Classics and English

I decided to study Classics and English because at A Level I found the way authors of English literature used classical material fascinating. After encouragement from my teachers and an Oxford English tutor at an Open Day, I decided to give my C&E application a go and I’m really glad I did. I love the fact that the Classics and English course is tailor-made to link the two halves of the degree, especially through link papers (e.g. Epic and Tragedy). Also, C&E is a very tight-knight subject because there aren’t many of us, so we meet up outside of work too. I’ve also really enjoyed tutorials. My tutors always open up my mind to new ideas I hadn’t considered before and are committed to helping me develop my interests.

Chloe, Oriel, student from 2013

I chose to study Classics and English at Oxford because I was fed up of reading literature that assumed I already knew about the Classics (I didn’t) and felt like I was missing out because I’d never studied the subject that seemingly every author had. I chose Oxford because it was the only place that demanded you studied the language (even if you had to start from scratch), and I thought if I wasn’t being made to, I never would, and I’d still be missing out. I also wanted to have tutorials, and to do the link papers – unique to Oxford. The course is definitely tough (three pieces of work due in a week is more of a norm than anomaly), but is ultimately very rewarding.

Rebecca, Regent's Park, student from 2011

The Classics and English course allows you to approach literature from the broadest possible angle; the study of language (both English and Latin/Greek linguistics) and period/author-specific papers are combined with genre focused options which cover thousands of years of storytelling. If you do Course II, then your first year is actually a preliminary year made up purely of language-learning before you go into the general ‘first’ year and study English modules in the Renaissance period and Critical Theory & Linguistics, and a variety of Latin (or Greek) authors by translating, commenting and writing essays on their works. The third and fourth years are made up of two subject specific papers for each side of the course and three link papers – you have to study a paper called Epic (on the ancient lengthy narrative poems of Homer, Virgil, etc) but can choose the other two from a broad range of genre-focused papers. The course is taught by a combination of tutorials (both in and out of college), inter-collegiate classes and seminars and lectures.

What helped inspire your love of the subject?

Molly Gibson-Mee

Try and find literature that links Classics and English. Purely Classical or purely English literature is fine but connecting them is what this course is about. For example: Troilus and Cressida by Shakespeare, Ulysses by Tennyson or more modern like the Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.

Molly, Oriel, 2nd year

I’d recommend reading The Iliad – it’s such a thought-provoking, beautiful poem. It’s influenced a lot of western art, so it’s a great starting point for thinking about literature through the ages.

Chloe, Oriel, student from 2013

Tell us about your interview?

Molly Gibson-Mee

My first interview was to assess my aptitude for languages as I don't have any qualifications in either Latin or Greek. They went over my Classics Admissions Test (CAT) exam and asked me to complete a question that I didn't have time for in the exam. They asked me questions about my French such as how I revised and how I memorised grammar rules.

My second interview was for English. They gave me a poem to make notes on and started by asking me what I found interesting about it then we explored it from there. Then they asked me about certain texts from my personal statement. They started by asking what I found interesting and moved on to more thought-provoking questions like "What constitutes an epic?"

Finally I had my Classics interview. Like English I had a poem to make notes on and we started by discussing it. Then we moved onto texts from my personal statement. They asked simple questions at first like "What did you find interesting?" and then progressed to more complicated ones like "What is tragedy?" However within the context of our discussion I never felt out out of my depth.

Overall, they never asked questions I couldn't answer. The questions were more thought-provoking than tricky and never thrown at you out of context. Although I was really nervous for my interviews, they were definitely more interesting than scary.

Molly, Oriel, 2nd year

Applicants that might be offered a place are invited for interview in December.

Find out more

Course length: 3 or 4 years (determined by your prior experience)
Students per year: 8

Make sure you read the official prospectus entry for the course which contains entry requirements, full course structure, additional interesting resources and full details of the application process.

If you're going to apply, you'll want to check which Oxford colleges offer this course.

You might also find it helpful to hear from students studying Classics or English (or even consider applying for those courses!).