Study here/Undergraduate studies/Available Subjects/
English Language and Literature

Jesus College has an excellent record of academic achievement in English and the Joint Schools.

We currently has 27 undergraduates reading English, including ten in the joint schools with Classics, History, and Modern Languages. There are also 11 graduates studying for Masters and doctoral degrees (please see below for further information on Postgraduate Studies and Careers).

The College has an excellent record of academic achievement in English and the Joint Schools – in 2012, for example, all six of our English finalists gained Firsts and in 2014 five of our first years won distinctions in Prelims- with a tradition of fostering a love of literature and independent thought. Theatre trips, poetry readings, and English society events (detailed below) all contribute to a densely textured intellectual life at Jesus. Jesus College is located a two-minute walk from the Bodleian Library, an eight-minute walk from the English Faculty Library and itself offers excellent library and computer facilities.

All degree courses should help students to learn how to think, and the English course at Oxford is particularly well equipped to do so. Each student will study different texts, pursue personal interests, and shape his or her degree in exciting and challenging ways. The study of English starts from a love of literature and language, and branches out to encounter or encompass other subjects and fields of enquiry. English is a subject which lends itself to diverse approaches and theories of interpretation, from Aristotle’s Poetics to Derridean deconstruction.

Here at Jesus we encourage students to work in interdisciplinary ways, and to explore a range of approaches to literature, while never forgetting the centrality of the text. Studying English involves the development of analytical skills and the accumulation of a great deal of knowledge: you need to be able to read widely but also in close detail; to understand the sweep of historical change while also being able to meditate on the nuances of a single word.

The English course is extremely demanding, and you must be ready to work hard. Our students think in original and imaginative ways, and are willing to pursue ideas, themes, and approaches to texts independently. Much of our teaching is conducted in tutorials (one or two students with the Tutor) and small groups, and you must be prepared to discuss your ideas and reading with tutors and other students, and to respond spontaneously to criticism or new ideas introduced by them. You must be excited by the challenges of literary study, and dedicated to developing the skills of reading, writing, interpretation, and research.

Fellows

Professor Paulina Kewes, Fellow and Tutor in English, teaches English literature from the Renaissance to the Romantics, including Shakespeare. Paulina’s research interests are in early modern literature (especially drama), history, and politics, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Her publications include Authorship and Appropriation: Writing for the Stage in England, 1660-1710 (1998) and several edited or co-edited volumes: Plagiarism in Early Modern England (2003), The Uses of History in Early Modern England (2006), The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed’s Chronicles (2013), Doubtful and Dangerous: The Question of Succession in Late Elizabethan England (2014), Stuart Succession Literature: Moments and Transformations (2019) as well as numerous articles on Shakespeare, Dryden, early modern drama, translation, plagiarism, historical writings, royal iconography, and political thought. She is currently writing the first interdisciplinary study of debates about the royal succession in the period from Henry VIII’s death in 1547 to the accession of James VI/I and union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603, from a comparative British and European perspective. The book is contracted to Oxford University Press.

Professor Marion Turner, Fellow and Tutor in English, teaches literature from 650-1550. Her biography of Chaucer – Chaucer: A European Life – was published by Princeton University Press in 2019 and shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2020. Her other publications include Chaucerian Conflict (2007) and A Handbook of Middle English Studies (2013), and she also works on literature and medicine and on life-writing. Her current book project, supported by the Leverhulme Trust, is about medieval women, focusing on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath across time. Marion is committed to public engagement and outreach, and frequently speaks in schools, at literary festivals, and on television and radio.

Professor Dirk Van Hulle teaches Bibliography, Genetic Criticism, Book History and (Digital) Scholarly Editing. His research interests are in modern manuscripts, notably by James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. With Mark Nixon, he is co-director of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, series editor of the Cambridge UP series ‘Elements in Beckett Studies’ and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Beckett Studies. He is editor of the online journal Genetic Joyce Studies and member of the editorial board of the International Journal for Digital Humanities (Springer). His publications include Textual Awareness (Michigan UP, 2004), Modern Manuscripts (2014), Samuel Beckett’s Library (CUP, 2013, with Mark Nixon), The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett (CUP, 2015), James Joyce’s Work in Progress (Routledge,
2016), several volumes in the ‘Making of’ series (Bloomsbury) and genetic editions in the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, including the Beckett Digital Library. His current projects include a monograph on Genetic Criticism for OUP, a digital edition of Samuel Beckett’s Murphy, the co-editing of a Comparative History of the Literary Draft (John Benjamins), and of the Oxford Handbook of Samuel Beckett (OUP).

Lecturers

Dr Amanda Holton, Stipendiary Lecturer in English Language, teaches a paper on the English language at Jesus. She also teaches literature from 650 to 1550. Her principal research interests and publications are in Chaucer, the medieval and sixteenth-century love lyric, and poetics, with an emphasis on how form precedes and generates meaning. She is interested in interrogating the agendas which drive the taxonomy of poetic form, and in challenging the division still made between medieval and early modern literature.

Dr Ayoush Lazikani is a Departmental Lecturer during Professor Marion Turner’s leave. She is a SEDA accredited tutor, teaching and lecturing in Old English and Middle English. As a researcher, Ayoush works in the history of emotions, specializing in devotional writing of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Her research considers English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin texts, and she has particular interests in literature written for religious recluses. Ayoush’s first book, Cultivating the Heart: Feeling and Emotion in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Religious Texts (University of Wales Press, 2015), studied the languages of feeling – especially the interrelated affections of compassion, love, and sorrow – in texts and church wall paintings. Her second book, Emotion in Christian and Islamic Contemplative Texts, c. 1100-1250, is due to be published in 2021.

Dr William Ghosh, Career Development Fellow in English, teaches Victorian and Modern literature and literary theory at Jesus. His research explores the literature and intellectual history of Britain and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. His interests include comparative literature, critical theory, linguistics, and prose forms.

Professor Peter Davidson is Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall and teaches renaissance, baroque and romantic literature for Jesus College. He has edited the seventeenth century poet Richard Fanshawe for OUP, as well as the two Oxford anthologies, Poetry and Revolution, and Early Modern Women Poets. His study of early-modern international culture The Universal Baroque was published in 2007. He is general editor for the Oxford Edition of the works of St Robert Southwell. He has wide interests in early modern cultural history and also teaches for History of Art. He has taught the Epic bridge paper for Classics and English, and has supervised for History and English. He has another identity as a writer of literary nonfiction and verse: The Idea of North (2005); The Palace of Oblivion (2008); Distance and Memory (2013); The Last of the Light (2015).

In a total College entry of about 100 undergraduates, 6-8 are offered places in a typical year to read English and joint schools with English.

We are looking for students who combine academic excellence and ambition with intellectual curiosity and the determination to read as widely as possible. Our successful applicants usually read extensively beyond the school syllabus while maintaining strong analytical skills in close reading. Enthusiasm and a love of the subject are vital.

Academic requirements:

Offers made to candidates will be conditional upon A-level results (AAA) or equivalent qualifications. It is essential to study A-level English Literature (or English Language and Literature), or equivalent in other qualification systems.

Written test:

All candidates (including applicants for Joint Schools with Classics or Modern Languages) must take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) in school on 4 November 2021. The ELAT is administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, and the registration deadline is 15 October 2021. For further details, see here.

Written work:

Candidates are required to submit one recent example of writing. This should be a marked essay produced in the normal course of your school or college work. It should not be rewritten and it should not be a short timed essay, piece of creative writing, or critical commentary. The essay should be on an English literature topic. The deadline to submit written work is 10 November 2021.
Further information can be viewed here.

Interviews:

There will be two interviews of approximately 20 minutes. In one interview, candidates will be asked to discuss a poem which will be supplied about half an hour earlier. In the other interview, candidates may be asked about their reading interests, the written work they have submitted, and the authors and texts they have studied at A-level.

Deferred Entry:

Applications for deferred entry to Jesus College are accepted. You must apply for deferred entry at the time of application to Oxford: you cannot change your mind after an offer has been made. Please refer to departmental web sites for subject-specific advice. You should be aware that applicants who are offered places for deferred entry will generally be among the strongest of the cohort for their subject. We would not usually offer more than one deferred place per subject in order not to disadvantage the following year’s candidates. In some cases, an applicant for deferred entry may be offered a place for non-deferred entry instead. If you require any further advice, please contact the Admissions Officer via admissions.officer@jesus.ox.ac.uk

Jesus has a thriving community of graduate students in English, and we are actively expanding our postgraduate intake. For the last few years, we have been co-funding a number of full scholarships for MSt and DPhil students and we are committed to continuing to do all we can to support our students financially, as well as intellectually.

We welcome applicants for the following postgraduate courses in English:

  • DPhil in English Language and Literature
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (650 -1550)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1550-1700)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1700-1830)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1830-1914)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1900- Present)
  • M.St. English and American Studies
  • M.Phil. English Studies (Medieval Period)
  • M.St. World Literatures in English

Prospective graduate students are welcome to contact the English fellows for an informal discussion about the College.

Why choose Jesus College for graduate study?

The College is unique in its financial provision for postgraduates: it provides generous allowances for research trips and book purchase, and its housing and food are heavily subsidised and among the best value in Oxford. There are also other funding opportunities available – for example, an English postgraduate was recently awarded a generous Old Members’ bursary. English postgraduates are allocated one of the English tutors as a College advisor, who will serve as a pastoral and intellectual point of contact within Jesus College.

Our graduate students take an active part in the intellectual life of the College and participate in the English Society meetings and poetry readings. These involve dinner for students, tutors and guests, a talk or reading, questions, and then informal drinks. Thus they offer an opportunity to socialise with tutors and students, while also engaging with speakers of the highest calibre (including novelists, cultural historians, poets, and literary critics). There are also numerous other social and intellectual events based in College such as joint speaker evenings with members of the Senior Common Room or annual Graduate dinners to which students invite their supervisors.

In 2018, one group of Jesus DPhil students convened a Graduate Seminar on Early Modern England held at Jesus; another DPhil student hosts a Middle English reading group at Jesus; and yet another organised a speaker event with Pulitzer-prize winning contemporary playwright, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, at Jesus.

Further information about English at Oxford can be found on the Faculty website here.

Information about Admissions is available here.