Classics and English

Why Classics and English at St Anne’s?

The College has a strong classical tradition, with three tutors in the Literae Humaniores School responsible for language and literature, ancient history and philosophy respectively. English has always been strong at St Anne’s: writers such as Helen Fielding and Zoë Heller studied here; other undergraduates, including Dame Gillian Beer, have gone on to become leading international scholars. Dame Iris Murdoch was a Fellow of the College, and tutors such as Dorothy Bednarowska were famously inspiring teachers.

Teaching for our Classics and English students is closely coordinated with that for students in Classics and Modern Languages, especially in the first two years of the course. We are more than happy to consider applications either for the three-year version of the course (Course I) for students with at least one ancient language at A-Level or equivalent, or for the four-year course (Course II) for students taking up an ancient language as beginners.

St Anne’s College has a thriving culture of interdisciplinary work in this area. Professor Leigh has published on the reception of ancient literature in authors such as Scott and Gissing, and both he and Professor Reynolds have participated actively in recent seminars on Classics in 20th-century English poetry. More recently, Professor Leigh, Dr Stagg, and Dr Di Martino have pioneered a weekly Classics and English and Classical Reception reading group. St Anne’s is home to the Oxford Centre for Comparative Criticism and Translation and to the Weidenfeld Chair in Comparative Literature. In recent years the St Anne’s Classics Society reading party has studied, among other texts, Beowulf, the Kalevala, and Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel. Our guest speakers have included some of the world’s most distinguished classical scholars as well as such noted poets as Michael Longley reading from their work. Several College funds help to provide prizes, to support travel and field archaeology, and to augment the well-stocked classical library.

Today, St Anne’s has four main tutors in English: Siân Grønlie, Freya Johnston, Matthew Reynolds and Rob Stagg – whose research and teaching span the whole syllabus from Old English to the present day (you can find out about us by clicking on the links at the right of this page). This means that we are able to offer the full range of options in the English course, from Beowulf to Beckett. All of us are interested in how English interacts with other media (e.g. Art, Film) and with writing in other languages. 

There is ample opportunity throughout the course to bring your knowledge of classical texts to bear on your study of English literature, and vice versa. Forums such as the English society, the Film Seminar and our interdisciplinary ‘Subject Family’ seminars encourage talk and collaboration between various disciplines.
Several St Anne’s students over the past few years taking Classics and English have gained Firsts. We are keen to build on our established reputation in this subject and strongly encourage applications. Classics and English tutors take pleasure in teaching classes together for the Epic, Tragedy and Comedy genre papers, and our students thrive in this atmosphere.