Course Outline

Strange things have happened to fictional characters in this town. The place seems to act as a
portal to other worlds. It was from here that a group of children went through the back of a
wardrobe into a place called Narnia. Alice went through a mirror and down a rabbit hole near the centre of this City, and Bilbo and Frodo Baggins set off from here for their adventures in Middle Earth. Even Harry Potter went to school here.

Just what is it about the City of Oxford that made all these stories happen here? What do these magical stories mean, and why is it that they have grown ever more popular since they were written? These are some of the questions that this course will seek to answer…

The course is divided into four areas of study; each examines a different aspect of Oxford in literature.

Part One: Escape! Escape!
“Do not adjust your mind, there is a fault in reality”. Is the flight into fantasy characteristic of
some works of art mere escapism, or is it sometimes a profound critique of the pathology of
“real” social life? All of us dream of escaping to that perfect world where there are good friends
and good food to be found. Oxford offers both in abundance and we will allow our writers to
tempt us into their escapist dreams before they send us back to reality as altered as their

Part Two: Nothing Up My Sleeve
A somnambulant dormouse and a pathologically tardy rabbit, alongside spells, trolls, elves – and a wizard or two for good measure – mark a literature where elements of the sublime and the ridiculous co-exist with no apparent contradiction. Some of our texts could be said to pre-date Surrealism by many decades. We look at how our authors employ the fantastic to help us cope with the everyday world outside the text.

Part Three: This Green and Pleasant Land
The lost Eden, where willows overhang the banks of the slow-flowing river, where there will
always be strawberries and cream for tea, where we will remain in a perpetual state of youth, is
preserved in the jam pot of these texts. We will adventure into the English world that yielded up such a rich textual filling to savour the joys there.

Part Four: The Wild Wood
The changes at work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as rural life was
disappearing and the ‘garden cities’ and paved roads encroaching, meant that the wild wood of
Milton and Wordsworth was a fast-fading dream. But new threats and beauties are there to be
explored. We will peer into the darkness to follow our writers down the twisted paths of the
modern world.

Assessment Process

Assessment is continuous and will enable a variety of skills to be measured.
All work must be word-processed. An evaluation task will be assigned for each study area. All
of the work produced will be gathered together in a portfolio which will contain records of

Assessment Criteria

Grade A
Excellent knowledge and understanding of theory, and congruent
facility in its application. Shows independent judgement and
original thinking, together with an ability to make new and
convincing connections. Excellent organisation. Evidence of
emerging personal style.
Grade B
Good knowledge and understanding, showing ability to analyse
and use evidence. Beginnings of independent judgement. Mostly
relevant, but some minor lapses and lack of clarity. Good
organisation of material and effective sequencing of ideas. Good
range of appropriate analysis. Use of appropriate academic
Grade C
Satisfactory knowledge and understanding. Some ability to
analyse and use evidence. Attempts to evaluate but treatment
often too superficial. Satisfactory organisation of material.
Limited range of appropriate analysis.
Grade D
Some knowledge and understanding but significant omissions.
Shows limited ability to analyse and use evidence. Some attempt
to construct an argument. However, lacks ability to argue
meaningfully or make significant connections.
Fail None of the criteria listed above met.

Required Reading

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (US Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s
Stone), J. K. Rowling
Northern Lights (US The Golden Compass) Philip Pullman

Additional notes

There will be some walking excursions into Oxford and the surrounding areas.

This subject can be taken as a core or elective module.