Medieval Studies

General Introduction

Visit Oxford for one day, let alone five weeks, and you will be faced with the Middle Ages ~ the street layout, the architecture of the Colleges which comprise the University, the flavour of the University rituals … a day and you may yet be able to escape; five weeks, on the other hand, creates both the need and the opportunity to confront the medieval era, to investigate both its strangeness and its familiarity. For American citizens there is, or can be, a particular agenda here. What kind of cultural past did the Pilgrim Fathers leave behind? How does the staggering cathedral in Washington compare with English Gothic, in style and function ? What are the origins of the constitutional ideas revered by the Founding fathers ? Medieval Studies in Oxford University will help you to address these questions.

The Structure of the Course

Your studies during the Summer School will focus primarily on your chosen tutorial Option. You will, therefore, need to decide carefully between the three available Options: Conquest & Colonisation: England and Her Neighbours 1016 – 1296; Death, Nature and the Supernatural in Medieval Literature and Medieval Margins : Identity & Otherness ~ details of which are enclosed. Please state your order of preference for these Options so that we can balance the tutorial groups; almost all students will be allocated their first choice.

It is important to note that these courses are taught in tutorials – that is, in the traditional Oxford setting of just a small group of pupils (no more than 5-6 per tutor). You are required to write weekly essays, which may be read out aloud in the tutorial, or make other presentations. This may seem a dauntingly intimate procedure but bear in mind that this method gives you, the pupil, the maximum space and time to discuss your interests and to develop your arguments in active partnership with both tutor and tutorial partners. It is an invigorating, rather than intimidating, challenge !

Your second assignment each week will be to participate in the Interdisciplinary Seminar on The Arthurian Tradition, for which details are enclosed. This will give you the chance to savour a different teaching method, frequently used at Oxford at graduate level and with special undergraduate courses, and to exchange ideas with all of the participants of the Medieval Studies programme.

Field Excursions

Excursions outside Oxford are arranged for all but the first week of the Summer School. Your experiences and observations on these elements of the programme are not formally assessed and they are more loosely tied to the academic programme. At the same time, there can be no doubt that each excursion can add considerably to the understanding of your academic work. The contributions, for example, of Salisbury, Winchester, Bath and the Cotswold Hills to the intellectual, artistic and political life of medieval England can be more readily appreciated once the topography and monuments of each of these places has been studied.

In addition to these excursions, there is also a 4-Day Field Excursion – The Development of British Landscapes – which is a required component for most participants from the Medieval Studies programme and for which a separate brochure is enclosed.


© Dr Ken Addison, Oxford Academic Summer School Tours Ltd: for 2024

St Peter’s College Summer School at Magdalen College, University of Oxford