Myths & Legends of Britain & Ireland
Britain and Ireland have a rich heritage of myths and legend that merit comparison with the better-known Greek and Norse cycles. This course will begin by analysing early Celtic myths and legends, exemplified by the Irish epic The Táin and the Welsh Mabinogion. We will examine the cultural practices and values that the texts reflect, and consider the relationship between myth and history in these tales of romance, spells, shape-shifting, and battle. We will read the earliest tales of King Arthur, along with adaptations ranging from the medieval period to the nineteenth century, and compare this aristocratic figure with Robin Hood, a hero of the people. We will explore legends of fairies, giants, dragons, and boggarts, myth revisions by modern poets such as Yeats and Eliot, and examples of contemporary mythmaking. (LL)
The image of the pillaging Viking raider is a mainstay of popular culture, but behind that image lies a much more complex reality. From its base in Scandinavia, the Viking world stretched from the Arabic caliphates in the east, across the whole of Europe, and out to North America in the west. It was diverse, culturally complicated and politically influential. This course will explore the history of the Vikings through their own primary source material, their art and technology, their vibrant literature, and the myths that they created. We will also look at Viking society through an examination of gender roles, and their cultural interactions with a wide variety of other peoples: from the Saami in the Arctic Circle, and the Anglo-Saxons and Celts in the British Isles, to people in the Slavic countries, the Byzantine empire, and beyond. Students will engage with a wide variety of primary source material, both documentary and archaeological, produced by the Vikings and by their opponents, as well as with the vibrant secondary literature. (HS)
Writing Character Driven Prose
The novelist John Gardner observed that a character’s ‘subtle emotional signals […] show where the action must go next.’ A hand gesture, a snippet of dialogue, even a pause can reveal much about a character’s experience, personality and motivation, so that any writer listening closely to what their character has to say will inevitably write a truthful story. In this module, we will analyse a range of character types from both fiction and nonfiction, exploring the complex relationships among writer, character and reader. We’ll also consider the dynamic between character, plot and structure, and how these relate to form in the writing of prose. Through various study activities and assignments, students will expand their understanding and use of technique, as well as experimenting in whichever form or genre of prose interests them most. They will participate in regular workshops and receive feedback on their writing, as well as formulating constructive responses to the work of others. This will enable them to develop the clarity and dexterity of their prose, with the aim of redrafting and polishing one or more of the writing assignments to a publishable standard.
Following the model of Oxford University, Advanced Tutorial Programme students meet weekly, for two hours – individually or in pairs – with a professor specialising in their subject (or language) of choice. Classes are usually held either in the professor’s home or at a college room in Oxford, or at Nelson House in Bath. Tutorial students are set regular assignments, culminating in a portfolio of work on which final assessment is principally based. For students of classical or modern languages, assessment is continuous and derives from a series of papers and/or tests, and a final examination. Language tutorials are not available to complete beginners.