MPhil in Modern Languages

This two-year course enables candidates who already have a high level of attainment in a foreign language or languages, and have studied literature to honours level, to:

  • develop their interests further
  • address general problems in literary study
  • acquire research skills, often of a highly technical kind
  • do a substantial piece of independent research

Advice on applying

When applying for the MPhil, please state on your application form which literature or literatures you want to study, and either say which Special Subjects you want to study, or, if you are not sure, at least describe your area of interest. If one of the literatures you want to study is English, please remember that the competition for graduate places in English is particularly severe.

Course Structure

Year One

Michaelmas Term Hilary Term Trinity Term
Special Subject 1 Special Subject 2 Special Subject 3
(self-developed)
Theory Option

Year Two

Michaelmas Term Hilary Term Trinity Term
Dissertation
(20-25,000 words)

Course Content

MPhil Programmes of Special Subjects

Special Subjects are grouped into language specific and comparative programmes or wider area of study. if numbers permit, seminars will be conducted on each programme. The subjects correspond to areas of particular teaching and research strength in Oxford, but the list is by no means exhaustive and is subject to amendment. Staff research interests may also help you to develop further ideas for Special Subjects.

Language specific Comparative
French European Enlightenment
German Cultural Studies
Italian Comparative Literature
Spanish Medieval Literature
Portuguese  
Russian  
Byzantine & Modern Greek  

Methods of Criticism or Scholarship seminars

This option provides all students with training in the theoretical and methodological issues relevant to their studies. The lectures and seminars will run over two terms, Michaelmas and Hilary. Reading Lists and Course Outlines for the method options are available on the MSt course page. 

Key Questions in Critical Thought

  • taught by a series of lectures in the first two terms of the academic year and by a seminar in the second term
  • covers a range of topics including feminism and gender, post-colonialism and globalisation, affect theory, eco-criticism and the new materialism, ethical criticism, and the debate about humanities and education
  • the seminar provides a forum for detailed discussion of some of the issues that have been raised in the lectures and that students want to explore further
  • every student is expected to make a short presentation (no more than fifteen minutes) to the seminar, and at the end of the second term each student submits an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words for examination

Spaces of Comparison

  • intended for graduates working on comparative literature and taught by lectures in the first two terms of the academic year and by a seminar in the second term
  • brings teaching staff and graduates with expertise in different literatures together, providing an opportunity to engage in debate on theoretical and methodological questions central to comparative work
  • topics addressed are: National literatures – World literature?; The Ancients and the Moderns – the Role of the Canon; Translation, Adaptation, Version; Place and Displacement
  • every student is expected to make a short presentation (no more than fifteen minutes) to the seminar
  • at the end of the second term students submit an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words on a comparative topic or a topic relating to the issues covered in the Theory of Literature lectures and seminars

History of Ideas in Germany from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries

  • taught in an introductory series of lectures in the first term and by a series of seminars in the first and second term
  • intended primarily for graduates in German, but others make take part, using translations if necessary
  • the course deals with writers such as Kant, Schiller, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Benjamin, Wittgenstein, Arendt and Adorno
  • every student is expected to make a short presentation (no more than fifteen minutes) to the seminar
  • at the end of the second term students submit an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words on a topic relating to the issues covered in the course

Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities

  • the workshops and seminars for Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities are held in the first and second term
  • the course provides training in dealing with manuscripts and books across different historical periods and European language. The aim is to combine philological training with project work
  • the course is taught in cooperation with local libraries and printers to make use of the unparalleled richness of Oxford resources, especially the Taylorian Institute and the Centre for the Study of the Book
  • at the end of the second term students submit an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words on a topic relating to the issues covered in the course

Dissertation

All candidates prepare a dissertation of 20,000 to 25,000 words which must be submitted in the sixth week of the last term of study. The subject will normally be related to one or more of your Special Subjects, or to your theoretical or methodological option. It allows you to use and extend the reading you have done for your Special Subjects, to apply the theoretical reflections or methodological approaches acquired in your first two terms, and to undertake a piece of research that may lead on to doctoral work.

Assessment

Language work for the MPhil in Modern Languages is normally written in English, but may be submitted in one appropriate language other than English, provided you seek permission from the Director of Graduate Studies by submitting this form. The only restrictions are that:

  • the essay submitted for the seminars on Key Questions in Critical Thought must be in English
  • the essay submitted for the seminars on History of Ideas in Germany from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries may be written in English or German
  • at least one of the pieces of written work you submit must be in English

Special Subjects

You study three Special Subjects, one of which should be self-devised.

You will select what you and your supervisor(s) think are the best essay or essays and submit it or them as a portfolio for examination. Special Subject submissions may comprise one or two essays to a total maximum word length of between 5,000 — 7,000 words.

The portfolio will be jointly marked by an examiner and your special subject tutor. Should there be any substantial disagreement between the two markers, an External Examiner will adjudicate. The assessor(s) will take account of the fact that the essays were written in the first two terms of your course.

Methods of Criticism or Scholarship seminars

Key Questions in Critical Thought — submission of an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words for examination at the end of the second term.

Spaces of Comparison — submission of an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words for examination at the end of the second term  on a comparative topic or a topic relating to the issues covered in the Theory of Literature lectures and seminars.

History of Ideas in Germany from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries — submission of an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words for examination at the end of the second term, which may be written in English or German.

Palaeography and Textual Criticism — submission of an essay of 5,000 and 7,000 words and a one-hour transcription test, which is arranged by the supervisor.

History of the Book — submission of an essay of 5,000 and 7,000 words.

Dissertation

Submission of a dissertation of 20,000 — 25,000 words in the sixth week of the last term of study.

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