(These are four-credit, six-week courses and every Seminar participant is required to enroll in one)
**Each Major Course is the equivalent of a 300-level class
*** English Department requirements changed in Spring 2013. Some majors are under old requirements, some under new. Check with the English Department for your own status.
The literary term 'romance' covers a multitude of sins. It is the grounding of many popular literary forms—from soap operas to Harlequin romances (and thus we look at a few films that embody romance themes and techniques). But it is, equally, a distinct, if rather amorphous, literary method, one equally adaptable to knights on quest, dramatic studies of lost women, and novels of young men seeking success. This course explores some of its many possible variations and assesses why this mode of writing has proved so resilient. Readings are drawn from: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Dickens's Great Expectations, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Films to be viewed may include Excalibur, Shane, and The Maltese Falcon.
Satisfies an upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old and new requirements), OR satisfies British literature 1700-1900 period distribution (old requirements only).
Reading Jane Austen
There are different Austens for different readers. Some are charmed by her wit, by her heroes and heroines, and by her capacity to write some of the greatest love stories of all time. Others view Austen as the reactionary or at least conservative voice of early nineteenth-century Tory Britain. And still others see her as dangerously subversive of the politics, manners, and mores she depicts. This course will not promote any one Austen, but, through a close exploration of each of her six major novels, we will attempt, like Elizabeth Bennet, to suspend our prejudices and sift the textual evidence, before coming to an opinion. (Satisfies an Upper Division Elective requirement for the English major.)
During your six weeks in Oxford, we will explore key Austen themes, such as love, marriage, money, morality, and sense and sensibility, relating them to their contexts within Regency Britain, and also within Enlightenment and Romantic literary traditions. More importantly, perhaps, we will scrutinize closely the linguistic texture of the novels, discussing how Austenís famous irony works and focusing on her subtle use of free indirect speech. Since Austen is often discussed in terms of a history of 'women's writing', we will take some time to consider feminist readings of Austen's work, and relate her novels to the issues facing women in early nineteenth-century England.
Satisfies the 300+ elective requirement for English majors (new requirements), OR satisfies the British literature 1700-1900 or upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old requirements).
I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too… (Twelfth Night)
Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons: the bonds of kindred are central to many of Shakespeare’s plays, of profound emotional, ethical, social, political and economic significance. They are, however, rarely unproblematic. In Shakespearean Families we shall be considering the representation and significance of family relationships in plays from across the course of Shakespeare’s career and a range of genres. We start with The Comedy of Errors, an early tour de force of mistaken identity – part romance, part dark farce – involving two pairs of identical twin brothers separated at birth. This is followed by the history play Henry IV, Part 1, in which Prince Hal’s difficult relationship with his father conflicts with his friendship with the huge, exuberant, unruly Falstaff. With Twelfth Night we return to comedy – though one that reminds us that ‘the rain it raineth every day’ – and more separated twins, this time brother and sister. One of Shakespeare’s grimmest reflections on the nature of humanity, King Lear, takes us into the realm of tragedy with its foolish fathers and murderous children. Finally we shall be studying one of Shakespeare’s great late romances, The Winter’s Tale, which is both comic and tragic, encompassing death and life.
Shakespeare’s plays are scripts for the stage: close study of the texts of the plays and their dramatic language will therefore be supported by discussion of them in performance, including Trevor Nunn’s flamboyant musical version of The Comedy of Errors starring Judi Dench, productions of 1 Henry IV from the Globe theatre and by the BBC, and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Stratford production of The Winter’s Tale with Antony Sher.
Satisfies the Shakespeare or upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old and new requirements).
Satisfies the Department of Theater Renaissance dramaturgy elective requirement for Theater majors, but must be confirmed with that department.
The Literary Makings of the Modern Self
What makes you, you? This course will involve an inspection of a group of major texts, key examples of writing across the tradition of English literature from the Renaissance to the present day, all preoccupied with issues of modern selfhood:
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1601), a foundational text for western self-consciousness
- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1720), a key to Protestant individualism
- George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860), a major nineteenth-century case of emerging, conflictual female being
- Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1948), a seminal work of modern consciousness
- Martin Amis, Money: A Suicide Note (1986), whose hero is John Self.
Satisfies an upper-level elective requirement for English majors (old and new requirements).
Introduction to International Law
The end of the Cold War brought new challenges for, and new expectations of, international law. Recent terrorist attacks have raised, in stark form, questions about the potential and limitations of law in establishing and maintaining world order. The law surrounding the uses of force is, of course, one of the most significant areas of international law, but recent years have also seen important developments in other key areas, particularly the preservation of the environment and the protection of human rights. This course will introduce the foundations of public international law. In light of these key areas, we will question whether international law can truly be termed law and whether it can hope to provide a realistic solution to the problems facing the world today. The course will interest not only those contemplating a career in law and who would like an introduction to legal reasoning via a fascinating and accessible area of the law; but also those who are considering careers in foreign affairs, politics or the media. No prior legal knowledge will be assumed.
Satisfies an upper-level course requirement for Political Science majors. Can satisfy a Legal Studies Liberal Law Related class requirement for Legal Studies majors, but please confirm with a department advisor.
Tudor and Stuart Britain
From Henry Tudor's accession to the throne in 1485 to the deposition of James II, the last Stuart king, in 1688, England was transformed from a minor feudal monarchy to a major European state with global ambitions. Over the same period, the formerly hostile northern kingdom of Scotland was joined with the English throne and Ireland became a colonial dependency. This course will examine the politics, culture, and society of the three British kingdoms over these turbulent yet brilliant centuries, with particular attention to the place of Oxford and Oxfordshire.
Satisfies an upper-level course requirement (level 200-400) for History majors.
The Politics of Imperial Decline in Britain since 1939
This course is an examination of the politics of the British empire in its decline from the moment of its greatest crisis in the Second World War, to decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s, to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and in ‘post-imperial’ Britain. It will consider the interaction of domestic politics, military weakness, relative economic decline, imperial crises and colonial nationalism in weakening both the practicality and ideology of empire in the post-war era. It will also consider the legacies of Empire for Britain in terms of its world role, post-war immigration from the ‘New Commonwealth’ and the rebirth of ‘informal empire’ and ‘financialisation’ in the form of the City of London.
Satisfies an upper-level course requirement (level 200-400) for History majors.
Satisfies an upper-level course requirement for Political Science majors.
For graduate students, six weeks at Oxford University can offer excellent opportunities for guided research and study. All graduate students enrolled in the Seminar will receive the same accommodations and amenities that are offered to undergraduates. Graduate applicants should contact the Seminar Director concerning academic opportunities available to them.