Lapwing
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Hello,

I'd just like to ask anyone who has recently studied the Oxford MSt English (1900 - present day) what you thought of it overall, please?

What was the Core B course like (i.e. Bibliography, Theories of Text, History of the Book, Manuscript Studies)? Also, did you get offered the Special Option C courses of your choice?

Thanks very much in advance.
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QHF
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(Original post by Lapwing)
Hello,

I'd just like to ask anyone who has recently studied the Oxford MSt English (1900 - present day) what you thought of it overall, please?

What was the Core B course like (i.e. Bibliography, Theories of Text, History of the Book, Manuscript Studies)? Also, did you get offered the Special Option C courses of your choice?

Thanks very much in advance.
You might have more luck in the postgraduate applications section.

In the meantime, I have done the MSt, though not in the 1900–present strand. So I can't comment in detail on some matters of content, but I can probably offer some thoughts on the course's structure and its institutional context.

Most people in all periods find the B course pretty interesting, and it's a chance to engage with areas of scholarship which most people don't encounter much as undergraduates. I think the faculty regards it as a selling-point, and I kind of agree with them. There aren't many other master's courses which equip you so well to think about the material text and to understand textual criticism—useful things to have in your pocket even if you don't see a future for yourself as a hardcore bibliographer. I did the C courses of my choice but I don't know whether my experience was representative or not.

Some observations which aren't inherently good or bad but might be helpful depending on what you personally want:

- The MSt has an intense nine-month timetable from day 1 to dissertation submission. This is demanding and doesn't leave much slack in the system if things go wrong for you. Once you finish, though, you have three months that people doing twelve-month master's courses don't have. And it's good experience if you're hoping to pursue an academic career.
- The English Faculty at Oxford is a large community, which means you've strong chances of making friends & useful connections but also means you'll be part of a large gang of MSt students, not a big fish in a small pool.

Some things which might be negatives:

- From my experience and from talking to various peers, you might find that the master's dissertation supervision varies a lot—some people get supervisors who're very committed, and others perhaps don't.
- The library system and university administrative structure are Byzantine and you'll need to act quickly to understand them when you start, assuming you didn't do your first degree at Oxford.
- While Oxford itself definitely has a literary scene, it's not the centre of contemporary literary activity. If your interests are very contemporary indeed, you might find other places would be better bases. (Though Oxford is only about an hour from London via its (two separate!) rail links to the capital.)

Some things which might be positives:

- Extraordinary library and archival resources, and multiple layers of library provision (Bodleian, Faculty Library, college library, other specialist libraries).
- A pretty cosmopolitan postgraduate-taught student body—definitely not dominated by Oxford's own graduates, though some of those are usually around—so your peers are likely to bring lots of different perspectives and bodies of knowledge to the table, which is invigorating.
- Faculty's large size means you have a wide potential pool of academics who might offer you advice or supervision in a wide range of areas.
- College system means you have a ready-made social context outside your own subject, if you want it, and any college offers amenities which postgraduates might have less access to outside a collegiate university.
- The assessment is basically like writing a series of short chapters or articles, and means that if you perform well you stand a good chance of leaving with at least some work which might be polished up and published, and/or incorporated into a doctoral project—useful if you're hoping to progress further in academia.
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Lapwing
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Thank you very much QHF for taking the time to post this comprehensive reply.

I found it interesting to learn that the postgraduate-taught student body is not dominated by Oxford's own graduates, in your experience. I didn't study at Oxford as an undergrad and I'm a little apprehensive.

Its also helpful to hear your views on the B course. I have done some voluntary palaeography work, so I appreciate this as a field. I can understand that codicology and palaeography are absolutely essential for students of the medieval and Renaissance periods etc in particular. I'm interested to know more about the B course between 1900 - present day.

Thanks again for your time.
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QHF
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(Original post by Lapwing)
Thank you very much QHF for taking the time to post this comprehensive reply.

I found it interesting to learn that the postgraduate-taught student body is not dominated by Oxford's own graduates, in your experience. I didn't study at Oxford as an undergrad and I'm a little apprehensive.

Its also helpful to hear your views on the B course. I have done some voluntary palaeography work, so I appreciate this as a field. I can understand that codicology and palaeography are absolutely essential for students of the medieval and Renaissance periods etc in particular. I'm interested to know more about the B course between 1900 - present day.

Thanks again for your time.
Yes, the postgraduate students both on the MSt and the DPhil are a very varied (and quite international) bunch—there are definitely some Oxford alumnae among them, but the majority come from elsewhere. And plenty of Oxford's graduates who want to continue in academia go on to postgraduate study elsewhere in turn: there's quite a lot of sorting-out between BA and master's and then between master's and doctorate, as people work out what they specialise in and where they want to be.

I'm sorry that I can't talk in more detail about the 1900 to present B course, but with luck someone else might be able to. You could contact the graduate student organisation, English Graduates at Oxford (google them) and see if they could put you in touch with a current student / alumna who could give you more period-specific detail. In passing, though, I'd note that it's not just a course in palaeography, but also editorial matters ('textual criticism', 'theories of text' &c), which is an essential underpinning and often a very involved business in any period (I might not work in the period but I know there are plenty of modern texts which present fascinating editorial challenges!).
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Lapwing
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Thank you QHF for your advice and for sharing your valuable insights into the MSts at Oxford. I've found it helpful. You seem to have had a very positive experience. In terms of the B course, thank you for mentioning editorial matters in your last reply. I'm quite interested in paratexts, marginalia and visual art, so I guess that this would all be covered.
Thanks again.
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