Can I study Modern Greek from scratch?
Applicants who do not hold an A-Level or equivalent knowledge of Modern Greek are able to study the language ab initio (i.e. from scratch). Each year the department of Medieval and Modern Greek receives applications from candidates with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and whose incentives to study the language, literature and culture of Greece stem from a range of interests and encounters.
Modern Greek is offered as part of a joint BA programme, meaning that undergraduates are required to study Greek in combination with a second language or another subject. These programmes are ideal for applicants looking to incorporate cultural and disciplinary diversity into their studies and/or who are intrigued by how different fields intersect and converse with one another. Oxford offers a broad range of options which can be combined with Medieval and Modern Greek, namely: another Modern European or Middle Eastern language, English, Classics, Linguistics, History or Philosophy.
As an undergraduate student reading for a joint degree combining two languages offered by the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages (Modern Greek with French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese or Russian), you will spend around half of your timetabled and independent study hours on Modern Greek language and literature, and half on your other language of choice. The joint degree is four years in length and students usually spend the third year of their course abroad (for information regarding specific subject combinations and exceptions click here).
If you are opting to combine Modern Greek with a language or subject offered by another Oxford faculty (known as ‘Joint Schools’) the regulations vary slightly according to the combination. Indicatively:
- Modern Greek and a Middle Eastern Language: Students are able to take Medieval and Modern Greek in combination with Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish; the year abroad usually takes place in the second year, with students following an approved course of study in the Middle East.
- Modern Greek and English: Students are able to take four or five papers in Medieval and Modern Greek (out of a total of eight or nine).
- Modern Greek and Classics: Students are asked to choose between taking Medieval and Modern Greek or Classics as their first (or main) subject.
- A student opting to take Medieval and Modern Greek as their first subject will: (i) take the Preliminary Examination in Modern Greek at the end of their first year in Oxford; (ii) study either Ancient Greek or Latin; (iii) take six papers in Medieval and Modern Greek (out of a total of ten throughout the degree, with the optional addition of an Extended Essay in the final year).
- A student opting to take Classics as their first subject will: (i) undertake a degree that is five years in length; (ii) take Classics Moderations at the end of their fifth term in Oxford (rather than the Preliminary Examination in Modern Greek); (iii) study both Ancient Greek and Latin; (iv) spend their fourth year abroad and return to Oxford in their fifth year; (v) take four papers in Medieval and Modern Greek (out of a total of ten, where the additional option of the Extended Essay can focus on a topic related to Medieval and Modern Greek);
- Modern Greek and History: Students may take four papers in Medieval and Modern Greek out a total of nine.
- Modern Greek and Philosophy: Students may take between five and seven papers in Medieval and Modern Greek.
In the sub-faculty of Byzantine and Modern Greek, your timetable will balance practical language training with classes and tutorials on Modern Greek literature, as well as with classes and lectures on the history and culture of Greece. In your first year (the Preliminary Course), language will be taught in small-group classes (or one-on-one for students with no prior knowledge of Modern Greek). The literature syllabus will provide you with a broad introduction to nineteenth and twentieth-century Greek poetry, prose works and other cultural texts (from the stories of Papadiamantis and Vizyenos, to the poetry of Seferis, Ritsos, Cavafy and Angelaki-Rooke, and from Costas Taktsis’s The Third Wedding to Theo Angelopoulos’s film The Travelling Players). This choice of literary and cultural texts will equip you with a range of analytical skills to approach genre, form and context.
Following the Preliminary Examination at the end of their first year at Oxford, students are admitted to the Final Honour School in Modern Greek (FHS, which encompasses the second to the fourth year of study). Along with the continued study of language, the second year in Modern Greek offers the opportunity to work on a range of literary and cultural movements (Romanticism, Demoticism, Modernism, Surrealism etc.) and to focus on specific areas of interest upon consultation with their tutor (including Medieval and Early Modern Greek language and literature, historical linguistics, translation theory, the work of individual authors, literary adaptations in Greek cinema, and gender and/in literature).
In your final year, you will have the option to focus on a choice of Medieval and/or Renaissance texts, and/or on two Modern writers, and/or a Special Subject from a long list of options divided by theme (ranging from the Greek novel and advanced Modern Greek translation, to popular culture in twentieth-century Greece). The Final Honour School Examination in Medieval and Modern Greek includes a compulsory oral examination, and students are additionally offered the option of writing an Extended Essay on an approved topic of their choice.
The Year Abroad
The year abroad is one of the most exciting parts of reading for a language degree at Oxford. If you are studying Modern Greek in combination with another language offered by the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, you will usually spend half of your third year in Athens or another Greek city, studying at a Greek university or as a paid language assistant in a foreign school (for variations see the MML FAQs).
How do I prepare for Modern Greek at Oxford?
Applicants are advised to read around and familiarise themselves with the literature and culture of Greece as much as possible. A helpful introductory bibliography includes:
- Beaton R., An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press,  1999)
- Clogg R., A Concise History of Greece, 3rd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)
- Ricks, D. (ed.), Modern Greek Writing: An Anthology in English Translation (London: Peter Owen Publishers, 2003)