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This course is suitable for those interested in a single literature or in comparative literature, since it can be done in either one or two literatures. The Faculty offers a wide range of lecture courses open to undergraduates and graduates, and a number of research seminars which enable graduates to present their own work and discuss that of others. Students may also apply to attend courses from the English Faculty, but these can only be offered in connection with another literature and are subject to availability.


Course Content

The MSt degree consists of four compulsory components: two Special Subjects (taught in the first (Michaelmas) and second (Hilary) term, respectively; one seminar chosen from the list of Methods of Criticism or Scholarship seminars (taught across the first and second term); and a dissertation.

Michaelmas Term Hilary Term Trinity Term
Special Subject 1 Special Subject 2 Dissertation
(10-12,000 words)
Theory Option


MSt Programmes of Special Subjects

Special Subjects are grouped into language specific and comparative programmes or wider areas of study and will be taught in small groups or seminars. The subjects correspond to areas of particular teaching and research strength in Oxford and courses are offered across different language strands and specialisms, subject to the availability of the relevant supervisors in any particular year. Students choose two of these options, one each in Michaelmas and Hilary Term.


Popular language-specific options typically offered include: Women’s Writing in Medieval Germany, Problems in Dante Interpretation, Francophone Literature, Realism and Its Alternatives in Spanish American Narrative, Latin American Cinema, Lusophone Women Writers, Contemporary Brazilian Fiction, Late Soviet and Post-Soviet Russian Literature, Modern Greek Literature in Comparative Frames, Walter Benjamin in Weimar, Conscience and Consciousness in French and Francophone Literature.


As part of our comparative literature pathways, you may also study designated cross-linguistic options including European Enlightenment, Cultural Studies, Contesting Colonialisms, and Posthuman Subjectivities. This year’s selection of Special Subjects can be found here:


Language specific Comparative
French Comparative Literature
German Cultural Studies
Italian European Enlightenment
Spanish Medieval Literature
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, and include:

  • Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities (which offers training in dealing with manuscripts and books across different historical periods and European languages)
  • Key Questions in Critical Thought (covering 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 the humanities and education). Reading List.
  • Spaces of Comparison (addressing topics such as National literatures – World literature?, The Ancients and the Moderns – the Role of the Canon, Translation, Adaptation, Version; Place and Displacement)
  • History of Ideas in Germany from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries (dealing with writers such as Kant, Schiller, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Benjamin, Wittgenstein, Arendt and Adorno)


All candidates prepare a dissertation of 10,000 to 12,000 words which must be submitted in the seventh week of the third term of study. The subject will allow 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.


Special Subjects: 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.

Methods of Criticism or Scholarship Seminars: submission of an essay of 5,000 to 7,000 words for examination at the end of the second term.

Dissertation: Submission of a dissertation of 10,000 — 12,000 words in the seventh week of the third term of study.