Literature and Languages

Do you live too far away to visit Cambridge?

The Vaults (King' s College Gym)

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:

Date posted: 

Tuesday 14 July 2015

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Would you like to visit Cambridge during the summer?

King's

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.

Date posted: 

Friday 10 July 2015

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Essay Competition

Robinson College

Robinson College

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:

  1. 'Science has made us Gods even before we are worthy of being men.'
  2. 'Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.'
  3. 'The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.'
  4. 'Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagingation.'
  5. '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.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

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Extract from Sartre's 'La nausée'

Book cover

Whatever books you enjoy, reading a little in the language you are studying most days will make all the difference

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.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 7 July 2015

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What do Cambridge scientists read?

Middlemarch book cover

Credit: Chris Drumm

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.

Novel Thoughts:

Article on the Novel Thoughts series.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 23 June 2015

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Luminarium - a website for students with a curiosity for English Literature

An old book

Credit: popturf.com

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:

Quickness

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
                   Doth vivify,
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.

Date posted: 

Thursday 4 June 2015

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Language-learning: Essay Competition

Scrabble letters

Credit: Taro Taylor

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.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 2 June 2015

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York Festival of Ideas 2015

June Events in Cambridge (early booking recommended!)

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies stand at an open day

A College subject day will be useful even if you are unsure about College choice or have already chosen a different College.

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.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 12 May 2015

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Lorca: Amor en el Jardin

Gala Theatre entrance

Dr Michael Thompson from Durham University will give a pre-show talk at the 5 May performance. Image credit:  mrgarethm

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.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 21 April 2015

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