Classics and English

Tragedy and comedy theatre masks on a Roman mosaic

Classics and English is a challenging and rewarding course, ideally suited for students who are fascinated by the history and traditions of literature and by the opportunity to compare writing from different times and cultures.

Students should also enjoy the challenge of learning foreign languages and how to appreciate literature in them; and want to investigate the ways in which English literary culture draws inspiration from the great works and genres of the Classical tradition. Classics and English is far more than half a degree in Classics and half a degree in English: each year involves several courses which develop skills in the study of reception, allusion, genre, and intertextuality which unite the two sides of the course.

Typically, students in their first year take courses in commentary (the detailed analysis and discussion of particular texts) and their Classical language, alongside two courses taught by the English tutors on literature in the period 1500-1660. In the second and third years, students select from a range of options, including three ‘bridge papers’, which are jointly taught by the Classics and English tutors, and look at the development and creative reinterpretation of classical genres such as Epic, Tragedy, Comedy, and Satire, or the reception of classical literature in modern poetry. As well as providing a thorough grounding in the major genres of ancient and English literature, we encourage students to pursue their own particular interests.

Oriel College has a strong tradition of Classics and English. Our tutors for both subjects are themselves very committed to the degree. Dr Bruno Currie, Fellow and Tutor in Classics, who teaches the Classics side of the bridge papers, is a specialist on ancient Greek epic and lyric poetry. Dr Kathryn Murphy, who teaches the English side of the bridge papers and the period 1500-1800, is particularly interested in the reception of ancient philosophy and literature in the Renaissance in her own research. 

There are a variety of paths students can take to this degree, depending on whether they already have one or both of the classical languages. Those with no experience of the language are expected to take a four-year degree, with the first year devoted to picking up at least one of the languages. Those who arrive with A-Level Latin or Greek, or an equivalent qualification, can take a three-year degree. Most students specialize in one language or the other, and it is not necessary to have both. 

Admissions criteria

Admissions criteria can be found on the Classics (Literae Humaniores) page.

For more information contact the admissions office:

Telephone: +44 (0)1865 276522