Lincoln College


Course Information

Studying English at Oxford allows one to gain a sense of the historical development of English from its origins to the present day. The first year is devoted to the study of Early Medieval (650-1350), Victorian (1830-1910), and Modern (1910-present) literature; students are also introduced to the tools, terminology, and methods of literary criticism and theory in the first year. The second year examines literature produced between 1350 and 1830, with a special paper devoted to Shakespeare. The third year offers students opportunities to pursue advanced and independent research through a dissertation, centrally taught seminars, and a submitted portfolio on Shakespeare. Students with particular interests in early English language and literature may choose, in their second year, to pursue a course focusing on those periods.     

Studying English at Lincoln

The study of English at Lincoln is designed to move students through increasingly sophisticated ways of engaging with texts, with an emphasis on form and literary history throughout the course. Beginning in the first year, students develop a sense of what is involved in making the move from critics to scholars - that is, from attentive readers capable of discerning what used to be called ‘beauties and defects’ in a work of art to informed and independent thinkers capable of constructing persuasive arguments about literary texts. In the second year, these critical and scholarly skills are deepened by greater exposure to the religious, political, and philosophical contexts that inform literary production and reception. Even as students develop greater awareness of these contexts, we retain at Lincoln a steadfast aesthetic orientation: both to the work of literature as a work of art and to the tutorial essay as a trial in the art of criticism.

The Tutors

There are three full-time tutors in English at Lincoln: Prof. Peter McCullough covers the Renaissance to the mid-eighteenth century; Dr. Timothy Michael covers the Romantic, Victorian, and Modern papers; and Dr. Daniel McCann teaches Old and Middle English. 

All the compulsory elements of the syllabus are taught by a College fellow, so that students are taught by tutors who know them well and who can monitor their progress with care. We also call on a range of tutors from other colleges who teach some of the more specialised optional subjects in the syllabus. At Lincoln the teaching offered is responsive to the needs of individuals and the choices they make. 


Teaching at Lincoln is based on College-organised paired tutorials (and single tutorials where necessary in the optional papers) and regular classes and seminars for whole year-groups. This combination provides continuity and context for more detailed tutorial work. Tutors give guidance each term about the lectures given in the English Faculty and recommend a profitable pattern of attendance. In College, the student's essay (usually one per week) is marked in advance and then discussed in tutorial. This remains the vital teaching instrument, and the three tutors do all they can to foster writing skills.



Ella Langley, 2nd year English

Completely swayed by the enthusiasm and charisma of a Brasenose English tutor, I didn’t actually apply to Lincoln. But looking back on my first year here, I am so glad my application went the direction it did. The English tutors at Lincoln are incredible academics as well as engaging teachers and over the year I have developed a work ethic I would never have thought possible.

My main concern when applying was that, especially for someone hoping to study English at Oxford, I hadn’t really read enough. I soon realised that how you think is what's important, emphasised by the interviews being conducted around unseen texts. The reading lists set over each holiday are really helpful in focusing your work.

At Lincoln, English students are encouraged to select their own essay topics based upon what aspects of an author’s work interest them most. This is fantastic as it means you will always be engaged in the essay you choose to write, and have the power to select what you want to read from an author’s body of work.


The English course at Lincoln is enormously rewarding, but it is also very demanding. A great deal has to be both read and written. Anyone who wants to read English at Lincoln must be eager to do both and to argue their points in tutorials. Students will need to master the skills of both extensive and intensive reading. Students likely to get the most out of the course will be motivated, intellectually curious, and capable of doing independent work - that is, developing your own lines of enquiry, finding things out for yourself, and making use of the feedback from your tutors to improve your skills as a reader, thinker, and writer. 

A successful applicant must have an A grade at A-Level in English and in two other subjects taken. We do not favour any particular combination of A-Levels. In the application and at interview, the tutors will be looking for evidence that candidates have read beyond their A-Level set texts and that they have thought independently and critically about what they have read. Most of all, we will be looking for evidence of a student’s aptitude and commitment. We welcome, and admit, students from a variety of educational backgrounds.