The MSt in English Literature (1830-1914) offers graduate students an opportunity to expand their knowledge and critical understanding of nineteenth-century literature and culture. The responses of writers to cultural change in this period, provoked—and continue to provoke—animated debate about language and literature, aesthetics and politics, and the objects and purposes of cultural criticism. English Faculty staff teaching on this course have a wide variety of interests, and encourage a wide range of critical perspectives. Permanent postholders who research and teach literature of the long nineteenth-century area currently include Matthew Bevis, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, David Dwan, Sos Eltis, Stefano Maria Evangelista, Freya Johnston, Kate McLoughlin, Michèle Mendelssohn, Ankhi Mukherjee, Seamus Perry, Lloyd Pratt, Sophie Ratcliffe, Matthew Reynolds, David Russell, Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, Sally Shuttleworth and Helen Small. Areas of special strength include the history and practice of cultural criticism; literature and science; English and world literature; transatlantic cultural exchange; theatre and drama; life writing; material culture; comic and nonsense literature; aestheticism and decadence. Individual profiles are available at https://www.english.ox.ac.uk/victorian-period#
Students on the MSt programme will have access to unrivalled library and archival resources. The Bodleian and college libraries hold wonderful collections of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century manuscripts and printed texts from Britain, America and beyond, many of them by men and women who studied at Oxford or spent a period of their lives in the city. They include materials relating to Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, ‘Lewis Carroll’, Arthur Hugh Clough, ‘Michael Field’, G. M. Hopkins, Benjamin Jowett, John Keble, Edward Lear, John Henry Newman, Walter Pater, Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, Mary Shelley, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Anthony Trollope, Queen Victoria, Mrs Humphry Ward, Oscar Wilde. The Abinger Collection includes manuscripts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Godwin’s notebooks, and many other papers belonging to the Shelley circle; the Benjamin Disraeli papers preserve the great bulk of Disraeli’s private papers and correspondence; Somerville College holds the major part of the private library of John Stuart Mill and one of the best Edward Lear archives in the UK.
There are extensive collections relevant to women’s education in the period, and the Oxford History Faculty provides regular updates on Bodleian and other archival sources for nineteenth-century women’s history. There are also fascinating collections of periodicals and ephemera, including the John Johnson Collection of printed materials about popular entertainment, the book trade, print making, advertising, and observations of politics, race, class, crime and punishment, and much else. The Bodleian has recently digitized its complete collection of the photographs of William Henry Fox Talbot. The Ashmolean Museum is home to a rich variety of Victorian and Edwardian paintings and art objects, with Thomas Combe’s collection of Pre-Raphaelite art at its centre (see https://www.ashmolean.org/pre-raphaelites). It also holds excellent collections of objects from Asian, African and other cultures for students with comparative interests.
The course convenors for 2018-19 are Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (St Catherine's College) and Matthew Bevis (Keble College).
A. Literature, Contexts and Approaches (Core Course)
This strand’s A course aims to familiarise you with different approaches to the literature of the period 1830-1914, introducing important critical debates within the field. It encourages you to explore your existing critical interests and develop new ones, and at the same time to extend your understanding of the Victorian and Edwardian eras and their culture. Classes draw on primary and critical texts, ranging across genres. The A Course is taught as a weekly seminar that runs over eight weeks in Michaelmas Term; it is designed to provide a solid critical foundation for advanced literary study.
B. Bibliography, Theories of Text, History of the Book, Manuscript Studies
This is a range of lectures and seminars in each of the first two terms designed to train students for research in English. Within this strand, there will be classes on palaeography, offering students the skills essential to exploring the enormous riches of Oxford 's manuscript collections, and on book history, bibliography, and textual criticism.
C. Special Options
Special Option courses are one-term courses on specialist themes usually relating to the current research interests of the teacher(s).
C options for this strand over the past few years have included: ‘Oscar Wilde and Late Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture', ‘Romantic Autobiography', ‘Victorian Sexualities', ‘Hazlitt', ‘Writing the Nation: 1750-1830', ‘Victorian Emotion', ‘Dickens and Victorian Travel' and ‘The Visionary Gleam: God, Nature, Man in Poets from Cowper to Hopkins'.
Students take one Special Option in each of the first two terms.
The special option courses present an excellent opportunity for you to develop your research interests. You are not constrained to follow option courses within your designated period, and indeed, option courses often traverse the boundaries of the broad periods.
All students write a 10-11,000 word dissertation on a subject of their choice, but related to the work they have been doing over the year. You will be assigned to a member of Faculty who will act as your supervisor.
In addition to the dissertation, you will submit three essays of 6-7,000 words – one at the end of the first term, and two at the end of the second term – relating to the B and C courses that you have taken.
Students normally take all four components to fulfil the requirements of the degree. All course work will be completed by the end of the second term (Hilary Term), leaving the summer term (Trinity Term) for the writing of the dissertation, which is submitted in early June.