Year 12 Subject Days at Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Duck, Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Image credit: mira66
Emmanuel College, Cambridge is holding two Subject Taster Days for Year 12 students over the Easter vacation:
- East Asian Studies Taster Day on Friday 17 April
- English Taster Day on Saturday 18 April
As well as providing information about these Cambridge courses, the events will give students an opportunity to ask questions and speak to University Lecturers, College Tutors and current undergraduates. The events are free to attend and lunch will be provided. Students are welcome to attend this event unaccompanied. For more information and to book a place, please see the Emmanuel College website.
Hwæt! We Gar-Dena in gear-dagum, þeod-cyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
(Arguably translated into modern English as "Listen! We have heard of the might of the Kings.")
Are you interested in early languages? Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. More than 3,000 lines long, Beowulf relates the exploits of its eponymous hero, and his successive battles with monsters.
You can study Beowulf, among other Old English texts, as part of our Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic degree course, which centres on early and Medieval languges and history.
Bookings are now open for the Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic Year 12 masterclass on 21 March. The next Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic departmental Open Day will take place on 24 June 2015.
York Literature Festival (19 - 29 March)
If you live in or near York, do look at the programme for the 2015 York Literature Festival to see if there are events that you'd like to attend.
It's important to plan ahead because some events require you to book in advance. In some cases you may want to look at some of the material that will be discussed as well! Here is a selection of what is on:
- 19 March - How the Tories took Britain to the Brink
- 20 March - Coalition past and future
- 22 March - York's Place in History
- 23 March - Ovid's Heroines
- 24 March - Poetry reading: Jon Siddique and Tim Liardet
- 25 March - How the Edwardians (almost) invented children's literature
- 25 March - Civial War and Aftermath
- 26 March - Virginia Woolf: One Hundred Years On
- 26 March - Thomas Cromwell: Henry VII's right hand man
- 26 March - Crime and Detective Work in the Roman Empire
- 27 March - Creative and Critical Writing
- 27 March - Watching Prime Ministers
- 29 March - The Bletchley Girls: Women & Code breaking in WWII
For full information, please see the York Literature Festival website.
Converse: the literature website
Chaucher's The Canterbury Tales in a modern age. Image credit: david_jones
Would you like to broaden and deepen your experience of literature, perhaps with the thought of studying English at university?
Try the Converse website, which is packed full of resources developed by the University of Cambridge's English Faculty in collaboration with teachers and schools.
You'll find resources to support you in your GCSE studies, your A Level studies, or in researching and making an application to study English or a related discipline at university.
Languages and Linguistics Open Day - Fri 13 March
The Cambridge languages and linguistics courses are very broad, and you can tailor them to your interests.
The Languages and Linguistics Open Days on Friday 13 March are amongst the best opportunities to find out more about studying Modern and Medieval Languages, Linguistics, or Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University.
You can go to sample lectures, talks on learning a language from scratch and the Year Abroad, chat with lecturers, current students and staff from the Language Centre, visit the Linguistics Labs for Phonetics and Psycholinguistics, as well as the Faculty Library, and have lunch at one of the Colleges (we'll take you there and back).
For details and to book at place, do see the website here for the Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Open Day. The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Open Day is available to book here.
NB. Are you at a state school in one of the areas listed below? If so, do feel free to request accommodation through the Link Area Accommodation Scheme at King's for this or any other event advertised on the Cambridge page!
The centenary of Arthur Miller's birth
2015 is the centenary of Arthur Miller's birth. Have you read or seen any of his plays? How would you characterise his work? There are lots of opportunities to see them this year!
Here is a list of Arthur Miller plays and some examples of both professional and amateur productions (hint: if you look out for amateur productions, these are often much cheaper to attend and regularly very high quality):
- 12 March - 4 April, Playing for Time, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
- 14-21 March, A View From the Bridge, Garrick Theatre, Stockport
- 17-21 March, A View from the Bridge, Darlington Civic Theatre
- 26 March, Cinema screening of Old Vic's The Crucible, the Forum, Northallerton (see trailer and other dates and locations)
- 29 April - 2 May, Broken Glass, Middlesbrough Little Theatre
- 27-30 May, The Last Yankee, The Criterion Theatre, Coventry
- 12-14 June, All My Sons, Studio61, Wolverhampton
Resources and reading suggestions:
Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in Newcastle
Student conferences are a good opportunity to find out more from subject specialists, students and admissions staff
On 18 March 2015 there will be a free Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in Newcastle (very close to the train station) for students in Year 12.
The conference covers courses available at Oxford and Cambridge (sessions led by subject specialists), Oxford and Cambridge Explained talks, and plenty of opportunities to chat with current students at both universities and find out what studying at Oxford and Cambridge is really like. You will need a teacher to book a ticket for you if you would like to attend - do read the information on the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference website and ask a teacher to book your place.
Places are also available at similar conferences in Lisburn, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Surrey.
tracking our migratory birds to Africa and back
More Year 12 Saturday Masterclasses open for booking!
Booking has opened for more Saturday Masterclasses in Cambridge for Year 12 students. These events provide you with an opportunity to explore topics of interest beyond what is covered within your school syllabus, and offer the chance to experience typical undergraduate teaching at Cambridge.
- Modern and Medieval Languages
- Philosophy and Theology
- Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic
- Politics and International Relations
- Genetics and Biochemistry
For details and booking, please see the Cambridge admissions website.
Saturday Masterclasses with places still available
There are still places available at the following Year 12 Saturday Masterclasses in Cambridge:
Saturday 7 February:
Saturday 14 February:
Saturday 21 February:
Ful details and booking are available on the Cambridge Admissions website.
Royal Shakespeare Company broadcasts in local cinemas
Did you know that the Royal Shakespeare Company broadcasts performances to local cinemas around the UK and beyond?
If you are studying any works by Shakespeare, do visit the RSC onscreen website to find out about broadcasts in cinemas.
If you go to the cinemas and tickets page, you can look up what you could see near to where you live. For example, venues in Northumberland include The Maltings in Berwick upon Tweed, The Forum in Hexham, The Alnwick Playhouse and Vue cinemas in Cramlington.
Further information about the Royal Shakespeare Company is available on their website.
Year 11 and Year 12 Subject Taster events at Newcastle University
Booking is open for Newcastle University's Discover More events on Wednesday 11 March and Wednesday 25 March 2015.
If you are in Year 11 or Year 12, these events give you an opportunity to find out more about what studying your subject at university level is like, as well as gaining insights into future career possibilities.
Please see the information on Newcastle University website (which includes a link to the application form). If you would like to request a place, you must submit your application by Friday 13 February 2015.
Year 12 Residential visits at Robinson and Trinity Hall Colleges
All students at Cambridge are both part of the University and part of one of the Colleges. You can read about this collegiate system on the university website, and each College also has its own website, like King's.
Would you like to find out more about living and studying in a Cambridge College? There are places available on Year 12 (or equivalent) residential visits at Robinson College and at Trinity Hall College. Visiting any College will give you a good sense of what being part of a collegiate university is like and what is most important to you when you later choose a College. It will also help you to develop your course interests and find out more about how you will be taught at Cambridge.
Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools
Booking is open for the Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools in Cambridge! These are very popular subject-specific residentials in July and August for students in Year 12 (or equivalent) at state-maintained schools in the UK. The programme includes lectures, seminars, discussion groups, practical work and social activities, as well as the opportunity to meet current staff and students and to live in a Cambridge College. The residentials are free of charge.
For full information and booking, please go to the Cambridge Admissions website.
The Sutton Trust Summer Schools provide a very useful insight into what it is like to study at Cambridge so do apply for a place if you are interested. Equally, please be aware that we receive far more applications than we have places available. It is important to read the detailed criteria for selection.
The application deadline is 9 March 2015. Good luck!
Year 12 Subject Masterclasses in Cambridge
Subject-specific sample lectures are available. Credit: Horia Varlan
Booking is open for some subject masterclasses organised by the central Cambridge Admissions Office. These masterclasses take place on Saturdays in February and are for students in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school).
The subjects are:
- Genetics and Biochemistry
- Modern and Medieval Languages
- Philosophy and Theology
...and if the course you want to study is not in that list, don't worry because further masterclasses will be announced later this year.
For more detail, please read the information about Subject Masterclasses on the Cambridge Admissions website. If you would like to book a place, he link is available in the table on that page.
The French Revolution: Tearing up History
The death of Marat. Credit: paukrus (cropped)
There's an interesting documentary on BBC iplayer, which explores the history of the French Revoution through the story of its art.
The programme is presented by Dr Richard Clay, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Birmingham.
OpenCampus at the University of Hull
The University of Hull's OpenCampus programme offers an informal and friendly way for you to learn at your local university.
- Drop into the Culture Café, which this term is focusing on Literature and Creative Writing. On Saturday 6 December at 11am, Dr. Daniel Weston, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century English Literature, is discussing 'Poetry for the City? Philip Larkin and Others.' This is part of the North and South Project, a collaboration betwen the University of Hull and the University of Southampton to explore what unites and divides their respective port cities. Next term's programme for the Culture Café is already available here.
- Join a Tea-Time Talk, a series which launched this term around the theme of Society and Culture. On Tuesday 2 December at 6.15pm, Dr. Simon Green, Senior Lecturer in Community Justice and Criminology, explores 'Deviancy, destitution and moral degeneracy.' Why, he asks, do politicians and commentators increasingly explain crime and disorder with reference to moral character, instead of socio-economic conditions?
Places are limited, so booking is essential. To find out more and book a place, please contact the OpenCampus team directly.
Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside
University taster events show you what studying a subject in depth at university-level would be like. Credit: John Robinson
The Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside is an exciting collaboration between the universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York to provide enrichment events through the year for students who have been identified as high achieving by their schools or colleges.
Look at the list of upcoming Subject Taster Events.
The events are open to students across the UK. You can apply to attend the events as an individual, or one of your teachers can apply for a group from your school to attend. Priority for places is given to students who meet one of the criteria below, then the remaining places are given to students who do not meet the criteria. Some events are for Year 12 students, others are for younger students.
- eligible to receive free school meals.
- no history of higher education (studying at university level) in your immediate family (including any siblings).
- living in local authority care.
Do keep an eye on this project. Further events will be advertised on the Excellence Hub website in due course.
Preparing for interviews
We recommend that you explore topics that interest you further (there are a lot of ways to do this).
We interview most (but not all) students who apply for a place at Cambridge. The interviews are with subject specialists who ask you academic questions to explore your potential for the course you have applied for.
How do you prepare for a Cambridge interview? Here are some tips:
Long-term preparation (before you apply)
- If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!)
- Find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more.
- Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions (e.g. Engineering), but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful.
- Understand that Cambridge interviewers will be interested in your academic interests and how you think and work, not only what you know. The interviews are academic interviews, designed to test this. This film shows what Cambridge interviews are about.
Short-term preparation (after you have applied)
- See this advice and our interview guidelines.
- Watch Film 1 and Film 2 to get a sense of what will happen if you are invited for interview.
- Carry on developing your academic interests. Use the resources section on the relevant subject page if you are looking for suggestions.
- Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments. Remember that most of your interview preparation has already been done at this stage.
- Don't worry excessively about the interview itself. Know that the interviews are not a test of how good you are at being interviewed (we're not looking for polish or perfection). They are about your subject(s), so the only way you can improve your chances is to carry on focusing on your academic work and interests.
- Try to trust your interviewers if you can! They are all teachers and they want you to achieve. They will know how to ask further questions to tease what they need out of you, and they know that interviewees are nervous so they are looking for raw ability and academic commitment, not perfection.
Cambridge Subject Films
Are you exploring the courses available at Cambridge? One way to get a quick overview is to look at some of the subject films.
The films are only short, but they explain the structure and opportunities in each course, show you some of the faculty facilities, and have current students giving their views and reasons for choosing each subject, tips for applying from the lecturers, and information about what students go on to do when they graduate.
You may also find the advice about choosing a subject useful, and there are lists of transferable skills for most courses (or options within courses). These lists set out the advantages that each subject gives you for your future career.
The most important question to ask yourself, is what would you enjoy studying in depth?
Dylan Thomas poetry
If you enjoy language and thinking about how it can be used and the effects it can create, you might like to explore some of Dylan Thomas's work. It's a particularly good time to do this, as 2014 is the centenary of his birth.
Do you like one or more of these? Why? How would you describe Dylan Thomas's writing to someone who has never read any? Can you see any connections with other poets & poems that you have read?
Further reading & events
Our own Chapel at King's is a fascinating mix of religion, politics, history, art and architecture.
Have you ever thought about the relationship between religion and other subjects that you might study?
- History: Consider the impact of religious change on a society prior to 1900;
- Literature: Reflect on whether literary criticism requires a knowledge of sacred texts;
- Philosophy: Comment on the relationship between mortality and religion;
- Politics: Explore the idea of secularism and national politics;
- Science: Address the relationship between religion and a topic from the natural sciences;
- Sociology: Consider how an awareness of religion helps understandings of multiculturalism.
Cambridge Divinity Faculty encourages sixth formers to research and think about one of the topics above in a team of up to four 16-19 year olds. The challenge is to produce a film lasting no more than five minutes in response to your chosen topic. This should be academic in content, but the film could take any form: debates, documentaries or responses with artistic elements are all welcome.
If you are interested, do read the further details on the Divinity Faculty website. The deadline is Friday 14 November 2014.
The X Factor: Multidisciplinary (and Interdisciplinary) Approaches to Classics
Image credit: Ingo Gildenhard
At the recent Classics Faculty Sixth Form Study Days, King's Classicist Ingo Gildenhard explained how multidisciplinary approaches to Classics underpins teaching and learning at Cambridge.
The Classics Faculty is divided into caucuses, each of which brings a different approach to the study of Classics: Caucus A (Literature); Caucus B (Philosophy); Caucus C (History); Caucus D (Art and Archaeology) and Caucus E (Linguistics).
Dr. Gildenhard gave an example of how his colleagues in different caucuses each brought a different approach to the study of Ovid's Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love] in a recent lecture series:
- A: Poetics, or: The (S)expert at Work
- B: Sexual Ethics [gender relations, feminist readings]
- C: The Empire Strikes Back [Ovid and Augustus, the politics of the Ars, Ovid’s banishment to the Black Sea]
- D: Sex and the City [Ovid and the monuments, his rewriting of Rome’s urban topography]
- E: The Language of Love (and Sex) [how can we understand the different range of meanings of Latin words to English dictionary equivalents - does raptor mean ‘rapist’ or ‘seducer’? and how does it relate to rapina and rapio?]
The students and academics gain enormously from exploring these multidisciplinary perspectives. If and when they combine two or more approaches to address a particular topic, thereby transcending any one discipline, their work becomes interdisciplinary.
For this reason, King's Classicist John Henderson and his colleague Geoffrey Lloyd pioneered an X Caucus (Interdisciplinary) in the 1980s, to allow and encourage Cambridge students and academics to cross disciplines in their study of the Classics.
Multidisciplinarity is not restricted to Classics! You will be able to find multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) approaches to almost any topic. Have you got the X Factor? Think of a topic that has caught your attention in one of your A Level subjects and ask yourself what your knowledge and skills in your other A Level subjects can bring to it.
Mythologies (Roland Barthes)
In 1957, Roland Barthes published Mythologies, in which he discussed the workings of 'myths' in the society of his time. Drawing on ideas from semiotics (the theory of how signs and symbols work), and in particular the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Barthes was able to use language-like structures to study the social culture around him.
If you would like to read Mythologies, the most useful part for understanding what Barthes is doing is the second part (The Myth Today), in which he explains how myths form a communication system and what the value is of thinking about them in this way (how does it help us to understand the myths?). It gets a bit technical in places, so if there is more detail than you want, just take from it what you find useful. You might then like to look at some of the examples that Barthes gives in the first part of his book. NB. You will notice that Barthes's analyses are often political - they focus especially on the ways that bourgeois society uses myth to impose values on others.
One difficulty for modern readers of Barthes's work is that his examples are drawn from the fifties - they can be difficult for us to relate to. Radio 4 is currently running a series called 21st Century Modern Mythologies, in which Barthes's techniques are used to dissect contemporary myths. Do listen to some of the programmes and see what you think:
Suggestion for further reading:
Freshers' reading groups
There's a great atmosphere in College as we help the new students to settle in.
Amongst the many activities that take place in Freshers' Week to settle new students into the College community, there are discussion groups in which tutors and students across all subjects meet to discuss a book that everybody has read in advance. This year's book is:
Monbiot is a journalist and activist who read Zoology at University. He presents his book as a polemic for "positive environmentalism". The book consists of a series of essays designed to promote the cultural and economic change that will be necessary to precede any ecological shift. On some level Feral is a radical book with a radical argument, however the question for the King's freshers is how substantial, how convincing is Monbiot's argument and his evidence, and how much of it is the ideological enchantment of a liberal public intellectual?
If you fancy reading this book for yourself, you may be interested to think about how Monbiot establishes the veracity of his claims. How scientific is his thesis of "rewilding"? Does the book survive the lengthy anecdotal descriptions of his natural encounters, enchanting though they are? And is it telling that Monbiot is male, enjoys risky outdoor activity and has his moment of epiphany when he slings a dead deer over his shoulders and carries it home? Do you think that he would have a different environmentalism if he weren't so enamored by the wild in him? Or should we be cautious about any dismissal of his honesty? He discusses the effects of logging and mining on Yanomami lands at some length (and spent a fair amount of his own time experiencing it) - it is fair to say that his "rewilding" is borne of some knowledge of different cultural ecologies? Finally, do you think that we should be encouraged by this book, or discouraged?
Literature & Languages at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
Festival events with relevance to language and literature subjects include:
Year 12 Shadowing Scheme 2015
Find out for yourself what living and studying at Cambridge is really like
If you are in Year 12 at a UK school and nobody from your family has studied at university / not many from your school have got places at Oxford and Cambridge, you might like to find out more by applying for a place on the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.
If you get a place, you would be invited to spend a few days in Cambridge, living in one of the Colleges and "shadowing" a current student studying the subject that you are interested in, that is, going to lectures, supervisions, social activities etc with them. It's a really good way to get a taste of what studying here is really like so do read the details if you think that you might be eligible to apply.
Choosing school subjects
For Cambridge Economics, Maths is required and Further Maths is very helpful where available.
If you have just started Year 11 (15-16 year olds), you will soon need to start thinking about which subjects you will take next year.
If you would like to study at a selective university such as Cambridge or another university in the Russell Group, it is especially important to make sure that you choose subjects that will give you good preparation for courses that you may want to apply for. You may already have a favourite subject that you can research, but don't worry if you don't know yet - the advice about making well-informed choices will help to put you in the best position for when you choose a university course later on.
As well as the subjects you already do at school, it is worth remembering that there are a lot more courses available that you start new at university - the perfect course for you may be something you've not thought of yet!!
To help you with this process:
Posted: 10 September 2014
Beginning New Testament Greek
Theology and Religious Studies students at Cambridge study a scriptural language in first year, choosen from New Testament Greek, Hebrew, Qur'anic Arabic or Sanscrit. You don't need to have studied foreign languages before, and this is a great opportunity to learn one of the original languages in which the texts of a major world religion were written.
If you are interested in New Testament Greek, we hope that you will find the new website launched by Cambridge Divinity Faculty useful:
Economic Success Drives Language Extinction
Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia, named by the local Pitjantjatjara people. The Pitjantjatjara language is classified as vulnerable by UNESCO. Image credit: Sjoerd van Oosten.
A new study has revealed that economic growth and globalisation are driving the loss of minority languages.
The researchers, including Cambridge Zoologist Tatsuya Amano, used the criteria for defining endangered species (as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to measure the rate and extent of language loss. They then analysed the geographical distribution of the endangered languages in order to draw conclusions about how and why they have gone into decline. Dr. Amano explained that:
As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation's political and educational spheres. People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.
The researchers argue that conservation efforts should therefore be focused on minority languages in more economically developed regions, such as northwestern North America and northern Australia.
Read the researchers' findings in full in Tatsuya Amano et al, 'Global Distribution and Drivers of Language Extinction Risk,' Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (October 2014).
Consult the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
Look into the conservation efforts of the Endangered Language Alliance in New York City and the online Endangered Languages Project. National Geographic's Enduring Voices project has produced eight online talking dictionaries in an effort to conserve minority languages.
- What are the benefits / risks of applying the criteria for defining endangered species to minority languages?
- How best can minority languages be protected? Or should they be protected at all?
Language and spatial conceptions of time
In most languages time is talked about in spatial terms, with the future presented as being 'in front' of the person experiencing it. For example, in English we speak about 'looking forward' to doing something.
A recent study in Psychology looked at the conceptualisation of time in Moroccan speakers of Arabic. Although in linguistic terms, the future is 'ahead' in Arabic just as it is in English, Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues found that Moroccan Arabic speakers went against this convention in their hand gestures, with implications for how we understand space-time mappings. (1)
Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues also mention Aymara, a language from the Andean region of western Bolivia. In Aymara, the relation between time and space does not seem to work in the same way. To quote a different article:
In Aymara, the basic word for FRONT (nayra, "eye/front/sight") is also a basic meaning PAST, and the basic word for BACK (qhipa, "back/behind") is a basic expression for FUTURE meaning. [...] Is it in fact an instance of the same mappings as we have seen in other languages, "reversed" in some way, or are there quite different metaphoric mappings involved? How would we know? (2)
How do you think that the differences between English and Aymara would be of interest to researchers in Linguistics and Psychology? Can you think of any research questions or hypotheses? How would you design an experiment to test your ideas?
You may be interested to look at:
(1) This British Psychology research digest post about the research by Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues.
(2) This difficult but interesting article about Aymara: Rafael Nunez and Eve Sweetser, 'With the Future Behind Them: Convergent Evidence from Aymara Language and Gesture in the Crosslinguistic Comparison of Spatial Construsals of Time' in Cognitive Science 30 (2006), pp1-49
If you would like to keep yourself informed about research topics in Psychology, do keep an eye on the British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog.
If you live too far away to visit Cambridge
Different people need different facilities. This is one of the treadmills in the King's Vaults gym.
It is not unusual to make a successful application without ever having set foot in Cambridge. Don't worry if it is not practical for you to visit as there is no requirement to do so.
Since we welcome applicants who live a long way from Cambridge, we do our best to ensure that all the infomation that you need to make a strong application is on our website (see the relevant subject page and how to apply in particular), as well as virtual tours and the life and facilities sections so that you can get a sense of King's as a place:
We also have a dedicated page for if you don't feel very well supported for your application, and the student perspectives are particularly useful.
Cambridge College Open Days for Year 13
The Porters' Lodge, just inside the entrance of King's on King's Parade
If you are planning to apply to Cambridge this October and would like to attend a College Open Day, do see this page for the events available.
Here at King's, we welcome bookings for our open afternoon on Tuesday 16 September - see our open days page for details and the form.
If you are visiting other Colleges and would like to see King's on the same day, do introduce yourself at the porters' lodge and say that you will be applying to Cambridge. The porters will be happy to let you walk around the public areas, and you might find our self-guided tour useful so that you know what you are looking at. NB if there is a 'College Closed' sign at the front gate, please don't be put off as this just means that tourists cannot enter.
If you are visiting Cambridge on your own, you might also enjoy the Following in the Footsteps audio tour.
Have you read George Orwell's Animal Farm (first published in England in 1945)? It is just under 100 pages and is widely available in local libraries - why not read the book (or listen to it) without reading anything about it, and see what you make of it. Can you briefly jot down your impressions of what is important in the book? If you are able to get to a local library, you could then do some research about what other people have written on the themes in it.
- George Orwell, Animal Farm (Penguin, 1996)
AS / A2 Level Travel Writing Competition (for students in the South of England)
Sign outside a restaurant in Lugano, Italian-speaking Switzerland. Credit: Eric Andresen
Routes into Languages (South Consortium) are running a travel writing competition for students currently taking AS or A2 Levels in the South of England.
Based on your travel experiences, write a feature article of no more than 500 words in your chosen target language (French, German, Spanish, or Italian). You could win a £50 Amazon voucher for your efforts! The closing date for the competition is 1 September and the winners will announced on the European Day of Languages (26 September).
For more information, please see the competition website.
'The words on the page': practical criticism
Practical criticism is a skill required in all three years of the Cambridge English degree. Developed by Cambridge literary critic I. A. Richards in the 1920s, the exercise is designed to make you focus on 'the words on the page.' You are given an unseen text and asked to respond to its form and meaning.
This year, Cambridge students hit the headlines when they were asked to analyse Morrissey's Autobiography (2013) and Andre Letoit's (Koos Kombuis) 'Tipp-Ex Sonate' (1985) (a poem with no words, only punctuation) in their practical criticism papers.
Why not try your hand at practical criticism yourself? The Faculty of English's Virtual Classroom provides a good starting point:
You can also read I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism (1929).
Siegfried Sassoon's war diaries published in the Cambridge Digital Library
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Credit: Pere Ubu
The Cambridge University Library holds the papers of its former student and First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Now, for the first time, Sassoon's journals are freely available online as part of the Cambridge Digital Library.
Amidst the daily minutiae of life in the trenches, Sassoon recorded:
- the first day of the Somme, 'a sunlit picture of Hell,' on July 1916
- the Battle of Arras, during which he was 'fully expecting to get killed,' but was instead shot in the shoulder by a sniper, causing a dramatic deterioration in his handwriting from 15 - 16 April 1917
- draft and fair copies of his 'Soldier's Declaration' against the conduct of the war, written and issued in June-July 1917
- an early version of his poem 'The Dug-Out,' with an additional, excised verse, written in July 1918 and published in Picture-Show (1919)
The Siegfried Sasoon diaries had previously been edited by Rupert Hart-Davies and published in the 1980s. So how does seeing the original manuscript versions change our perceptions of Sassoon's life and poetry? Does seeing the mud and candlewax on their pages add to a historian's understanding of Sassoon's experience in the trenches? How useful is either textual criticism (the effort to establish a text as nearly as possible to its original form) or genetic criticism (the effort to trace and understand the process of writing a text) to a literary scholar?
You can read Sassoon's poetry and browse related primary documents in the University of Oxford's First World War Poetry Digital Archive Sassoon Collection.
Languages Summer School at Sidney Sussex College - places available!
Sidney Sussex College is running a residential summer school for Language-based subjects on 18-20 August this year. If you are in Year 12 and considering an application to study languages at Cambridge, please do apply for this opportunity!
This course is suitable for students interested in studying:
Through sample lectures, classes and small group tuition you will have the opportunity to see what it is like studying languages at university level, find out more about languages and cultures themselves, and mix with other students from all over the country who share your interests. You will also experience the College environment, which will be helpful whichever Cambridge College you eventually apply to.
There is no charge for the summer school. If you are eligible for free school meals, Sidney Sussex may be able to help with travel costs.
If you are interested in attending the summer school, please email Carly Walsh at Sidney Sussex College for further details.
One of the things that interviewers look for is genuine interest. Image credit: THX0477
We interview most people who apply to Cambridge (more than 80%). It is in interviews that subject specialists are able to work with you directly, see how you think and work, and really explore your academic potential for the course that you've applied for.
We hope that you will find the following new Cambridge University film useful, and we particularly hope that it will put any summer work that you are doing to develop your interests into context!
The College gardens are regularly used for outdoor theatre in the summer.
In the nice weather, you might enjoy some outdoor Shakespeare if you're visiting Cambridge. The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival is on at the moment and four new plays are about to start their run:
- Othello in Trinity College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
- Twelfth Night in St John's College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
- The Merchant of Venice in Robinson College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)
- The Taming of the Shrew in Homerton College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)
Performances start at 7.30pm, and if you bring proof that you're a student in full-time education, you can get a concession ticket for £11. Please see the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival website for full details and booking.
Trainers, pumps, plimsolls or daps?
Plimsolls? No, daps. Credit: dave
How do you refer to the appropriate footwear for a PE class? Trainers, pumps, plimsolls, or daps? The word you use almost certainly reflects where you live, or where you grew up.
Researchers in Linguistics can use lexical variation (our choice of words or phrases), phonological variation (the way in which we pronounce certain words), and syntactic variation (the way in which we construct sentences) to draw maps of dialect variation, such as those produced by the Multilingual Manchester project.
King's teacher and researcher Bert Vaux and his colleague Scott Golder created a dialect survey whilst he was at Harvard in 2002 which went viral when it was featured in the New York Times last year. Bert says:
"What's been most exciting about the newest viral episode is the demonstration over a pool of several million test subjects that it is possible to identify the regional origins of English speakers just from subtle lexical 'tells.'"
You can hear Bert discussing the latest success of the survey and the conclusions he drew from it on National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. in February.
If you'd like to contribute to Bert's ongoing research, you can take the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes now.
Trinity College's Robson History Prize (Year 12)
What is to be gained by studying the histories of seas or oceans?
Image credit: AvidlyAbide
If you are interested in History (including historical aspects of a wide range of courses from Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic to Economics, Philosophy and Theology) why not think about some of the questions that Trinity College has set for their Robson History Prize? There's a wide choice of 59 titles, so you are bound to find a topic that you would enjoy studying.
Here are just a few of them:
- What was the role and influence of Queens in Anglo-Saxon England?
- Was the Hundred Years War really a single conflict?
- What were the causes of the European ‘witchcraze’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
- What sort of a revolution was the French revolution?
- How did the Atlantic slave trade affect state formation and economic growth in West Africa?
- Why was the Spanish civil war so bloody?
- ‘The Attlee government’s failure to create a socialist commonwealth was as much due to ideological shortcomings as economic constraints.’ Discuss.
- To what extent do market forces pose a threat to the accuracy of popular history?
- Is the goal of Aristotle’s Politics to arrive at a theory of the best state?
If you would like to work on an essay to enter in the competition, the deadline is 1 August and do make sure that you read the full details (including the full list of titles) on Trinity College's website before you start. If you don't have chance or don't want to do that, do have a look at the titles nonetheless as there's plenty of inspiration for research and thought.
Summer Reading (and Writing)
As you break up for the vacation, you may be resolving to read through the pile of books that has built up on your bedside table during a busy academic year. But how do you make your summer reading count? As the University of Cambridge advises its students:
Reading for a degree requires different reading skills to reading for pleasure. Developing understanding through reading needs to be an active process, whereby you engage with the text, question and develop your ideas in response to it.
Listen to Hanna Weibye (one of the King's Fellows in History) making a similar point, when she recommends that you read as widely and as critically as possible.
The University of Southampton, the University of Manchester, and the Open University all offer useful advice on how to read in an engaged way.
One way to read effectively is to... write! Once you've read a text, why not write and share a review of it? The Wellcome Trust blog offers advice on how to write a news story from a scientific paper. The Guardian's Blogging Students advise on how to blog.
Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?
For Bourdieu, cultural consumption is 'an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher'. Renoir image credit: freeparking
How much is taste shaped by education and social influences? Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who looked into these questions, most famously in his 1975 book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
In the introduction, Bourdieu writes:
Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed.
Bourdieu collected information through questionnaires which asked people questions about their tastes in art, literature, music etc. For example, he compared preferences for different musical pieces and charted these against information about each particpant's social background:
Bourdieu's text includes diagrams and charts which plot his results and show correlations that he found in the data. A key idea in this book is that of 'cultural capital', that is, 'assets' that people acquire, such as education and cultural experience, which can affect social mobility regardless of financial means.
If you have the opportunity to look at Bourdieu's work, do have a think about this way of looking at taste. Do you agree / disagree / recognise aspects of it? Can you think of any examples in modern culture and society? What do you think of the way that Bourdieu collected and used his data? Does his work have wider implications for questions of taste, sociology and identity?
Virginia Woolf exhibition (London, 10 July-26 October)
Orlando (1928) is a semi-biographical novel. Credit: crowbot
Virginia Woolf is amongst the most well-known writers of the twentieth century. Do you know what her writing is like?
There is a Virginia Woolf exhibition over the summer (10 July to 26 October) at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It explores Woolf's achievements as a novelist, intellectual, campaigner and public figure.
If you plan to visit the exbibition, you may like to read some of Woolf's work in advance. If you're not sure where to start, here are some suggestions to choose from:
- Novels such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), or The Waves (1931)
- Collections of short stories e.g. A Haunted House and Other Short Stories (1944)
Viktor Shklovsky: making things strange
In his 1917 essay, 'Art as Technique', Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky argues that often we don't notice things because they are familiar to us. However, art (a term that Shklovsky uses in a broad sense to include literary writing) can present things in a strange or unfamiliar way, which makes us look at them for longer:
Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." [Shklovsky is quoting Tolstoy's diary] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object.
You might like to read the full text of 'Art as Technique', which was published in English translation in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. by L,T. Lemon and M, J. Reis, pages 3 - 24.
What do you think of Shklovsky's description of the purpose of literary writing? Does his argument apply to all literary texts? Are there genres where you would expect to find this technique more frequently? Can you think of any examples in texts you have read / are reading where something is presented in a strange way that makes you notice it? And can you think of any limitations to Shklovsky's argument?
One of the challenges of learning a foreign language is that you're constantly learning new vocabulary and grammar, yet you also need to meet words that you've previously learnt regularly enough for them to stick in your mind and become part of your active vocabulary.
Here are some resources that you may find useful and enjoyable:
Reading in your language is an important habit to get into. It is not easy, but the more you do it, the more enjoyable it becomes. Do ask your teacher to recommend texts that you could try at your current language level, and look at magazines / newspapers as well.
There are a range of ways to approach reading, and it's good to vary what you're doing. Sometimes you might read a short passage and look lots of words up, other times you could read to get the gist, and only interrupt yourself to look occasional words up. You may also like to explore parallel texts, as these have the language you're learning on one side and the text in English on the other, which can be very helpful.
The 2014 Cambridge Open Days Programme is published!
The large Cambridge Open Days are on Thurs 3 and Fri 4 July. This event is for students who are considering an application in September/October 2014.
Do explore the 2014 Cambridge Open Days programme for details of course presentations and sample lectures in your subject, College opening times and locations. If you are interested in visiting a particular College, their website will normally have more detail. At King's, we're open from 9 until 5.30pm as part of the Cambridge Open Days, and we invite you to join tours of the College, subject meetings (students only for those) and chat with current students and admissions staff. See the details for Thurs 3 July and for Fri 4 July.
Booking is required. Although there are no general places left for the Cambridge Open Days, there are still plenty of places available for students who book to attend a College Open Day (you will also be able to attend Cambridge Open Day events in the afternoon) or a North East Welcome Event (please email us for details if you're from the North East). Please see the information about how to attend the Cambridge Open Days now that registration has closed.
We hope to see you there! If you can't attend, don't worry though, as the information that you need to make a successful application is also available online, and you are welcome to email us with any questions.
English Literature essay competition (Year 12)
It's important not just to read, but to think about the books.
Credit: Robert (cropped)
Essay titles from Trinity College:
- 'Homer and the other poets... composed false stories which they told and still tell to mankind.' (Plato); 'Now, for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth.' (Philip Sidney). Discuss any aspect of the relationship between literature and lying, with detailed reference to at least one work.
- 'The only advice, indeed, that one can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions.' (Virginia Woolf). How much is reading a matter of instinct, how much is it a matter of reason, and does reading ever bring instinct and reason into conflict? Discuss with reference to one or more works.
These are just two of the six possible essay titles that Trinity College, Cambridge has set for students who would like to enter their Gould Prize for essays in English Literature (open to students in Year 12). See the Trinity College website for full details (including the rest of the possible essay titles). The submission deadline is 1 August 2014. Good luck to those who enter!
Gender in Japanese Studies - Free book for your school library?
A book of undergraduate dissertations was published last year, exploring emerging and divergent gender issues in Japan. It is called Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy: Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge, and it offers some fascinating insights into modern Japanese culture and society, as well as a great way to get a flavour of the kinds of material that you could study if you choose Japanese in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course (even if you've never studied Japanese before!). To find out more about the book, read the news article.
In order to introduce Japanese Studies, the department is offering a free copy to 50 school libraries. Why not ask your school librarian to click here for further information and the request form!
Free Taster Day in Latin and Classics - Saturday 21 June
If you're considering an application for Classics at Cambridge and you've never studied Latin at school or college, we invite you to book a place on a free taster day in Cambridge on Saturday 21 June. Fifty travel bursaries of up to £50.00 are available on a first come, first served basis.
Please see the Classics Faculty website and further information for details of the event and how to book your place.
Fantasy GCSE Set Texts
What set texts did you read for your GCSE English Literature?
In the Guardian this weekend, authors chose the set texts they would like GCSE students to read. Cambridge Classicist Mary Beard took the opportunity to 'bring in the classical world by the back door, via some great works of English literature.' She set William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1599); Robert Graves, I Claudius (1934); Chrisopher Logue, War Music (1959 - 2011); and Carol Ann Duffy, The World's Wife (1999).
- Which texts would you set GCSE students?
- In making your choice, what is the most important consideration? Introducing students to classic works, or engaging their interests? Representing a range of literary genres and periods, or promoting particular approaches and topics? Capturing the national heritage, or celebrating cultural diversity?
Illustration from The Pickwick Papers. Credit: Sue Clark
Have you read a book by Charles Dickens?
The University of Warwick have a Celebrating Dickens website, on which you can access articles, videos, podcasts, and a documentary about different aspects of the work of Charles Dickens and the Victorian era in which he lived. There's also a mobile app if you prefer.
Literature of the liberation (1944-1946)
Cambridge University Library
What sort of books do you think were published in France just after the liberation of Paris in 1944? This website and film are part of an exhibition at Cambridge University Library exploring the first writings of French authors on their experiences in the War, occupation and liberation.
Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed, there was no more censorship. Books were published even while the War was still being fought in some parts of France.
If you're near enough to also visit, this free exhibition is open from 7 May until 11 October. See details for visiting.
Vice Chancellor celebrates Britain's 'living languages'
Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, yesterday made a persuasive case for learning languages. He was speaking from personal experience; as the Welsh-born son of Polish refugees, he spoke Polish at home and learned English when he began school at the age of five. He has found that bilingualism is an asset, both to the individual and to the nation:
These are real languages: living languages that give people a huge insight into culture and give the children who can speak them additional opportunities.
'I'd love to see more children in Britain having more than one language,' he concluded.
Cambridge offers opportunities to learn and use languages in its Modern and Medieval Languages, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, and Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic courses.
Whether or not you study a language as part of your degree, you can always take a language course alongside your undergraduate studies. The MML Certificate and Diploma is available, both for students starting new languages, or those continuing a language they studied at school. There are also a range of Language Centre Courses, as well as opportunities to study a language independently using the Language Centre's resources. The Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Department provides free classes in Modern Icelandic and Irish. There are also more informal opportunities to learn and speak a foreign language. Student societies organise conversation meetings, such as the CU German Society's Stammtisch where society members meet in the pub to socialise in German.