- Number of students per year: seven to nine
- Typical offer: A*AA or equivalent
- Essential subjects: A Level English Literature or equivalent English Literature ( or English Language/Literature)
- Useful subjects: Any other subjects at A-Level or equivalent are welcome.
Jesus College is a great environment for studying English Literature. Our students are imaginative, creative, and hard-working; a lot of our most exciting and challenging teaching is designed to get them thinking and learning together.
Detailed close reading is an important part of the course; our students have weekly classes in 'practical criticism' throughout their time here. English is a subject that allows you to ask big questions, but also trains you to pay attention to the very smallest details of language. At Jesus, we value both of those things!
Our Fellows in English have very diverse interests, and teach our students at different points in the course:
- Dr Christopher Burlinson researches 17th century poetry and also teaches Shakespeare and tragedy.
- Dr Fiona Green researches and teaches American literature, specialising in poetry.
- Professor Rod Mengham researches and writes on 20th century English fiction, and also contemporary poetry.
- Professor Stephen Heath researches and writes on 19th and 20th century literature and criticism, and on the history of film.
- Dr Jessica Berenbeim researches and teaches medieval literature and visual culture.
- Dr Rebecca Barr specialises in 18th century literature.
There's no single type of English student at Jesus: we encourage all our students to develop their own literary, critical, and creative interests, and provide everyone with a supportive and challenging intellectual environment.
We value independence of thought, a desire to read attentively and thoughtfully, and above all an engagement and joy in reading, talking, and thinking about the literature, language, and culture of all periods—right up to the present day.
Our students have a particularly rich creative life. They have their own literary magazine, Eliot’s Face, regular poetry workshops and readings, and a number of literary and writing societies of their own.
They also organise and run an annual Arts Festival with performances, curated exhibitions, and readings. Jesus College also has a permanent, unique sculpture collection and regular art exhibitions, which encourages all our students to explore the connections between literary and visual art.
Our students go on to a range of rewarding careers — in writing, journalism, teaching, the arts and media, law, charities, and the voluntary sector. Many others go on to do further study in English or other disciplines.
Our typical conditional offer is an A* and two A grades at A-Level or equivalent. Qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Scottish Advanced Highers are welcomed.
You must have studied English Literature to A Level or equivalent. We are happy to consider applicants who have studied a combined A Level (or equivalent) in English Language and Literature, though if you have the choice between a combined qualification and a single qualification in English Literature, we would encourage you to choose the single Literature qualification.
If you're thinking of applying to study English, the most important preparation is to read more literature — and to read beyond your school syllabus. We don’t expect you to have read any specific books, and there is certainly no required reading, but we want to see that you are challenging yourself, and that you’re eager to discover new things.
So read long books as well as short ones, poetry and drama as well as novels, old texts as well as contemporary ones. Remember that most of the texts that our students read, for at least the first two years of their course, were written before the twentieth century, and we want to know that you're keen to explore literature of all kinds, and from all periods.
Here are some good ways to start doing this:
- Browse a poetry anthology, such as the Oxford Book of English Verse or Norton Anthology of Poetry (or any online anthology: the only important thing is to read things that you've never read before, and that you find challenging);
- Pick a book you liked on your school syllabus, and read one or two more books by the same author;
- Go to your school or college (or local) library and read something you've never heard of;
- If you've read a play by Shakespeare in school and enjoyed it, try reading a different one, and then read a play by someone else;
- Read some book reviews in a newspaper, pick a book that sounds interesting, and check it out from your local library (recently published books will sometimes have a waiting list).
Applicants to all Colleges for English are required to take a written assessment if shortlisted for interview. You will not need to register for this in advance. Further details will be available in due course.
In 2022-23, we’ll be interviewing shortlisted applicants virtually, with interviews taking place in December.
The interview process aims to assess your intellectual ability, potential, and commitment to the subject. Candidates are typically interviewed by at least three subject specialists, including the Director of Studies, and total contact time will be between 35-50 minutes in total. This could be in a single interview, or in two separate interviews. Further details will be made available to candidates closer to the time.
We aren’t looking for any specific knowledge, and we certainly don’t look for particular ‘right’ answers in our interviews: we just want to see that you read thoughtfully, independently, and carefully, and that you enjoy reading challenging literature.
You'll need to submit two essays (of any length) that you wrote as part of your English Literature course. One of the pieces of writing can be an extract of coursework instead of an essay.
Deferred and post A-Level entry
We're happy to consider applications for deferred entry in English; you would normally have already achieved A*AA at A-Level. Students choose this option quite frequently and spend their gap year acquiring valuable experience and reading widely.
Find out how to apply to study at Jesus.