Shakespeare - Where to start?
Shakespeare's First Folio. Credit: ptwo
All students studying English at Cambridge take a paper (a module) on Shakespeare in their first or second year, but it can be daunting deciding where to begin with 38 plays and over a hundred poems to be getting on with!
You might like to start by looking back at what you’ve already covered. Many students have studied at least one of Shakespeare’s Tragedies at school (Macbeth, King Lear or Hamlet might be familiar?) or one the Comedies (Much Ado about Nothing or Twelfth Night?). You may even have approached a play that fits more problematically into both of or between these categories, such as The Tempest or The Merchant of Venice.
But have you ever read, or seen performed, one of the History plays? Or read some of Shakespeare's sonnets? Reading or watching one the poems or plays you've never come across before can be a good (and fun!) place to start. You can find all of Shakespeare's works online on Open Source Shakespeare or Shakespeare Online.
And then, why not check out Radio Four’s programme on Shakespeare and Literary Criticism?
Selwyn College Summer School 2016
School students attending a science talk in Selwyn College
Selwyn College will be running a Summer School for year 12 students (or equivalent) for both the Arts/Humanities and Sciences from 8 – 12 August 2016.
Students stay in undergraduate accommodation for 4 nights and experience undergraduate life by attending lectures and practicals led by university academics, and also through social activities put on by the college. In previous years, the summer school has been solely for those interested in the sciences, however this year it will be expanding to cover both the arts and sciences. The event allows students to discover more about what it is like to study at University, particularly the University of Cambridge, and their course of interest, whilst experiencing student life. The Summer School is free of charge, including meals and accommodation. Travel grants are also available on a means tested basis.
The deadline for applications is 29 June 2016. Please see the full information for eligibility criteria.
Power, War and Conflict Global Issues Day
Are you in year 12 and thinking about applying to Cambridge? Not sure what subject you want to take? Interested in how power is created or how people are affected by war? St John's College is running a Year 12 Power, War and Conflict Global Issues Day on the 17 June. This will be a cross displinary introduction to the theme of 'Power, War and Conflict' and will feature lectures from a variety of different subject backgrounds.
The programme for the day will include a chance to experience lectures from academics at St John's College, as well as supervision style teaching. There will also be the chance to meet current students and hear about making a competitive application to Cambridge.
The closing date for applications is 6 June.
An Introduction to Studying the Ancient World
This study day on 29 June is aimed at those who have just finished AS-Levels and are beginning work on A2-Level Classical Civilization, Greek, or Latin. The day will consist of lectures, given by experts who teach and study at the University of Cambridge, which will introduce you to the A2 topics and the A2 set texts (and in particular their historical and cultural context) that you will be studying. There will also be an opportunity to take a guided tour of our famous collection of casts of ancient sculpture, to visit one of the Cambridge Colleges, to find out more about making a successful application to University, and - for those who have not yet studied one of the ancient languages - to participate in a taster session in Latin or Greek. See this year’s full programme, to get a taste of what is on offer, and click here to book your place.
If you're thinking of attending one of the Cambridge Open Days on the 30 June and 1 July and you're interested in Classics, the Classics Faculty will be running Is Cambridge Classics for You? a talk about studying Classics at Cambridge, a session for the parents of potential Classics students, a sample lecture which helps you find out what it’s like to study Classics here, and a stall where potential students can get personalised information and advice from Classics lecturers and students. To attend this event, please register here.
Subject tasters at Cambridge including an overnight stay
The Wren Library at Trinity College
Are you in Year 12? Do you want to attend subject taster events but struggle because you live some way from Cambridge? Some Cambridge Colleges offer taster events including an overnight stay, which will be very helpful if you want to find out more about what studying your chosen course will be like. There is no obligation to apply to the College organising the event (though you are welcome to if you want to).
All of the following residentials are free of charge, including accommodation and all meals. Do read the full information and check for eligibility criteria before making an application:
At Corpus Christi College:
At Trinity College:
Booking for all events below closes on 23 May. It's an extended deadline - please ignore the part on the page where it says that booking has closed. You'll see the extended deadline on the application form.
Selwyn College Arts and Humanities Taster Day 2016
Selwyn College will be hosting an interdiscipinary taster day for year 12's (or equivalent) interested in the arts and humanities on 29 June 2016.
Come and see what it’s like to study Art History, History, Italian, Archaeology, Anthropology, Film, and Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. At this Arts and Humanities Taster Day themed around Italy, you will travel (virtually) through the peninsula with University of Cambridge scholars as your guides. The day will involve a number of lectures, discussions, and an interactive session in one of the University of Cambridge’s museums.
Applicants must; be in year 12 (or equivalent), attend a state school or college, and be on track to achieve results that make them a competetive Oxbridge applicant. Please book a place on this event, the closing date for applications is Wednesday 25 May 2016.
Free Taster Day in Latin and Classics
Have you ever tried learning Latin? Do you want to give it a go? The Classics Faculty is holding a Latin Taster Day on Saturday 18 June 2016 so that you can explore learning Latin for the first time, with language classes and a lecture on the Ancient World.
As the Classics course at Cambridge has a four-year option for students who are studying Latin for the first time, this is a very good opportunity to get a sense of whether Classics is for you.
All school-age students are welcome. The day is free to attend, please bring a packed lunch, and there are a limited number of hardship travel bursaries available. Please see the further information and booking.
Shakespeare's 400th Anniversary
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Credit: Phil Dolby
You may have read in the news recently that 23 April 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.
On last week's BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live, Edward Wilson-Lee (Faculty of English) and Victoria Bartels (Faculty of History) contributed to the commemorations of the death of Shakespeare.
The BBC Shakespeare Festival has lots more TV & Radio programmes coming up, as well as articles on historical performances, and Much Ado Near Me, which features regional Shakespeare resources, including clips and articles for Newcastle, York and the Tees.
There are also upcoming events in and around London as part of Shakespeare400, a season of cultural and artistic events throughout the year celebrating Shakespeare's creative achievement and his profound influence on culture across the centuries. Events include theatre, music, opera, dance, and exhibitions. Some highlights:
Psychology, Languages and Linguistics Taster Day
On Tuesday 21 June 2016 Clare College will be hosting a psychology, languages and linguistics taster day for year 12 students interested in studying the following subjects at Cambridge:
Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
Modern and Medieval Languages
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
The taster day will include two parallel streams of talks, one on Psychology and Behavioural Sciences and one on Languages and Linguistics. In addition to these talks, students will learn about applying to Cambridge and have an opportunity to take part in a question and answer session with staff and students.
For further information and to register for this event, please complete a registration form before the deadline of 27 May 2016.
Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion Open Day - 18 April 2016
The Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion Open Day will take place on Monday 18 April from 1.30-4.30pm (booking required). This will give you the chance to find out about the course, hear a sample lecture, try a scriptural language, learn what students go onto after graduating, and talk to current and past students.
The afternoon will focus on studying in the faculty. To give you an idea of the role of the colleges at Cambridge, Mark Smith, Chaplain and Director of Studies at Christ's College, will be giving a tour of Christ's college and a short talk from 11am to 12pm. If you would like to attend this, please indicate on your booking form.
If you'd like to visit King's College before or after the Open Day sessions, please feel free to drop into the Porters' Lodge at the front of college to take a self-guided tour. We'll be taking students from the Faculty of Divinity after the open day finishes for an informal Q&A session in college - no booking is required for this, just wait outside the Faculty and we'll collect you. If you're not able to make it to the Q&A, please do send us an email if you have any questions.
Tom's account - guess the subject!
Tom is from rural Lincolnshire and has written a detailed King's Student Perspectives account about studying at King's. But which course do you think he is describing below?
The wonderful images of artefacts and the obscure topics in the prospectus entry had me instantly hooked, and I immediately wanted to find out more about the course. I had originally intended to study History at Cambridge, and to specialise in this period, but as soon as I saw ?????? I knew straight away that it was
for me! After some further research, it was the small size of the faculty and the total freedom that the course offers from the first year that drew me to it.
The best thing about studying ????? is that it’s an intellectually stimulating experience. The course is enjoyable in its own right – the system of lectures,
translation classes and supervisions, along with the ready availability of relevant books, means that you can pursue the interests you have in mind when applying to the full. You’ll never find yourself with nothing to do – and this is not necessarily a bad thing! ????? material is interesting and it will always keep you on your toes, which makes for a challenging but enjoyable lifestyle.
You can find out what Tom's course is and how he as found it in his Student Perspective, and you might like to ask yourself some questions about the material in his course, find out more, and even come along to an open day on 22 June.
New Tracks in Education
Are you interested in how we learn and what makes people tick? Do you want to learn more about international development and how educational inequalities can be overcome? Or are you interested in the role of Literature, Drama and the Arts in society? If so, Education might be the course for you. Education at Cambridge is a rigorous and rewarding interdisciplinary degree. You follow one of three tracks, combining in-depth study of a particular field of interest with an examination of wider educational and social issues:
The Education, Psychology and Learning track focuses on education from a psychological perspective; exploring human development and education in a variety of social and cultural environments.
Education, Policy and International Development provides critical perspectives on education’s role in social and economic change and on approaches to addressing education inequalities globally.
Education, English, Drama and the Arts combines the study of English Literature, and the option of studying Drama, with key issues in Education, such as debates around creativity, learning and culture.
Please note, the Education Course is not offered at King's College, but is available at many other colleges (see course availability). Find out more on the Faculty of Education website.
Cambridge Literary Festival
Book art at the CUP bookshop
Every Spring and Winter, Cambridge Literary Festival takes place in venues around the city centre, engaging with the newest fiction, cutting edge commentary and science, children's events and lots more. This year, the festival will run from 5-14 April 2016. Events require booking, and all student tickets are £6. Highlights include:
07 April - Louis de Bernieres - Author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The Dust that Falls from Dreams dicusses his life and work.
09 April - Akala - Hip-Hop Shakespeare demonstrates the similarities between hip-hop and the work of the much-loved bard.
09 April - Irvine Welsh - Author of Trainspotting discusses his new novel, The Blade Artist.
10 April - Charlotte Harman - Biographer of Charlotte Brontë: A Life.
10 April - Faber New Poets - Showcasing the talents of new poets: Elaine Beckett, Crispin Best, Sam Buchan-Watts and Rachel Curzon.
10 April - Simon Callow - discusses Orson Welles: One Man Band, the third volume of this epic biography.
There are more events listed on the full schedule.
Classics Open Day - 18 March 2016
The Faculty of Classics at Cambridge will host this year’s one-day conference for all sixth formers who may be thinking of reading Classics at University. This is a fun and informative event with sample lectures and briefing sessions by the Access and Outreach Teams from Oxford as well as Cambridge. Our aim is to give sixth formers an opportunity to find out what it is like to study Classics at University and a chance to ask questions they may have about the subject. The day is particularly focused around the courses on offer at Cambridge and Oxford, but is also intended to be relevant for students who may be considering studying Classics or related subjects at other Universities. Please submit a booking form to attend this event.
After the programme finishes at 15:45, King's College will be open for prospective students to attend an informal Q&A session on the application process - the college grounds will also be open for students to take a self-guided tour. We'll collect students from the Sidgwick Site and walk over to King's for 16:00. The session will end at 17:00.
Please see our Open Days page for other upcoming events.
MML and Linguistics Open Day - 11 March 2016
The programme for the day will include introductory talks on both MML and Linguistics, sample lectures and tours of the MML Library and other facilities such as the Phonetics Lab and the Psycholinguistics Lab. There will be stands for each Department where you will be able to meet staff and students, and there will also be information available about the Year Abroad and the University Language Centre. The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies will also be running an Open Day at the same time and information on combining MML with Middle Eastern Studies will also be available. Please submit a booking form to attend this event.
After the programme finishes at 16:30, King's College will be open for prospective students to attend an informal Q&A session on the application process - the college grounds will also be open for students to take a self-guided tour. We'll collect students from the Sidgwick Site and walk over to King's for 16:45. The session will end at 17:30.
Please see our Open Days page for other upcoming events.
A round up of forthcoming Year 12 events in Cambridge!
There are lots of events in Cambridge and new ones are being advertised regularly. Here is a quick round up of key dates. Click on each link to see info and to book a place:
If you would like to look around King's whilst you are in Cambridge for one of these events, remember that the public areas of College are always open to prospective students. If you introduce yourself at the porters' lodge, the porters will give you a copy on the self-guided tour for prospective students, which will show you what you are looking at, and please feel free to email us after your visit with any questions.
We welcome requests from students at state schools in the areas (except Cambridge) listed below to stay overnight the night before events if accommodation is not provided. If this is relevant to you, please read the full information about the Link Area Accommodation Scheme and how to book an overnight room at King's.
To mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death, leading actors perform some of Shakespeare's greatest speeches in a video series for The Guardian.
The first six videos include speeches from Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Richard III.
Students who study English at Cambridge take a paper (a module) on Shakespeare in their first or second year, but it can be daunting deciding where to begin with 37 plays and over a hundred poems to be getting on with!
You might like to start by looking back at what you’ve already covered. Maybe you've studied one of Shakespeare’s Tragedies at school (Macbeth, King Lear or Hamlet may be familiar?) or one the Comedies (Much Ado about Nothing or Twelfth Night?). You may even have studied a play that fits more problematically into both of or between these categories, such as The Tempest or The Merchant of Venice. Have you ever read some of Shakespeare's sonnets, or one of his longer poems such as Venus and Adonis? Have you ever read, or seen performed, one of the History plays?
David Morrissey's performance of the opening speech of Richard III might be a good place to start.
Newnham College Subject Taster Days
Newnham is one of Cambridge's women's colleges, along with Murray Edwards and Lucy Cavendish (for women aged 21 and over).
Newnham College Subject Taster Days are opportunities for young women in Year 12 to visit the college for a day, to participate in a range of academic sessions introducing them to university study, and to hear all about the admissions process to the University of Cambridge. Students also have the opportunity to meet and talk to current undergraduates in their chosen subject. There is no payment for the day and lunch will be provided free of charge, however students should arrange their own transport to and from the event.
Biological Sciences - 8 March
English - 23 March
STEM Subjects - 7 April
Archaeology - 8 April
Classics - 11 April
History - 14 April
The deadline to submit an application form is noon on Wednesday 24 February.
Festival of International Culture
The Festival of International Culture is coming to Durham, Stockton-on-Tees, and Newcastle in March, and is aimed at Year 8 and 9 students about to decide on their GCSE options.
The events will comprise of all sorts of different activities to raise awareness of the need for language learning in the UK. They will focus on the fun, active and practical side to learning new languages and cultures. This year, they are currently planning that the cultural element of the Festival will form part of the regional Mother Tongue, Other Tongue poetry competition (which is open to eligible students aged 9-18), with workshops giving pupils the chance to create a poem to submit as part of the regional competition.
What's a Language, Anyway?
In a recent article for The Atlantic, John McWhorter considers the differences between a language and a dialect, and how linguists might distinguish between them.
"It turns out that it’s impossible to determine precisely where one “language” leaves off and another begins."
"The serendipities of history chose one “dialect” as a standard and enshrined it on the page."
"Is a dialect, on some level, unsophisticated, as if it doesn’t have a literature because it is unsuited to extended thought and abstraction?"
Read the full article online here. If you're curious about Linguistics, you might also be interested in:
Life and Times of Michael K
The first thing the midwife noticed about Michael K when she helped him out of his mother into the world was that he had a hare lip. The lip curled like a snail's foot, the left nostril gaped. Obscuring the child for a moment from its mother, she prodded open the tiny bud of a mouth and was thankful to find the palate whole.
To the mother, she said: 'You should be happy, they bring luck to the household.' But from the first Anna K did not like the mouth that would not close and the living pink flesh it bared to her. She shivered to think of what had been growing in her all these months. The child could not suck from the breast and cried with hunger. She tried a bottle; when it could not suck from the bottle she fed it with a teaspoon, fretting with impatience when it coughed and spluttered and cried.
These are the first two paragraphs from Life and Times of Michael K by J.M.Coetzee, the novel which won the 1983 Man Booker Prize for fiction. It's a great book to read, and if you get into it, you may like to think about how Coetzee portrays his 'outsider' - can you compare Michael K with outsiders in other books, plays or poetry that you may have read?
To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, King's College, London is co-ordinating a consortium of leading cultural, creative and educational organisations, who will be putting on a range of public performances, programmes, exhibitions and creative activities.
Do explore the Shakespeare400 website!
Thomas Campion English Prize
Peterhouse is setting some more interesting questions for Year 12 students to discuss for its Thomas Campion English Prize.
Students are asked to write an essay on one of nine given questions, focussing on one or two literary texts that they haven't studied at school before.
Here are just a few of the questions:
“The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material, as a shoe must still consist of leather, but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is designed and significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work”. (Robert Louis Stevenson).
Do you agree?
“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness”. (Beckett). Discuss.
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all”. (Wilde).
Do you agree?
'The poet's voice is not the voice of the person who happens to be the poet.' What is it then?
The full list of questions and details of the competition are available on the Peterhouse website in the Thomas Campion English Prize pdf, and please also read the details of eligibility of the Peterhouse essay prizes. The deadline is 14 March 2016. Best of luck to those who choose to explore these questions, whether just for curiosity or to enter the competition!
Oxford and Cambridge Classics Conference for Sixth Formers
On 18 March 2016, together with colleagues at Oxford, the Cambridge Classics Faculty will be holding the joint Oxford and Cambridge Classics Conference for Sixth Formers.
This year, this will take place at Cambridge. The day provides an opportunity to hear a range of university-style Classics lectures, to find out more about the Classics courses at the two Universities, student life, and the admissions process, and to ask any questions you have.
Full information and a booking form is available on the Classics the Greeks, the Romans and us website.
Adlestrop by Edward Thomas
Yes, I remember Adlestrop --
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop -- only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
What makes a good poem about a place in your opinion?
Can you describe the tone of this poem and which parts of it (words, garmmar, topic etc) play the most important role in creating this for you? Once you have gathered your own thoughts, you might enjoy this brief discussion from Matthew Hollis.
Can you find another poem that mentions a specific place?
Year 12 Summer Schools
Applications are open for the Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools in Cambridge! These are very popular subject-specific residentials in July and August for eligible 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.
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 curious to find out about studying at Cambridge and don't have much information about this already. Equally, please be aware that we receive far more applications than we have places available. It is important to read:
For full information and booking, please go to the Cambridge Admissions website. The application deadline is 11 March 2016. Good luck!
In more general terms, you may also find the King's page about applying with limited support or advice helpful.
Oxford and Cambridge Year 12 Student Conferences around the UK
Student conferences are a good opportunity to find out more from subject specialists, students and admissions staff
Bookings are open for the 2016 Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, which will take place in Swansea, Birmingham, Merseyside, Newcastle, Lisburn, Edinburgh and Surrey during March.
The conference covers courses available at Oxford and Cambridge (sessions led by subject specialists), Applying to Oxford and Cambridge (including student life) talks, and plenty of opportunities to chat with current students and admissions staff 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 (see the links to the different events on the right-hand side of the webpage linked above).
tracking our migratory birds to Africa and back
Year 12 Architecture, English and Classics events on 27 February!
Find out what studying your subject at Cambridge is really like
Credit: Robert (cropped)
Would you like to experience typical undergraduate teaching at Cambridge and explore topics of interest beyond what is covered within your school syllabus? Then you might be interested in attending a Saturday Masterclass on 27 February.
We advise you to read about these events and book as soon as possible if you are interested:
If you study at a state school in one of the areas tagged at the bottom of this post, please consider using the King's Year 12 Link Area Accommodation Scheme to request a room in King's College on the night of Friday 26 February (this is subject to availability). Details of how to request a room are in the grey box in the link.
If you are interested in other subjects, please explore the full list of upcoming events, and consider registering your interest (on the right of the page) so that you receive an email when further events in other subjects are advertised.
Competition: Communicating the Ancient World through film
The Faculty of Classics at Cambridge is well known for putting the Ancient World on screen. With Mary Beard, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, and others on the staff, Cambridge’s Classics academics are some of the most familiar faces on TV documentaries.
This new competition invites you to take part in this mission of communicating the Ancient World through film (YouTube, not BBC1 just yet!). We are looking for creative and interesting films which explore a classical object or topic in less than 4 minutes. There will be a prize fund of £500 for the best entries and the winning videos will be put on our unique website – The Greeks, The Romans & Us – which features a range of videos of Cambridge’s well-known and up-and-coming Classicists.
How to take part
For full details, please see the Video Competition page on The Greeks, The Romans & Us website. The deadline for entries is 15 March 2016. Do send any questions about the competition to the Classics Faculty Schools Liaison Officer.
Good Luck and we look forward to watching your film!
Students outside the Faculty of Classics
Subject Masterclasses provide academically-able Year 12 students with the opportunity to explore subjects they are interested in studying at university and may not have previously experienced. Each event includes two lectures, an introduction to the admissions process, and the chance to hear about student life from current undergraduates.
A range of subjects are offered each year, currently bookings are open for February 2016 Masterclasses in:
Archaeology: Saturday 06 February 2016
Genetics and Biochemistry : Saturday 06 February 2016
Physics: Saturday 06 February 2016
Theology and Philosophy: Saturday 06 February 2016
Architecture: Saturday 27 February 2016
Classics: Saturday 27 February 2016
English: Saturday 27 February 2016
Please be aware there are only a limited number of spaces available so we advise students to book their places quickly. Masterclasses are continually added throughout the year so please register your interest for future events on the Masterclass website.
Cambridge interviews are very similar to the supervisions that you have every week as a student here (see how you are taught).
If you apply to Cambridge, you send your UCAS application by the 15 October deadline (Cambridge and Oxford have an earlier deadline than for most UK universities), and most (though not all) applicants are invited for interviews, which take place in early December.
We don't suggest that you worry too much about the details of the application process when you're in Year 10, Year 11 or at this stage of Year 12, but it is useful to get a sense of what interviews are about (they are academic interviews). The important point to understand when looking at interviews, is that if you would like to study at Cambridge in the future, you may already be thinking about whether you can achieve the grades we require (see our entrance requirements), but it is equally important to enjoy your studies and explore and develop your academic interests.
When you come for interview, we will be looking for intellectual ability, aptitude for the subject, curiosity and commitment. So the interviewers (specialists in the subejct you have applied for) ask a range of questions relating to the work or reading you have done, both at school and outside it. We we will encourage you to talk about your academic interests and ideas. We encourage you to watch this film about Cambridge interviews.
Interested in languages? literature? politics? history?
If you are studying a language and are also interested in the world (i.e. you enjoy subjects such as politics, history, or literature, for example), then one exciting course that is worth looking at is Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. It's a very flexible course which can be tailored to your interests, so you can study areas from Japan in the East to Morocco in the West, and everything from classical times to the present day.
Studying an asian or middle eastern culture through its language enables you to develop a set of practical skills and knowledge that can be used later in many different ways (graduates go onto some very interesting careers indeed after this course!), and intellectually, you will engage with different ways of understanding our shared world.
There are no specific subject requirements for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, though we will obviously be very interested in your aptitude for language learning. Most applicants study a foreign language at school. Many applicants have studied social sciences such as Economics or History, but it is also possible to apply and do well with a background in maths and sciences.
There's a very good opportunity to explore this course further if you can get to Cambridge on Saturday 21 November - do book a place on the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Masterclass, which will include two taster lectures, an opportunity to hear about what studying at Cambridge is like from current students, a introduction to the Cambridge admisisons process, and chance to ask questions.
Mary Renault essay competition (Years 12 & 13)
St Hugh's College, Oxford is running an essay competition in memory of author Mary Renault (best known for her novels set in ancient Greece) for sixth form students who are not studying Greek or Latin to A level or equivalent.
Essays can be from any subject area and should be on a topic relating to the reception of classical antiquity. This includes Greek and Roman literature, history, political thought, philosophy, and material remains in any period from the Middle Ages to the present.
For full information, please see the Mary Renault prize flyer. The deadline for submissions is 16 January 2016.
Subject Masterclasses - Year 12 Students
Subject Masterclasses provide academically-able Year 12 students with the opportunity to explore subjects they are interested in studying at university and may not have previously experienced. Each event includes two lectures, an introduction to the admissions process, and the chance to hear about student life from current undergraduates.
Booking is now open for November 2015 Masterclasses in:
Engineering - 14 November 2015
Physics - 14 November 2015
History - 14 November 2015
Medicine - 21 November 2015
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies - 21 November 2015
Genetics and Biochemistry - 21 November 2015
Please be aware there are only a limited number of spaces available so students are advised to book their places quickly.
Masterclasses are continually added throughout the year and you can register you interest for future events here.
Posted: 30 September 2015
Essay Writing - Where To Begin?
Getting those first words on the page when you’ve got an essay to write can seem daunting. There are a few useful tools and guides online that can help you get started and even develop your essay writing skills.
Essay Map is a very straightforward tool for mapping out your key ideas before you begin writing and helps you to create a structured plan from introduction to conclusion.
And if you find graphic plans useful when it comes to mapping out essays, there are lots of different designs online that you can use to organise your ideas.
For something more advanced, Harvard College Writing Centre provides various guides to essay writing. Their guides to writing in different academic disciplines are especially useful if you’re starting to study a subject in greater depth than you ever have before (History? Philosophy? English Literature?).
Posted: 25 September 2015
Word of the Day
There are a few online dictionaries that post a 'word of the day' to help broaden your vocabulary with less common words as well as suggesting some more familiar words whose meanings you might not be so sure on. You can even sign-up to have these emailed to you daily. Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster are just two of the websites that offer these free subscriptions.
And if you're studying a modern language you might want to sign-up for the French, Spanish, Italian or German word of the day. You can find even more languages here.
Posted: 18 September 2015
What does an Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic dissertation look like?
Lucinda, an Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic student at Christ’s College, Cambridge, shares her thoughts on her undergraduate dissertation which asks: To what extent did the Anglo-Saxon Church condemn contemporary medical practices, and for what reasons?
She writes that “Although very niche, the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic degree (or Tripos as it’s known in Cambridge) allows very flexible study in the range of papers it offers. Students can choose to focus on purely literature and language or on history, or as is most popular, they can mix the two together. Students have two opportunities to write a dissertation: it is optional in Second Year (Part I of the Tripos), and compulsory in Third (Part II). The beauty of the dissertation is that it allows you to either expand on an area you've already studied or to tackle something new which isn't covered in lectures or supervisions. For my Part II dissertation I chose the route of challenging myself with something I knew nothing about: Anglo-Saxon medicine.”
You can read more about Lucinda’s dissertation here.
Image: Tim Ellis
Posted: 17 September 2015
Tyneside Cinema Foreign Language Film Study Days
There are a number of GCSE and A level study days in French, German and Spanish coming up at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. These workshops are based around a film screening and discussion. The films include Volver, The Connection, Phoenix and The Chorus amongst others. For details and registration, please see the Tyneside Cinema website. For modern languages events in other areas, you may find the Routes into Languages website helpful.
Posted: 16 September 2015
Modern Languages Taster Day - Girton College, Cambridge
Girton College and the Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages will be running a Taster Day aimed at pupils who are currently studying Modern Languages at GCSE, aimed at introducing the study of these courses at university level. The programme, which will take place at Girton College, will include workshops by University academics designed to inspire and enthuse Year 10 and 11 students who will already be considering languages within their A Level choices and possibly studying this vibrant subject at university.
Please see this advert for more information and to complete the nomination form, which should be returned to: Schools Liaison Assistant, Girton College, Cambridge, CB3 0JG or by email to
by Monday 21st September.
If you have any enquiries about the Taster Day, please do not hesitate to contact Erin at
Image: Chris JL
Posted: 16 September 2015
Literature & Languages at Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2015
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:
Posted: 15 September 2015
European Day of Languages (26 Sept)
Credit: Council of Europe
The European Day of Languages on 26 September is fast approaching, and offers a good opportunity to think about linguistic diversity and the advantages of learning to communicate in other languages and gain more direct access to and understanding of different cultures.
Amongst the website resources there are some fun and interesting facts and lists:
Language skills are in demand and can lead to a wide range of careers. They also allow you to persue a range of interets in your university degree - depending on your course choices, you may study linguistics, literature, film, history, politics, philosophy, sociology, art criticism, and religion, as you will be able to read and study texts of all kinds in the original form.
Inspired? Why not watch some of the films about languages courses at Cambridge: Modern and Medieval Languages; Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Linguistics, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Classics, Theology and Religious Studies.
11 Sept - Exhibition of archive documents in King's Library
On Friday 11 September, King's College Library is holding an exhibition of original documents bequeathed to the College Archives by former student John Davy Hayward, who was T.S. Eliot's roommate and unofficial editor for 11 years.
The exhibition is open from 10:30 until 15:30 as part of Open Cambridge.
Free and Discounted Theatre Tickets
Many theatres across the country will offer a small discount off ticket prices for students. But did you know that there are also some free membership schemes for students and under 26s that offer an even greater discount, and in some cases free theatre tickets? Here are just a few theatres and schemes:
- Darlington Civic Theatre - ArtsSpark Membership Scheme - free to join, and available to anyone under the age of 26.
- Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester - every Friday night they set aside 100 £6 theatre tickets for students and people under 26
- Young Barbican, London - for ages 14-25, over 50,000 discounted tickets across art, film, music, theatre and dance for just £5, £10 or £15.
- Young Vic, London - offering a number of £10 tickets for every production for full time students and people aged 25 and under.
- Tricycle Theatre, London - a limited number of £10 theatre tickets for under 26s
- Royal and Derngate, Southhampton - free and inexpensive tickets to under 26s
Or if opera is more your thing (or just something you're curious about!), Opera North have a membership scheme for under-30s that offers free or £10 tickets to select performances.
There are, of course, many more theatres with amazing student discounts so check out what's on offer at your local theatre.
Image: Matthew Paulson
Year 12 Classics events in September
Do you think that you would enjoy studying the Ancient World? Do read about Why Classics Matters and perhaps watch some of the films on the course website.
Jack says: It was the breadth of the Classics course at Cambridge that appealed to me, as it offered an opportunity to concentrate on areas of particular interest while still covering a huge range of academic disciplines and topics. Amber writes: I was always interested in literature and languages growing up. [...] I considered applying for English or Modern Languages at university, but eventually settled on Classics, and I’m very glad I did – I’ve really enjoyed the course. Read more about Jack and Amber's experiences of studying Classics.
Why not book a place on one of the Classics events in September to find out more?
....and don't forget: you don't need to have studied Latin or Greek before to apply! We have a four year course option as well as the three year course, so you can start from scratch if you like.
For quite a few of the essay courses at Cambridge, there are opportunities to work on a dissertation. This would normally be in the later years, and sometimes you can choose to write a dissertation to replace one of your exam papers (see the structure of your chosen course). As Fiona, one of our History students says, 'it’s a good way to spend time studying something that you’re particularly interested in, and to research material which has hardly been studied before'. Many students enjoy researching and writing their dissertation so much that they decide to go on to further research after their degree, and they apply for Masters and PhD courses.
Christ's College has produced a very interesting resource with accounts of what some current undergraduates are studying for their dissertations. Do visit their website to find out more:
King's students write about a typical day
Do you want to know what it's like to be a student at King's? King's College Student Union (KCSU) is keen to help you out - they are collecting short accounts written by current students of what it is like to study here. Do look at A Day In The Life Of.... and click on the subject you're most interested in, or start with Scott's general description of life as a fresher.
Did you find this useful? Then do also look a our King's Student Perspectives section for more student writing.
What else might be waiting to be discovered?
Toni Bray - Robin and his Bow
You might have read recently about a discovery by a PhD student at Leeds Trinity University which reveals a darker side to Robin Hood’s reputation in the eighteenth-century. Stephen Basdeo found the long forgotten work, Little John's Answer to Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster (1727), in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds after reading a footnote referring to the ballad, which had previously been assumed to be a plagiarism of a known work. The ballad is a satire of the first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole (1676-1745), in which the Duke of Lancaster attempts to expose Robin Hood’s corruption to King John. Stephen puts his discovery in context: “our favourite outlaw hero really emerges with a tarnished reputation in the text. He is not noble or gallant but simply a 'thief,' a 'vast cunning man,' who 'abuses his good king.'” This discovery shows that the famous outlaw was not always as popular with people in the past as he is today – and it has remained unchecked and unanalysed all these years!
There may well be Special Collections near you, either in your town library, a nearby university library, or connected to a local museum or heritage site.
King’s College Library has its own Special Collections, as well as the Archive Centre which offers an online introduction to archival research.
Do 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 (if you read five or six of these, you'll have a very good sense of what studying at King's is like).
The University has made some films which you may also find useful:
Would you like to visit Cambridge during the summer?
Prospective students are always welcome to visit
Remember that you are welcome to visit any time, even if there's not an official open day on.
- If you would like to look around a college, it is best to introduce yourself at the porters' lodge (the reception). Porters are normally happy for prospective students to walk around the public areas and will give you any maps / information available. There's also a map of Cambridge, which shows where the colleges are. You'll see that the middle of Cambridge is quite small, so you will be able to walk between most colleges easily.
- If you would like to visit King's, do introduce yourself at the porters' lodge when you arrive. The college will be open to prospective students and we have a self-guided tour that you can use.
- You may find the Following in the Footsteps audio tour useful for visiting other parts of the University. Cambridge University is made up of colleges, faculties (where you go for lectures), libraries (over 100 of them!) and offices dotted around the city, and following this tour will give you a good sense of how it all works.
- There are also some great museums and teaching collections which you might like to explore, most of which are free to visit. Or you might like to check the 'what's on' list for the day you are visiting - there are often talks and exhibitions on, as well as the Shakespeare Festival.
Robinson college is setting some interesting questions for Year 12 students to discuss (with reference to any academic discipline or area of interest) for its annual Essay Prize:
- 'Science has made us Gods even before we are worthy of being men.'
- 'Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.'
- 'The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.'
- 'Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagingation.'
- 'It's in literature that true life can be found. It's under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth.'
If you would like to write an essay for this competition, the deadline is 1 August 2015. Do read the full information on Robinson College's website.
Extract from Sartre's 'La nausée'
Here's an extract from Sartre's La nausée for those who are studying French at an advanced level - see how you get on with it. Can you describe the ideas that the narrator conveys? Can you pick out a few key sentences? Which words, phrases or grammatical constructions are new to you?
Quand on vit, il n'arrive rien. Les décors changent, les gens entrent et sortent, voilà tout. Il n'y a jamais de commencements. Les jours s'ajoutent aux jours sans rime ni raison, c'est une addition interminable et monotone. De temps en temps, on fait un total partiel : on dit : voilà trois ans que je voyage, trois ans que je suis à Bouville. Il n'y a pas de fin non plus : on ne quitte jamais une femme, un ami, une ville en une fois. Et puis tout se ressemble : Shanghaï, Moscou, Alger, au bout d'une quinzaine, c'est tout pareil. Par moments — rarement — on fait le point, on s'aperçoit qu'on s'est collé avec une femme, engagé dans une sale histoire. Le temps d'un éclair. Après ça le défilé recommence, on se remet à faire l'addition des heures et des jours. Lundi, mardi, mercredi. Avril, mai, juin. 1924, 1925, 1926.
Ça, c'est vivre. Mais quand on raconte la vie, tout change; seulement c'est un changement que personne ne remarque : la preuve c'est qu'on parle d'histoires vraies. Comme s'il pouvait y avoir des histoires vraies ; les événements se produisent dans un sens et nous les racontons en sens inverse. On a l'air de débuter par le commencement : « C'était par un beau soir de l'automne de 1922. J'étais clerc de notaire à Marommes. » Et en réalité c'est par la fin qu'on a commencé. Elle est là, invisible et présente, c'est elle qui donne à ces quelques mots la pompe et la valeur d'un commencement. « Je me promenais, j'étais sorti du village sans m'en apercevoir, je pensais à mes ennuis d'argent. » Cette phrase, prise simplement pour ce qu'elle est, veut dire que le type était absorbé, morose, à cent lieues d'une aventure, précisément dans ce genre d'humeur où on laisse passer les événements sans les voir. Mais la fin est là, qui transforme tout. Pour nous, le type est déjà le héros de l'histoire. Sa morosité, ses ennuis d'argent sont bien plus précieux que les nôtres, ils sont tout dorés par la lumière des passions futures. Et le récit se poursuit à l'envers : les instants ont cessé de s'empiler au petit bonheur les uns sur les autres, ils sont happés par la fin de l'histoire qui les attire et chacun d'eux attire à son tour l'instant qui le précède : « Il faisait nuit, la rue était déserte. » La phrase est jeté négligemment, elle a l'air superflue; mais nous ne nous y laissons pas prendre et nous la mettons de côte : c'est un renseignement dont nous comprendrons la valeur par la suite. Et nous avons le sentiment que le héros a vécu tous les détails de cette nuit comme les annonciations, comme les promesses, ou même qu'il vivait seulement ceux qui étaient des promesses, aveugle et sourd pour tout ce qui n'annonçait pas l'aventure. Nous n'oublions que l'avenir n'était pas encore là; le type se promenait dans une nuit sans présages, qui lui offrait pêle-mêle ses richesses monotones et il ne choisissait pas.
J'ai voulu que les moments de ma vie se suivent et s'ordonnent comme ceux d'une vie qu'on rappelle. Autant vaudrait tenter d'attraper le temps par la queue.
Jean-Paul Sartre, La nausée (Gallimard, 1938) pp. 62-64.
What do Cambridge scientists read?
Do you enjoy literature and science? Are these interests compatible? Do you think that fictional works can be useful and interesting to scientists? Or is fiction too different to science?
As you think about these questions, here's a series of films in which Cambridge scientists talk about fictional texts that have inspired or helped them in various ways.
Article on the Novel Thoughts series.
We're sometimes asked for advice about what prospective students should read.
If you are looking for reading suggestions (particularly as you approach the summer, when you may have a bit more time), you may find the reading lists for all subjects in the offer-holders' section useful. Depending on your subject, you will find useful book sugestions or problem-solving websites and other advice. These 'lists' can be particularly useful if you don't know where to start, or if you'll be studying a subject at Cambridge that you don't already study at school, such as Human, Social and Political Sciences, Law, Philosophy, Engineering, Linguistics, Medicine or Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.
- Be yourself and follow your interests
None of the Cambridge courses have books that you have to read before you apply, so if you've already found some material that you're finding interesting and engaging, and is developing your academic interests, don't stop!
- Make a few brief notes
Making a list of the points that interest you, or any thoughts on the arguments you encounter, is a good thing to do as you read if you can (even if you keep them very brief). This will help you to remember the most important points, and also to notice where your interests lie.
- Explain to somebody else
Are you taking it in? A good way to ensure that you've understood something is to try to explain it to somebody else. Do you have any friends or relatives who might be interested in what you're reading? If you can explain the main points in an idea to somebody who does not know about the subject, that is normally a good sign that you've got it clear in your own head!
Try to avoid:
- Being daunted
The lists we provide are meant to be helpful for those looking for suggestions. We're not trying to overwhelm you. Just like the kinds of suggestions you get from supervisors and lecturers when you're studying at Cambridge, some of the subject lists are quite long so that you can pick and choose according to your interests. Don't be put off by this!
- The tick-box approach
The important point about your reading is not which books you've read but what you get out of them. So our advice is: don't rush to read as many books as possible in order to tick them off a reading list. It is much more important that you take time to enjoy the material and think about it. Remember that the best things to mention on the personal statement or your UCAS application form are the things that genuinely interest you.
Introduction to Archives
Rupert Brooke in uniform, at Blandford, Dorset. 1914. Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/Ph/262
Why not access and use primary sources to explore and develop your academic interests this Summer?
King's College Archive Centre has developed an Introduction to Archives, using the papers of King's student and First World War poet Rupert Brooke as a case study.
The website is divided into two parts:
- Introduction to archives: What archives are, the key principles of archival research and how to access primary sources (sections 1-6).
- Rupert Brooke case study: How these ideas apply to the papers of Rupert Brooke, through interpretation activities focussing on different aspects of his life and a few of his most famous poems (sections 7-10).
Once you've worked through the online resources, you'll be ready to visit an archive near you to do some research of your own.
Luminarium - a website for students with a curiosity for English Literature
If you're interested in studying English at Cambridge, we recommend that you try to read material from a number of different periods if you can, as the course will introduce you to the full range of literature from the Middle Ages to the present day.
If you want to explore what you could read from some of the earlier periods and are wondering what you might enjoy, why not spend some time browsing the Luminarium website? It's an anthology of English Literature with particularly well-developed sections for Medieval Middle English Literature (1350-1485), Renaissance Literature (1485-1603), Early 17th Century Literature (1603-1660), and Restoration & 18th Century Literature (1660-1785).
Here's a poem by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) to get you started:
False life! a foil and no more, when
Wilt thou be gone?
Thou foul deception of all men,
That would not have the true come on!
Thou art a moon-like toil ; a blind
Self-posing state ;
A dark contest of waves and wind ;
A mere tempestuous debate.
Life is a fix'd, discerning light,
A knowing joy ;
No chance, or fit : but ever bright,
And calm, and full, yet doth not cloy.
'Tis such a blissful thing, that still
And shine and smile, and hath the skill
To please without eternity.
Thou art a toilsome mole, or less,
A moving mist.
But life is, what none can express,
A quickness, which my God hath kiss'd.
For poem and source, see Luminarium. The poet page has further resources including book recommendations.
Language-learning: Essay Competition
Are you interested in how language works? If so, you might like to consider working on an entry for Trinity College's Essay Competition, which invites students in Year 12* to think about the following topic:
‘A child exposed to two languages from birth and an adult moving into a country where another language is dominant will both be faced with the challenge and opportunity of becoming bilingual. Discuss the similarities and differences in the processes and outcomes of language learning for these two types of learner.’
You don't have to be studying any particular subjects to enter, but it's a good chance to see if you enjoy working on topics in the broad area of Linguistics. Full details of the competition and how to enter are available on the Trinity College website, and the deadline for entries is 1 August 2015.
*Year 12 is the academic year before students sit A level exams, the International Baccalaureate or equivalent qualifications.
York Festival of Ideas 2015
The York Festival of Ideas will take place this year from Tuesday 9 until Sunday 21 June, with more than 100 free events. Do have a look at what is on:
June Events in Cambridge (early booking recommended!)
As well as the Cambridge Open Days across all subjects and colleges on Thurs 2 July and Fri 3 July, a number of Year 12(*) subject events in June are open for booking at the moment.
Although we know that most of you are really busy with exam work at the moment, do be aware that some of these events allocate places on a first come, first served basis, so do try to get your booking in as soon as possible if you are interested.
* 'Year 12' is the quick way to explain, but these events are for all students who plan to apply in October 2015.
Lorca: Amor en el Jardin
Théâtre sans Frontières is currently touring the UK with an adaptation of Lorca's El Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su Jardín.
The play is performed in Spanish with English surtitles.
- until 25 April - Southwark Playhouse, London
- 27 April - Theatre Royal, Winchester
- 28 April - The Brewhouse, Taunton
- 30 April - Hazlitt Arts Centre, Maidstone
- 5 May - Gala Theatre, Durham
- 6 May - Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham
- 11 & 12 May - Z-arts, Manchester
- 14 May - Nottingham Lakeside Arts
Do see the information and booking for further details.
University of Hull's OpenCampus Programme
It's a new term at the University of Hull's OpenCampus programme:
- There is a new series of Tea-Time Talks, focusing on health and wellbeing, held on Tuesday evenings from 6.15pm to 7.45pm. The series will kick off with a talk by Professor Andrew L. Clark, Chair of Clinical Cardiology at Hull York Medical School, on 'The world's number one killer: "can you save yourselves?"' on Tuesday 5 May.
- The Culture Café will be celebrating postgraduate and postdoctoral research emerging from the Department of English on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4.30pm. In the first session, Emma Butcher will explore the Brontës' childhood writings on Wednesday 6 May.
Places are limited, so booking is essential. You can register online, or call Nicola Sharp or Jackie McAndrew on 01482 466321 / 466585.
Hexham Book Festival (20 April - 4 May)
Hexham (Northumberland) has a large annual book festival, which will run from 20 April to 4 May this year.
There are more than fifty authors and speakers delivering events, so do look through the list of what you could attend on the festival website if you live anywhere near!
Introduction to Archives Workshop for Sixth Formers at King's
Kennesaw State University Archives. Image credit: Anne G
- Are you currently taking AS / A Level History or English Literature?
- Are you interested in finding out about and using archives in your work?
If so, King's College Archive Centre invites you to an Introduction to Archives Workshop on Friday 10 April, using the papers of Rupert Brooke.
Peter Monteith, an archivist at King's College, will explore approaches to using archives for research with you. You will then gain experience of archives, through an exploration of the life, poetry, and myth surrounding King's student and First World War poet Rupert Brooke.
The workshop will equip you to use the King's College Archive Centre yourself, either during an optional reading room session on the morning of Saturday 11 April (numbers limited) or at another time during the Centre's normal opening hours.
See the programme for the workshop and email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place.
NB. Are you at a state school in one of the areas listed below? If so, please do request accommodation through the Year 12 Link Area Accommodation Scheme at King's for this or any other event advertised on the Cambridge page!
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.
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.