. Gender politics and the relationship between comedy and tragedy in the Thesmophoriazusae
  6. How literature of the 5th century BCE approaches religion

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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The lyric poetry of the Greek city-states of the Archaic period embraces a great variety of styles, with performance ranging from the public realm to the intimate setting of the symposium. The poems address themes from the very personal and intimate to the great questions which face the state.

Texts:

Semonides, Sappho, Alcaeus, Theognis, Solon and Anacreon from M.L. West, Greek Lyric Poetry

Pindar Olympian 1 and Pythian 1

Sample topics:

  1. Semonides portrayal of women in Fragment 7 in the context of its time
  2. The personal and introspective nature of Sappho’s poetry
  3. Sappho and Alcaeus’ use of Homeric themes
  4. Theognis on men, gods and morality
  5. Solon’s political poetry
  6. Anacreon’s use of style, structure and form to convey experiences
  7. The theme of excellence in Pindar’s victory odes
  8. Pindar’s use of myths

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

View in the Course Database.

Greek tragedy is a genre that exemplified the artistic achievement of Athenian democracy in in the fifth century BCE, from the victory over the Persians at Marathon to the Peloponnesian War. The plays were performed to the citizens of this radical democracy and engaged with themes which were at the heart of the state. However, they went beyond politics to address fundamental questions about ethics, religion, and the gods. In the Frogs Aristophanes makes fun of Aeschylus and Euripides, but he makes a serious point, too: it is through watching plays and thinking about them that men become better citizens.

Texts:

Aeschylus, The Oresteia

Sophocles, Oedipus the King, Antigone

Euripides, Medea, Electra

Aristophanes, Frogs

 Sample topics:

  1. The theme of justice in the Oresteia
  2. Mortals and gods in the plays of Euripides
  3. The role of the chorus in Greek  tragedy
  4. The theme of leadership in Greek tragedy
  5. Women in the family and state
  6. The individual, family and the state
  7. The mythical past and fifth-century Athens
  8. The audience’s expectations of tragedy in the Frogs

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

View in the Course Database.

This course examines Latin literature in the first century BCE, universally regarded as a high point in Roman culture, with authors such as Lucretius, Cicero, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Propertius.  Major themes include the influence of preceding Greek literature, the place of women in society and texts, questions of politics, patronage and power, and the relation between Latin literature and philosophy and religion. The ‘book’ both as a technological and artistic fact is also an important area of interest in the period. These key authors also of course provoke study of more purely literary matters: questions of style, imagery, symbolism, allegory, convention, originality and so on.

Set texts:

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1

Cicero, Pro Archia

Catullus, 64 and 68

Virgil, Eclogues

Horace, Odes 3

Propertius 4

Topics:

  1. The Eclogues and the politics of their time
  2. Lucretius: poetry and philosophy
  3. What Cicero’s Pro Archia tells us about the value of poetry in his society or about being a Greek in Rome
  4. The role of the poet in these texts
  5. The landscapes and people of Italy in literature of the 1st century BC
  6. The moral outlook of these texts
  7. Catullus’ use of myths
  8. Different approaches to love 

Note that there is no language requirement for this course: texts are studied in translation.  However, for students with the required language skills it is also possible to study these texts in the original.  Please contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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This course covers the grammar, syntax and vocabulary of New Testament Greek.  It is possible to take this at any language level, including beginner.  Students’ level will be assessed as part of the pre-arrival process.

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This course examines the history of Roman state and society from the final decades of the republic to the establishment of Augustus’s regime.  This was a period of tremendous social, political and military confrontations, as the republic overcame external opponents, while consuming itself in internal conflict. It also saw tremendous intellectual creativity, and students are able to explore writings (in translation) by public figures such as Cicero, Caesar and Sallust. 

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This course explores history as a literary genre and examines its presentation of events and characters through description and speeches. Caesar wrote about his own experiences campaigning in Gaul, and his presentation of these events was intended as much to further his ambitions as to provide an account for posterity. Sallust and Tacitus drew on sources to record events from the past, but the present time and its political controversies were never far from their minds.

Set texts:

Livy, Book 1

Tacitus, Annals Book 15

Caesar, The Gallic War Book 7

Sallust, The Jugurthine War

Sample topics:

  1. The treatment of myths and the distant past
  2. The presentation of war in Roman historians
  3. Attitudes towards foreign people and cultures
  4. Historians’ presentation and treatment of their sources
  5. Historians’ use of rumour and hearsay and their presentation of conspiracy
  6. The presentation of different social classes
  7. The presentation of the role of women in historical events
  8. The characterisation of protagonists
  9. Historians’ attitudes to political questions

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

View in the Course Database.

Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ describes the epic journey of the Trojan hero Aeneas to found a new race in Italy. The epic owes much to the Iliad, Odyssey and other literature, but also reflects the concerns of Augustan Rome. Aeneas’ doomed love-affair with Dido in Book 4 is an emotional climax, while Aeneas’ visit to the ghosts in the Underworld looks forward to the eventual greatness of Rome. The gods are constantly present, as they are involved in forging the destiny of the Romans.

Sample topics:

  1. Masculine and feminine points of view
  2. The poet’s use of characterisation to tell his story
  3. Religion and the gods
  4. The role of cities
  5. The presentation of death and the significance of the Underworld
  6. Trojan, Roman and Greek culture and values
  7. The structure of the epic
  8. The morality of war

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

View in the Course Database.

Comparative Literature

This course studies selected verse and prose in Middle English, from the later middle ages.  These can include ‘Patience’, ‘Pearl’, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, ‘Piers Plowman’, ‘Saints’ Lives of the Katherine Group’ and ‘Ancrene Wisse’.

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This is an introduction to Old English language, including grammar, syntax and vocabulary, using readings from the corpus of Old English poetry and prose.

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This course studies the language of Middle High German, though medieval texts such as the ‘Parzifal’.  Students must have at least high intermediate modern German before taking this course.  The precise nature of the tutorial will depend on the skills and needs of the individual student.

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This course studies the language of Old French, though medieval texts such as the ‘Chanson de Roland’.  Students must have at least high intermediate modern French before taking this course.  The precise nature of the tutorial will depend on the skills and needs of the individual student.

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Economics

English and American Literature

This tutorial examines British children’s literature from its origins in early printed books through to the present day. The study of children’s literature serves as a testing ground for important questions about the acts of imaginative empathy demanded by literature, and the ethics of authorial influence. It also allows us to interrogate the assumptions we make about children and childhood, especially as connected to innocence, playfulness, naivety, freedom and creativity. We will explore primary texts in detail, and analyse some of the critical frameworks which help us to negotiate the relationship between adult and child, including narratology, postcolonial theories and feminist critiques.

There are three interrelated possible strands to our work in this tutorial. We may explore the origins of children’s literature in fairy tales and folklore (including in translation) and the development into print; the notion of ‘childhood’ as a concept, especially in the period between Locke and Rousseau; and the mature genre of children’s literature which makes up a canon of modern classics. Throughout we will interrogate themes of universal importance to the study of modern literature such as familial relationships; travel and displacement; interaction with the natural world; friendship; adolescence and coming-of-age; magic and mythology; education and psychological development; religion and morality.

Sample texts might include: 

John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693)

Isaac Watts, Divine and Moral Songs for Children (c. 1715)

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience (c. 1789)

John Ruskin, The King of the Golden River (1841)

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland (1865)

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1881)

Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince (1888)

Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894), Just-So Stories (1902)

Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)

Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (1905)

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908)

Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Eagle of the Ninth (1954)

Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

Philip Pullman, Northern Lights (1995)

Prohibited combination: this tutorial cannot be taken alongside the Inklings tutorial or seminar.

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This tutorial explores the rich seam of British travel writing from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century.  This was a period when changes in transport technology, political circumstances, and cultural attitudes, allowed people from the British Isles to travel as never before: within Britain, across Europe, and the wider world. The genre of travel writing flourished in these circumstances.  Notable examples include Lady Mary Wortley Montagu Turkish Embassy Letters (1716-1718), Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775), Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (1839). Travel also became a major preoccupation in fiction, for instance with Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726), or Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899).

 

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Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1340-c.1400) was the most important author to write in Middle English. This course delves into works from all periods of his life, ranging across genre and style, including celebrated classics such as ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ and ‘The Canterbury Tales’, as well as less familiar writings. Chaucer’s style, his politics, his erudition, and his comedy are explored within the contexts of fourteenth-century literary culture. Close readings of individual texts are built into a consolidated survey of his lasting achievement and the legacy he bequeathed to future generations of writers.

Sample Topics:

  • The early dream visions
  • selected prose writings
  • Troilus and Criseyde
  • The Legend of Good Women
  • The Romance of the Rose
  • The Canterbury Tales

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During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, chivalry developed as a distinct set of sensibilities within the western European elite.  Chivalric values were martial, Christian, noble, and masculine.  They did not remain static, but over time became increasingly highly elaborated, more courtly, and more intensely Christian.  These social and cultural attitudes were formulated, explored and at times critiqued in the epic and romance vernacular literature of this period, in particular the Arthurian cycle, and the Matter of France.  This course explores that literature in social and cultural context.

Sample Topics

  • La Chanson de Roland
  • Marie de France, Lais
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances
  • Raoul de Cambrai
  • Wolfran von Escehenbach, Parzival
  • Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan
  • The Poem of The Cid
  • The Lancelot-Grail Cycle

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The course explores the many types, styles and intentions of comedy in the western European literary tradition, from the earliest Greek and Roman examples of the genre, through the transformations made in the Renaissance by Shakespeare, to the ‘classical’ variants found in Jonson and Molière. Individual works are studied for their own merits as well as the light they shed on the evolution of comedy as a force in culture.

Sample Topics:

  • Aristophanes, Clouds, Lysistrata
  • Menander, The Girl From Samos
  • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus
  • Terence, The Eunuch
  • Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing
  • Jonson, Volpone
  • Molière, The Miser


 Introductory Reading:

  • Bevis, M., Comedy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 201
  • Lowe, N.J., Comedy (New Surveys in the Classics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008
  • Salingar, L., Shakespeare and the Traditions of Comedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976

View in the Course Database.

The British novel of today is as experimental, diverse and influential as it ever has been. This course will consider some of the major themes and authors of the period from around 1980 to the present day, but can be focused on any aspect that interests tutor and student.

 Sample themes

  1. Realism and modernism
  2. Postmodernism
  3. Hyperrealism
  4. Self and society: family, class, art, politics, sport
  5. Feminism, queer theory, gender and sexuality
  6. Science, technology, and ethics
  7. Race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture
  8. Historical fiction
  9. Internationalism/Multiculturalism/Post-Colonialism
  10. History and trauma
  11. The primacy of narrative/imagination

 

Sample works

Peter Ackroyd: Hawksmoor

Martin Amis: London Fields, Time’s Arrow

JG Ballard: Crash

Pat Barker: The Ghost Road (from The Regeneration Trilogy)

Julian Barnes: Flaubert’s Parrot

AS Byatt: Possession

Angela Carter: The Bloody Chamber

Jonathan Coe: What a Carve Up!, The House of Sleep

Margaret Drabble: The Gates of Ivory (from The Radiant Way Trilogy)

Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker

Alan Hollinghurst, The Swimming Pool Library

Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go; The Unconsoled

Doris Lessing: The Good Terrorist

Penelope Lively: Moon Tiger

Hanif Kureishi: Buddha of Suburbia

Ian McEwan: Black Dogs, Atonement

WG Sebald: Rings of Saturn

Muriel Spark: A Far Cry from Kensington

Graham Swift: Waterland: Shuttlecock; Ever After

Jeanette Winterson: The Passion; Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

 

Films

Patrick Keiller: London; Robinson in Space; Robinson in Ruins

Mike Leigh: Naked

Stephen Frears: My Beautiful Laundrette

 

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This course delves into the Medieval European convention of courtly love, or amour courtois, as it was first labelled by Gaston Paris in the nineteenth century.

Sample Syllabus
  • Andreas Capellanus, On Love
  • The Romance of the Rose
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, dream visions:  Book of the Duchess; Parliament of Fowls
  • Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Filostrato (translated approximately as “laid prostrate by love”).
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
  • Christine de Pizan, The Letter of the God of Love.
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, the Knight of the Lion; Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart.
  • Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan and Isolt
  • Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca), Il Canzoniere (The Song Book)
  • Modern construction of medieval Courtly Love tropes: C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love

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This is creative writing course for those who want to write drama. The student works closely with the tutor on producing dramatic writing, with special emphasis on designing plots, planning structure and executing dialogue for plays. Some study of the history of dramatic composition is included, although the focus is on the nurturing and development of the student’s own skills and capacity to produce original work.

Sample Syllabus:

The weekly syllabus is determined by the student’s own submitted samples of writing. Each week a new submission is required – either a stand-alone play or section of a longer dramatic work-in-progress, or possibly a reflection on the practice of writing drama. The tutor’s detailed feedback then provides the basis for the following week’s assignment.

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The emergence in the eighteenth-century of a new form of writing known as the novel was perhaps the most significant and distinctive change in modern English literature. Now often taken for granted as a pre-eminent literary mode, the early novel by contrast was a source of debate and anxiety about issues of morality, propriety, sentimentality, and about the dissemination of the literary arts for mass consumption.

Eighteenth-century fictional prose writing served as a testing ground for experimental new modes, from autobiography, narratives of slavery and servitude, religious conversion testimonies and confessional writings, to bawdy, comedies of manners, erudite theology, natural philosophy, and what we now recognize as the fully-fledged modern novel. Changing conceptions of literary authority as well as innovative narrative and rhetorical techniques allowed British authors to develop new modes of fiction which reflected the experience of a vastly expanded readership across the English-speaking world.

The course explores the first practitioners of the novel, examining their experimental fictions in wider literary and cultural contexts. It also explores the sources and influences which contributed to the development of the early novel.

Sample Topics:

  • Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders
  • Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
  • Richardson, Pamela
  • Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones
  • Sarah Fielding, David Simple
  • Smollett, Peregrine Pickle
  • Sterne, Tristram Shandy
  • Burney, Evelina
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Fiction


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The dramatic modes, styles and intentions of the long eighteenth century are properly initiated in the years following the Restoration of 1660. As the Augustan era moved into the age of sensibility and pre-romanticism, the poets and playwrights of the eighteenth century responded to the evolving manners and concerns of their age with wit, style and charm, sometimes lyric, sometimes satiric, producing some of the most memorable literature in the English language.

Sample Topics

  • Vanbrugh, The Provok’d Wife
  • Congreve, The Way of the World
  • Gay, The Beggar’s Opera
  • Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Essay on Man
  • Thomson, The Seasons
  • Johnson, The Vanity of Human Wishes
  • Sheridan, The Rivals
  • Gray, selected verse
  • Collins, selected verse

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The English Renaissance is a term that has traditionally been applied to literature produced in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, although this course considers writing from the wider early modern period (c.1485-1688) written both in English and in contemporary translations from continental literature. Discussions about the poetic imagination, about identity (including gender identities, religious and political identities, and the relationship between self and group identity), and about the social and cultural impact of the literary and dramatic arts loom large across the period. Authors to study might include William Shakespeare, Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, Henry VIII, Aphra Behn, John Milton, Andrew Marvell, Francis Bacon and others.

Sample genres

Sonnets from Wyatt to Milton; lyric verse; pastoral; formal verse satire; epic, epyllia.

Romance; pamphlets; essays; travel (and fantasy) writing; literary criticism; political philosophy; translations. 

Exploring renaissance drama in all its variety. In the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.”

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It is often possible to arrange teaching in English beyond the tutorials listed.  This provides the opportunity to explore a field in depth, through one-to-one tutorials and writing weekly essays.

This will usually be of interest to students who have already taken classes in English, and have a specific interest that they wish to pursue, and/or a specific requirement that they need to fulfil. 

Please note that this is subject to agreement by both the programme and the applicant’s home institution.  Applicants should contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this possibility.

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The rise of gothic fiction in the latter part of the eighteenth century was part of a cultural and artistic revaluation of traditional conceptions of our relationship to the natural world. As Augustan notions of an ordered and benevolent Nature were challenged by the political realities of British life, including population growth, expansion of urban environments and greater awareness of global geographies, the natural world was increasingly figured as a place of sublime and even supernatural power. This course uses eighteenth and nineteenth century notions of the sublime as a starting point for exploring British writers’ vexed connections to a landscape which inspires both awe and horror.
Sample Topics may include
  • Theories of the sublime from Addison to Kant
  • Romantic sublimity and the Alps
  • Habitations and hauntings: Graveyards, ruins and ‘eternity’ in the poetic imagination
  • The Gothic wilderness in the novels of the Brontes
  • The sublime city
  • Turner and Thomson, Young and Blake: Illustrating the Romantic Landscape
  • Horror and dystopia in the natural world
  • Spots of Time: The psychology of the Gothic landscape
  • ‘Natural Supernaturalism’: Uncanny Landscapes
  • Gothic medievalism and the British Isles
  • Gothic landscapes and the monstrous feminine
  • Ecogothic: politics of Gothic Nature

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This course studies selected verse and prose in Middle English, from the later middle ages.  These can include ‘Patience’, ‘Pearl’, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, ‘Piers Plowman’, ‘Saints’ Lives of the Katherine Group’ and ‘Ancrene Wisse’.

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This is an introduction to Old English language, including grammar, syntax and vocabulary, using readings from the corpus of Old English poetry and prose.

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Despite her relatively short life, the six major novels written by Jane Austen, between 1775 and 1817, have secured her standing as one of the most significant and best loved of English novelists. This course situates her work within the wider historical and literary contexts, making reference to the Gothic and epistolary traditions, Romanticism, the French Revolution, and Mary Wollstonecraft’s proto-feminism. It complicates assumptions about Austen’s politics, encouraging students to read her as a subversive and innovative author, and asks questions about her style. In addition to the novels, this course also looks at Austen’s earliest work, which was unpublished in her lifetime, and her more recent cultural legacies.

Sample Topics
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Persuasion
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Mansfield Park
  • Emma
  • Sanditon

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The world of the medieval English stage meshes humour, violence, music, oratory, academic debate, and visions of human tenderness in pursuit of artistic, theological and ethical aims in both the spiritual and material realms. Although critically neglected, English drama before Shakespeare is sophisticated, self-reflexive and creatively meta-theatrical. Before the construction of professional theatres, plays were performed in spaces - both public and private - which were not exclusively “theatrical” but also domestic, religious, legal and commercial. Dramatic performances exploited the boundaries between art and social context, drawing the audience into the world of the play whilst foregrounding its irony and unreality. The course will explore early drama in all its variety: morality and miracle plays, mystery cycles, liturgies, farces, masques, mummers, minstrelsy and more!

Core texts:

York Mystery Plays, ed. Richard Beadle and Pamela King (Oxford World’s Classics) 

Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays, ed. A. C. Cawley (Dent/Dutton Everyman)

Three Late Medieval Morality Plays, ed. G. A. Lester (Benn/Norton)

The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, 2nd edn, ed. Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher (Cambridge University Press)

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Some of the most profound and extraordinary spiritual works of the middle ages  were written in England during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  A combination of often horrifically troubled times, the desire for new forms of religion and a new immediacy of relation with God, and socio-economic and literary change contributed to the complex and fascinating picture; but these mystics were very remarkable individuals in their own right, and advocated very different approaches to Christian living and experience.  This course therefore exploresnot only of their writings, but also of the context in which they arose.

Sample Syllabus

  • Literary & Historical Contexts
  • Richard Rolle’s Fire of Love
  • Rolle’s English Writings and Wider Influence
  • The Cloud of Unknowing
  • Dionise Hid Divinite and Other Cloud-related Treatises
  • Walter Hilton, The Scale of Perfection
  • Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love
  • Margery Kempe and her Book

 

Introductory Reading

  • Watson, N., ‘The Middle English Mystics’, in Wallace, D. (ed.), The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 539-65
  • Edwards, A.S.G. (ed.), A Companion to Middle English Prose. Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 2004
  • Sutherland, A., ‘The Middle English Mystics’, in Lemon, R. et al. (eds), The Blackwell Companion to the Bible in English Literature. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
  • Glasscoe, M. (ed.), The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England. Various publishers, 6 vols, 1980-99
  • Hudson, A. The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988
  • Windeatt, B. (ed.), English Mystics of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007

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The core of this examination of medieval romance literature focuses on canonical Middle English texts, metrical romances and the work of Malory. These are studied alongside major works in the European tradition, such as Old French and Middle High German Arthurian romances, in order to achieve the broadest possible coverage of the subject and its suggestive interrelations.

Sample Syllabus:

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances
  • Hartmann von Aue, selections
  • Gottfried von Strassburg, selections
  • Thomas Malory Morte Darthur


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This course examines examples of travel writing from various medieval European languages. Medieval people travelled widely, for a variety of reasons: trade, diplomacy, religious pilgrimage, the lure of the unknown. Some wrote fascinating accounts of their travels and adventures. These narratives are accompanied by accounts of purely imaginary voyages, and of fantastical peoples, kingdoms and marvels. 

Sample Topics

  • The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
  • Marco Polo, Travels
  • The Travels of Ibn Battuta
  • travel writings of Petrarch
  • pilgrimage narratives

 

 Introductory Reading.

  • Agapitos, P.A. and L.B. Mortensen, eds, Medieval Narratives Between History and Fiction: From the Centre to the Periphery of Europe, c.1100-1400. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013
  • Ohler, N., The Medieval Traveller. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1989
  • Tomasch, S. and S. Gilles, eds, Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997

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John Milton (1608-1674) remains one of the most supremely significant poets in the English literary canon, as well as an involved observer of the turbulent political and social upheavals of the seventeenth century. This course studies the poetic modes and genres which established his reputation to include lyric, masque, tragedy and epic, and seeks to put this achievement in literary and historical context.

Sample Topics
  • Lycidas
  • Samson Agonistes
  • Nativity Ode
  • Il Penseroso
  • L’Allegro
  • Comus
  • Areopagitica
  • Sonnets
  • Paradise Lost
  • Paradise Regaine

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At the end of the nineteenth century, theatre dominated the performing arts and encompassed a great variety of forms. Rapidly evolving stage technologies, and the development of film, radio and television have fundamentally changed the role of theatre in society and the kinds of works written for it. We will explore the nature of these changes and examine the unique aesthetic power of live performance. We will also consider television and radio drama, which (especially in the first thirty years of the BBC) was often intended to be live and not recorded.

This course consists of six broadly chronological strands and the course can be tailored to draw exclusively or mainly from one strand or be a combination of several.

Strand A. Early twentieth-century theatre

For example:

  • JM Synge: Playboy of the Western World
  • RC Sherriff: Journey’s End
  • Modernist theatre: TS Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
  • Auden and Isherwood, The Dog Beneath the Skin; The Ascent of F6.
  • Christopher Fry: The Lady’s Not for Burning
  • Noel Coward: Private Lives; Blithe Spirit

 

Strand B. The theatre of the Absurd

For example:

  • Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape; Happy Days
  • Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; Travesties
  • Heathcote Williams: AC/DC
  • Harold Pinter: The Room; The Birthday Party
  • David Hare: Slag

 

Strand C. The post-war stage and musicals

For example:

  • Joe Orton: Loot
  • John Osborne: Look Back in Anger
  • David Storey: Home
  • Simon Gray: Butley
  • Harold Pinter: The Caretaker, ‘Night’, No Man’s Land, etc
  • Peter Shaffer: Equus; Royal Hunt of the Sun
  • Lionel Bart: Oliver

 

Strand D. Television drama

For example:

  • Armchair Theatre, The Wednesday Play, Play for Today
  • Ken Russell: Debussy; Always on a Sunday; Dante’s Inferno
  • Ken Loach: Cathy Come Home
  • Mike Leigh: Meantime
  • Dennis Potter: The Singing Detective

 

Strand E. Theatre since 1990

For example:

  • Keith Waterhouse: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
  • Tom Stoppard: Arcadia
  • Caryl Churchill: A Mouthful of Birds; Serious Money
  • David Hare: Skylight
  • Sarah Kane: Blasted; Cleansed
  • Mark Ravenhill: The Cut
  • Jez Butterworth: Jerusalem
  • Mike Bartlett: Earthquakes in London

 

Strand F. The role of theatre

For example:

  • Peter Brook, The Empty Space
  • Howard Barker, ‘Arguments for a Theatre’
  • Shakespeare, the RSC, the British Council and the National Theatre
  • Student theatre

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This is a creative writing course for those who want to write fiction. The student works closely with the tutor on composing prose narratives in either short or longer formats, with weekly writing assignments. Some reflection on the nature of fiction-writing is included, although the focus is on the nurturing and development of the student’s own skills and capacity to produce original work.

Students who have already taken creative writing classes in prose will be asked to take this tutorial as ENAM 0021 Advanced Narrative.  This will allow them to be assessed on a different basis to those with little or no experience of creative writing.

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The nineteenth century was the period in which the English novel came of age, rising to unheard-of prominence as a means of scrutinising the era in all its evolving facets, and running the full gamut of comic to tragic in the process.  While in many sense the novel was dominant, publishing strategies were fluid. Novels were published in periodical form, as well as single volumes, while short stories and other fictional forms also flourished in this era.  Students can take the opportunity to examine these forms in addition to the novel.

Sample Syllabus:

  • Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • Scott, Heart of Midlothian
  • Gaskell, North and South
  • Thackeray, Vanity Fair
  • Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
  • Dickens, Great Expectations
  • Eliot, Middlemarch
  • Hardy, Jude the Obscure

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This tutorial explores the adaptation of nineteenth-century fiction in twentieth and twenty-first century cinema. The earliest forays into film were made while Queen Victoria was still on the throne and a striking number of these early experiments are adaptations of Victorian novels. Through the course of the nineteenth century, the novel had become a (or perhaps even the) culturally dominant art form of its day. As the century came to a close and film began to develop alongside its more venerable and established forebear, the two forms became entangled in surprising and mutually illuminating ways. This interrelationship was profound and has informed thinking about both genres at least since 1946 when Sergei Eisenstein noted a “‘genetic’ line of descent” between the two and insisted that “from the Victorian novel […] stem[s] the first shoots of American film esthetic”. In this course, we will consider how film interacted with the novel and, as it became increasingly dominant, how this shaping influence began to work in both directions. 

Adaptation offers an approach to filmmaking in which cinema and the novel come into especially close contact and, as such, this will provide the focus for our investigation. This course will consist of eight tutorials, each pairing a novel with at least one cinematic adaptation. Possible topics include:  

  • David Lean’s Dickens: Great Expectations (1860/1946)
  • Lewis Carroll and a proliferation of Alices
  • William Makepeace Thackeray and Stanley Kubrick: Barry Lyndon (1844/1975)
  • Dream and Disillusion: Michael Winterbottom, Jude (1996) and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895)
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897): from Nosferatu to Coppola
  • Making it Modern: Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) and Clueless (1995)
  • H.G. Wells and Sci-Fi: The Invisible Man (1897/1933)
  • From Page to Radio to Screen: The War of the Worlds (1897/1936/1953)
  • Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness (1899) and Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Neo-Victorianism and Layered Adaptation: Fingersmith (2002) and The Handmaiden (2016)

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The canon of Old English Literature comprises the earliest corpus of texts in the English literary tradition. This course studies a wide selection of translated texts in verse and prose forms, from the foundational epic achievement of Beowulf through to shorter lyrics, secular as well as sacred poetry, and historical prose narratives. 

Sample Topics

  • Beowulf
  • The Wanderer
  • The Seafarer
  • The Dream of the Rood
  • The Battle of Maldon
  • riddles and minor forms
  • selections from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  • Biblical translations

 

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This course is intended for those who want to write poetry. The student works closely with the tutor on composing poetry on a weekly basis. Some reflection on the nature of poetic composition is included, although the focus is on the nurturing and development of the student’s own skills and capacity to produce original work.

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The course explores the development of English Poetry in the Victorian era, from its beginnings in the wake of the Romantic movement, through a variety of modes, types and genres, up to the fin-de-siecle. Poets are read both for intrinsic literary merit and for an appreciation of the wider culture of the time.

Sample Topics
  • Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel
  • Tennyson, In Memoriam, Idylls of the King
  • Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh
  • Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market
  • Hopkins, selected verse
  • Hardy, selected verse
  • Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

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During the latter decades of the eighteenth century and opening years of the nineteenth, the broad cultural movement known as Romanticism swept artists and writers into a new kind of collective sensibility. British Romanticism has been viewed as a reactionary or revolutionary ‘movement’ - political as well as artistic in nature - which united its core protagonists in an overturning of classical and enlightenment values: redirecting their literary energies to an exploration of the heart, not the mind; to experience, rather than explanation; and to the relationship of human creativity to the natural world. Increasingly, however, critics have begun to point towards the immense variety and complexity of the ideologies as well as the artistic techniques used by the writers who fall under the umbrella of Romanticism, and to critique the notion of a unified Romantic philosophy. Students of this course set themselves to work at the heart of this impassioned critical field, studying the canonical British Romantic writers alongside a host of troublingly heterodox contemporary material in order to explore the phenomenon of Romantic literature in all its plurality and complexity. Each Romantic writer has a unique voice, but all were drawn into the quest to convey human experience through the imperfect medium of the written word.

 

It is possible to tailor this course to focus on ‘Romanticism and the Environment’: the tutorials might include Romantic depictions of the city, Romantic travel writing, poetic responses to the enclosure acts, the Lake District and the Romantic sense of place, aesthetics of ruin and epitaph, seas and seafaring as a Romantic trope, ‘sharrawaggi’ and orientalism in Romantic conceptions of nature, Gothic landscapes, preromantic aesthetics in the writing of Cowper and Thomson, and the pastoral and georgic traditions. We will encounter twentieth and twenty-first century critical reflections on Romanticism and the natural world and on Romanticism and the historical development of ‘environmentalism’ from writers including George Monbiot, Simon Jarvis, Timothy Morton and others.

 

Some Sample Topics

  • Writing the self and developing narratives in texts including Wordsworth’s The Prelude, Cowper’s The Task and De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater
  • Romanticism as a manifesto: Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads
  • Romantic supernaturalism and the gothic: including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Byron’s The Giaour
  • Romantic engagement with a literary past: Byron, Don Juan; Hellenic influences in Keats and Shelley, Blake’s Milton, selections of Romantic criticism on Shakespeare
  • The Keats-Shelley circle
  • Romantic prose: Scott, Heart of Midlothian; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  • Symbolism and revelation: Blake, Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience
  • Romanticism, pastoral and environmentalism
  • Ruskin, Blake and the Romantic vision of nature’s disharmony in the visual arts
  • Romantic history: Burke, Carlyle and Gibbon

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The course presented a detailed study of Shakespeare’s most important history plays and comedies. Close textual analysis of the individual dramas, in terms of structure and thematic content, was allied to a survey of their wider role in the entire Shakespearian corpus and to the history of English literature at this crucial phase of its development.

Sample Topics

  • Richard II
  • Richard III
  • Henry IV (1 and 2)
  • Henry V
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Twelfth Night
  • As You Like It

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The course presents a detailed study of Shakespeare’s most important tragedies and romances. Close textual analysis of the individual dramas, in terms of structure and thematic content, is allied to a survey of their wider role in the wider Shakespearian corpus, and in the history of English literature at this crucial phase of its development.

Sample Topics:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Julius Caesar
  • Hamlet
  • Othello
  • King Lear
  • Macbeth
  • The Winter’s Tale
  • The Tempest


 Introductory Reading:

  • McEachern, C., ed., The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Thorne, A., ed., Shakespeare’s Romances. Basingstoke: Palgrace Macmillan, 2002
  • Zimmerman, S., ed., Shakespeare’s Tragedies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998

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The country house is more than the sum of its bricks and mortar.  In the British imagination it has represented everything from the height of cultural and political capital, to the decline and fall of old social structures. Through readings of literature, this module will introduce students to the chequered story of the country house in relation to British history.  We will read poems presenting country houses as pastoral retreats from political upheaval in the seventeenth century, and in contrast, texts showing the vast array of labour and trade that sustained the luxury of eighteenth century mansions. The course links together the literary presentation of rural seats with the aesthetic and moral principles that have governed their construction and appreciation.  Students can read Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park in light of Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism, and look at the symbolic functions of stately homes in the wake of war in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.  By setting patriotic texts alongside satires and critiques, the course will introduce students to some of the diverse cultural arguments that stately homes have provoked, which continue to be relevant today.

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C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams were at the centre of the Inklings, a group of friends who met every week in Oxford between the early 1930s and the 1950s to read one another their latest writings, to share ideas, and to enjoy good food and drink. This course was a detailed investigation of the Inklings, their work and the contribution it made to literature, philosophy and religion.

 


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Before the Internet, there was the printing press. Exploited by some as an engine of reform, and condemned by others as the end of knowledge itself, ‘the art of artificial writing’ had revolutionary consequences for Europe. From its arrival in the 1440s, we find entrepreneurs using fonts to imitate manuscripts, but in numbers never attainable by the scribes that preceded them. During the Reformation, the technology was put to ideological ends by both establishment and anti-establishment authors. Printing also left its mark on language and literature: in the earliest English printed books we find editors grappling with a multiplicity of dialects that eventually becomes standardized, while some poets actively shunned the medium, seeing it as inherently prone to error. This course includes an introduction to the practical study of books as objects: how they were made, and how we interpret the variety of fonts and marginalia found in them. Students will have the opportunity to work with the rich resources on offer both through the Bodleian libraries and within our own collection of early printed books and manuscripts in the Feneley Library.

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The course explores the nature and forms of tragedy – one of the foundational literary modes of western culture since antiquity. From the earliest statements about tragic theory as set down by Aristotle and embodied in Greek drama, to a reconsideration of tragedy during the English and French Renaissance, key examples of the form are studied in order to ascertain the meaning of tragedy and the various ways in which it sought expression.

Sample Topics:

  • Aristotle, Poetics
  • Aeschylus, Oresteia
  • Euripides, The Trojan Women
  • Sophocles, Theban Plays
  • Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
  • Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
  • Corneille, Le Cid
  • Racine, Phèdre


 Introductory Reading:

  • Draper, R., Tragedy: Developments in Criticism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1980
  • Easterling, P.E., ed., The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997
  • Poole, A., Tragedy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005

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The thematic and stylistic concerns of British fiction underwent broad transformations in the twentieth century, in response to the changing and often troubling circumstances of the age. The works of individual novelists are closely examined from the perspective of content, structure and style, and are assessed in terms of the larger developments in culture and society in which they played a role.

Sample Topics:

  • Joseph Conrad
  • E.M. Forster
  • Virginia Woolf
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • George Orwell
  • Kingsley Amis
  • Iris Murdoch
  • William Golding
  • Anthony Burgess
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Jeannette Winterson

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The course ranges widely among the riches and complexities of British poetry in the twentieth century. In the modern age the variety of modes and types in which poets found their individual voices expanded to a vast degree, responding in manifold ways to the crises, tribulations and landmarks of the period. Poets are studied for their own particular nuances and characteristics, and for their larger contribution to modern British culture.

Sample Topics:

  • Thomas Hardy
  • The Poetry of the First World War
  • A.E. Housman
  • T.S. Eliot
  • W.B. Yeats
  • W.H. Auden
  • John Betjeman
  • Dylan Thomas
  • Philip Larkin
  • Ted Hughes
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Benjamin Zephaniah

 

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This course explores the legacy of Viking literature, ranging from mythology to heroic legend, and includes an analysis of wider history and culture through readings of Old Norse and Icelandic texts in translation. Topics include the Poetic Edda, skaldic poetry, the world of Snorri Sturlson, the legendary sagas and the Icelandic family sagas.

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This course examines women writers of the English Renaissance, placing them in a wider European context, and studying them in their roles as translators and adaptors of a wide range of humanist texts, alongside their roles as poets, dramatists and political polemicists. The course provides an opportunity to study the manuscript and print culture of a distinctive group of writers too often excluded from early-modern literary studies.

Aristocratic writing, especially that surrounding the English court, is one setting for the growth of female authorship. The works of Anne Askew, Margaret Tyler and Mary Sidney were celebrated (and defended) within their period, as well as appreciated by later readers. Many of these writings are surprising in their authorial confidence: their writing is invested in a presentation of female influence, erudition and poetic skill, and enters fully into the literary and political debate of their male counterparts. We will cover poetry, prose, allegory, fantasy, philosophy, theology and drama. The utopian fictions of Mary Wroth and Mary Sidney reward attention as early examples of the genre we now call ‘science fiction’, as well as being read as Christian allegories and as radical political treatises. Further radical discussions surrounding the morality of female authorship came to head in a series of controversies in which women, often publishing pseudonymously and anonymously, defended themselves from the ridicule and hostility of male pamphleteers.

The study of women writers gives us a unique vantage point from which to approach the print culture and reading habits of the English Renaissance.

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This course brings together diverse genres and texts in order to examine how women were represented in Western European Medieval Literature, and particularly to introduce a rich array of writing by women. The place of women in European society throughout the Middle Ages was often in direct relation to biblical texts, which frequently emphasised primacy of men over women, and balanced understanding of femininity between the absolute archetypes of Eve and the Virgin Mary. Nonetheless some women exercised remarkable degrees of power in religious, political and domestic realms, both working within and against legal limitations. Women often made practical choices between marriage and taking the veil as a nun or anchoress, but in some cases and alternative way seems to have been found, such as the extraordinary travelling life of Margery Kempe. Women’s writing is frequently composed in the vernacular, whether French, Middle English, German, etc, and often that which survives is written by wealthier or noble individuals. As required this course may also incorporate historical and archaeological sources in order to better trace the lives of ordinary women, who frequently lived and died without leaving a textual record.

This course explores a mixture of genres, which might include hagiography, life-writing, mystical spiritualism, lyrics, letters, homilies and dream vision, ranging across poetry, prose and, if desired, drama.  Texts will be read in translation from Anglo Norman, French, Middle English, and Latin, with some opportunity to get to grips with the original language in consultation with your tutor.

Sample Syllabus
  • A selection of anonymous Marian devotional lyrics
  • Marie de France, Lais
  • Ancrene Wisse
  • The Katherine Group and the Wooing Group
  • The Life of Christina of Markyate
  • The Paston Letters
  • Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe
  • Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies
  • Julian of Norwich, Shewings or Revelations of Divine Love
  • Guillaume Lorris/Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose (likely paired with Christine de Pizan, Epistre au Dieu d’Amours)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale; The Clerk’s Tale; The Merchant’s Tale; The Miller’s Tale

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Eighteenth-century Britain has traditionally been thought of in terms of a male monopoly over cultural and political power, yet it was also a time in which increasing literacy and the availability of cheap print brought new voices – and especially those of women – to prominence. The period saw the creation of circulating libraries, the rise of sentimental and Gothic novel-writing, and the appearance of the first female actors.  This course looks at both celebrated and neglected female writers of poetry, prose and dramatic works. It explores the ways in which women participated in the literary sphere, and the ways in which they created new spaces for themselves in discussions of politics, religion, art, philosophy and science. We will also engage with their strategies for the presentation of traditionally ‘feminine’ ideals such as domesticity, maternity and motherhood, chastity and fidelity. The course allows us to place contemporaneous and modern criticism alongside close readings of women’s writing from the period of the civil war to the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Key authors include the poet, dramatist and political radical Aphra Behn; the aristocrat, pioneering traveller and social commentator Mary Wortley Montagu; the immensely popular poet and member of the Bluestocking group, Hannah More; playwright and abolitionist Fanny Burney; Scottish pastoral writer Joanna Baillie; intellectual and prominent dissenter Anna Laetitia Barbauld; educationalist and novelist Maria Edgeworth; gothic pioneer Ann Radcliffe; fervent nationalist poet Felicia Hemans; and the passionate and politically-astute Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the most controversial literary figures of her time. We will also spend time reading the poetry, letters, autobiographies and diaries of lesser-known women whose works reward critical attention.

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Film and Media Culture

This tutorial explores British cinema and society during the twentieth century.  Cinema became enormously popular in the first half of the century; it both shaped and responded to changing social and cultural attitudes.  This course draws on films from a range of genres, including comedy, action, and documentaries.  These provide a stimulating opportunity to explore themes such as social change, attitudes to gender and sexuality, nationhood, the British empire, and the impact of the World Wars.  This tutorial is also allows students to examine the methodological challenges of using film as a historical source.

Sample films:

War Women of England (1917)

A Day in the Life of a Munitions Worker (1917)

Fires Were Started (1943)

A Canterbury Tale (1944)

Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945)

The Dambusters (1955)

Alfie (1966)

Darling (1965)

A Passage to India (1984)

Billy Elliot (2000)

This is England (2006)

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This tutorial explores the adaptation of nineteenth-century fiction in twentieth and twenty-first century cinema. The earliest forays into film were made while Queen Victoria was still on the throne and a striking number of these early experiments are adaptations of Victorian novels. Through the course of the nineteenth century, the novel had become a (or perhaps even the) culturally dominant art form of its day. As the century came to a close and film began to develop alongside its more venerable and established forebear, the two forms became entangled in surprising and mutually illuminating ways. This interrelationship was profound and has informed thinking about both genres at least since 1946 when Sergei Eisenstein noted a “‘genetic’ line of descent” between the two and insisted that “from the Victorian novel […] stem[s] the first shoots of American film esthetic”. In this course, we will consider how film interacted with the novel and, as it became increasingly dominant, how this shaping influence began to work in both directions. 

Adaptation offers an approach to filmmaking in which cinema and the novel come into especially close contact and, as such, this will provide the focus for our investigation. This course will consist of eight tutorials, each pairing a novel with at least one cinematic adaptation. Possible topics include:  

  • David Lean’s Dickens: Great Expectations (1860/1946)
  • Lewis Carroll and a proliferation of Alices
  • William Makepeace Thackeray and Stanley Kubrick: Barry Lyndon (1844/1975)
  • Dream and Disillusion: Michael Winterbottom, Jude (1996) and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895)
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897): from Nosferatu to Coppola
  • Making it Modern: Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) and Clueless (1995)
  • H.G. Wells and Sci-Fi: The Invisible Man (1897/1933)
  • From Page to Radio to Screen: The War of the Worlds (1897/1936/1953)
  • Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness (1899) and Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Neo-Victorianism and Layered Adaptation: Fingersmith (2002) and The Handmaiden (2016)

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This tutorial explores cinematic depictions of the middle ages, mainly in European and North American film. It draws on the burgeoning scholarly literature in this field, to explore the complex interplay between cinema and ‘the medieval.’ This includes thinking about the interaction between films and other forms of artistic expression: many relevant films are adaptations of plays or novels (‘The Lion in Winter’, 1968; various versions of Mark Twain’s ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’).

Medieval topics have captured the imagination of film makers since the early years of cinema, as seen for instance in Carl Theodore Dreyer’s tremendously influential silent film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928). Perennially popular topics for cinematic treatment include King Arthur, Robin Hood, and the Crusades. (On the latter, compare Kingdom of Heaven (2005), with the 1963 Egyptian film Salladin the Victorious). They range from cerebral films such as The Seventh Seal (1957) to swashbucklers such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) or El Cid (1961). Central elements include depictions of gender and sexuality, Christianity, and Orientalism. Humour is also an important theme, for instance in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and Les Visiteurs (1993).

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French

Tuition in French can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on French for academic purposes, or on conversational French depending on what is required.

Note that modern languages are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  Use the same course code for both levels, you will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

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This course studies the language of Old French, though medieval texts such as the ‘Chanson de Roland’.  Students must have at least high intermediate modern French before taking this course.  The precise nature of the tutorial will depend on the skills and needs of the individual student.

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Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

This course explores gender and modern history. Recent scholars have increasingly made a gendered reading of history; this course samples and assesses the success of these approaches while exploring the nature, development and contestation of societies’ gender norms, leading models of change, and key methodological issues. Issues include work, political change, religion, culture and sexuality, with a focus on the modern world.  

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This course explores questions of gender and sexuality in western Europe during the middle ages, from around the fall of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century, until the fifteenth century.  Christianity was a perennial element shaping attitudes and practices, but was a complex package, constantly re-interpreted in changing historical circumstances.  Gender and sexuality need to be located in economic, cultural and social context.  This course draws on primary sources (in English translation), ranging from Augustine of Hippo to Christine de Pizan, informed by the work of modern scholars such as Peter Brown, Julia H.M. Smith, and John Boswell. 

Sample topics:

Augustine of Hippo

Better to marry than to burn?

Monasticism and clerical celibacy

Same sex desire

Masculinities

Women’s writing

Sex, gender, and medieval orientalism

The Virgin Mary

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Since the late eighteenth century, Britain has seen profound changes in attitudes and practices surrounding gender and sexuality.  For example, the social and legal status of women has altered dramatically, attitudes to same-sex relationships continue to shift, the insights of feminism have had a profound intellectual impact, while masculinities have been examined time and again.  These changes have interacted with other trends, including religious life, social class, economic activity, and Britain’s relationship with the empire and the wider world.  This tutorial examines these changes through sources including polemics, history, fiction, film, and theoretical writings.  These range from Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ (1792), to modern British cinema.

(Note that this tutorial cannot be taken with the Gender and Sexuality in Modern Britain seminar.)

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This course examines women writers of the English Renaissance, placing them in a wider European context, and studying them in their roles as translators and adaptors of a wide range of humanist texts, alongside their roles as poets, dramatists and political polemicists. The course provides an opportunity to study the manuscript and print culture of a distinctive group of writers too often excluded from early-modern literary studies.

Aristocratic writing, especially that surrounding the English court, is one setting for the growth of female authorship. The works of Anne Askew, Margaret Tyler and Mary Sidney were celebrated (and defended) within their period, as well as appreciated by later readers. Many of these writings are surprising in their authorial confidence: their writing is invested in a presentation of female influence, erudition and poetic skill, and enters fully into the literary and political debate of their male counterparts. We will cover poetry, prose, allegory, fantasy, philosophy, theology and drama. The utopian fictions of Mary Wroth and Mary Sidney reward attention as early examples of the genre we now call ‘science fiction’, as well as being read as Christian allegories and as radical political treatises. Further radical discussions surrounding the morality of female authorship came to head in a series of controversies in which women, often publishing pseudonymously and anonymously, defended themselves from the ridicule and hostility of male pamphleteers.

The study of women writers gives us a unique vantage point from which to approach the print culture and reading habits of the English Renaissance.

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This course brings together diverse genres and texts in order to examine how women were represented in Western European Medieval Literature, and particularly to introduce a rich array of writing by women. The place of women in European society throughout the Middle Ages was often in direct relation to biblical texts, which frequently emphasised primacy of men over women, and balanced understanding of femininity between the absolute archetypes of Eve and the Virgin Mary. Nonetheless some women exercised remarkable degrees of power in religious, political and domestic realms, both working within and against legal limitations. Women often made practical choices between marriage and taking the veil as a nun or anchoress, but in some cases and alternative way seems to have been found, such as the extraordinary travelling life of Margery Kempe. Women’s writing is frequently composed in the vernacular, whether French, Middle English, German, etc, and often that which survives is written by wealthier or noble individuals. As required this course may also incorporate historical and archaeological sources in order to better trace the lives of ordinary women, who frequently lived and died without leaving a textual record.

This course explores a mixture of genres, which might include hagiography, life-writing, mystical spiritualism, lyrics, letters, homilies and dream vision, ranging across poetry, prose and, if desired, drama.  Texts will be read in translation from Anglo Norman, French, Middle English, and Latin, with some opportunity to get to grips with the original language in consultation with your tutor.

Sample Syllabus
  • A selection of anonymous Marian devotional lyrics
  • Marie de France, Lais
  • Ancrene Wisse
  • The Katherine Group and the Wooing Group
  • The Life of Christina of Markyate
  • The Paston Letters
  • Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe
  • Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies
  • Julian of Norwich, Shewings or Revelations of Divine Love
  • Guillaume Lorris/Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose (likely paired with Christine de Pizan, Epistre au Dieu d’Amours)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale; The Clerk’s Tale; The Merchant’s Tale; The Miller’s Tale

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Eighteenth-century Britain has traditionally been thought of in terms of a male monopoly over cultural and political power, yet it was also a time in which increasing literacy and the availability of cheap print brought new voices – and especially those of women – to prominence. The period saw the creation of circulating libraries, the rise of sentimental and Gothic novel-writing, and the appearance of the first female actors.  This course looks at both celebrated and neglected female writers of poetry, prose and dramatic works. It explores the ways in which women participated in the literary sphere, and the ways in which they created new spaces for themselves in discussions of politics, religion, art, philosophy and science. We will also engage with their strategies for the presentation of traditionally ‘feminine’ ideals such as domesticity, maternity and motherhood, chastity and fidelity. The course allows us to place contemporaneous and modern criticism alongside close readings of women’s writing from the period of the civil war to the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Key authors include the poet, dramatist and political radical Aphra Behn; the aristocrat, pioneering traveller and social commentator Mary Wortley Montagu; the immensely popular poet and member of the Bluestocking group, Hannah More; playwright and abolitionist Fanny Burney; Scottish pastoral writer Joanna Baillie; intellectual and prominent dissenter Anna Laetitia Barbauld; educationalist and novelist Maria Edgeworth; gothic pioneer Ann Radcliffe; fervent nationalist poet Felicia Hemans; and the passionate and politically-astute Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the most controversial literary figures of her time. We will also spend time reading the poetry, letters, autobiographies and diaries of lesser-known women whose works reward critical attention.

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Geography

German

Tuition in German can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on German for academic purposes, or on conversational German depending on what is required.

Note that modern languages are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  Use the same course code for both levels, you will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

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This course studies the language of Middle High German, though medieval texts such as the ‘Parzifal’.  Students must have at least high intermediate modern German before taking this course.  The precise nature of the tutorial will depend on the skills and needs of the individual student.

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Hebrew (Modern)

Tuition in modern Hebrew can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on conversation Hebrew, or a tutorial arranged to fit in with a sequence at a student’s home institution.

Note that modern languages, including modern Hebrew, are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners. Students will be asked to clarify linguistic skills during the admissions process.

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Hebrew (Classical)

Classical Hebrew is offered at every level, including beginners.  It involves the study of grammar, syntax and readings from classical Hebrew texts.  The precise nature of the tutorial will depend on the skills and needs of each individual student.

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History

This course explores the development of western political thought from its Greek foundations through to the late Middle Ages. A historical overview of the progress of central political concepts is allied to a close reading of particular authors, with reference to the ways in which political thought related to broader philosophical, cultural and religious concerns.

Sample Topics:

  • Plato, Republic
  • Aristotle, Politics
  • Cicero, De Re Publica, De Legibus
  • Augustine, City of God
  • John of Salisbury, Policraticus
  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  • Dante, De Monarchia
  • Marsilius of Padua, Defensor pacis

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This course covers the period from end of Roman Britain in early fifth century, to the Norman Conquest of 1066. For much of this era the written sources are slim (if intriguing and hugely suggestive), and in recent years a great deal has been learnt from reading them with archaeology and material culture. Notions of England and Englishness, as a cultural and political entity, developed from a series of social, economic and religious factors.  Notable among these were the conversion to Christianity, and the impact of Scandinavian raiding and settlement.

 Sample Topics

  • Catastrophe, Collapse, Continuity: the End of Roman Britain
  • Converting the English: Bede and history
  • Splitting Skulls and Heroic Drinking? Kingship and Hegemony
  • The Viking Impact
  • Alfred: Wisdom, Resistance and Greatness
  • Making England: the Triumph of Wessex?
  • Reforming the Church
  • The Last Century of England?

Introductory Reading

  • Beowulf  (many translations)
  • Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People. (many translations)
  • Asser, Life of King Alfred – the best translation is in Keynes, S., & Lapidge, M. (trans.), Alfred the Great. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983

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This tutorial is an introduction to archaeological method and theory. How do archaeologists work? What methods did they employ traditionally, and how have recent developments in remote sensing techniques such as LiDAR revolutionised field exploration? How do archaeologists then ‘translate’ the mass of data gathered in the field into a coherent story about the past, and how have such theoretical and interpretative frameworks changed over time? Can archaeological theory really help us to elucidate the past, or does it tell us more about contemporary trends in philosophy? This course provides an overview of archaeological investigation practices as well as the main developments in theoretical thinking that have taken place since the middle decades of the 20th century, and will provide students with a critical understanding of archaeological method and theory necessary to understand the discipline.

Sample reading

Barker, P. A. 1993. Techniques of Archaeological Excavation. 3rd ed. Batsford.

Berger, A. A. 2014. What objects mean: an introduction to material culture. Left Coast Press.

Bintliff, J. and Pearce, M. 2011. The Death of Archaeological Theory? Oxbow.

Carver, M. 1987. Underneath English Towns: interpreting English archaeology. Batsford.

Carver, M. 2009. Archaeological Investigation. Routledge.

Johnson, M. 2010. Archaeological Theory: an introduction. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

Lucas, G. 2012. Understanding the Archaeological Record. Cambridge University Press.

Wiseman, J. and El-Baz, F. (eds), Remote sensing in archaeology. Springer.

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This course explores the history of the Greek states - especially Athens and Sparta - during the fifth century BCE.  This was a period of political rivalry and experimentation within Greece, and a series of confrontations and/or negotiations with the massive might of the Persian Empire. This period is deeply engaging in itself, and has exercised a perennial fascination in subsequent thought, not least because of the historical writings of Herodotus and Thucydides.   

Sample topics

  • The polis
  • The Persian Wars
  • Persians and Greeks
  • The Delian League and the Peloponnesian War
  • Comedy, tragedy and Athenian politics
  • Historiography: Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon
  • Art and architecture
  • Economic life

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This course examines the life and thought of one of the giants of Western Church, Augustine of Hippo (died 430).  Born into a landowning family in Roman Africa, Augustine had the upbringing of his class, including a period as a member of the Manichean sect, various relationships, and a glittering career as a professor of rhetoric. After a mystical experience and under the influence of Bishop Ambrose of Milan, Augustine converted to Catholic Christianity, becoming a bishop within ten years just as the Roman Empire was noticeably disintegrating. His surviving works cover a huge range from doctrinal theses, sermons and Biblical exegesis to attacks on heretics and his Confessions (which has been hailed as the first Christian autobiography). The subtlety, power and timing of his writing ensured that Augustine was profoundly influential in every age of the Western Church from his day to this.

 

Sample Syllabus 

  • ‘Christian Autobiography’: The Confessions
  • Living the Christian Life:  Augustine’s Rules
  • Philosophy and True Happiness: The Happy Life
  • Expounding the Gospel: Homilies on the Gospel of St John
  • Teaching the Preachers: On Christian Doctrine
  • Refuting Heresy: Against the Donatists
  • Loyalties: The City of God against the Pagans
  • Hipponiensis: The Long Shadow of Augustine


Introductory Reading

  • Chadwick, H., Augustine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986
  • Brown, P., Augustine of Hippo: a Biography . London: Faber, rev’d edn, 2000
  • Bonner, G., St Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 3rd edn, 2002
  • Markus, R.A., Saeculum: History & Society in the Theology of St Augustine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 1988
  • Augustine, Confessions.  Many translations, including by H. Chadwick, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992 etc.
  • Augustine, Concerning the City of God against the Pagans.  Many translations, including by H. Bettenson, London: Pelican, 1972 etc.
  • Augustine, On Christian Teaching. Many translations, including by R.P.H. Green, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997

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This course explores the history of the Roman Empire from the first emperor, Augustus (died 14AD), until Hadrian (117-138AD).  It considers political, social, cultural and economic questions, as well as foreign wars and diplomacy, during the height of the Empire’s power and prestige. Sources include writings by Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus and Pliny (read in translation), complemented by material evidence such as Trajan’s column, Hadrian’s wall, and the buried city of Pompeii.  

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This course covers what some have seen as the beginning of Byzantium’s steady decline. From the Battle of Manzikert and the subsequent civil wars, it moves on to the rise of the Komnenoi and the dynasty they formed, ending with the devastating sack of Constantinople. However, the period was in reality one of great successes as well as serious problems. The political world was reshaped by the new dynasty, the Crusades and their aftermath dramatically altered Byzantium’s relationship with its neighbours, and the famed wealth and cultural importance of the Empire is visible in the vast array of literary and artistic sources available to students of this period.
 
Sample Syllabus
 
•     Manzikert and After
•     Alexios I and the ‘restoration’
•     The Latins and the Crusades from the Byzantine perspective
•     John II and Manuel I
•     Byzantium and its Neighbours: A Byzantine Commonwealth?
•     Minorities in the Empire; Jews, Muslims, Women and Eunuchs
•     Fabulous wealth? Economy of Empire
•     The Fall of 1204
 

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The capture of Constantinople by the forces of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 initiated one of the most fascinating periods of Byzantine history.  A Western Catholic (‘Latin’) emperor ruled in Constantinople for 57 years, while smaller Greek polities struggled and thrived in equal measure. In 1261 the Latins were driven out of the capital by Michael VIII Palaiologos, whose dynasty then reigned until Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. In some ways the Empire never recovered from the fragmentation of 1204 and it also faced new challenges from East and West. Nevertheless, the cultural, intellectual and religious pursuits of the period contradict the image of political decline, and offer extraordinary insight into the changing landscape of Byzantium society.

Sample Topics

·     The Latin Conquest of Constantinople, 1261
·     Successor states and reclamation
·     Economy – decadence and survival
·     Religion in the Palaiologan Period and the rise of hesychasm
·     Internal fragmentation
·     Byzantine Foreign Policy
·     A Cultural ‘Renaissance’?
·     The Final Collapse, 1453

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This period of Byzantine is sometimes seen as a golden age after which the Empire began to decline. It was by no means an era of constant peace and prosperity, but it was one in which territorial gains, military and cultural advancements were achieved. Much of the period is characterised by the rule of one dynasty, the Macedonians, and by the projection of Byzantine imperial ideology outward to the Empire’s neighbours. The source material for this course is rich and complex, ranging from encyclopaedic works on diplomacy, homilies and chronicles to spectacular buildings, icons and enamels.
 

Sample Topics
 
·     Iconoclasm
·     Basil I and the creation of the Macedonian Dynasty
·     Imperial ideology under the Macedonians
·     Byzantine Orthodoxy and Papal Italy
·     The Macedonian ‘Renaissance’
·     Women in Byzantium
·     Byzantium and its Neighbours: The Rus, the Bulgars and Armenia
·     Byzantium and the Arabs
·     Basil II

Introductory Reading

Whittow, M., The Making of Orthodox Byzantium, 600-1025. London: Macmillan, 1996
 
James, L. (ed.), A Companion to Byzantium. Malden, Mass. : Wiley-Blackwell, 2010
 
Maguire, H. (ed.), Byzantine Court Culture from 829 to 1204 Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1997

Constantine Porphyrogenitus, R.J.H. Jenkins(trans). De Administrando Imperio. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1967

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Charlemagne (King of the Franks from 768, Emperor from 800, died 814) was the most militarily and politically successful ruler in western Europe since the fall of the western Roman Empire.  He also presided over a period of distinct religious, intellectual and artistic creativity. This tutorial explores the world of Charlemagne and his dynasty, the Carolingians. It ranges from the mid-eighth century career of Charlemagne’s grandfather (Charles Martel) to the death of the final legitimate Carolingian emperor (Charles the Fat) in 888.  

Sample topics:

The rise of the Carolingians

Sources for Carolingian history

Charlemagne and the imperial title

Carolingian Christianity

Economic life

The Carolingian Renaissance

Viking attacks and Frankish response

Dynastic politics in the ninth century



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This course examines Catholic efforts to reform the Church that pre-dated the Reformation and the Council of Trent, challenging the pervasive narrative of the ‘Counter Reformation’ that views these efforts as purely reactionary to Protestantism. New devotional practices, varied approaches to the visual arts and music, and new articulations of doctrine meant that this period was one of the most dynamic, yet contested in the history of the Church. Spanning from the late 1400s to the end of the sixteenth-century, you will be introduced to debates on religious reform spearheaded by individuals including Savonarola; humanists such as Thomas More and Erasmus of Rotterdam; prominent ecclesiastics such as Gasparo Contarini; as well as the laity (women as well as men), who played a vital role in instigating reform.

  • Reforming the Church before Luther
  • Erasmus, More and Catholic Humanism
  • The Spirituali
  • Convening the Council of Trent
  • Instigating Reform in the late Sixteenth Century
  • New Religious Orders
  • A New Aesthetic? Art, Architecture and Music

 

Introductory Reading

  • Laven, M. (et al.), eds, The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013.
  • Mullet, M.A., The Catholic Reformation. Abingdon: Routledge, 1999
  • Hsia, R. Po-chia, The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 2005
  • O’Malley, J.W., Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2nd edn, 2002
  • Luebke, D.M. (ed.), The Counter-Reformation: The Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999
  • C. Lindberg (ed.), The European Reformations Sourcebook. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000

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This course examines relations between Christianity and the sciences in the western world, from the seventeenth century to the present.  Christianity and science have often been presented as mutually hostile or incommensurable entities.    However, a more nuanced and scholarly approach – drawing on readings in science, history and theology – reveals complexities that go beyond adversarial over-simplifications.  Key scientific figures such as Galileo, Newton and Darwin cannot be understood independently of their Christian context, while Christian thinkers have responded creatively (as well as, at times, defensively) to the challenges of modern science.

The Museum of Natural History, in Oxford.  In 1860 this was the location of a celebrated debate between T.H. Huxley, Samuel Wilberforce (bishop of Oxford) and others, on the controversial topic of evolution.  The Museum is opposite Keble College, and about ten minutes walk from M-CMRS.

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This tutorial examines interactions between the Christian majority and their Jewish neighbours in western Europe during the middle ages.  This period has been characterised with reference to violence and persecution such as the massacres of First Crusade (1096), and a series of expulsions from the thirteenth century onwards.  However, a more nuanced story emerges from consideration of both Jewish and Christian sources, which allow us to explore a range of possible interaction, ranging from theological debate among elite intellectuals, to everyday social, economic and cultural experience.

Sample readings:

Anna Sapir Abulafia, Christian-Jewish Relations, 1000-1300: Jews in the Service of Medieval Christendom (2011)

Anna Sapir Abulafia, Christians and Jews in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance (1995)

Elisheva Baumgarten, Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe (2004)

Ivan G. Marcus, Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe (1994)

R. Chazan, The Jews of Medieval Western Christendom, 1000-1500 (2006)

R.I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (second edition 2008)

David Nirenbrg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (1996)

 

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This tutorial explores British cinema and society during the twentieth century.  Cinema became enormously popular in the first half of the century; it both shaped and responded to changing social and cultural attitudes.  This course draws on films from a range of genres, including comedy, action, and documentaries.  These provide a stimulating opportunity to explore themes such as social change, attitudes to gender and sexuality, nationhood, the British empire, and the impact of the World Wars.  This tutorial is also allows students to examine the methodological challenges of using film as a historical source.

Sample films:

War Women of England (1917)

A Day in the Life of a Munitions Worker (1917)

Fires Were Started (1943)

A Canterbury Tale (1944)

Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945)

The Dambusters (1955)

Alfie (1966)

Darling (1965)

A Passage to India (1984)

Billy Elliot (2000)

This is England (2006)

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This course covers the political thought of the ancient world, from Classical Athens to the Roman Empire.  This period saw the formulation of fundamental elements in political thought: the state, justice, citizenship, notions of democracy, aristocracy and monarchy, and the concept of politics in itself. At the end of the period, Augustine of Hippo integrated elements of classical political thought into his Christian theology. Key thinkers are explored with reference to their historical and intellectual context.

Sample topics

Plato, The Republic

Plato, The Laws

Aristotle, Politics

Epicurean political thought

Cicero’s political thought (On Duties and other texts)

Seneca’s political thought

Augustine, The City of God

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The ‘Scientific Revolution’ of the early modern era was so broad and profound that some scholars have suggested that it did nothing less than transform the world. This course approached these claims by exploring in detail the contribution of several key thinkers, writers and polemicists most noted for their contributions to the modern fields of astronomy, cosmology, physics, optics and mathematics.

Sample Topics

  • The Copernican Revolution
  • Galileo’s Achievements and Difficulties
  • Kepler and the Music of the Spheres
  • Francis Bacon and the Experimental Philosophy
  • Pascal and a New Mathematics
  • Leibniz: Optimism and Calculation
  • Newton and the Principles of Mathematics
  • A Scientific Revolution?

 

Introductory Reading

  • Hall, A.R., The Revolution in Science 1500-1750. London: Longman, 3rd edn, 1983
  • Crombie, A.C., Styles of Scientific Thinking in the European Tradition.  3 vols, London: Duckworth, 1994
  • Kuhn, T.S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 3rd edn, 1996
  • Copernicus, N., On the Revolutions. C. Wallis trans., Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993
  • Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo. S. Drake trans., New York: Anchor Books, 1975
  • Bacon, F. Novum Organum. Many translations, for example at  http://www.constitution.org/bacon/nov_org.htm
  • Newton, I., Principia.  Many translations.

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This course explores Italy in the period c.1290-1400. Even before the first onslaught of the Black Death in the 1340s carried off between a third and a half of the population, this was an era of profound and complex change in the Italian peninsula. In cities such as Florence, Padua and Siena fundamental political alteration spurred an extraordinary burst of creativity in literature, the arts, and political and financial institutions, as well as great conflict and startling violence.  Statesmen, writers and artists found new ways of expressing old and new emotions, aspirations and desires, in language, ceremonial, painting, sculpture and architecture.  In this course, students study an era which not only gave western culture many of its ‘greats’, but also brings them face-to-face with the troubling relationships between conflict and creativity, violence and vision.

Sample Topics

  • Governing: Cicero, Contadi and the Civic Tradition
  • Praying: Religion and Politics
  • Writing the City: Dante and his Comedy
  • Loving: Dante and Petrarch
  • Building the City: Power, Piazzas and Palazzi
  • Paying for It All: A New Economy?  
  • Immortalising It: Giotto, Lorenzetti and the Arts of the Fresco
  • Escaping: Boccaccio’s Decameron

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In the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the Italian peninsula saw war, pestilence, political revolution, profound economic and social disruption; but also truly outstanding developments in scholarship, art and literature. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo (to name only two) would have been remarkable in any age, but their achievements were founded on the wealth, wars, patronage and politics of Medici, popes and French kings.  This course focuses on primary sources of the era (including texts in translation) that include works by Machiavelli, Castiglione and Vasari. It will introduce you the most up to date research that demonstrates how our understanding of the Renaissance continues to be reshaped by advances in scholarship. This course will also explore how certain prejudices and historically anachronistic narratives prove particularly pervasive, and will provide a full historiography of the phenomenon of the Renaissance in Italy. 

 

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The period between the 4th and 7th centuries AD saw the transformation of the old Roman Empire into a new world occupied by different ‘peoples’ – Angles, Saxons, Franks and Visigoths, to name a few examples – arriving in western Europe from the Black Sea region and northern Germanic world as the result of large-scale migrations. The customs of these ‘barbarians’ were frequently described in some detail in late Roman historical sources. Up until the middle decades of the twentieth century, early medieval archaeology was largely concerned with seeking to identify these ethnic groups – often seen as the forerunners of medieval nation-states – in the archaeological record, although in more recent years theoretical approaches to this period have been revolutionised. This course critically examines the available evidence, analysing the relationship between material culture and ethnicity, and questioning to what extent this period really did represent the beginnings of medieval Europe.

Key sites may include the burial ground of Sutton Hoo in East Anglia, the migration-period cemeteries in Kent, the Anglo-Saxon settlements at Mucking or West Stow, Helgö in Sweden, or the settlement of Vorbasse in Denmark.  In Oxford the Ashmolean Museum has some relevant collections, and the Staffordshire Hoard gallery in Birmingham is about an hour away by train.  The British Museum in London also has relevant material.

Sample reading:

Annaert, R. 2012. The very beginning of Europe? Cultural and social dimensions of early-medieval migration and colonisation (5th-8th century): archaeology in contemporary Europe. Flanders Heritage Agency.

Geary, P. 2002. The Myth of Nations: the medieval origins of Europe. Princeton University Press.

Halsall, G. 2007. Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568. Cambridge University Press.

Hamerow, H. 2004. Early Medieval Settlements: the archaeology of rural communities in north-west Europe 400-900. Oxford University Press.

Hamerow, H., Hinton, D. and Crawford, S. 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. Oxford University Press.

Moreland, J., 2000. ‘Ethnicity, power and the English’, in B. Frazer and A. Tyrell (eds), Social Identity in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland, 23-51. Leicester University Press.

Nicolay, J. A. W. 2014. The Splendour of Power. Barkhuis.

Wickham, C. 2005. Framing the early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800. Oxford University Press

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This course examines the political, ecclesiastical and social history of England from the Norman Conquest (1066) to the early thirteenth century. This period saw the establishment of Norman rule, which brought England’s elite into a French political and cultural world.  The loss of Normandy and most of the English kings’ other French possessions in 1204 was thus an important rupture.  This era witnessed major developments in economic life, urbanisation, and the expression of Christianity.  Relations with the rest of the British Isles also changed dramatically, and often violently.  The twelfth century also saw a flowering of historical scholarship. Sources include Orderic Vitalis, Henry of Huntingdon and William of Malmesbury.

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Although far from isolated from the revolutionary currents of religious thought and practice which shook contemporary Europe, the English Reformation followed a distinctive course in which the needs and desires of successive rulers were a crucial factor. Yet neither King Henry VIII, nor any of his three children who succeeded him, had things entirely their own way, and English religious life was also moulded from below. As well as studying contemporary theological and other texts, students in this course will explore political and social ramifications of religious change with the aid of flourishing modern scholarship. 

Sample Syllabus

  • The Late Medieval Church in England
  • The King’s Great Matter: Henry VIII’s Reformation
  • Protestant Reformation under Edward VI
  • An English Counter-Reformation?
  • The Elizabethan Settlement
  • Popular Religion in Reformation England
  • Reforming Art
  • The Reformation of Literature


Introductory Reading

  • Marshall, P., Reformation England, 1480–1642. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2nd edn, 2012
  • Duffy, E., The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400-c.1580. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2nd edn, 2005
  • Haigh, C., English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993
  • MacCulloch, D., The Later Reformation in England, 1547-1603. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2nd edn, 2001
  • Duffy, E. et al. (eds), The Church of Mary Tudor. Aldershot : Ashgate, 2006
  • King, J.N. (ed.), Voices of the English Reformation: A Sourcebook. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004

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The eighteenth century in Europe was an age of Enlightenment although not necessarily an enlightened age. European commercial empires spread around the globe, driven by an expanding market for consumer goods like sugar, tobacco and tea. These goods were often produced by slave labor, and the trade in African slaves peaked during the period. At the same time, European intellectuals had never been more strident in asserting the benefits of liberty and toleration. The established Churches struggled to maintain their influence over populations that were increasingly affected by urbanisation, manufacturing and other challenges to long-established ways of life. The revolutions of the late 1700s in the Low Countries and France marked the start of a political transformation inspired in part by the consequences of social and cultural change.

Sample topics: 

War and State Formation

European Empires

Commerce and Consumerism

The Spread of Manufactures

Rural and Urban Poverty

Enlightened Culture

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The legacy of Enlightenment thinkers has left an indelible mark on Western political thought. This course aims to introduce students to the main intellectual and political currents of the Enlightenment. It begins with an analysis of philosophical and political rationalism. It examines debates pertaining to concepts such as rights, obligations, power, progress, refinement, liberty, equality and political sovereignty. It traces the development of political ideas and practices through the eighteenth century and shows how Enlightenment political thought served as the impulse to the political radicalism of revolutionary Europe.

 Sample Topics:

David Hume, Political Essays

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Denis Diderot, Political Writings

Voltaire, Political Writings

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

J.-A.-N.C. Marquis de Condorcet, Sketch on the Progress of the Human Mind

Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?

Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women

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This course explores gender and modern history. Recent scholars have increasingly made a gendered reading of history; this course samples and assesses the success of these approaches while exploring the nature, development and contestation of societies’ gender norms, leading models of change, and key methodological issues. Issues include work, political change, religion, culture and sexuality, with a focus on the modern world.  

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This course explores questions of gender and sexuality in western Europe during the middle ages, from around the fall of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century, until the fifteenth century.  Christianity was a perennial element shaping attitudes and practices, but was a complex package, constantly re-interpreted in changing historical circumstances.  Gender and sexuality need to be located in economic, cultural and social context.  This course draws on primary sources (in English translation), ranging from Augustine of Hippo to Christine de Pizan, informed by the work of modern scholars such as Peter Brown, Julia H.M. Smith, and John Boswell. 

Sample topics:

Augustine of Hippo

Better to marry than to burn?

Monasticism and clerical celibacy

Same sex desire

Masculinities

Women’s writing

Sex, gender, and medieval orientalism

The Virgin Mary

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Since the late eighteenth century, Britain has seen profound changes in attitudes and practices surrounding gender and sexuality.  For example, the social and legal status of women has altered dramatically, attitudes to same-sex relationships continue to shift, the insights of feminism have had a profound intellectual impact, while masculinities have been examined time and again.  These changes have interacted with other trends, including religious life, social class, economic activity, and Britain’s relationship with the empire and the wider world.  This tutorial examines these changes through sources including polemics, history, fiction, film, and theoretical writings.  These range from Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ (1792), to modern British cinema.

(Note that this tutorial cannot be taken with the Gender and Sexuality in Modern Britain seminar.)

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This tutorial examines British history during the long eighteenth century, beginning with the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688.  This expelled the Catholic dynasty of the Stuarts from Britain, but it has also been seen as opening up a new era in political, social and economic history. Themes of this era include religious toleration, the development of Parliamentary government, the Union with Scotland in 1707, commercial  expansion and the spread of empire.  Many of these issues contributed to the American Revolution.

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The most influential ancient Greek historians are studied from a literary perspective, with the emphasis on the presentation of their narrative and the characters in it. Thucydides and Xenophon were writing about their own time, while Herodotus’ epic ‘Histories’ explores the Persian wars in the light of the distant past, with many suggestive parallels between past and present.

Texts

Herodotus, Histories Book 3

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War Book 3

Xenophon, Anabasis Books 1-4

Sample topics:

  1. Leaders and leadership in historical narrative
  2. The function of digressions in history-writing
  3. Historians’ understanding and presentation of war
  4. Religious issues and the depiction of the gods
  5. The use of speeches in historical narrative
  6. Historians’ concept of research and their presentation of their sources
  7. The extent to which women are a marginalised group in historical narrative
  8. The treatment of foreign cultures by Greek historians

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation. However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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This course explores the twin phenomena of heresy and ecclesiastical authority in medieval western Europe.  This era saw the development of a series of Christian communities which came to reject (or were rejected by) the official church.  These included the Waldensians, the Humiliati and the Cathars, as well as more transient groups around specific individuals such as Henry of Lausanne.  Some intellectual figures were also caught up in accusations of heresy, for instance Peter Abelard.  At the same time, the official church became more anxious about identifying and correcting deviant Christian beliefs and practices.  This led to the development of pastoral care, and also the Inquisition and the Albigensian Crusade. The course concentrates on the period from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries, but this is prefaced by examining the definitions of orthodoxy and heresy in Late Antiquity and the early middle ages, which continued to shape attitudes for centuries to come.

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This tutorial explores the ways in which modern historians have approached their discipline.  When history became part of the university curriculum in the late nineteenth century, the focus was on high politics and law, usually in the context of European nation states.  Since then the interests and methodologies of historians have widened considerably, often in conversation with other disciplines.  Sample topics include the impact of Marxism, the Annales school, feminism, post-colonial studies, anthropology, economics, literary and social theory.

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It is often possible to arrange teaching in history beyond the tutorials listed.  This provides the opportunity to explore a historical topic in depth, through one-to-one tutorials and writing weekly essays.

This will usually be of interest to students who have already taken classes in history, and have a specific interest that they wish to pursue, and/or a specific requirement that they need to fulfil. 

Please note that this is subject to agreement by both the programme and the applicant’s home institution.   Applicants should contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this possibility.

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In this course we will study a variety of texts and topics that cast light on important developments in Judaism from the period of the Second Temple to the Middle Ages. Beginning with the spectacular discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have revolutionized our understanding of ancient Judaism, we will pass by the fascinating world of Greek-speaking Judaism, and we will explore the art and architecture of ancient synagogues unearthed in the Galilee. After an introduction into the Mishnah and the Talmud, we will study rabbinic interpretation of the Bible (Midrash), and have a taste of the liturgical poetry from late antiquity (Piyyut) that was discovered in the Genizah of Cairo. We will end our journey in the Middle Ages by examining the influence of the Babylonian Geonim and the great rabbi, physician, philosopher and Torah scholar Moses Maimonides.

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When the seven- year-old Henry III ascended his father’s throne in 1216, much of his kingdom was under French occupation; a peace treaty between the Crown and the political classes had failed disastrously; and all seemed close to collapse. When Henry VII died in 1509 he left a fully treasury; an administration run on the most modern (and rapacious) lines; a country where humanism was taking root; a prosperous and much loved English Church; and few signs of a resurgence of the sporadic civil war which had bedevilled England between 1455 and 1485.  Amongst the key themes which students might explore in this course are: the development of political institutions capable of managing relations between kings and those they ruled (most famously ‘parliament’); relations with France and England’s other neighbours; the development of the economy; the impact of disease; and the flourishing of vernacular literature.

 

Sample Syllabus

  • Magna Carta and the Rise of Parliament
  • Hammering the Scots and Ruling the Welsh
  • The Black Death: Who Gained and Who Lost?
  • ‘Here is God’s plenty’: Chaucer’s England
  • The Hundred Years’ War and English Identity
  • Heterodoxy and Heresy: the Challenge of Wycliff
  • The Wars of the Roses
  • Henry Tudor’s Settlement


Introductory Reading

  • King, E., Medieval England from Hastings to Bosworth.  Stroud: the History Press, New Edition, 2009
  • Keen, M.H., English Society in the Later Middle Ages, 1348-1500. London: Penguin, 1990
  • Saul, N., Age of Chivalry: Art and Society in Late Medieval England. London: Collis & Brown, 1992.
  • Robinson, F.N. (ed.), The Riverside Chaucer.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3rd edn, 2008
  • Froissart, Jean, Chronicles. Translated G. Brereton. London: Penguin, 1978 etc.

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Seventeenth-century England saw remarkable tensions between supporters of absolute monarchy at one extreme and advocates of the liberty of the subject (often ‘the freeborn Englishman’) at the other.  Failure to resolve these tensions arguably plunged the British Isles into Civil War, regicide and Revolution; it certainly produced some of the most imaginative, wide-ranging, varied and enduring contributions to political thinking.  Ideals ranging from universal suffrage democracy to the Divine Right of Kings, from theocracy to democracy were all advocated. Students explore seventeenth-century relationships between political ideas and political action in their own right, but also the formation of a political discourse which continues to be deeply influential on both sides of the Atlantic.

Sample Topics

  • The Royal Gift and the Divine Right of Kings
  • Coke and the Common Lawyers
  • Taxation, Property and Consent
  • Fighting for God and Country? The Road to War
  • ‘He nothing common did or mean’: Killing the King and After
  • Radical Solutions: Levellers, Ranters and Diggers
  • Nasty, Brutish and Short? Hobbes and the Commonwealth
  • Locke and the Revolution

  

Introductory Reading

  • Smith, D.L.,  A History of the Modern British Isles, 1603-1707: The Double Crown. Oxford : Blackwell, 1998
  • Scott-Warren, J., Early Modern English Literature. Cambridge: Polity, 2005
  • Bradshaw, B. and Morrill, J.S. (eds), The British Problem, c. 1534-1707: State Formation in the Atlantic Archipelago. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996
  • Milton, J., Areopagitica. (Any edition)
  • Smith, N. (ed.), The Poems of Andrew Marvell. London: Pearson Longman, 2003
  • Hobbes, T., Leviathan (ideally R. Tuck ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991 and subsequent impressions)
  • Locke, J., Two Treatises of Government. R. Ashcraft ed., London: Allen & Unwin, 1988
  • Wootton, D. (ed.), Divine Right and Democracy: An Anthology of Political Writing in Stuart England. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986

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Modern scholars have hailed the quickening of \xe2\x80\x98natural philosophy\xe2\x80\x99 in the era from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century as nothing less than a \xe2\x80\x98Scientific Revolution\xe2\x80\x99, in which developments in scientific understanding transformed humanity’s view of the world and also the world itself. This course tests these claims by tracing the broad developments in the mechanical and life sciences using seminal texts in translation, and placing them carefully in their philosophical, cultural and social context.

Sample Syllabus

  • A Heliocentric Universe?
  • ‘But it still moves’: Troubles with the Authorities
  • New Apparatus: New Possibilities
  • Publicising a New Natural Philosophy: Bacon
  • William Harvey and Early Modern Medicine
  • Descartes and the Mechanisation of the World Picture
  • ‘God said, “let Newton be” ’
  • Evolution and Darwin


Sample Reading

  • T.S. Kuhn,The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 3rd edn, 1996
  • Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions. C. Wallis trans., Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993
  • Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo. S. Drake trans., New York: Anchor Books, 1975
  • Isaac Newton,Principia. Many translations.
  • Charles DarwinOrigin of Species. Many editions.

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Some of the most profound and extraordinary spiritual works of the middle ages  were written in England during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  A combination of often horrifically troubled times, the desire for new forms of religion and a new immediacy of relation with God, and socio-economic and literary change contributed to the complex and fascinating picture; but these mystics were very remarkable individuals in their own right, and advocated very different approaches to Christian living and experience.  This course therefore exploresnot only of their writings, but also of the context in which they arose.

Sample Syllabus

  • Literary & Historical Contexts
  • Richard Rolle’s Fire of Love
  • Rolle’s English Writings and Wider Influence
  • The Cloud of Unknowing
  • Dionise Hid Divinite and Other Cloud-related Treatises
  • Walter Hilton, The Scale of Perfection
  • Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love
  • Margery Kempe and her Book

 

Introductory Reading

  • Watson, N., ‘The Middle English Mystics’, in Wallace, D. (ed.), The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 539-65
  • Edwards, A.S.G. (ed.), A Companion to Middle English Prose. Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 2004
  • Sutherland, A., ‘The Middle English Mystics’, in Lemon, R. et al. (eds), The Blackwell Companion to the Bible in English Literature. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
  • Glasscoe, M. (ed.), The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England. Various publishers, 6 vols, 1980-99
  • Hudson, A. The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988
  • Windeatt, B. (ed.), English Mystics of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007

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This course examines medieval monasticism in religious and historical context. From origins in late antiquity, monasticism became one of the central expressions of medieval Christianity.   The ‘long twelfth century’ was an especially important period, as international  monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians developed for the first time. Monks and nuns sought to renounce the temptations of the material world by withdrawing into lives of poverty and celibacy.  They were distinct from wider Christian society, yet also focal points for lay devotion,  Major monasteries became important centres of political and economic power.  Many of the most important intellectual figures of the middle ages were monks or nuns.  Students are able to use the numerous sources (in translation) produced by and about medieval monasticism, as well as the rich modern scholarship on the subject. 

Sample Topics

  • ‘I and God alone’: The Desert Fathers
  • The Rule of St Benedict
  • Tenth-Century Reform: Cluny and Others
  • Monasticism for Women
  • A New Israel? Bernard and the Cistercians
  • The Twelfth-Century Explosion
  • ‘To follow as paupers the pauper Christ’: the Mendicants
  • Late Medieval Monasticism & its Critics

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From the fifteenth century onwards, European merchants, monarchs and writers became increasingly excited by the world beyond the Atlantic Ocean.  It seemed to offer abundant opportunities for fame, fortune and adventure; the possibility of escape from oppression; and perhaps the chance to start afresh.  But, as the initial isolated voyages were succeeded by European settlement and a more regular commerce and interaction with the inhabitants of the Americas, the reality was often one of disease, death and disaster.  Indigenous cultures and civilizations were devastated, and Europe transformed. Students thus encounter resonant questions, and a body of fascinating first-hand sources, which have generated a lively and engaging historiography.

 Sample Topics

  • Medieval Antecedents to New World Exploration
  • Sailing the Ocean Blue: An Heroic Age of Exploration?
  • Imperial(ist) Ideals
  • Transcultural Interaction and Ideas of the ‘Other’
  • Comparing Colonizations: Means and Methods
  • Sociology of Conquerors and Settlers
  • The Finances of Conquest and Settlement
  • The ‘Atlantic System’


Introductory Reading

  • Elliott, J.H., The Old World and the New. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 1992
  • Grafton, A. et al., New Worlds, Ancient Texts. The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,1992
  • Thomas, H., Rivers of Gold. The Rise of the Spanish Empire. London: Penguin, 2nd edn, 2010
  • Canny, N.P. (ed.), Oxford History of the British Empire, Volume I: The Origins of Empire.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
  • Ormrod, D.J., The Rise of Commercial Empires: England and the Netherlands in the Age of Mercantilism, 1650-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Sahagún, B. de,  General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex. A.J.O. Anderson and C.E. Dibble edd. and trans., Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research, 2nd rev’d edn, 1970-1981
  • Casas, Bartolomé de Las,  A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. N. Griffin trans., London : Penguin, rev’d edn, 2004

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The nineteenth century has been viewed as the apogee of British power.  In this period Britain came to control a major empire, as a leading industrial, commercial and military power.  This was also a crucial period in the development of British science and culture.  These crucial themes are examined in this tutorial.  However, a ‘triumphalist’ narrative does not encapsulate the experience of many people within nineteenth-century Britain, and those affected by the British imperial project overseas.  Thus this tutorial also considers broader social developments in homes, workplaces, streets, and institutions such as schools and churches.

Sample readings: 

Eric Evans, The Forging of the Modern State, 1783-1867 (2001)

Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People: England 1783-1846 (2006)

M. J. Daunton, Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain 1700-1850 (1995)

M. Bentley Politics without Democracy, 1815-1914 (1984)

F.M.L. Thompson, The rise of respectable society:  the social history of Victorian Britain 1830-1900 (1988) 

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The legacy of nineteenth-century political thought is long and enduring, having shaped the contours of twentieth and twenty-first-century political theory and practice. This course examines nineteenth-century political thought. It explores how the advent of democracy, and the competing visions of it, shaped fundamentally the preoccupations of nineteenth-century political thinkers defining the way they understood concepts such as equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, tyranny, and revolution.

Sample Topics:

 Benjamin Constant, Political Writings

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

J.S. Mill, On Liberty

J.S. Mill, Subjection of Women

Robert Owen, A New View of Society

G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of Philosophy of Right

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Manifesto of the Communist Party

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

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Many medieval people held and practised beliefs which today we would label occult, magical or esoteric. At the learned level, Platonic, Hermetic, Islamic and Kabbalistic ideas were profoundly influential, but less intellectual inspirations and needs were also deeply at work.  The results are evident not only in ‘magical’, astrological and alchemical texts as such, but also in religious, philosophical, legal, literary and artistic works. Other disciplines are drawn on freely as required, but the core of students’ work in this course is in exploring the testimony of these rich and allusive primary sources (in translation) for themselves.

Sample Syllabus

  • Late Antique Roots: Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Kabbalah
  • Occult Thought in the Universities
  • Popular Beliefs
  • Everyday Magic
  • Attitudes to Witches
  • Occult Byzantium
  • Beyond Christendom
  • Occultism and the Roots of the Renaissance


Introductory Reading

  • Kieckhefer, R.,  Magic in the Middle Ages.  Cambridge: Canto, CUP, revised edn, 2000
  • Maxwell-Stuart, P.G. (ed.), The Occult in Mediaeval Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005
  • Flint, V., The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991
  • Maguire, H. (ed.), Byzantine Magic.  Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2008
  • Kennedy, E.S., Astronomy and Astrology in the Medieval Islamic World. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998

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The Reformation and subsequent ‘Counter-Reformation’ transformed and divided Europe to such an extent that its impact still reverberates today. This course examines the history and reasons for the success of reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli, as well as the reaction of both the Catholic Church and a host of European rulers to the challenges that their beliefs heralded. Encompassing a broad geographic sweep and a chronology that spans from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the seventeenth, you will be encouraged to consider how the Reformation spread; the ways in which it impacted the populace; why it was so successful in particular areas; the transformations it brought to politics, devotional practices and the visual arts; as well as the usefulness of terms such as ‘Counter’ or ‘Catholic’ reformation.

Sample Topics

  • Reform before Luther
  • Protestant Theology: Luther, Calvin and Zwingli
  •  The Battle for Hearts and Minds: How were Protestant ideas diffused?
  • Early Catholic Responses to Protestantism
  • Iconoclasm: The Question of the Image in Protestant and Catholic Thought
  • The Convening of the Council of Trent
  • Instigating Reform in the late Sixteenth Century
  • The Legacy of the Reformation

 

Introductory Reading

  • Rublack, U., Reformation Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005
  • Laven, M. (et al.), eds, The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013
  • Luebke, D.M. (ed.), The Counter-Reformation: The Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999
  • Dixon, S., The Reformation in Germany. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002
  • Dixon. S., Contesting the Reformation. Oxford: Blackwell, 2012

 

 



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This course presents a detailed historical survey of political thinking in the Renaissance. It was during this period that many important and influential political concepts, such as virtue, liberty, equality, power, republics, kingship, and tyranny began to assume the forms that remain familiar to us today. The course analyses the philosophical underpinnings of those concepts, their historical contexts and development, and their changing constellations.

Sample Topics

Dante Alighieri, Monarchy

Marsilius of Padua, Defender of the Peace

Leonardo Bruni, The New Cicero

Coluccio Salutati, On Tyranny

Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier

Francesco Guicciardini, Dialogue on the Government of Florence

Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Nicolo Machiavelli, The Discourses  

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This course examines the history of Roman state and society from the final decades of the republic to the establishment of Augustus’s regime.  This was a period of tremendous social, political and military confrontations, as the republic overcame external opponents, while consuming itself in internal conflict. It also saw tremendous intellectual creativity, and students are able to explore writings (in translation) by public figures such as Cicero, Caesar and Sallust. 

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This course explores European history during the nineteenth century.  Between the French Revolution of 1789 and the 1871 Paris Commune, Europe was shaken by a series of political, social, economic and cultural revolutions. The emergence of national identities, the impact of industrialism and the erosion of old hierarchical structures were among the contributors to this instability. No aspect of traditional society, from monarchy and religious orthodoxy to farming techniques and family patriarchy, remained unquestioned. After 1871 and the unifications of Germany and Italy, the internal peace of Europe seemed to have been re-established under conservative governments. Europe’s economic and political dominance over the rest of the world was solidified in this period through the expansion of global empires. Beneath the appearance of stability, however, the sources of new upheavals continued to grow, both within Europe itself and in the European colonies around the world.

Sample topics:

The French Revolution

Industrialisation

1848 and nationalism

Middle-class identities

European Imperialism

Gender and family life

Religion and secularization

The Risorgimento

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This course explores history as a literary genre and examines its presentation of events and characters through description and speeches. Caesar wrote about his own experiences campaigning in Gaul, and his presentation of these events was intended as much to further his ambitions as to provide an account for posterity. Sallust and Tacitus drew on sources to record events from the past, but the present time and its political controversies were never far from their minds.

Set texts:

Livy, Book 1

Tacitus, Annals Book 15

Caesar, The Gallic War Book 7

Sallust, The Jugurthine War

Sample topics:

  1. The treatment of myths and the distant past
  2. The presentation of war in Roman historians
  3. Attitudes towards foreign people and cultures
  4. Historians’ presentation and treatment of their sources
  5. Historians’ use of rumour and hearsay and their presentation of conspiracy
  6. The presentation of different social classes
  7. The presentation of the role of women in historical events
  8. The characterisation of protagonists
  9. Historians’ attitudes to political questions

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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In the approximately two centuries covered by this course (between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries), there was a rich outpouring of artistic activity embracing both ecclesiastical and secular building, splendidly painted interiors, sculpted façades, metalwork and beautifully illuminated manuscripts. Although bound by a common aesthetic, there was considerable national and regional diversity as the style spread widely throughout Western Europe. Major landmarks in art and architecture date from this time. The cathedral of Christ Church Oxford and nearby Iffley church are reflections of this style and the Ashmolean Museum houses artefacts of the period.

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The crumbling of a mighty empire which had proclaimed itself universal, and supreme even in spiritual matters, has provided a rewarding theme for historians and moralists for centuries; nonetheless, recent years have seen a great increase in scholarly interest in the sub- and post-Roman world. The sparse and intriguing written sources have been supplemented with insights from archaeology, material culture, and a range of other disciplines. As a result students can discover much more about the huge changes (and remarkable continuities) of this extraordinary period than was possible a generation ago; but because of the comparative paucity of the sources they can engage in the scholarly debate for themselves at a depth that is difficult in other eras.

Sample Topics

  • Migration and Invasion; Labels and Frontiers
  • Living in the Ruins? Western Successor States
  • The world of Justinian
  • ‘Sitting crowned upon the grave’: the Western Church
  • Economic change
  • The Inheritance of Rome: Culture and Literacy
  • Saints, monks and missionaries
  • The Challenge of Islam

 

 

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Seventeenth-century Europe saw great violence and destruction, but also intellectual and technological creativity that in many ways laid the foundations of the modern world. Confrontations between Catholicism and various strands of Protestantism culminated in the Thirty Years War, which engulfed Germany, and brought in many other European powers, between 1618 and 1648. France was at the apogee of its political and cultural might under Louis XIV (1643-1715), encapsulated in Baroque art and architecture. Europe engaged with the rest of the world through trade, exploration and colonialism, from the Ottoman Empire, to Spanish America, to the Dutch in south-east Asia. The intellectual sphere saw the scientific revolution and the early enlightenment, as witnessed for instance in the work of Gallileo, Spinoza and Descartes.

Sample topics:

The Thirty Years’ War

Louis XIV

The Scientific Revolution

The Dutch ‘Golden Age’

Trade and imperialism

Europe and the Ottoman Empire

Absolutism and republicanism

Gender and family life

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Possibly one of the most contentious concepts in British and Global History, the British Empire is a topic for our politically divided times. From its origins in the Elizabethan era, the empire has been a source of Britain’s wealth, culture and it has had an important impact on national identity. However, the monumental enterprise which spans centuries and continents, was created and maintained through bloodshed, violence, conquest and war.

This course will take students through a chronological overview of the empire, from foundation, dismantlement and beyond. It will question what exactly the empire was, and how it manifested itself at home and abroad. It will explore the legacies of empire, from capitalism and global inequality, to the shaping of culture and language. It will consider just how far the web of empire spread over the globe while at the same time imperial subjects resisted and rebelled against British colonisers. The course may involve a visit to Osterley Park (a Georgian Estate just outside of London, and the site of the East India Company at Home project) to better understand how the metropole and the periphery of empire were tightly intertwined.

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This tutorial explores the western and northern areas of the British Isles during the Middle Ages; from the end of the Roman empire until the fifteenth century.   This region encompasses the areas now known as Ireland, Scotland and Wales (with some attention also paid to Cornwall, and Brittany in north-western France).  They are now collectively described as ‘Celtic’ areas, although this is a term was not employed in the middle ages.  The tutorial examines questions of power, identity and religion in these regions.  It also considers the impact of outsiders, especially the Vikings and, from the tenth century onwards, an often highly aggressive English state.  Primary sources include the Gododdin, The Song of Dermot and the Earl, the Declaration of Arbroath, and the writings of Gildas, Patrick, Gerald of Wales, among others.

Sample topics

After Rome

Early medieval Christianities

The Scandinavian Impact

The kingdom of Scotland

Anglo-Norman Wales and Ireland

The First English Empire

Language and identities

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Between the Council of Clermont in 1095 and the final collapse of western holdings in the Levant at the end of the thirteenth, thousands of western European Christians ‘took the Cross’ to ‘liberate the Holy Places from the infidel’. The uttermost heights of piety combined with the very worst kinds of violence, greed and ambition; both Christendom and the geo-politics of the Mediterranean were transformed; and crusading ideology spread far beyond its original target. The combination of huge, fundamental and still topical issues; a wealth of engaging Latin, Byzantine and Islamic sources (in translation); and a lively set of historiographical debates make the Crusades one of the most fascinating topics in medieval history.  

Sample Syllabus

  • Just War, Holy War & the Peace of God: Crusading Origins
  • God Wills It! The First Crusade
  • The Second Crusade: Failure and Consequences
  • The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Latin Principalities
  • More Failure? The Third and Fourth Crusades
  • The ‘Other Crusades’: Iberia, the Baltic, Italy and France
  • Permanent Crusading in the Thirteenth Century
  • Mongols, Mamluks and the Fall of Outremer

 

Introductory Reading

  • Riley-Smith, J. (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995 etc.
  • Jotischky, A., Crusading and the Crusader States. Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2004
  • Tyerman, C., God’s War: A New History of the Crusades. London: Allen Lane, 2006
  • Hillenbrand, C., The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2nd edn, 1999
  • Riley-Smith, J. & L. (eds), The Crusades: Ideal and Reality 1095-1274. London: Edward Arnold, 1981
  • Gabrieli, F. (ed. & trans.), Arab Historians of the Crusades. London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969

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By the time of Council of Chalcedon in 451 the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, initially a small Jewish sect confined to the Middle East, had been transformed into a ‘Catholic Church’ which spanned the Roman world, with other believers spread far beyond.  The process which created a recognisable Church with a distinctive order and the beginnings of an agreed doctrine was far from straightforward or neat; many died, many were excluded, and even those who remained in the fold were transformed for ever.  As the key texts of the era are available in translation, students are able to explore these issues for themselves, with the aid of a lively modern historiography.

Sample Syllabus

  • Making a Church: Questions of Order
  • Confessors, Martyrs and the ‘Seed of the Church’
  • Secret or Open? The Challenge of Gnosticism
  • ‘Folly to the Greeks’? The Alexandrian School
  • ‘In this sign shall you conquer’: the ‘Conversion’ of the Empire
  • ‘Unhappy exiles from social life’? Monks and Nuns
  • ‘The pre-eminence of the Apostolic See’: the Growth of a Papacy
  • Of which City? The Church and the State


Introductory Reading

  • Chadwick, H., The Early Church. London: Penguin, rev’d edn, 1993
  • Freeman, C., A New History of Early Christianity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009
  • Chadwick, H. The Church in Ancient Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
  • Brown, P., The Rise of Western Christendom. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd edn, 2002
  • Bettenson, H. and Maunder, C. (eds), Documents of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4th edn, 2011, Part I
  • Stevenson, J. with Frend, W.H.C. (eds), A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrating the History of the Church to A.D. 337. London: SPCK, rev’d edn, 1987
  • Stevenson, J. with Frend, W.H.C. (eds), Creeds, Councils and Controversies; Documents Illustrating the History of the Church, A.D. 337-461. London: SPCK, rev’d edn, 1989

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This course explores the Greek-speaking church based in and around the eastern Roman Empire, in the period between the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and the so-called Triumph of Orthodoxy in 843.  It also considers relations with the Latin church, and Christian groups in the east that broke from imperial-sponsored orthodoxy.  During this period Ecumenical (or universal) Councils, along with numerous emperors, patriarchs, theologians and others strove to define the self-understanding of the Church.  It engages with primary sources in translation and a fine corpus of modern scholarly writing.

Sample Topics

  • The Late Roman Context
  • Church Councils, the Trinity and the Person of Christ
  • Church-State Relations
  • Spiritual and Liturgical Life
  • Monasticism
  • Missionary activity
  • Iconoclasts and Iconodules

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This tutorial explores Islamic history from the life of the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century, until the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century.  This was a period marked by the dramatic expansion of Islamic political control, as Muslim armies conquered an enormous swathe of territory extending from the Iberian Peninsula in the west to Central Asia in the east. At the same time the first Islamic empire was formed by the Umayyad dynasty, who were then overthrown and replaced with the Abbasid dynasty in 750. The Abbasids in turn were succeeded by a number of other dynasties, formed by Arabs, Persians, Turks and others.  The nature of Islamic politics and society was not static: possible tutorial topics include the role of political legitimacy, dynastic politics, economic life (including coinage), urban life, and military organisation.

Cook, Michael et al., ed., The New Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Hodgson, Marshall G.S., The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization (University of Chicago Press, 1974)

Berkey, Jonathan P., The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600–1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Kennedy, Hugh, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century (second edition Pearson, 2004)

Crone, Patricia, Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh University Press, 2004)

Robinson, Chase, Islamic Historiography (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

 

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Before the Internet, there was the printing press. Exploited by some as an engine of reform, and condemned by others as the end of knowledge itself, ‘the art of artificial writing’ had revolutionary consequences for Europe. From its arrival in the 1440s, we find entrepreneurs using fonts to imitate manuscripts, but in numbers never attainable by the scribes that preceded them. During the Reformation, the technology was put to ideological ends by both establishment and anti-establishment authors. Printing also left its mark on language and literature: in the earliest English printed books we find editors grappling with a multiplicity of dialects that eventually becomes standardized, while some poets actively shunned the medium, seeing it as inherently prone to error. This course includes an introduction to the practical study of books as objects: how they were made, and how we interpret the variety of fonts and marginalia found in them. Students will have the opportunity to work with the rich resources on offer both through the Bodleian libraries and within our own collection of early printed books and manuscripts in the Feneley Library.

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This course explores the history of the church in western Europe from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries.  In some senses the notion of ‘the church’ as a single entity is misleading: there were a series of different ecclesiastical institutions, often pursuing conflicting interests.  However, there was a strong cultural sense of ‘the church’, and in practical terms it became more unified under papal leadership in this era.  The period also saw tremendous creativity in pastoral care, monasticism, intellectual life, the crusades, the birth of the friars, and responses to heresy.

Sample Syllabus

  • Papacy and Hierarchy
  • Regnum and Sacerdotium
  • The Saints
  • Popular Religion
  • Heresy and Heterodoxy
  • Building Heaven on Earth
  • Christian Scholars and Scholarship
  • Christendom and the Non-Christian World


Introductory Reading

  • Southern, R.W., Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, new edn, 1990
  • Brooke, R. & C., Popular Religion in the Middle Ages. London: Thames & Hudson, 1984
  • Hamilton, B.  Religion in the Medieval West. London: Arnold, 2nd edn, 2003
  • Tierney, B. (ed.), The Crisis of Church and State, 1050-1300. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964
  • J. Shinners (ed.), Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500: A Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2nd edn, 2009

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This course explores English history during the reign of the Tudor dynasty: Henry VII, his son Henry VIII, and grandchildren Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.  This period is best-known for the dramas of dynastic history, and the highly-contested establishment of the Church of England.  It also saw tremendous intellectual and cultural creativity, and crucial developments in trade and industry.  Further afield, relations with the rest of the British Isles, and with continental European powers, along with the beginnings of England’s global role, will also be examined.

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This tutorial explores British history during the twentieth century.  At the beginning of the period, Britain was one of the world’s leading political and economic powers, and the centre of a global empire.  This changed dramatically over the course of the century, in part due to dramatic factors such as two world wars, and the end of British control over most of Ireland, but also through more gradual social, economic and cultural changes. Potential tutorial topics include imperialism and decolonisation; Britain and Ireland; electoral politics; changing gender roles; the welfare state; consumerism; Britain’s relationship with Europe and the Commonwealth. 

Sample readings:

P. Addison and H. Jones (eds), A Companion to Contemporary Britain 1939-2000 (2005)

K. Burk (ed.), The British Isles Since 1945 (2003)

R. McKibbin, Classes and Cultures: England 1918–1951 (1998)

K. O. Morgan, Britain Since 1945: The People’s Peace (2001)

M. Pugh, State and Society: A Political and Social History of Britain 1870-1997 (1999)

Martin Pugh, The Making of Modern British Politics, 1867-1945 (3rd edn, 2002)

Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000 (2nd edn, 2004)

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This course explores central themes in the history of western political thought, from Plato to Rousseau.  It focuses on the major works by key thinkers. This allows key themes (such as justice, the nature of the state, citizenship, and the role of religion) to be explored across the long-term development of western political thought.

Sample topics:

Plato, The Republic

Aristotle, Politics

Augustine, City of God

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

Machiavelli, The Discourses

Hobbes, Leviathan

Locke, Two Treatises of Civil Government

Rousseau, The Social Contract

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Early modern Europe saw some 40,000 people die because their neighbours or the authorities believed them to be consorts of the Devil or capable of harnessing unearthly powers to harm others. Belief in widespread witchcraft thus coexisted with the rationalities of the Renaissance and the devotion of the Reformations. This provides students with a fascinating and rewarding angle from which to dissect early modern societies, their elites and peoples, mindsets and emotions, as well as the powerful religious, social and economic tensions at work within them.  Guided by a remarkably rich set of modern scholarly responses, and insights from anthropological, literary, psychoanalytical, economic and gender studies, students can explore the huge variety and wealth of surviving contemporary sources from trial accounts through learned tracts and sermons to visual arts and plays.

Sample Topics

  • The Devil and his Witches
  • Witches and Evil-doing
  • Gender and Witchcraft
  • Possession and Exorcism
  • Cunning Folk and Healing
  • Witches and Anthropologists
  • Witches and Psychologists
  • Regional Studies

 

Introductory Reading

  • Gibson, M.,  Witchcraft and Society in England and America, 1550-1750. London: Continuum, 2003
  • Clark, S., Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997
  • Briggs, R., Witches & Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft Oxford: Blackwells, 2nd edn, 2002
  • Roper, L. Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality, and Religion in Early Modern Europe. London: Routledge, 1994
  • Oldridge, D., The Witchcraft Reader. London: Routledge, 2nd edn, 2008
  • Cameron, E., Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, & Religion 1250-1750. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997
  • Levack, B.P. (ed.), The Witchcraft Sourcebook. London: Routledge, 2004

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History of Art and Architecture

This tutorial is an introduction to archaeological method and theory. How do archaeologists work? What methods did they employ traditionally, and how have recent developments in remote sensing techniques such as LiDAR revolutionised field exploration? How do archaeologists then ‘translate’ the mass of data gathered in the field into a coherent story about the past, and how have such theoretical and interpretative frameworks changed over time? Can archaeological theory really help us to elucidate the past, or does it tell us more about contemporary trends in philosophy? This course provides an overview of archaeological investigation practices as well as the main developments in theoretical thinking that have taken place since the middle decades of the 20th century, and will provide students with a critical understanding of archaeological method and theory necessary to understand the discipline.

Sample reading

Barker, P. A. 1993. Techniques of Archaeological Excavation. 3rd ed. Batsford.

Berger, A. A. 2014. What objects mean: an introduction to material culture. Left Coast Press.

Bintliff, J. and Pearce, M. 2011. The Death of Archaeological Theory? Oxbow.

Carver, M. 1987. Underneath English Towns: interpreting English archaeology. Batsford.

Carver, M. 2009. Archaeological Investigation. Routledge.

Johnson, M. 2010. Archaeological Theory: an introduction. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

Lucas, G. 2012. Understanding the Archaeological Record. Cambridge University Press.

Wiseman, J. and El-Baz, F. (eds), Remote sensing in archaeology. Springer.

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Archaeology has an arsenal of methods and theories with which to explore prehistoric peoples. Drawing on worldwide examples, this course explores the ways in which archaeological data is acquired and analysed as a means of surveying the structures and evolution of societies without writing.

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This course explores British art and architecture in the Romantic era and the early industrial revolution. Architects include Soane and Nash, and also Cockerell who designed the splendid Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which houses many examples of artists’ work relevant to this phase of British art. In this period landscape painting came to the fore, represented by contrasting approaches such as that of Constable who explored the visible world, Turner who conjured up poetic moods, and Palmer who used landscape in a mystical form. Set against these are the visionary creations of William Blake and the bold portraiture of Lawrence who painted leading figures of the day.

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This course traces the development of British architecture and painting from the 1830s to the end of the nineteenth century. The works of Giles Gilbert Scott, Butterfield, Pearson, the Pre-Raphaelites, Landseer and Leighton are considered, as well as the influence of Pugin, Ruskin and Morris.  Oxford is particularly rich in buildings and artefacts that relate to this phase in art, from the architecture of the University Museum, the stained glass of the chapel of Manchester College, to the murals of the Union building, the architecture and interior design of the Randolph Hotel, and the fine collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Ashmolean Museum.

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This course explores the art and architecture of the late Roman world, with a particular focus on the eastern Mediterranean, from the second to the eighth centuries. The changing needs and aspirations of the Roman state had a major impact on artistic change, as did Christianity, especially after its adoption by the Emperor Constantine I (died 337). The magnificent Hagia Sophia, built under the Emperor Justinian I (527-565), encapsulates many of the themes of this course.

Sample Topics

  • The Classical tradition and Early Christian Art
  • Empire, art patronage and the new Christian Rome under Constantine
  • Church architecture, ceremony and propaganda in the time of Justinian
  • Byzantium in the West: Ravenna and the Byzantine colonies
  • Religious imagery and debate: Iconoclasm and the triumph of orthodoxy

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From the 1650s to the 1780s, the cultural and intellectual forces of the Enlightenment in western Europe emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism, rather than traditional forms of authority, such as those imposed by the Catholic church. This course illustrates how these precepts were manifested in the art and architecture of the period, exploring such masters as Canaletto, Friedrich, David, Greuze, Watteau, Ingres and Wright of Derby. Relevant works can be seen in the Ashmolean Museum and nearby Waddeston Manor with its world class collection. This whole period, featuring art of the Grand Tour, can be further evaluated by visits to the London galleries.

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This course studies the history of gardens and parks in Europe from the middle ages to the early nineteenth century. Topics include: castle gardens, monasteries and colleges; physick and botanic gardens; the formal park; the classical style of the eighteenth century; the English tradition of Brown and Repton. Oxford and the surrounding contain some gardens from this era, which students can explore, notably the Botanical Gardens.

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This course will consider the art, sculpture and architecture of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It will pay particular attention to Italian, Spanish and Cretan painters that include Tintoretto, Bernini, Borromini, Caravaggio, El Greco and Velazquez, as well as considering the manifestation of the Baroque in Britain. In terms of the latter, nearby examples include Blenheim Palace, important buildings associated with Oxford University by Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, as well as paintings and sculptures on display at the Ashmolean Museum. You will be encouraged to think critically about the term ‘Baroque’ and historic prejudices against the style, as well as questioning the extent to which it can be convincingly linked to the Counter-Reformation. 

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One of the most enduring legacies of the Classical Age was the contribution to art and architecture made by the Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman worlds. This course brings together the full range of visual and material culture that survives from these periods to examine an array of themes, set against the wider historical and archaeological context of continuity and change in the Mediterranean basin and beyond.

In these tutorials a range of artistic media may be studied, including statuary, relief sculpture, funerary monuments, mosaics, wall paintings, painted vases, jewellery, gems, coinage, and buildings. The uses of image, expressions of identity and power, and cultural influence and change are just a few of the themes which will be explored through an examination of the styles and traditions seen to have developed in the use of these materials.

In particular, buildings are some of the most impressive and best preserved ‘artefacts’ from the ancient world, and whose design was highly symbolic of the society within which they were built. From palaces, temples, and public buildings such as stoas, fora, basilicas, and bathhouses, to domestic buildings, the technology, materials, styles, ornament, and functions of Classical architecture provide substantial insight into ancient daily life, class structures, identity, and the culture of display.

The Ashmolean Museum (in central Oxford, five minutes’ walk from St Michael’s Hall) has a world-class array of artefacts which can be seen first-hand and might be brought into tutorial discussions, including in particular their collection of painted vases, and also the contents of the Cast Gallery, which houses plaster copies of many important sculptural monuments from the period.

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In the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the Italian peninsula saw war, pestilence, political revolution, profound economic and social disruption; but also truly outstanding developments in scholarship, art and literature. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo (to name only two) would have been remarkable in any age, but their achievements were founded on the wealth, wars, patronage and politics of Medici, popes and French kings.  This course focuses on primary sources of the era (including texts in translation) that include works by Machiavelli, Castiglione and Vasari. It will introduce you the most up to date research that demonstrates how our understanding of the Renaissance continues to be reshaped by advances in scholarship. This course will also explore how certain prejudices and historically anachronistic narratives prove particularly pervasive, and will provide a full historiography of the phenomenon of the Renaissance in Italy. 

 

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This tutorial examines human origins and the archaeology of early hunter gatherers.  How did humanity evolve, and spread to colonise the globe from its tropical African roots? How did early human societies function before the start of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago? How did different groups (and even species) of early humans co-exist, and what happened when they met? These questions stand central to this introductory course in human evolution and early hunter-gatherer societies. Taking a global perspective and drawing extensively on both archaeology and anthropology, it addresses the specific challenges of Palaeolithic archaeology, embracing new developments in method and theory. Possible key sites include Swanscombe, Boxgrove and Creswell Crags in England, the Neandertal in Germany, Altamira in Spain, Lascaux in France, Blombos Cave in South Africa and Hadar in Ethiopia.

This tutorial will also include visits to the Palaeolithic collections at the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum, both a short walk from St Michael’s Hall.

Sample reading:

Coward, F., Hosfield, R., Pope, M. and Wenban-Smith, F. 2015. Settlement, society and cognition in human evolution: landscapes in mind. Cambridge University Press.

 

Papagianni, D., Layton, R. and Maschner, H. 2008. Time and change: archaeological and anthropological perspectives on the long-term in hunter-gatherer societies. Oxbow.

Pettitt, P. and M. White. 2012. The British Palaeolithic: hominin societies at the edge of the Pleistocene world. Routledge.

Stringer, C.B. 2006. Homo Britannicus: the Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain. Allen Lane, London.

Stringer, C.B. 2012. The Origin of our Species. Penguin Books, London.

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This course focuses on Italy from 1300-1500, considering the stylistic changes in art and architecture during this time frame, and the reasons for this. You will encounter artists that include Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Alberti, Michelozzo and Verrocchio, as well as becoming familiar with the most recent debates surrounding the Renaissance and the historiography of the phenomenon. You will learn to use relevant primary sources (which will be translated), as well as gaining insights into contemporary technical and iconographic innovations. Emphasis will be placed on both the historical context and the various methodological approaches that can be applied to the period. Field trips may include visits to the Christ Church galleries or the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, as well as the National Gallery in London.

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This course focuses on the art and architecture of Early Medieval Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire to the end of the tenth century. Throughout this period the sources and influence on art and architecture were rich and varied. With style and patronage as the dominate themes, the period starts by examining classical precedents, continues with the art of the so-called Migration period, including insular art of the British Isles, covers the Carolingian Renaissance associated with Charlemagne, and culminates in the art and architecture of the Ottonian period, all of which laid important foundations for the burgeoning Romanesque.

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The period between the 4th and 7th centuries AD saw the transformation of the old Roman Empire into a new world occupied by different ‘peoples’ – Angles, Saxons, Franks and Visigoths, to name a few examples – arriving in western Europe from the Black Sea region and northern Germanic world as the result of large-scale migrations. The customs of these ‘barbarians’ were frequently described in some detail in late Roman historical sources. Up until the middle decades of the twentieth century, early medieval archaeology was largely concerned with seeking to identify these ethnic groups – often seen as the forerunners of medieval nation-states – in the archaeological record, although in more recent years theoretical approaches to this period have been revolutionised. This course critically examines the available evidence, analysing the relationship between material culture and ethnicity, and questioning to what extent this period really did represent the beginnings of medieval Europe.

Key sites may include the burial ground of Sutton Hoo in East Anglia, the migration-period cemeteries in Kent, the Anglo-Saxon settlements at Mucking or West Stow, Helgö in Sweden, or the settlement of Vorbasse in Denmark.  In Oxford the Ashmolean Museum has some relevant collections, and the Staffordshire Hoard gallery in Birmingham is about an hour away by train.  The British Museum in London also has relevant material.

Sample reading:

Annaert, R. 2012. The very beginning of Europe? Cultural and social dimensions of early-medieval migration and colonisation (5th-8th century): archaeology in contemporary Europe. Flanders Heritage Agency.

Geary, P. 2002. The Myth of Nations: the medieval origins of Europe. Princeton University Press.

Halsall, G. 2007. Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568. Cambridge University Press.

Hamerow, H. 2004. Early Medieval Settlements: the archaeology of rural communities in north-west Europe 400-900. Oxford University Press.

Hamerow, H., Hinton, D. and Crawford, S. 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. Oxford University Press.

Moreland, J., 2000. ‘Ethnicity, power and the English’, in B. Frazer and A. Tyrell (eds), Social Identity in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland, 23-51. Leicester University Press.

Nicolay, J. A. W. 2014. The Splendour of Power. Barkhuis.

Wickham, C. 2005. Framing the early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800. Oxford University Press

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This course studies the development of English architectural style and building practice from Henry VIII to George III, with examples from town and country houses, palaces, cathedrals and collegiate buildings. Emphasis is given to the work of Smythson, Jones, Wren, Vanbrugh, Hawksmoor and Adam.  Students in this tutorial can also draw on their observations of buildings in Oxford.

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Famed for soaring arches, rich stained glass, fine sculpture, stunning manuscripts and elaborate wall-paintings, the Gothic style spread throughout Europe from the mid-twelfth century onwards. This course traces developments down to the early sixteenth century with particular reference to France and England but also Germany. The buildings studied range from the cathedrals at Reims and Chartres and Notre Dame in France, Cologne cathedral, to Westminster Abbey, the Divinity School in Oxford, and a number of cathedrals in England. During this period some exquisite illuminated manuscripts were produced in bright colours and burnished gold, ranging from Books of Beasts to courtly Books of Hours.

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It is often possible to arrange teaching in the History of Art and/or Architecture beyond the tutorials listed.  This provides the opportunity to explore a field in depth, through one-to-one tutorials and writing weekly essays.

This will usually be of interest to students who have already taken classes in the field, and have a specific interest that they wish to pursue, and/or a specific requirement that they need to fulfil. 

Please note that this is subject to agreement by both the programme and the applicant’s home institution.  Applicants interested in this possibility should contact the Senior Tutor directly.

View in the Course Database.

Sixteenth-century Florence, Rome and Venice are rightly renowned for their riches of architecture, sculpture and painting. However, the historical focus on this trinity of artistic production can lead to less attention given to smaller centers, that were nonetheless significant in terms of both artistic achievement and patronage. In this course you will examine the canonical figures of the period, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Palladio,  but you will also consider a wealth of lesser known artists and artworks. You will be introduced to critical debates surrounding maniera and counter-maniera and will be encouraged to engage with a variety of primary sources. Field trips may include trips to the Ashmolean Museum  and the National Gallery in London. 

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2019 is the quincentenary of the death of the most famous artist of all time: Leonardo da Vinci. The occasion will be marked by major exhibitions and publications, providing an opportunity to appraise the artist’s canon and legacy. This tutorial/seminar examines the life and works of Leonardo, his place in Renaissance visual art, science, and thought, and the reasons behind his enduring, and increasing, fame. We look at his relationships with pupils, followers, and patrons, and consider the concept of artistic genius, as it evolved in the Renaissance.  We place a particular focus on Leonardo’s paintings and theoretical writings, which acted as testbeds for his innovative experimental science, and look at how Leonardo, who received no formal education, sourced knowledge.

The course is taught by Dr Margaret Dalivalle, one of the scholars involved in the discovery and authentication of the Salvator Mundi, which recently achieved $450 million at auction. Her book, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi; and the Collecting of Leonardo at the Stuart Courts, co-authored with Prof. Martin Kemp and Dr Robert Simon, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2019, to coincide with the exhibition of the painting at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Louvre, Paris.

Sample Syllabus

  1. Fortuna: Why is Leonardo the most famous artist in history?
  2. Neo-Platonic networking: Leonardo da Vinci in Medicean Florence
  3. Reviving the arts in Sforza Milan: A polymath at court
  4. Plinian problems: Sfumato and atramentum varnish
  5. Natural philosopher: Perspective and verisimilitude
  6. The body of the Earth: Engineer and Geologist
  7. Physiology and physionomy: The Windsor Volume; St Jerome in the Desert
  8. Heavenly bodies: Leonardo, astronomy and theology

 

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This course covers British art from c.1900 to c.1960.  It assesses the avant-garde works of the Bloomsbury group, the Vorticists and Surrealists who responded to Continental developments, yet created something uniquely British. It includes the poignant paintings of the First World War by Paul Nash, Nevinson, Roberts, and Wadsworth, as well as the pacifist Stanley Spencer. Abstract art is assessed through the work of the sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth and the painted reliefs of Ben Nicholson. The course culminates in an evaluation of Abstract Expressionism and Pop art, both under the influence of America. The Tate Gallery in London is of major importance for those opting for course covering many innovative British artists.

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This course studies the development and flowering of British painting between c.1530 and c.1790, and the work and influence of foreign-born painters. This period covers painting by artists such Holbein, Hilliard and Oliver, who worked for the Tudor courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The art of Charles I and Charles II is illustrated by artists such as Van Dyck, Lely and Kneller, who specialised in large-scale portraits of the ruling monarchs and the aristocracy, a trend which was further manifested in the later period by Reynolds and Gainsborough. At the end of the period the unique satirical and moralising paintings of Hogarth are studied. The Ashmolean Museum in central Oxford holds works by most of these artists.

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The #metoo movement has prompted a fresh consideration of the role and achievements of women artists. This tutorial/seminar examines the cultural contributions of European women, 1400- 1700, as artists, writers, and patrons. We investigate the social and economic status of Renaissance women, and the restrictions they faced, but also the way in which they overcame barriers, and the wider impact of their activities on their better-known male contemporaries. We focus on the works of individual artists and writers, and also examine the role of elite women in fostering cultural networks, as patrons of artists and writers, and as art collectors.  

It is an extraordinary thing that in all those arts and all those exercises wherein at any time women have thought fit to play a part in real earnest, they have always become most excellent and famous in no common way. Giorgio Vasari, (1568).

Sample Syllabus

  1. Vasari’s women: Female painters and sculptors celebrated in his Lives, and the impact of their fame on succeeding generations of women artists.
  2. Christine de Pisan and Elizabeth I’s tapestries: City of Ladies and queenly magnificence.
  3. Vittoria Colonna’s literary salon: Michelangelo, Ariosto, Aretino, Bembo.
  4. Sofonisba Anguissola and Elizabeth de Valois: Women artists at the royal court of Madrid.
  5. Elisabetta Gonzaga and Baldassare Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano: Urbino, the ideal court.
  6. Isabella d’Este: Collector of genius.
  7. Fathers and daughters: Catharina and Jan Sanders van Hemessen; Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi.
  8. Lavinia Fontana: Artist, Mother, Breadwinner.

 

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In the approximately two centuries covered by this course (between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries), there was a rich outpouring of artistic activity embracing both ecclesiastical and secular building, splendidly painted interiors, sculpted façades, metalwork and beautifully illuminated manuscripts. Although bound by a common aesthetic, there was considerable national and regional diversity as the style spread widely throughout Western Europe. Major landmarks in art and architecture date from this time. The cathedral of Christ Church Oxford and nearby Iffley church are reflections of this style and the Ashmolean Museum houses artefacts of the period.

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This course covers the phase in art referred to as the ‘Golden Age’ of Dutch painting, characterised for developing still life and landscape subjects as well as portrait and genre painting. Extraordinary for its various intense visions of human nature, landscape and light, the paintings of key exponents of seventeenth-century Dutch painting, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Ruisdael, can be studied in the National Gallery, London, with some examples in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The works of these artists are evaluated within an historical and cultural context.

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This tutorial explores northern European art between c. 1400-1600 and looks at factors such as exchange, gift giving and trade that led to stylistic cross-currents between North and South. You will encounter a variety of mediums such as illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, caskets (alongside paintings, sculpture and architecture), and artists that you study will include Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grunewald and Hieronymous Bosch. 

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This tutorial examines the later prehistoric landscapes of the British Isles.  The British Isles are dotted with preserved remnants of its later prehistoric past, including monumental ritual structures of the Neolithic such as the world-famous site of Stonehenge, Bronze Age funerary barrows and the surviving earthworks of Iron Age hillforts. Taking the work of some of Britain’s leading prehistoric archaeologists as starting point, this course looks at some of the major changes that took place during this period, such as the transformation from the ritual and funerary landscapes of the later Neolithic and early Bronze Age to the agricultural landscapes of the middle and later Bronze Age, and the emergence of more regionalised and isolated communities during the Iron Age. This course furthermore provides students with the necessary knowledge to appreciate fully some of the more spectacular later prehistoric landscapes and sites in southern Britain, such as the Stonehenge area and the sites along the prehistoric Ridgeway, which are easily reached on a day trip from Oxford. Key sites include Stonehenge and Durrington Walls, Avebury, the prehistoric sites of the Ridgeway, and the well-preserved archaeological remains on Dartmoor. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford also has some relevant collections.

Sample reading

Bradley, R. 2007. The prehistory of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press.

Cunliffe, B. 2012. Britain Begins. Oxford University Press.

Darvill, T. 2010. Prehistoric Britain. 2nd ed. Batsford.

Parker Pearson, M. 2013. Stonehenge: exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery. Simon and Schuster.

Pollard, J. 2008. Prehistoric Britain. Blackwell Publishing.

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Before the Internet, there was the printing press. Exploited by some as an engine of reform, and condemned by others as the end of knowledge itself, ‘the art of artificial writing’ had revolutionary consequences for Europe. From its arrival in the 1440s, we find entrepreneurs using fonts to imitate manuscripts, but in numbers never attainable by the scribes that preceded them. During the Reformation, the technology was put to ideological ends by both establishment and anti-establishment authors. Printing also left its mark on language and literature: in the earliest English printed books we find editors grappling with a multiplicity of dialects that eventually becomes standardized, while some poets actively shunned the medium, seeing it as inherently prone to error. This course includes an introduction to the practical study of books as objects: how they were made, and how we interpret the variety of fonts and marginalia found in them. Students will have the opportunity to work with the rich resources on offer both through the Bodleian libraries and within our own collection of early printed books and manuscripts in the Feneley Library.

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In AD 793, a band of pagan pirates attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, sending shock waves through the Christian world. This attack would enter history as the first recorded Viking attack, but who were the Vikings? Were they the bloodthirsty pirates depicted in monastic chronicles and annals? Or is this a biased view, and is the image of daring explorers and farmers who can be credited with the colonisation of Iceland and the discovery of the Americas more accurate? This course will take a broad-brush overview from the North Atlantic to the trade routes through Russia towards Constantinople, and focus on the archaeology of trade, piracy, ship-building and colonisation. Although the emphasis of the course is archaeological, attention will also be given to the importance of interdisciplinary approaches, in particular the relationship between archaeological and historical material. Key sites to be discussed may include Jelling, Hedeby and Trelleborg, all Denmark; York, Repton, Ingleby and Torksey, all England; and, closer to home, the suspected Viking mass-grave underneath St John’s College in Oxford.  Associated places to visit include metalwork and a runestone at the Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, and the early medieval gallery at the British Museum in London.

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Italian

Tuition in Italian can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on reading or conversational Italian depending on what is required.

Note that modern languages are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  Use the same course code for both levels, you will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

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Japanese

Tuition in Japanese can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on Japanese for academic purposes, or on conversational  Japanese, depending on what is required.

Note that modern languages are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  Use the same course code for both levels, you will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

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Latin

This course involved the careful study of grammar, syntax and readings from classical Latin literature.  It is possible to take this at any language level, including beginner.  Students’ level will be assessed as part of the pre-arrival process.

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This course examines Latin literature in the first century BCE, universally regarded as a high point in Roman culture, with authors such as Lucretius, Cicero, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Propertius.  Major themes include the influence of preceding Greek literature, the place of women in society and texts, questions of politics, patronage and power, and the relation between Latin literature and philosophy and religion. The ‘book’ both as a technological and artistic fact is also an important area of interest in the period. These key authors also of course provoke study of more purely literary matters: questions of style, imagery, symbolism, allegory, convention, originality and so on.

Set texts:

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1

Cicero, Pro Archia

Catullus, 64 and 68

Virgil, Eclogues

Horace, Odes 3

Propertius 4

Topics:

  1. The Eclogues and the politics of their time
  2. Lucretius: poetry and philosophy
  3. What Cicero’s Pro Archia tells us about the value of poetry in his society or about being a Greek in Rome
  4. The role of the poet in these texts
  5. The landscapes and people of Italy in literature of the 1st century BC
  6. The moral outlook of these texts
  7. Catullus’ use of myths
  8. Different approaches to love 

Note that there is no language requirement for this course: texts are studied in translation.  However, for students with the required language skills it is also possible to study these texts in the original.  Please contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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A study of the Latin language, beginning at the level which the student has already reached and based on the reading of a wide selection of medieval Latin prose and verse. It is possible to take this course at any language level: students’ level will be determined as part of the pre-arrival process.

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This course explores history as a literary genre and examines its presentation of events and characters through description and speeches. Caesar wrote about his own experiences campaigning in Gaul, and his presentation of these events was intended as much to further his ambitions as to provide an account for posterity. Sallust and Tacitus drew on sources to record events from the past, but the present time and its political controversies were never far from their minds.

Set texts:

Livy, Book 1

Tacitus, Annals Book 15

Caesar, The Gallic War Book 7

Sallust, The Jugurthine War

Sample topics:

  1. The treatment of myths and the distant past
  2. The presentation of war in Roman historians
  3. Attitudes towards foreign people and cultures
  4. Historians’ presentation and treatment of their sources
  5. Historians’ use of rumour and hearsay and their presentation of conspiracy
  6. The presentation of different social classes
  7. The presentation of the role of women in historical events
  8. The characterisation of protagonists
  9. Historians’ attitudes to political questions

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ describes the epic journey of the Trojan hero Aeneas to found a new race in Italy. The epic owes much to the Iliad, Odyssey and other literature, but also reflects the concerns of Augustan Rome. Aeneas’ doomed love-affair with Dido in Book 4 is an emotional climax, while Aeneas’ visit to the ghosts in the Underworld looks forward to the eventual greatness of Rome. The gods are constantly present, as they are involved in forging the destiny of the Romans.

Sample topics:

  1. Masculine and feminine points of view
  2. The poet’s use of characterisation to tell his story
  3. Religion and the gods
  4. The role of cities
  5. The presentation of death and the significance of the Underworld
  6. Trojan, Roman and Greek culture and values
  7. The structure of the epic
  8. The morality of war

There is no language requirement for this tutorial: all texts are taught in English translation.  However, if you do have the relevant language skills then it can be taught through the original texts: contact the Senior Tutor to discuss this.

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Literary Studies

Before the Internet, there was the printing press. Exploited by some as an engine of reform, and condemned by others as the end of knowledge itself, ‘the art of artificial writing’ had revolutionary consequences for Europe. From its arrival in the 1440s, we find entrepreneurs using fonts to imitate manuscripts, but in numbers never attainable by the scribes that preceded them. During the Reformation, the technology was put to ideological ends by both establishment and anti-establishment authors. Printing also left its mark on language and literature: in the earliest English printed books we find editors grappling with a multiplicity of dialects that eventually becomes standardized, while some poets actively shunned the medium, seeing it as inherently prone to error. This course includes an introduction to the practical study of books as objects: how they were made, and how we interpret the variety of fonts and marginalia found in them. Students will have the opportunity to work with the rich resources on offer both through the Bodleian libraries and within our own collection of early printed books and manuscripts in the Feneley Library.

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This course brings together diverse genres and texts in order to examine how women were represented in Western European Medieval Literature, and particularly to introduce a rich array of writing by women. The place of women in European society throughout the Middle Ages was often in direct relation to biblical texts, which frequently emphasised primacy of men over women, and balanced understanding of femininity between the absolute archetypes of Eve and the Virgin Mary. Nonetheless some women exercised remarkable degrees of power in religious, political and domestic realms, both working within and against legal limitations. Women often made practical choices between marriage and taking the veil as a nun or anchoress, but in some cases and alternative way seems to have been found, such as the extraordinary travelling life of Margery Kempe. Women’s writing is frequently composed in the vernacular, whether French, Middle English, German, etc, and often that which survives is written by wealthier or noble individuals. As required this course may also incorporate historical and archaeological sources in order to better trace the lives of ordinary women, who frequently lived and died without leaving a textual record.

This course explores a mixture of genres, which might include hagiography, life-writing, mystical spiritualism, lyrics, letters, homilies and dream vision, ranging across poetry, prose and, if desired, drama.  Texts will be read in translation from Anglo Norman, French, Middle English, and Latin, with some opportunity to get to grips with the original language in consultation with your tutor.

Sample Syllabus
  • A selection of anonymous Marian devotional lyrics
  • Marie de France, Lais
  • Ancrene Wisse
  • The Katherine Group and the Wooing Group
  • The Life of Christina of Markyate
  • The Paston Letters
  • Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe
  • Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies
  • Julian of Norwich, Shewings or Revelations of Divine Love
  • Guillaume Lorris/Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose (likely paired with Christine de Pizan, Epistre au Dieu d’Amours)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale; The Clerk’s Tale; The Merchant’s Tale; The Miller’s Tale

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Music

Please note that this tutorial is usually available only to music majors and minors. 

This course combines an introduction to twentieth and twenty-first century compositional techniques with the opportunity to work on a portfolio of compositions. You will be introduced to a number of techniques in music from the early 20th century to the present day. Compositional skills will be developed in the context of stylistic and historical study of key repertory from 20th- and 21st-century Western art music (from the avant-garde and experimentalist to the modernist and post-modernist traditions). You will look at a range of approaches and techniques, while set works will provide technical and aesthetic models to enable you to develop a wider vocabulary of compositional techniques. The contextual issues around contemporary composition will also be addressed. You will have the opportunity to create compositions for a range of instruments or voices - from solo to chamber and orchestra. This course will encourage personal creative development but also the ability to evaluate your own compositional process. Those who do not identify as composers should not be dissauded from taking this course – it will enable those interested in performance to gain a greater appreciation of the issues relating to the performance of contemporary music and will also be relevant to those interested in music analysis. 

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It is sometimes possible to arrange teaching in Music beyond the tutorials listed.  This provides the opportunity to explore a subject in Music in depth, through one-to-one tutorials and writing weekly essays.

This will usually be of interest to students who have already taken classes in Music, and have a specific interest that they wish to pursue, and/or a specific requirement that they need to fulfil. 

Please note that this is subject to agreement by both the programme and the applicant’s home institution.   Applicants interested in this possibility should contact the Senior Tutor directly.

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This course will examine the earliest operas, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, looking at the social contexts, cities and personalities behind their creation. You will look at opera’s initial dependence on courtly environments and patrons, as well as the musical forms that influenced the beginnings of opera, such as the madrigal. The journey from courtly opera in Florence and Mantua to ticket-paying operas in Venice from 1637 will then be explored. The rise of a paying audience brought great change to musical culture, and you will see how the audience’s demand for portrayals of madness and love created very different librettos. You will trace the rise of star singers, noticeably castrati and female singers (the prima donna) from the mid-seventeenth century. Opera’s dissemination to other countries, notably France and England, and the composers Lully, Handel and Purcell, will all feature. Opera was regarded as an elite and prestigious cultural form from its outset, a conception that was cemented during its rapid spread across Europe in the eighteenth century. Opera grew to reflect cultural, social and political interests in forms as varied as the opera seria and opera buffa (opéra comique). Recent musicological thinking on themes such as national identity; gender; cultural prominence and the power of the human voice will guide your understanding of this important form.

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Please note that this tutorial is usually available only to music majors and minors. 

This course explores what are typically referred to as ‘the building blocks of Western ‘classical’ music’. You will learn about the basic components of composition in the Western classical tradition. Through close study of repertory from 1500 to 1900 you will become familiar with both modal and tonal harmony; notation and style. From mastering 16th-century imitative polyphony to 17th and 18th century fugal style and nineteenth-century idioms, you will gain the ability to write a fugue; string quartet or piano accompaniment of a song. Learning to write in these styles will develop your understanding of the principles of counterpoint and harmony, voice leading, polyphonic and contrapuntal textures, consonance and dissonance. You will also be able to distinguish between instrumental and vocal idioms. This course will equip you with a high level of skill in the techniques of musical composition, which will aid your other studies of music in the western classical tradition.

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The symphony is one of the most important genres of Western art music and the nineteenth-century symphonies of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler and Sibelius dominate the genre. This course offers the opportunity to examine core works from critical historical and analytical perspectives but you will also be encouraged to reach outside the central canon, exploring works by lesser known composers such as Franz Berwald, Amy Beach and C V Stanford. You will explore the symphony as an object of musical-cultural practice, examining ideas and critical concepts such as gender, accessibility, identity and nationalism. You will also explore contemporary debates about performance and interpretation. By the end of the course, you will have an essential grounding in the analysis and historical context of the nineteenth-century symphony and some of the cultures that it encompasses. 

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The string quartet enjoys a reputation as the most prominent and prestigious item of chamber music. Much of this is due to the lofty figures who turned their hand to string-quartet composition (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to name but a few). This course will look at the string quartet’s origins (trio sonata and divertimenti) and its development under Haydn and Mozart. You will then examine why Beethoven is seen as such an important figure. Beethoven’s influence will be examined by looking at his works and how their motivic relationships, tonality and structure dominate the genre. Beethoven’s influence on Schubert will be explored as well as the turn away from the string quartet in the nineteenth century and its resurgence in the twentieth century with figures such as Shostakovich and Bartok. There will also be an option to look at the forgotten female composers of the genre (Fanny Mendelssohn; Ethel Smyth; Elizabeth Lutyens and Gloria Coates amongst others) as well as other largely bypassed items of chamber music, notably the string trio; piano trio and string quintet. This course will enable you to document how the string quartet arrived at its classical four-movement form, how its form and motivic relationships have been transformed throughout its history and how, today, in the 21st century, it still remains an important and sophisticated musical form.

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English music enjoyed an unprecedented rise in popularity in the fifteenth century, only to be subject to dramatic change at the hands of Henry VIII and his descendants in the sixteenth century. This course will explore the rise of the English style (‘contenance angloise’) in the early fifteenth century, the flowering of English polyphony, with the virtuosic music of the Eton Choirbook in the second half of the fifteenth century and, furthermore, the towering polyphonic music of Tye, Sheppard and Tallis in the early sixteenth century. The dramatic change in musical style, beginning with Henry VIII and continuing with Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I throughout the sixteenth century, will then be examined. New research will show how Elizabeth I cultivated music to aid her image as a female monarch. You will focus on the music of William Byrd, looking at how he managed to combine his role as the Queen’s favourite, while writing music secretly for the catholic community he so adored. You will also observe how the emergence of new styles of Anglican music are still present in Evensong and choral practice today. Oxford is a wonderful place to study this course as much of what you will discuss took place in this very city. By the end of the course, you will be able to discuss change and continuity, religion and politics and the influence of continental musical practices.

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Other Subjects

If you wish to enquire about a subject not listed, please email Dr Marie-Louise Lillywhite, Senior Tutor
You must do this before you complete your application.
Bear in mind that your home institution will also have to approve the tutorial for major/minor credit, or to fulfil distribution requirements.

 

In addition to the topics listed, it is possible to arrange essay tutorials in most field of the humanities, including most major European and Asian languages. Tutorials in Environmental Studies (literary and non-fiction writing) are listed under English above. It is often possible to arrange tutorials in the social sciences and some areas of mathematics and psychology. (Recent examples of ‘off list’ tutorials have included Post-Colonial Africa, International Economic Governance, and Psychology of Child Development.)  Tutorials in lab sciences or studio art cannot be offered. 

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The rise of gothic fiction in the latter part of the eighteenth century was part of a cultural and artistic revaluation of traditional conceptions of our relationship to the natural world. As Augustan notions of an ordered and benevolent Nature were challenged by the political realities of British life, including population growth, expansion of urban environments and greater awareness of global geographies, the natural world was increasingly figured as a place of sublime and even supernatural power. This course uses eighteenth and nineteenth century notions of the sublime as a starting point for exploring British writers’ vexed connections to a landscape which inspires both awe and horror.
Sample Topics may include
  • Theories of the sublime from Addison to Kant
  • Romantic sublimity and the Alps
  • Habitations and hauntings: Graveyards, ruins and ‘eternity’ in the poetic imagination
  • The Gothic wilderness in the novels of the Brontes
  • The sublime city
  • Turner and Thomson, Young and Blake: Illustrating the Romantic Landscape
  • Horror and dystopia in the natural world
  • Spots of Time: The psychology of the Gothic landscape
  • ‘Natural Supernaturalism’: Uncanny Landscapes
  • Gothic medievalism and the British Isles
  • Gothic landscapes and the monstrous feminine
  • Ecogothic: politics of Gothic Nature

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Philosophy

This course explores the development of western political thought from its Greek foundations through to the late Middle Ages. A historical overview of the progress of central political concepts is allied to a close reading of particular authors, with reference to the ways in which political thought related to broader philosophical, cultural and religious concerns.

Sample Topics:

  • Plato, Republic
  • Aristotle, Politics
  • Cicero, De Re Publica, De Legibus
  • Augustine, City of God
  • John of Salisbury, Policraticus
  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  • Dante, De Monarchia
  • Marsilius of Padua, Defensor pacis

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This course examines the life and thought of one of the giants of Western Church, Augustine of Hippo (died 430).  Born into a landowning family in Roman Africa, Augustine had the upbringing of his class, including a period as a member of the Manichean sect, various relationships, and a glittering career as a professor of rhetoric. After a mystical experience and under the influence of Bishop Ambrose of Milan, Augustine converted to Catholic Christianity, becoming a bishop within ten years just as the Roman Empire was noticeably disintegrating. His surviving works cover a huge range from doctrinal theses, sermons and Biblical exegesis to attacks on heretics and his Confessions (which has been hailed as the first Christian autobiography). The subtlety, power and timing of his writing ensured that Augustine was profoundly influential in every age of the Western Church from his day to this.

 

Sample Syllabus 

  • ‘Christian Autobiography’: The Confessions
  • Living the Christian Life:  Augustine’s Rules
  • Philosophy and True Happiness: The Happy Life
  • Expounding the Gospel: Homilies on the Gospel of St John
  • Teaching the Preachers: On Christian Doctrine
  • Refuting Heresy: Against the Donatists
  • Loyalties: The City of God against the Pagans
  • Hipponiensis: The Long Shadow of Augustine


Introductory Reading

  • Chadwick, H., Augustine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986
  • Brown, P., Augustine of Hippo: a Biography . London: Faber, rev’d edn, 2000
  • Bonner, G., St Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 3rd edn, 2002
  • Markus, R.A., Saeculum: History & Society in the Theology of St Augustine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 1988
  • Augustine, Confessions.  Many translations, including by H. Chadwick, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992 etc.
  • Augustine, Concerning the City of God against the Pagans.  Many translations, including by H. Bettenson, London: Pelican, 1972 etc.
  • Augustine, On Christian Teaching. Many translations, including by R.P.H. Green, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997

View in the Course Database.

This course charts the development of classical western philosophy from the Athenians to Augustine of Hippo, exploring the principal writers in their intellectual and historical context. At the core of this course is reading key works in translation.  The cornerstones of the western intellectual tradition are scrutinised in terms of the specific questions they address, and read as part of a continuing narrative in philosophical culture.

Sample Topics:

  • Plato, Republic, Symposium
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics
  • Plotinus, Enneads
  • Proclus, Elements of Theology
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • Lucretius, De rerum natura
  • Augustine, Confessions, City of God

View in the Course Database.

This course covers the political thought of the ancient world, from Classical Athens to the Roman Empire.  This period saw the formulation of fundamental elements in political thought: the state, justice, citizenship, notions of democracy, aristocracy and monarchy, and the concept of politics in itself. At the end of the period, Augustine of Hippo integrated elements of classical political thought into his Christian theology. Key thinkers are explored with reference to their historical and intellectual context.

Sample topics

Plato, The Republic

Plato, The Laws

Aristotle, Politics

Epicurean political thought

Cicero’s political thought (On Duties and other texts)

Seneca’s political thought

Augustine, The City of God

View in the Course Database.

This course explores the philosophy of the European Enlightenment. The impact of the Enlightenment, as a radical re-examination of core beliefs and the best role to be played in them by the rational mind, is still being felt today. This course explores the concepts which framed Enlightenment philosophy, and the key thinkers who originated them.

Sample Topics:

  • Descartes, Discourse on Method, Meditations
  • Spinoza, Ethics
  • Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Two Treatises of Civil Government, Letter Concerning Toleration
  • Berkeley, Three Dialogues
  • Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • Rousseau, The Social Contract; Smith, The Wealth of Nations
  • Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, What Is Enlightenment?

View in the Course Database.

The legacy of Enlightenment thinkers has left an indelible mark on Western political thought. This course aims to introduce students to the main intellectual and political currents of the Enlightenment. It begins with an analysis of philosophical and political rationalism. It examines debates pertaining to concepts such as rights, obligations, power, progress, refinement, liberty, equality and political sovereignty. It traces the development of political ideas and practices through the eighteenth century and shows how Enlightenment political thought served as the impulse to the political radicalism of revolutionary Europe.

 Sample Topics:

David Hume, Political Essays

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Denis Diderot, Political Writings

Voltaire, Political Writings

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

J.-A.-N.C. Marquis de Condorcet, Sketch on the Progress of the Human Mind

Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?

Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women

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Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that examines questions about knowledge, justification, belief and related concepts. This course addresses questions about how we should understand knowledge and justification as well as what, if anything, it is possible for us to know, with particular emphasis on the challenge posed by philosophical scepticism. Finally, this course examines philosophical issues concerning perceptual knowledge, a priori knowledge, and coherentist and foundationalist approaches to justification. 

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This course examines a variety of normative ethical theories including varieties of consequentialism, virtue ethics and contractualism, together with related concepts including happiness, well-being, rights and equality. Alongside these theories, there will be a chance to study debates in applied ethics, including medical ethics. Part of the course is also devoted to metaethical issues, including debates about the nature of moral properties, whether moral claims are true or false and how, if at all, it is possible to acquire moral knowledge.   

Sample reading:

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

David Hume, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals

Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (London: Duckworth, 1981)

J.L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (Penguin, 1973)

J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism

Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979)

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Jurisprudence demands thinking in an analytical and critical way about the nature and the importance of legal norms, legal institutions, and legal reasoning. This course provides students with an opportunity to read some contemporary classics in jurisprudence, and use them to reflect upon foundational questions about law. In particular, the structure of the course requires students to read all the chapters, and the Postscript, of H.L.A. Hart’s The Concept of Law – one of the most important works of 20th century legal philosophy.

The reading list and the essay questions are devised to help students to critically engage with Hart’s three “three recurrent issues”: (i) how does law differ from, and how is it related to, orders backed by threats?; (ii) how does legal obligation differ from, and how is it related to, moral obligation?; and (iii) what are rules and to what extent is law an affair of rules?

The eight tutorials focus on the following connected topics: (1) Laws and commands; (2) Law and coercion; (3) Law and the internal point of view; (4) The foundations of a legal system; (5) Hard cases and judicial discretion; (6) Theoretical disagreements about law; (7) Law and morality; and (8) What is law?. The order of the tutorials is designed to facilitate students’ reflection upon the interplay between specific problems of jurisprudence and the so-called “methodology problem” in jurisprudence.

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This course introduces students to some of the most important thinkers and debates of Late Antiquity (roughly 200 to 800 A.D.), which is regarded as the watershed between the Ancient World and the European Middle Ages. In philosophy one of the most important developments since the time of Plato and Aristotle took place with the rise of Neo-Platonism. In the religious/social sphere the growth of Christianity and its institution as the religion of the Empire coincided with the disappearance of the religion of pre-Christian Rome and the political decline of the Empire. These events helped to generate wide-ranging debates, among Christians and between Christians and non-Christians. With the disintegration of ancient culture, the writings of thinkers such as Augustine, Basil, Boethius, Cassiodorus and Isidore were to play in important part in the preservation of ancient learning, as was the development of monasticism.

Set texts:

Plotinus, Enneads
Porphyry, Isagoge
Creed, Canons and Synodal Letter of the First Council of Nicaea
Athanasius, Life of Antony, Discourses against the Arians
Basil the Great , Address to young men on reading Greek literature
Ambrose, Epistles 17, 18 & 57
Augustine, City of God
Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
Isidore of Seville, Etymologies
Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names

Sample topics:

1.    Church fathers, heresiarchs and the development of conciliar thought
2.    The christian/pagan debate: Ambrose, Symmachus and the Altar of Victory
3.    The development of neo-platonism: Plotinus and Porphyry
4.    Athanasius, Arius and the Council of Nicaea
5.    Augustine and the two cities
6.    Predestination and freedom: Augustine and Pelagius
7.    ‘Despoiling the Egyptians’: Augustine, Boethius and the ‘christianising’ of ancient thought
8.    Cassiodorus, Isidore of Seville and the preservation of ancient learning
9.    Pseudo-Dionysius and the development of apophatic/negative theology

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The course is designed for those wishing to understand the metaphysics, ethics and philosophical theology of the Middle Ages. The key-works of leading western thinkers, from Augustine to Ockham, are scrutinized against the background of Scholastic philosophy, so that the intellectual underpinnings of the era can be examined in terms of the influences on them, and the influence they in turn exerted.

Sample Syllabus:

  • Augustine, Confessions, City of God
  • Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
  • Anselm, Monologion, Proslogion
  • Peter Abelard, Sic et Non, Dialogue of a Philosopher
  • Duns Scotus, Commentary on Peter Lombard’s ‘Sentences’
  • Bonaventure, Journey of the Mind Into God
  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
  • William of Ockham, Summa Logicae

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Metaphysicians explore some of the most basic and fundamental issues in philosophy. One central topic in this course focuses on realism and its alternatives; a debate that examines the extent to which the world is independent of our cognition of it. A number of key topics concern persons and agency, including: the nature of persons; the persistence of persons over time; and whether we possess freedom of the will. The course also covers philosophical questions concerning time, properties and universals, and composition and mereology. 

Sample reading: 

E.J. Lowe, A Survey of Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

Raymond Martin and John Barresi, eds., Personal Identity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003) 

D. H. Mellor, Real Time II (London: Routledge, 1998) 

D. H. Mellor and Alex Oliver, Properties (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Hilary Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)

Peter Van Inwagen, An Essay on Free Will (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983)

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This course critically examines the meaning and political significance of some of the key concepts and values discussed by modern political philosophers, including: power, political authority, democracy, justice, equality, liberty and autonomy. It covers the key works of some major philosophers – including John Rawls, Robert Nozick and Ronald Dworkin – as well as trends in modern socialist and feminist thought.  

Sample reading:  

Ronald Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue: the Theory and Practice of Equality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000) 

Ross Harrison, Democracy (London: Routledge, 1993) 

Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002) 

Steven Lukes, Power: a radical view (London: Macmillan, 2005) 

Catharine Mackinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989) 

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Oxford: Blackwell, 1974) 

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice Rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 

Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986)

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The legacy of nineteenth-century political thought is long and enduring, having shaped the contours of twentieth and twenty-first-century political theory and practice. This course examines nineteenth-century political thought. It explores how the advent of democracy, and the competing visions of it, shaped fundamentally the preoccupations of nineteenth-century political thinkers defining the way they understood concepts such as equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, tyranny, and revolution.

Sample Topics:

 Benjamin Constant, Political Writings

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

J.S. Mill, On Liberty

J.S. Mill, Subjection of Women

Robert Owen, A New View of Society

G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of Philosophy of Right

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Manifesto of the Communist Party

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

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This course focuses on philosophical questions concerning linguistic meaning, the use of language, and the relationship between language and reality. It explores different theories of meaning (that is, theories about in virtue of what certain physical marks and noises have distinctive meanings). Alongside this, the course examines philosophical questions concerning truth, names, definite descriptions, metaphor and pragmatics. These themes encompass the work of some of the most important analytic philosophers.

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Philosophers of mind explore the nature of mental phenomena and the relationship they bear to the rest of reality. This course considers a variety of theories about the relation between the mind and body, as well as philosophical issues concerning the nature of consciousness, perception, imagination, emotion and intentionality. Alongside this there is an opportunity to consider epistemological questions, such as: how do we acquire knowledge of other people’s minds? Do we have privileged knowledge of our own minds? 

Sample reading:

Quassim Cassam, ed., Self-Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994)

David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) 

Tim Crane, Elements of Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy

John Heil, Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Anthony Kenny, Action, Emotion and Will (London: Routledge, 1963) 

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This course explores some of the key philosophical issues surrounding belief in God and religious faith. Some topics focus on debates about the nature of God, in particular the claims that God is omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect. Arguments for the existence and non-existence of God will also be considered. Further topics include the nature of religious faith, the evidential force of miracles, and philosophical issues arising from the fact of religious diversity.  

Sample reading:

David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982)

Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom and Evil (George Allen & Unwin, 1975)

Richard Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)

William Wainwright, ed., The Oxford Handbook to Philosophy of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Edward Wierenga, The Nature of God (Cornell University Press, 1991)

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This course presents a detailed historical survey of political thinking in the Renaissance. It was during this period that many important and influential political concepts, such as virtue, liberty, equality, power, republics, kingship, and tyranny began to assume the forms that remain familiar to us today. The course analyses the philosophical underpinnings of those concepts, their historical contexts and development, and their changing constellations.

Sample Topics

Dante Alighieri, Monarchy

Marsilius of Padua, Defender of the Peace

Leonardo Bruni, The New Cicero

Coluccio Salutati, On Tyranny

Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier

Francesco Guicciardini, Dialogue on the Government of Florence

Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Nicolo Machiavelli, The Discourses  

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This course explores central themes in the history of western political thought, from Plato to Rousseau.  It focuses on the major works by key thinkers. This allows key themes (such as justice, the nature of the state, citizenship, and the role of religion) to be explored across the long-term development of western political thought.

Sample topics:

Plato, The Republic

Aristotle, Politics

Augustine, City of God

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

Machiavelli, The Discourses

Hobbes, Leviathan

Locke, Two Treatises of Civil Government

Rousseau, The Social Contract

View in the Course Database.

Political Science

This course explores the development of western political thought from its Greek foundations through to the late Middle Ages. A historical overview of the progress of central political concepts is allied to a close reading of particular authors, with reference to the ways in which political thought related to broader philosophical, cultural and religious concerns.

Sample Topics:

  • Plato, Republic
  • Aristotle, Politics
  • Cicero, De Re Publica, De Legibus
  • Augustine, City of God
  • John of Salisbury, Policraticus
  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  • Dante, De Monarchia
  • Marsilius of Padua, Defensor pacis

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Since the Second World War, British politics has been in some ways stable and in others subject to radical change. The norm of two-party politics in the House of Commons has been undermined electorally and challenged by Celtic nationalism, anti-immigration politics and disillusion with the political class. Management of the economy by the government has been contested from the beginning of the period, although some see evidence of a post-war consensus on the mixed economy and the welfare state. The formal British Empire is no more, but Britain still seeks a world role in parallel with its semi-detached membership of the European Union. Attlee, Thatcher, Blair and others have sought to fundamentally change the character of the British state, but some continuities remain remarkably enduring.

View in the Course Database.

This course covers the political thought of the ancient world, from Classical Athens to the Roman Empire.  This period saw the formulation of fundamental elements in political thought: the state, justice, citizenship, notions of democracy, aristocracy and monarchy, and the concept of politics in itself. At the end of the period, Augustine of Hippo integrated elements of classical political thought into his Christian theology. Key thinkers are explored with reference to their historical and intellectual context.

Sample topics

Plato, The Republic

Plato, The Laws

Aristotle, Politics

Epicurean political thought

Cicero’s political thought (On Duties and other texts)

Seneca’s political thought

Augustine, The City of God

View in the Course Database.

The legacy of Enlightenment thinkers has left an indelible mark on Western political thought. This course aims to introduce students to the main intellectual and political currents of the Enlightenment. It begins with an analysis of philosophical and political rationalism. It examines debates pertaining to concepts such as rights, obligations, power, progress, refinement, liberty, equality and political sovereignty. It traces the development of political ideas and practices through the eighteenth century and shows how Enlightenment political thought served as the impulse to the political radicalism of revolutionary Europe.

 Sample Topics:

David Hume, Political Essays

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Denis Diderot, Political Writings

Voltaire, Political Writings

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

J.-A.-N.C. Marquis de Condorcet, Sketch on the Progress of the Human Mind

Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?

Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women

View in the Course Database.

This tutorial explores European politics since the Cold War.  European states have grappled with a series of challenges since the collapse of communism. Familiar party competition between social democracy, liberalism and Christian Democrats has been dramatically altered by the end of traditional west European Communist parties, the rise of Green politics, and the insurgent anti-immigration far right. Politics in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia has become much less predictable now older certainties are eroded. At the same time, democratic transitions in eastern Europe have proven remarkably durable as the European Union has pushed for monetary and fiscal integration in the depths of crisis over the Euro. Nevertheless, rising Euroscepticism threatens to undo the process of integration, even as further crises emerge on Europe’s periphery.

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Since the Cold War International Relations has evolved significantly as a discipline. The failure of older theory to predict and explain the end of the superpower rivalry has meant a flourishing in new theory. At the same time, a more unpredictable world order has been a fruitful testing ground for rethinking ideas of the ‘democratic peace’, regional integration in the European Union and elsewhere, sub-state ethnic conflict and the purported ‘clash of civilisations’, the causes and nature of globalisation, the role of the IMF, World Bank and WTO, and the origins of a state’s foreign policy, amongst many others. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have further questioned the nature of international order and modern warfare and security, as has nuclear proliferation and the Arab Spring.

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This tutorial explores Sub-Saharan Africa’s politics and history since 1945. The rise of African nationalism, the ideals of Pan-Africanism, and the decolonisation of the continent by European powers between 1945 and 1975 culminated in the democratisation of South Africa after apartheid in 1990-1994. Since those heady days, Africa’s fate has been contested and different to hopes and expectations. War and disease, especially malaria and HIV/AIDS, have killed many millions, but the continent’s economic and political renaissance has begun in some parts to refute catastrophe and disaster. Democratic transitions in the 1990s away from military rule and one-party states have led to success in some states, but not in all. Resource endowments, not least oil fields, continue to attract outsiders and reignited competition for influence. Ongoing environmental and ethnic conflicts present challenges to the African Union’s hopes of an African century.

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This course critically examines the meaning and political significance of some of the key concepts and values discussed by modern political philosophers, including: power, political authority, democracy, justice, equality, liberty and autonomy. It covers the key works of some major philosophers – including John Rawls, Robert Nozick and Ronald Dworkin – as well as trends in modern socialist and feminist thought.  

Sample reading:  

Ronald Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue: the Theory and Practice of Equality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000) 

Ross Harrison, Democracy (London: Routledge, 1993) 

Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002) 

Steven Lukes, Power: a radical view (London: Macmillan, 2005) 

Catharine Mackinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989) 

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Oxford: Blackwell, 1974) 

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice Rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 

Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986)

View in the Course Database.

The legacy of nineteenth-century political thought is long and enduring, having shaped the contours of twentieth and twenty-first-century political theory and practice. This course examines nineteenth-century political thought. It explores how the advent of democracy, and the competing visions of it, shaped fundamentally the preoccupations of nineteenth-century political thinkers defining the way they understood concepts such as equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, tyranny, and revolution.

Sample Topics:

 Benjamin Constant, Political Writings

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

J.S. Mill, On Liberty

J.S. Mill, Subjection of Women

Robert Owen, A New View of Society

G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of Philosophy of Right

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Manifesto of the Communist Party

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

View in the Course Database.

This course presents a detailed historical survey of political thinking in the Renaissance. It was during this period that many important and influential political concepts, such as virtue, liberty, equality, power, republics, kingship, and tyranny began to assume the forms that remain familiar to us today. The course analyses the philosophical underpinnings of those concepts, their historical contexts and development, and their changing constellations.

Sample Topics

Dante Alighieri, Monarchy

Marsilius of Padua, Defender of the Peace

Leonardo Bruni, The New Cicero

Coluccio Salutati, On Tyranny

Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier

Francesco Guicciardini, Dialogue on the Government of Florence

Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Nicolo Machiavelli, The Discourses  

View in the Course Database.

This course explores central themes in the history of western political thought, from Plato to Rousseau.  It focuses on the major works by key thinkers. This allows key themes (such as justice, the nature of the state, citizenship, and the role of religion) to be explored across the long-term development of western political thought.

Sample topics:

Plato, The Republic

Aristotle, Politics

Augustine, City of God

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

Machiavelli, The Discourses

Hobbes, Leviathan

Locke, Two Treatises of Civil Government

Rousseau, The Social Contract

View in the Course Database.

Portuguese

Tuition in Portuguese can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on Portuguese for academic purposes, or on conversational Portuguese, depending on what is required.

Note that modern languages are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  Use the same course code whatever your level: you will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

View in the Course Database.

Psychology

Religion

This course examines Catholic efforts to reform the Church that pre-dated the Reformation and the Council of Trent, challenging the pervasive narrative of the ‘Counter Reformation’ that views these efforts as purely reactionary to Protestantism. New devotional practices, varied approaches to the visual arts and music, and new articulations of doctrine meant that this period was one of the most dynamic, yet contested in the history of the Church. Spanning from the late 1400s to the end of the sixteenth-century, you will be introduced to debates on religious reform spearheaded by individuals including Savonarola; humanists such as Thomas More and Erasmus of Rotterdam; prominent ecclesiastics such as Gasparo Contarini; as well as the laity (women as well as men), who played a vital role in instigating reform.

  • Reforming the Church before Luther
  • Erasmus, More and Catholic Humanism
  • The Spirituali
  • Convening the Council of Trent
  • Instigating Reform in the late Sixteenth Century
  • New Religious Orders
  • A New Aesthetic? Art, Architecture and Music

 

Introductory Reading

  • Laven, M. (et al.), eds, The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013.
  • Mullet, M.A., The Catholic Reformation. Abingdon: Routledge, 1999
  • Hsia, R. Po-chia, The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 2005
  • O’Malley, J.W., Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2nd edn, 2002
  • Luebke, D.M. (ed.), The Counter-Reformation: The Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999
  • C. Lindberg (ed.), The European Reformations Sourcebook. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000

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This course examines relations between Christianity and the sciences in the western world, from the seventeenth century to the present.  Christianity and science have often been presented as mutually hostile or incommensurable entities.    However, a more nuanced and scholarly approach – drawing on readings in science, history and theology – reveals complexities that go beyond adversarial over-simplifications.  Key scientific figures such as Galileo, Newton and Darwin cannot be understood independently of their Christian context, while Christian thinkers have responded creatively (as well as, at times, defensively) to the challenges of modern science.

The Museum of Natural History, in Oxford.  In 1860 this was the location of a celebrated debate between T.H. Huxley, Samuel Wilberforce (bishop of Oxford) and others, on the controversial topic of evolution.  The Museum is opposite Keble College, and about ten minutes walk from M-CMRS.

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This tutorial provides an overview of the thought and practice of classical Islam, from the seventh century through to the end of the medieval era. Key topics include the Qu’ran, hadiths, law, philosophy and theology, as well as ritual and other elements of practice. Readings for the tutorial include Arabic texts in English translation, and works of modern scholarship.

Sample reading:

Alan Jones (trans.), The Qu’ran (Gibbs Memorial Trust 2007)

N. Calder, J. Mojaddedi & J. Rippin (eds.), Classical Islam: A Sourcebook of Religious Literature (Routledge 2003)

F.E. Peters (ed.), A Reader on Classical Islam (Princeton UP 1994)

Abdullah Saeed, Islamic Thought: An Introduction (Routledge 2006)

Tim Winter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology (Cambridge University Press 2008)

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This course explores the religions of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  It considers religious myths, beliefs and practices in the context of the history and cultures of the classical world.  Readings include some of the most powerful texts produced in the ancient world, including those by Homer, Virgil and Ovid (in English translation). 

Sample Syllabus:

  • Ancient religion: an overview
  • The gods in Homer
  • Greek tragedy and the divine
  • Lyric poetry and divine inspiration
  • Philosophers and religion
  • The Aeneid and Rome’s gods
  • Ovid: the Metamorphoses and the Fasti

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The theologians and ecclesiastics of the first Christian centuries drew on deep wells of Biblical writing and Greek philosophy, as well as the most intense forms of personal experience, when they sought direct and individual engagement with their God.  One result was a remarkably rich, sophisticated and compelling literature which has helped to shape Christian life and theology in every century to the present. Careful exploration of  context and text together allows students to trace these spiritual pioneers.

Sample Syllabus

  • Classical Roots & Platonic Traditions
  • Biblical Origins, Old and New
  • The Apostolic Fathers and the Gift of the Holy Spirit
  • Origen and the Alexandrian School
  • Gregory of Nyssa: Progressing to the Unreachable God
  • Stillness and the Mysticism of the Desert
  • Augustine, Contemplation and Mystical Illumination
  • Pseudo-Dionysius and the Negative Way


Introductory Reading

  • Louth, A., The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition : from Plato to Denys. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2007
  • McGinn, B., The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism. Vol. 1:  The Foundations of Mysticism. London: SMCM, 1991
  • Kenney, J.P., The Mysticism of Saint Augustine: Rereading the Confessions. New York, NY : Routledge, 2005
  • Happold, F.C., Mysticism: a Study and an Anthology. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970
  • Clément, O. et al. (eds), The Roots of Christian Mysticism: Texts from the Patristic Era with Commentary. London : New City, 10th rev’d edn, 2013

View in the Course Database.

Although far from isolated from the revolutionary currents of religious thought and practice which shook contemporary Europe, the English Reformation followed a distinctive course in which the needs and desires of successive rulers were a crucial factor. Yet neither King Henry VIII, nor any of his three children who succeeded him, had things entirely their own way, and English religious life was also moulded from below. As well as studying contemporary theological and other texts, students in this course will explore political and social ramifications of religious change with the aid of flourishing modern scholarship. 

Sample Syllabus

  • The Late Medieval Church in England
  • The King’s Great Matter: Henry VIII’s Reformation
  • Protestant Reformation under Edward VI
  • An English Counter-Reformation?
  • The Elizabethan Settlement
  • Popular Religion in Reformation England
  • Reforming Art
  • The Reformation of Literature


Introductory Reading

  • Marshall, P., Reformation England, 1480–1642. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2nd edn, 2012
  • Duffy, E., The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400-c.1580. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2nd edn, 2005
  • Haigh, C., English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993
  • MacCulloch, D., The Later Reformation in England, 1547-1603. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2nd edn, 2001
  • Duffy, E. et al. (eds), The Church of Mary Tudor. Aldershot : Ashgate, 2006
  • King, J.N. (ed.), Voices of the English Reformation: A Sourcebook. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004

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This course explores the historical, literary and theological issues pertinent to a scholarly understanding of the Hebrew Bible, sometimes called the Old Testament, or Tanakh.  This is a remarkable collection of books, spanning law, history, wisdom and prophecy, and ranging in date from perhaps the eighth to the first centuries B.C. It contains some of the most sublime poetry known to humankind, and some of its earthiest history. Millions of people have based their lives upon its teachings, and many outstanding scholars have devoted their lives to its exposition. 

Depending on the requirements and interests of the student, this course can take the form of a general introduction to Hebrew Bible studies, or concentrate on a more specialised range of topics.

Introductory Reading

  • Barton, J., Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2nd edn, 1996
  • Curtis, A. (ed.), Oxford Bible Atlas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4th edn, 2007
  • Finklestein, I. and Silberman, N.A., The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Stories. London: Simon & Schuster, 2001
  • Hallo, W. et al., The Context of Scripture: Canonical Compositions, Monumental Inscriptions, and Archival Documents from the Biblical World. Leiden: Brill, 3 vols, 1997-2002
  • King, P. and Stager, L., Life in Biblical Israel.  London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001
  • Sasson, J.M. (ed.), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. New York: Scribners, 4 vols, 1995

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This course provides students with a solid foundation in early Buddhist thought, covering the core teachings of the historical Buddha. The course begins with a consideration of the social and religious milieu of fifth century BCE India, against which such teachings as (for example) no-self and non-violence are properly contextualised and understood. Students will also gain a sense of the diversity of traditions within Buddhism and a sense of the enormity of the Buddhist canonical literature. In addition to the central teachings in metaphysics, this course explores the soteriological underpinnings of Buddhist teaching and gives students an opportunity to explore issues in moral philosophy from an alternative point of view.  

Sample Syllabus: 

  • The theory of no-self (an?tta): its context, coherence and purpose. 
  • Karma and Rebirth: literalistic vs. metaphorical interpretations.
  • Causes and Conditions in early Buddhism: the pervasiveness of change and the existential angst it engenders. 
  • Soteriology: competing conceptions of nirv??a.
  • Meditational Practices: the objective, methods and types of meditation (with a focus on early Buddhism).
  • The community of monks and nuns: the sa?gha as an institution, its formation and its rules.
  • Canonical literature: the P?li canon and the concept of word of the Buddha’ (buddhavacana).
  • Ahi?s? and Karu??: non-violence and compassion as the guiding principles of Buddhist ethics.

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In this course we will study a variety of texts and topics that cast light on important developments in Judaism from the period of the Second Temple to the Middle Ages. Beginning with the spectacular discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have revolutionized our understanding of ancient Judaism, we will pass by the fascinating world of Greek-speaking Judaism, and we will explore the art and architecture of ancient synagogues unearthed in the Galilee. After an introduction into the Mishnah and the Talmud, we will study rabbinic interpretation of the Bible (Midrash), and have a taste of the liturgical poetry from late antiquity (Piyyut) that was discovered in the Genizah of Cairo. We will end our journey in the Middle Ages by examining the influence of the Babylonian Geonim and the great rabbi, physician, philosopher and Torah scholar Moses Maimonides.

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This course introduces students to some of the most important thinkers and debates of Late Antiquity (roughly 200 to 800 A.D.), which is regarded as the watershed between the Ancient World and the European Middle Ages. In philosophy one of the most important developments since the time of Plato and Aristotle took place with the rise of Neo-Platonism. In the religious/social sphere the growth of Christianity and its institution as the religion of the Empire coincided with the disappearance of the religion of pre-Christian Rome and the political decline of the Empire. These events helped to generate wide-ranging debates, among Christians and between Christians and non-Christians. With the disintegration of ancient culture, the writings of thinkers such as Augustine, Basil, Boethius, Cassiodorus and Isidore were to play in important part in the preservation of ancient learning, as was the development of monasticism.

Set texts:

Plotinus, Enneads
Porphyry, Isagoge
Creed, Canons and Synodal Letter of the First Council of Nicaea
Athanasius, Life of Antony, Discourses against the Arians
Basil the Great , Address to young men on reading Greek literature
Ambrose, Epistles 17, 18 & 57
Augustine, City of God
Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
Isidore of Seville, Etymologies
Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names

Sample topics:

1.    Church fathers, heresiarchs and the development of conciliar thought
2.    The christian/pagan debate: Ambrose, Symmachus and the Altar of Victory
3.    The development of neo-platonism: Plotinus and Porphyry
4.    Athanasius, Arius and the Council of Nicaea
5.    Augustine and the two cities
6.    Predestination and freedom: Augustine and Pelagius
7.    ‘Despoiling the Egyptians’: Augustine, Boethius and the ‘christianising’ of ancient thought
8.    Cassiodorus, Isidore of Seville and the preservation of ancient learning
9.    Pseudo-Dionysius and the development of apophatic/negative theology

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This course examines medieval monasticism in religious and historical context. From origins in late antiquity, monasticism became one of the central expressions of medieval Christianity.   The ‘long twelfth century’ was an especially important period, as international  monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians developed for the first time. Monks and nuns sought to renounce the temptations of the material world by withdrawing into lives of poverty and celibacy.  They were distinct from wider Christian society, yet also focal points for lay devotion,  Major monasteries became important centres of political and economic power.  Many of the most important intellectual figures of the middle ages were monks or nuns.  Students are able to use the numerous sources (in translation) produced by and about medieval monasticism, as well as the rich modern scholarship on the subject. 

Sample Topics

  • ‘I and God alone’: The Desert Fathers
  • The Rule of St Benedict
  • Tenth-Century Reform: Cluny and Others
  • Monasticism for Women
  • A New Israel? Bernard and the Cistercians
  • The Twelfth-Century Explosion
  • ‘To follow as paupers the pauper Christ’: the Mendicants
  • Late Medieval Monasticism & its Critics

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This course introduces students to the development of modern Catholic Thought from the period after the First Vatican Council (1870) to the present day. Students will look at the different ways in which Catholic Thought has engaged with the rise of modernity/post-modernity and with the changing religious, political, social and scientific landscape. We will focus on some of the most influential documents produced by the Church’s magisterium in this period and at the contributions of some of the major figures in Catholic theology, such as de Lubac, Rahner, Von Balthasar and Küng. We shall also look at the development of feminist, political and other theologies.

Set texts:

The Documents of the Second Vatican Council: Lumen Gentium
Papal encyclicals: Rerum novarum, Pascendi dominici gregis, Humani generis, Fides et Ratio
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love alone: The way of revelation
Yves Congar, True and False Reform in the Church
Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation
Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse
Hans Küng, ‘What is an ecumenical council?’ in The Living Church
Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural; Catholicism
Karl Rahner, The Trinity
Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesus: An experiment in Christology

Sample topics:

1.    Pius X and the Modernist crisis
2.    Nouvelle Theologie and the Humani generis controversy (de Lubac, Pius XII)
3.    Rethinking Catholic doctrine: God as Trinity in modern Catholic thought (Rahner)
4.    Rethinking Catholic doctrine: The Divinity and Humanity of Christ in modern Catholic thought (Schillebeeckx)
5.    Rethinking Catholic doctrine: The Church in modern Catholic thought (Second Vatican Council, Congar, Küng)
6.    Faith, reason and the rise of modern science (John Paul II)
7.    The place of feminism and post-modernism in modern Catholic thought (Johnson)
8.    Catholic Social teaching from Rerum novarum to liberation theology (Leo XIII, Gutiérrez)

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This course covers the grammar, syntax and vocabulary of New Testament Greek.  It is possible to take this at any language level, including beginner.  Students’ level will be assessed as part of the pre-arrival process.

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This course explores historical, literary and theological aspects of the New Testament. Because of its centrality to Christianity, the New Testament has been read with great attention and fervour for nearly two thousand years, and many of the best minds of those millennia have given themselves to expounding it. Yet, such are the power, range and subtlety of this anthology of texts, and its ability to stir controversy, that there is no hint of this scholarship slowing. 

Depending on the requirements of the individual student, this course can serve as a general introduction to New Testament studies, or concentrate on a more focussed selection of topics.

Introductory Reading

  • Boxall, I., SCM Studyguide to New Testament Interpretation. Norwich: SCM Press. 2007
  • Johnson, L. T., The Writings of the New Testament. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 3rd edn, 2010
  • Court, J. & K., The New Testament World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990
  • Barrett, C. K., The New Testament Background: Selected Documents. London: SPCK, rev’d edn, 1987
  • Moule, C.F.D., The Birth of the New Testament. London: A & C Black, 3rd edn, 1981
  • Sanders, E.P., The Historical Figure of Jesus. London: Penguin, 1995
  • Bockmuehl, M. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Jesus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001
  • Wenham, D. et al., Exploring the New Testament. London: SPCK, 2 vols, 2nd edn, 2011

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It is often possible to arrange teaching in Religion beyond the tutorials listed.  This provides the opportunity to explore a subject in depth, through one-to-one tutorials and writing weekly essays.

This will usually be of interest to students who have already taken classes in Religion, and have a specific interest that they wish to pursue, and/or a specific requirement that they need to fulfil. 

Please note that this is subject to agreement by both the programme and the applicant’s home institution.  Applicants interested in this possibility should contact the Senior Tutor directly.

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Russian

Tuition in Russian can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on academic or conversational Russian depending on what is required.

Note that modern languages are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  Use the same course code for both levels, you will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

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Sociology/Anthropology

This tutorial is an introduction to archaeological method and theory. How do archaeologists work? What methods did they employ traditionally, and how have recent developments in remote sensing techniques such as LiDAR revolutionised field exploration? How do archaeologists then ‘translate’ the mass of data gathered in the field into a coherent story about the past, and how have such theoretical and interpretative frameworks changed over time? Can archaeological theory really help us to elucidate the past, or does it tell us more about contemporary trends in philosophy? This course provides an overview of archaeological investigation practices as well as the main developments in theoretical thinking that have taken place since the middle decades of the 20th century, and will provide students with a critical understanding of archaeological method and theory necessary to understand the discipline.

Sample reading

Barker, P. A. 1993. Techniques of Archaeological Excavation. 3rd ed. Batsford.

Berger, A. A. 2014. What objects mean: an introduction to material culture. Left Coast Press.

Bintliff, J. and Pearce, M. 2011. The Death of Archaeological Theory? Oxbow.

Carver, M. 1987. Underneath English Towns: interpreting English archaeology. Batsford.

Carver, M. 2009. Archaeological Investigation. Routledge.

Johnson, M. 2010. Archaeological Theory: an introduction. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

Lucas, G. 2012. Understanding the Archaeological Record. Cambridge University Press.

Wiseman, J. and El-Baz, F. (eds), Remote sensing in archaeology. Springer.

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It is sometimes possible to arrange teaching in Anthropology and/or Sociology beyond the tutorials listed.  This provides the opportunity to explore a particular subject in depth, through one-to-one tutorials and writing weekly essays.

This will usually be of interest to students who have already taken classes in Anthropology and/or Sociology, and have a specific interest that they wish to pursue, and/or a specific requirement that they need to fulfil. 

Please note that this is subject to agreement by both the programme and the applicant’s home institution.  

Applicants interested in this possibility should contact the Senior Tutor directly.

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Spanish

Tuition in Spanish can be arranged to accommodate a wide range of needs and interests. For example, a stress can be laid on reading or conversational Spanish depending on what is required.

Note that modern languages are offered only at intermediate and advanced levels, not for beginners or near-beginners.  Use the same course code for both levels, you will be asked to clarify your linguistic skills during the admissions process.

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Theatre

At the end of the nineteenth century, theatre dominated the performing arts and encompassed a great variety of forms. Rapidly evolving stage technologies, and the development of film, radio and television have fundamentally changed the role of theatre in society and the kinds of works written for it. We will explore the nature of these changes and examine the unique aesthetic power of live performance. We will also consider television and radio drama, which (especially in the first thirty years of the BBC) was often intended to be live and not recorded.

This course consists of six broadly chronological strands and the course can be tailored to draw exclusively or mainly from one strand or be a combination of several.

Strand A. Early twentieth-century theatre

For example:

  • JM Synge: Playboy of the Western World
  • RC Sherriff: Journey’s End
  • Modernist theatre: TS Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
  • Auden and Isherwood, The Dog Beneath the Skin; The Ascent of F6.
  • Christopher Fry: The Lady’s Not for Burning
  • Noel Coward: Private Lives; Blithe Spirit

 

Strand B. The theatre of the Absurd

For example:

  • Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape; Happy Days
  • Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; Travesties
  • Heathcote Williams: AC/DC
  • Harold Pinter: The Room; The Birthday Party
  • David Hare: Slag

 

Strand C. The post-war stage and musicals

For example:

  • Joe Orton: Loot
  • John Osborne: Look Back in Anger
  • David Storey: Home
  • Simon Gray: Butley
  • Harold Pinter: The Caretaker, ‘Night’, No Man’s Land, etc
  • Peter Shaffer: Equus; Royal Hunt of the Sun
  • Lionel Bart: Oliver

 

Strand D. Television drama

For example:

  • Armchair Theatre, The Wednesday Play, Play for Today
  • Ken Russell: Debussy; Always on a Sunday; Dante’s Inferno
  • Ken Loach: Cathy Come Home
  • Mike Leigh: Meantime
  • Dennis Potter: The Singing Detective

 

Strand E. Theatre since 1990

For example:

  • Keith Waterhouse: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
  • Tom Stoppard: Arcadia
  • Caryl Churchill: A Mouthful of Birds; Serious Money
  • David Hare: Skylight
  • Sarah Kane: Blasted; Cleansed
  • Mark Ravenhill: The Cut
  • Jez Butterworth: Jerusalem
  • Mike Bartlett: Earthquakes in London

 

Strand F. The role of theatre

For example:

  • Peter Brook, The Empty Space
  • Howard Barker, ‘Arguments for a Theatre’
  • Shakespeare, the RSC, the British Council and the National Theatre
  • Student theatre

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