The September Seminar in the Humanities





From Autumn 2015 Hertford College, Oxford and Worcester College, Oxford are pleased to offer visiting students a new September Seminar in the Humanities. This intensive seminar is open to all visiting students studying at Hertford or Worcester during Michaelmas Term, and allows those students to extend their study at Oxford, thereby forming a fall­term option comparable in substance and duration to an American semester. The seminar will be an academically rigorous experience in its own right; it will also give students a chance to become acclimated to Oxford and to the expectations of Oxford tutors prior to the start of their subsequent tutorials in Michaelmas term.


The seminar will be of interest to intellectually adventurous, highly motivated students who wish to consider why and how we study the humanities even as they engage in humanistic study. The seminar takes as its organizing theme "other minds," and considers the way that texts from various periods and cultures grapple with problem of imagining the consciousness and experience of others—while examining critically the practices that humanistic disciplines use to approach this problem. The culminating project of the seminar is a research essay in which each student will pursue an independently developed question related to the material on the syllabus.

Worcester's Provost, Professor Jonathan Bate, CBE, FBA, FRSL, will open the course with a welcome address posing key questions for students to consider on this topic, drawing from and developing upon his work as editor of The Public Value of the Humanities (Bloomsbury 2011) as well as his extensive work on Shakespeare and on Romanticism. In each week of the seminar, Mr Michael Mayo, Director of Worcester's Visiting Student Programme, and Dr Josephine Reynell, Hertford's Tutor for Visiting Students, will co­host an informal gathering where students can discuss their work in the course over tea and cake.


These informal contributions will supplement the central body of teaching for the seminar. That teaching will be provided by faculty from the departments of Classics, English Language and Literature, and Medieval and Modern Languages. Different tutors will teach each week of the course, providing over the course of the month a chronological sequence that moves from the idea of the barbarian in ancient texts to the problem of representing consciousness in the modern psychological novel. (See schedule below).

The seminar structure is based on that of Hertford College's September programme for students from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson school, a model that has proven to work well: each week of the course will include two two­hour lectures and two two­hour seminars. (These lectures and seminars will take place at either Hertford or Worcester, depending on where the relevant faculty member is based). Tutors will also be available to students at designated times following seminar meetings to discuss independent research essays.

Students will be given a comprehensive reading list prior the beginning of the course, and (as is standard at Oxford) will be expected to do a good deal of reading before they arrive on campus. The reading list will include the primary texts which all students will read for each unit, as well as an extended list of optional reading for each unit, including secondary sources that students will want to consult if they choose to write their research essays on material from that unit. At the end of the seminar, in Week 0 of Michaelmas Term, students will submit a 5000­word research essay; their mark on that essay is their mark for the course. Essays will be marked by a seminar tutor whose specialization matches the topic the student has chosen.

Week 1 – (Classical)

Faculty: Primary Texts:

Seminar Schedule:

Dr Scott Scullion, Associate Professor in Classical Languages and Literature, Faculty of Classics; Fellow, Worcester College, Oxford

The Persians, Aeschylus
Philoctetes, Sophocles
Iphigenia, Euripides
Bacchae, Euripides
Herodotus on Egypt ­ Selections from Book II of


Dr Scullion will also ask students to think about material culture, bringing in content from the "Texts and Contexts" course that is a part of the Oxford undergraduate Classics curriculum, including visits to the Ashmolean Museum and/or the British Museum for the archaeological component.


Week 2 – (Medieval)


Primary Texts:

Dr Helen Appleton, Tutor and Lecturer, St Hilda's College, Oxford
Lecture by
Dr Laura Ashe, Associate Professor, Faculty of English Language

and Literature; Fellow, Worcester College, Oxford

Dream of the Rood
Thomas of Britain
Troilus & Criseyde, Geoffrey Chaucer


Week 3 – (Early Modern)


Primary Texts:

Dr Simon Smith, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, Faculty of English Language and Literature; Junior Research Fellow, The Queen's College, Oxford

Lecture by Dr Emma Smith, University Lecturer (CUF), Faculty of English Language and Literature; Fellow, Hertford College, Oxford

Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare
As You Like It, William Shakespeare
+ one further play, TBC depending on RSC's programme


This week of the seminar will include a trip to see a Shakespeare play on the RSC stage at Stratford­upon­Avon. It will likely also involve a visit to examine archival materials in Worcester College Library's special collections.

Week 4 – (Modern / C19)

Faculty: Dr Ben Morgan, University Lecturer (CUF) in German, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages; Fellow, Worcester College, Oxford

Primary Texts: Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James



The seminar will include visiting students from both Hertford College and Worcester College; students will reside in the college where they are enrolled. Dr Reynell and Mr Michael Mayo will be on site throughout the duration of the seminar to ensure its smooth running and respond to any student needs.

At Hertford, enrolled students will be accommodated in en­suite rooms in our graduate centre overlooking the River Thames. Meals will be taken in our main dining hall which is open all summer. The graduate centre also has fully equipped kitchens to enable students to do their own cooking if desired. Students will be welcomed and looked after by Hertford undergraduates who work with us as residential advisors during the summer to help with our college summer programmes. Dr Reynell is always available in college for any students who want help or a friendly chat, as is the visiting student administrator, Louise Turner, or other members of the International Programmes team.

At Worcester, enrolled students will reside on the college campus in single­occupancy, en­suite rooms. A Junior Dean, one of several graduate students serving on the college's Student Welfare Team, will live on the premises with the group of students and make sure that they are comfortable as they settle to Worcester, Oxford, and the UK. In addition to the Junior Dean, Mr Michael Mayo is also available to students at any time should they require assistance or simply want to chat. College catering services are operational during September, and as during the rest of the academic year, students will have the options of cooking for themselves in their shared kitchens or dining in the hall.

Dr Reynell and Mr Michael Mayo will host social events for students enrolled in the seminar and the tutors teaching them: the month will open with a formal Welcome Dinner at Worcester, and close with a traditional tea party at Hertford.


Dr Josephine Reynell, Tutor for Visiting Students

Hertford College, Oxford visiting [dot] students [at] hertford [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk

Mr Michael Mayo, Director of the Visiting Student Programme

Worcester College, Oxford michael [dot] mayo [at] worc [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk