Literature and Languages

Shakespeare Solos

First pages of a shakespeare folioCredit: POP

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.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 24 February 2016

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Newnham College Subject Taster Days

Inside Newnham CollegeNewnham 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.

Date posted: 

Thursday 18 February 2016

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Festival of International Culture

poetry magnets Credit: Steve Johnson

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.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 17 February 2016

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What's a Language, Anyway?

Pile of booksCredit: Alan Myers

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:

 

Date posted: 

Wednesday 10 February 2016

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Life and Times of Michael K

Collection of J M Coetzee BooksCredit: andessurvivor

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?

Date posted: 

Tuesday 9 February 2016

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Thomas Campion English Prize

An Archway in Peterhouse CollegePeterhouse 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!

Date posted: 

Tuesday 2 February 2016

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Oxford and Cambridge Classics Conference for Sixth Formers

Statue from the museum of classical archaeology

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.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 27 January 2016

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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.

Edward Thomas

Pile of books

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?

Date posted: 

Thursday 21 January 2016

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Year 12 Summer Schools

Bodley's Court lawn

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.

Date posted: 

Monday 18 January 2016

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