ALL OSP STUDENTS MUST COMPLETE their pre-programme reading before arriving at Oxford. Once your seminars have been confirmed, please ensure you make a prompt start with this reading or you will not be able to make the most of your discussion classes and tutorials.  


C.S. Lewis and the Classics

Dr Jonathan Kirkpatrick

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien both came up to Oxford to read classics—that is, the literature, history, and thought of ancient Greece and Rome. Tolkien quit half way through, with second-class grades, while Lewis completed the course and won a prestigious ‘double first’, before embarking on a career as a student of English literature. So Lewis was trained as a classicist, and that training pervades his work, from the adapted myth of Psyche in Till we have faces, and the erudite Greek and Latin quips and quotations which ornament The pilgrim’s regress as well as his voluminous correspondence, to the exuberant irruption of the wine god Bacchus into Narnia, depicted in Prince Caspian. The myths of Rome and Greece played a role in Lewis’s spiritual transformation too, in both his boyhood adoption of atheism and his return to Christianity. This seminar will examine the role of the classics in Lewis’s life and work, focusing on his own published writings but also considering the context of British society at the time, when a classical training was considered central to a good education.


Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have gained an understanding of Lewis’s education and the important role played in it by the study of Classical texts
  • have read a broad selection of Lewis’s work, and examined the role of the classical tradition therein
  • have considered how Lewis used categories derived from his studies of Greece and Rome to conceptualise his presentation of Christian faith


Required reading before arrival

Euripides, Bacchae, (trans. G. Murray, 1906)

C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (1951)

——, Surprised by joy (1955)

——, Till we have faces: a myth retold (1956)

A.T. Reyes, ed, C.S. Lewis’s lost Aeneid (2011) (Please read the introduction, as well as Lewis’s translation.)


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

Apuleius, The golden ass, trans. R. Graves (1950)

M. Beard and J. Henderson, Classics: a very short introduction (2000)

 M. Edwards, ‘Classicist’, in The Cambridge companion to C.S. Lewis, ed. R. MacSwain and M. Ward, (2010), 58–71

C.S. Lewis, The pilgrim’s regress (1933; new edn 1943)

——, The discarded image (1964)

——, An experiment in criticism (1961) [esp. chapter 5]

——, The allegory of love (1958)

——, Collected letters, ed W. Hooper, 3 vols, (2000–6) [esp. vol. 1]

R.W. Livingstone, ed., The legacy of Greece (1921)

A. McGrath, ‘A gleam of divine truth: the concept of myth in Lewis’s thought’, in A. McGrath, The intellectual world of C. S. Lewis (2013), 55–82

P.A. Montgomery, ‘Classical literature’, in Reading the classics with C.S. Lewis, ed. T.L. Martin (2000), 52–71

D.T. Myers, Bareface: a guide to C.S. Lewis’s last novel (2004)

G. Sayer, Jack: a life of C.S. Lewis (new edn 1997)

P.J. Schakel, Reason and imagination in C.S. Lewis: a study of Till we have faces (1984)

C. Stray, Classics transformed: schools, universities, and society in England, 1830–1960 (1998)


Additional reading

H. Carpenter, The Inklings (1978)

W.G. Johnson and M.K. Houtman, 'Platonic Shadows in C.S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles', MFS 

Modern Fiction Studies 32 (1986), 75087

D.W. King, C.S. Lewis, poet: the legacy of his poetic impulse (2001)

D.W. King, ed., The Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis (2015)

C.S. Lewis, English literature in the sixteenth century excluding drama (1954)

——, Poems (1994)

A. McGrath, C.S. Lewis: a life (2013)

——, The intellectual world of C.S. Lewis (2013)

J. Patrick, The Magdalen metaphysicals: idealism and orthodoxy at Oxford, 109-1-1945 (1985)

G. Tiffany, 'C.S. Lewis: The Anti-Platonic Platonist', Christianity and Literature 63 (2014), 357-371

A. Walker, 'Scripture, revelation, and Platonism in C.S. Lewis', Scottish Journal of Theology 55 (2002),


A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis: a biography (1990)



Intellect and imagination: the rational religion and theological stories of C.S. Lewis

Dr Meriel Patrick                                      

C.S. Lewis remains one of the most popular religious thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. His work has received much praise — and much criticism. The purpose of this seminar is a close examination of a number of key strands of his theological works, both imaginative and apologetic. Themes that will be explored include: Lewis’s trilemma, the argument from desire, Christianity and myth, theodicy (the problem of suffering), and heaven and hell. There will also be the opportunity to look at some responses to Lewis’s writings, and to consider the works in the context of other philosophers and theologians writing on similar themes.


Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have read and considered a selection of C.S. Lewis’s theological writings, and of the relevant secondary literature
  • have critically analysed the main arguments found within these texts
  • have examined the impact of literary form or genre on the message conveyed


Required reading before arrival

The editions of Lewis’s work which are suggested below are ones which are readily available in the USA.  Other editions are also acceptable.

P.H. Brazier, ‘C.S. Lewis and Christological prefigurement’, The Heythrop Journal, 48 (2007), 742–75

C.S. Lewis, The great divorce (1945; New York, 2001)

——, The problem of pain (1940; New York, 2001)

 ——, Mere Christianity (1952; New York, 1996)

——, Essay collection: faith, Christianity and the church, ed. L. Walmsley (2002) [esp. the essays ‘Myth became fact’, ‘What are we to make of Jesus Christ?’, ‘Is theism important?’, ‘On obstinacy in belief’, and ‘The weight of glory’]

E.J. Wielenberg, God and the reach of reason: C.S. Lewis, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell (2007)


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

D.J. Baggett and others, C.S. Lewis as philosopher (2008)

J. Beversluis, C.S. Lewis and the search for rational religion, 2nd edn (2007)

S.T. Davis, ‘Was Jesus mad, bad, or God?’, in The incarnation: an interdisciplinary symposium on the incarnation of the Son of God, ed. S.T. Davis, D. Kendall, and G. O'Collins (2002)

C.S. Kilby, The Christian world of C.S. Lewis (1964, 1995)

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, rev. edn (1960; 2001)

——, A grief observed (1961; 2001)

——, ‘Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said’, in Of other worlds: essays and stories, ed. W. Hooper (1966)

——, Surprised by joy (1955; 2002)

A.E. McGrath, The intellectual world of C.S. Lewis (2013)

R. MacSwain and M. Ward, eds., The Cambridge companion to C.S. Lewis (2010)

W. Vaus, Mere theology (2004)


Additional reading

Although we will not be studying them closely, you may also like to look at:

C.S. Lewis, The chronicles of Narnia (1950–56)

——, The space trilogy [Out of the silent planet (1938); Perelandra (or Voyage to Venus) (1943); That hideous strength (1946)]

——, The Screwtape letters (1942; 2001)


Faith and reason in the British Enlightenment

Dr Meriel Patrick

The Enlightenment saw the rise and triumph of reason as the supreme power in many spheres.  Focusing on the works of the British empiricists, this course examines the application of reason to matters of faith during this period, and in particular to the question of whether God’s existence can be proved.  The relationship between faith and reason, Locke’s cosmological argument, Berkeley’s idealism, and Hume’s criticisms of the argument for design will all be considered.  While our main interest will be in the primary texts themselves, there will also be the opportunity to look at a selection of contemporary and modern responses.


Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have read and considered a selection of key primary and secondary literature relating to Locke’s, Berkeley’s, and Hume’s views of religion
  • have acquired a basic knowledge of the historical context in which the primary texts were written
  • have critically analysed the main arguments found within the texts


Required reading before arrival

G. Berkeley, Three dialogues between Hylas and Philonous [any edn acceptable; also available online]

D. Hume, Dialogues concerning natural religion, parts II, V, and VI [any edn acceptable; also available online]

J. Locke, An essay concerning human understanding, bk IV, chaps. 9–10, 17–18 (sects. 4-8 of chap. 17 may be skipped) [any edn acceptable; also available online]

J. Bennett, ‘Some texts from early modern philosophy’, [offers contemporary English ‘translations’ of (among others) the above works by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume: not a substitute for the originals, but very helpful for understanding difficult passages]


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

J. Bennett, 'God and matter in Locke', in Early modern philosphy: mind, matter, and metaphysics, ed. C. Mercer and E. O'Neill (2005), 161-82 [also available online,]

——, Locke, Berkeley, Hume: central themes (1971) [esp. chaps. 6–7]

N. Fleming, ‘The tree in the quad’, in American Philosophical Quarterly, 22 (1985), 25–36

J.C.A. Gaskin, Hume’s philosophy of religion (1978)

N. Jolley, ‘Locke on faith and reason’, in The Cambridge companion to Locke's ‘Essay concerning human understanding’, ed. L. Newman (2007), 436-55

K. Haakonssen, ed., The Cambridge history of eighteenth-century philosophy (2006) [esp. sect. III]

P. Harrison, ‘Religion’ and the religions in the English Enlightenment (2002)

J. Hill, Faith in the age of reason: the Enlightenment from Galileo to Kant (2004)

J.L. Mackie, The miracle of theism (1982) [esp. chaps. 4, 7, 8]

D. O’Connor, Routledge philosophy guidebook to Hume on religion (2001)

R. Savage, Philosophy and religion in Enlightenment Britain: new case studies (2012) [esp. chap. 3, ‘Locke’s proof of the divine authority of Scripture’]



Jane Austen in Context

Dr Emma Plaskitt

This course will examine the enduringly popular novels of Jane Austen, looking at her novelistic technique and development, and her place among women writers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  In addition to studying the major novels, we will look at Austen’s juvenilia and place each text in its literary and historical context.  This will involve, for example, an examination of the eighteenth-century cult of sensibility when we discuss Sense and sensibility and the contemporary vogue for gothic novels when we study Austen’s burlesque of the gothic genre, Northanger Abbey.  Other themes that will be discussed include Austen’s treatment of class, economics, education, female friendship, courtship, and politics.


Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have considered the effect of gender on the acts of writing and reading in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and today
  • have considered the effects of class and gender on women’s lives in the periods studied


Required reading before arrival (listed in the order in which the novels will be considered in discussion classes)

The Norton or Broadview Critical Editions are preferred but Oxford World's Classics or Penguin Classics editions are accetable

F. Burney, Evelina (1778; ed. S. Cooke, 1998)

J. Austen, Sense and sensibility (1811; ed. C. Johnson, 2001)

A. Radcliffe, The romance of the forest (1791; ed. Chloe Chard, 1998)

J. Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818; ed. S Fraiman, 2004)

——, Pride and prejudice (1813; ed. D. Gray, 2000)

——, Emma (1814; ed. G. Justice, 2011)


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

J. Austen, Mansfield Park (1814; ed. C. Johnson, 1998)

——, Persuasion (1818; ed. P. Spacks, 1995)

H. Barker and E. Chalus, eds. Women's History: Britain, 1700-1850 (2005)

D. Cottom, The civilzed imagination: a study of Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, and Walter Scott (1985)

J. B. Horowitz, Jane Austen and the question of women’s education (1991)

C. Johnson, Equivocal beings: plots, gender and sentimentality in the 1790s: Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, Burney, Austen (1995)

V. Jones, Women and literature in Britain 1700–1800 (2000)

——, Women in the eighteenth century: construction of femininity (1990)

J. McMaster and E. Copeland, eds., The Cambridge companion to Jane Austen (1997)

P. Sabor, ed, The Cambridge companion to Frances Burney (2007)

J. Todd, Jane Austen in context (2006)

—— , Sensibility: an introduction (1986)

C. Tomalin, Jane Austen (1987; 2000)

R. Yeazell, Fictions of modesty: women and courtship in the English novel (1991)



Prohibition and Transgression: the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Gothic Novel

Dr Emma Plaskitt

The eighteenth-century gothic movement was a reaction to the dominance of the Enlightenment emphasis on reason and rationalism and was seen by some as the natural literary result of the violence and terror of the French revolution.  Its conventions included aristocratic villains and persecuted maidens, the supernatural, the victory of nature over man’s creations and of chaos over order, and the theme of imprisonment with consciousness forced back upon itself.  As a transgressive sub-genre of the novel, it was anti-Catholic, anti-nostalgic, and anti-aristocratic.  It evolved in the Victorian age to reflect nineteenth-century concerns about race, gender, imperialism, and cultural degeneration.  This course will trace its development from the first gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s The castle of Otranto (1764), to Bram Stoker’s presentation of fin-de-siècle anxiety in Dracula (1897).  Other novels to be discussed include Ann Radcliffe’s highly influential novel, The Romance of the Forest (1791), Jane Austen’s witty and complex parody of the genre, Northanger Abbey (1818), and Charlotte Brontë’s domestic re-imagining of the gothic romance in Jane Eyre (1847). Students will also have the opportunity to read gothic fiction by Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde and will be able to take advantage of world class art galleries in Oxford and London to see for themselves how gothic themes caught the imagination of contemporary artists and architects and how they translated them into paintings and drawings, many of which acted as inspiration for the writers themselves.


Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have considered the effect of politics, science, religion, and gender on the acts of writing and reading in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and today
  • be able to place the readings in historical, cultural, and literary context


Required reading before arrival (listed in the order in which the novels will be considered in discussion classes)

The Norton Critical Editions are preferred but Broadview Press, World’s Classics, or Penguin editions are acceptable.

H. Walpole, The castle of Otranto (1765; ed. W. Lewis, 1982)

A. Radcliffe, A Sicilian Romance (1790; ed. A. Milbank, 1993)

J. Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818; ed. S. Fraiman, 2004)

C. Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847; ed. R. Dunn, 2001)

O. Wilde, The picture of Dorian Gray (1890; ed. M. Gillespie, 2006)

B. Stoker, Dracula (1897; ed. N. Auerbach, 1997)


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

M. Shelley, Frankenstein, or, the modern Prometheus (1816; 1831; ed. P. Hunter, 2012)

N. Auerbach, Woman and the demon: the life of the Victorian myth (1982)

G. Byron, ed. Dracula: a new casebook (1999)

K. Ellis, The contested castle: gothic novels and the subversion of domestic ideology (1985)

S. Gilbert and S. Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (1979)

J. Hogle, ed., The Cambridge companion to gothic fiction (2002)

H. Malchow, Gothic images of race in nineteenth-century Britain (1996)

R. Miles, Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress (1995)

P. Raby, The Cambridge companion to Oscar Wilde (1997)

R. Spector, Robert.  The English Gothic (1984)

R. Robbins and J. Wolfreys, eds., Victorian gothic: literary and cultural manifestations in the nineteenth century (2000)

C. Spooner and E. McEvoy, eds., The Routledge companion to gothic (2007)

D. Teachman, Understanding Jane Eyre: a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents (2001)



Psychology and literature: from Margery Kemp to Sylvia Plath

Dr Richard Lawes 

It has often been said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity and the relationship between literature and mental health has been of intense interest to both literary scholars and psychologists. This seminar will explore mental illness and instability in several major authors, focusing on Margery Kempe, a medieval housewife and mystic who became the first autobiographer in English; John Bunyan, the seventeenth-century author of Pilgrim’s Progress; John Clare, a nineteenth century nature poet who became incarcerated in an asylum; and two key twentieth-century female authors, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. Both iconic figures in the history of women’s writing, Woolf and Plath each struggled with extremes of mood and ultimately committed suicide. We will read their writings in the light of psychological theory and of cultural and feminist contexts. Complex questions will emerge as we study these authors; what is the true nature of ‘mental illness’? To what extent is it valid or helpful to apply modern psychology to writers from a very different age? How is emotional disorder expressed within the texts themselves? To what extent can other modern theories, especially feminism, help us in encountering these key authors, their lives and their legacies? Led by a literary scholar who is also a psychologist and psychiatrist, this seminar will bring unusual insights to the study of these distinctive texts.


Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have a basic knowledge of  the key issues involved in applying psychology within a literary context
  • be able to comment on selected passages by Margery Kempe, John Bunyan, John Clare, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath
  • know how to employ techniques of close reading to further their understanding of these authors
  • understand the relevance of cultural and ideological as well as psychological and biological factors in historical constructs of ‘mental illness’.
  • have a broad knowledge of the understanding and treatment of psychological disorder in the time of each author.


Required reading before arrival

J. Bunyan, ‘Grace abounding to the chief of sinners’, in Grace abounding, with other spiritual autobiographies, ed. Anita Pacheco (2008)

J. Bate, John Clare (2004)

G. Claridge, R. Pryor, and G. Watkins, Sounds from the bell jar: ten psychotic authors (1999)

M. Kempe, The book of Margery Kempe, ed. B. Windeatt (1985)

S. Plath, Collected poems, ed. T. Hughes (2002)

V. Woolf, Mrs Dalloway [any modern edition, e.g. ed. E. Showalter (2000)]


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

J. Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s progress, ed. N.H. Keeble (1984)

J. Clare, John Clare by himself, ed. E. Robinson, D. Powell, and J. Lawrence (1996)

S. Gilbert and S. Gubar, The madwoman in the attic: the woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination, 2nd edn (2000)

L. Gordon, Virginia Woolf (2001)

R.L. Greaves, John Bunyan (1969)

T. Kendall, Sylvia Plath (2001)

C.A. Kirk, Sylvia Plath (2009)

R. Lawes, ‘The madness of Margery Kempe’, in The medieval mystical tradition in England, Ireland, and Wales, ed. M. Glasscoe (1999), 147–67

——, ‘Psychological disorder and the autobiographical impulse in Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, and Thomas Hoccleve’, in Writing religious women, ed. D. Renevey and C. Whitehead (2000), 217–43.

H. Lee, Virginia Woolf (1996)

J. Malcolm, The silent woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (2005)

S. Plath, The bell jar (1996)

——,The journals of Sylvia Plath ed. K. Kukil (2001)

R. Sharrock, ‘Spiritual autobiography in the Pilgrim’s progress’, Review of English Studies, 24 (1948), 102–20

E. Showalter, The female malady: women, madness, and English culture, 18301980 (1987)

E. Wagner, Ariel’s gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and the story of birthday letters (2001)

V. Woolf, To the lighthouse, ed. S. McNichol and H. Lee (2000)

——, Selected diaries, ed. Q. Bell (2008)

——, Selected letters, ed. H. Lee (2008)



Creative Writing

Dr Kieron Winn

The aim of this course is to sharpen the students’ awareness of writing as a craft through close readings of exemplary texts across a variety of genres. Principles studied in seminars will then be applied practically in the students’ own writing for the tutorials. In the field of prose we shall read short stories and novel openings with an eye to adaptable techniques. In poetry we shall look at a ballad, at how meaning is partly created by sound and rhythm, and at how random sound elements, such as rhyme, generate sense in a way that allows the writer to say things that are both surprising and true.


Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have acquired a variety of new literary techniques
  • have deepened their knowledge of classic literature
  • have sharpened their close reading skills
  • have developed their ability to contribute to group discussion about  creative writing


Required reading before arrival (listed in the order in which the works will be considered in discussion classes)

S. T. Coleridge, ‘The rime of the ancient mariner’ (1798) in Selected Poetry (Penguin or Oxford World’s Classics); also here

J. Conrad, The secret agent (1907), Penguin or Oxford World’s Classics edns; also here

T.S. Eliot, ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ (1917) in Selected Poems (Faber).

J. Joyce, Dubliners (1914), Penguin or Oxford World’s Classics edns; also here

P. Larkin, ‘Love songs in age’, ‘Faith healing’

L. Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1759–67), vol. 1, Penguin or Oxford World’s Classics edns; also here

V. Woolf, To the lighthouse (1927), Penguin or Oxford World’s Classics edns; also here

W.B. Yeats, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ and ‘Byzantium’


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

J. Booth, Philip Larkin: life, art and love (2014)

P. Conrad, The Everyman history of English literature (1985)

R. Ellmann, Yeats: the man and the masks (2000)

R. Holmes, Coleridge: early visions (2005)

T. Keymer, The Cambridge companion to Laurence Sterne (2009)

S. Sellers, ed., The Cambridge companion to Virginia Woolf (2010)

B.C. Southam, A student’s guide to the selected poems of T.S. Eliot (1994)

J.H. Stape, ed., The new Cambridge companion to Joseph Conrad (2014)

A. Thacker, ed., Dubliners (New Casebooks) (2005)



Science and the Christian Tradition

Dr Bethany Sollereder

Once lauded as the queen of the sciences, theology is now often painted in popular culture as an enemy of the natural sciences. This course will draw on historical and theological disciplines to investigate key issues in science and religion scholarship. Students will first engage with four key historical figures in science and religion (Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Scopes), and then proceed with contemporary questions in biblical studies, biology, and physics. Oxford has long been at the centre of such thought, and today is one of the world’s leading centres for research in science and religion.


Additional student learning outcomes:

Additional student learning outcomes

Students who have taken this seminar will:

  • have demonstrated awareness of discussions and controversies within science, within theology and religion, and between science and religion in historical view
  • have articulated various possible relationships between science and religion, and critiqued these models effectively
  • have demonstrated considered awareness of the complexities of the historical relationship between science and religion
  • have discussed and carefully assessed the theological issues thrown up by advances in the physical sciences
  • have evaluated various models of biblical interpretation in light of scientific findings
  • have used contemporary scholarship to understand, analyse, and draw conclusions on at least one major area of contemporary engagement
  • have been consistent and rigorous in method and argument


Required reading before arrival

T. Dixon, Science and religion (2008)

E. Johnson, Ask the beasts: Darwin and the God of love (2014)

E. Larson, Summer for the gods (2008)

A. McGrath, Science and religion (2010)


Recommended reading list when in Oxford

S.C. Barton and D. Wilkinson, eds. Reading Genesis after Darwin (2009)

J.H. Brooke, Science and religion (1993)

D. Edwards, How God acts: creation, redemption, and special divine action (2010)

T. Fretheim, God and world in the Old Testament (2005)

P. Harrison, The territories of science and religion (2015)

J. F. Haught, God after Darwin (2000)

R T. McLeish, Faith and wisdom in science (2014)

R. Page God and the web of creation (1996)

J. Polkinghorne, Science and providence (2005)

J. Russell, N. Murphy, and W.R. Stoeger, eds. Scientific perspectives on divine action (2008)

C. Southgate, The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil (2008)