Supercurriculars for Cambridge English

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Anonymous #1
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Report Thread starter 3 months ago
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I’m in Year 12 and intending to apply to Cambridge to do English, and I’ve always gone to a state school, which doesn’t really have much experience with Oxbridge applications.
I was wondering what supercurricular things I’m going to have to do to bulk up my application since my school haven’t really supplied me with any info except to read the classics and listen to podcasts, which I’ve been doing.
Is there something I’m missing or any supercurricular study that you know of that helped you if you applied/got an offer/are a student? Or any way to show or develop critical thinking skills (I’ve seen that that’s really important)? I’m really worried that I’m not doing enough since I don’t have the support or extra prep classes etc I know they have in private schools.
Also, how long do you spend on these activities per day/week.
Thank you in advance!
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artful_lounger
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If there are any essay competitions of interest then you could enter those. It's not essential though. Simply reading widely, beyond the curriculum, and closely (i.e. actually analysing the texts) is sufficient. You may want to read up a little on literary/critical theories and how these can be used to approach literature e.g. structuralism, post-structuralism, formalism, psychoanalytic approaches, feminist interpretations, queer/LGBT* readings, new criticism, Marxist analyses, postcolonial approaches, semiotics etc. I've found literariness.org to have some helpful

Not exactly sure which texts you are referring to as "the classics", whether this is specifically classical (i.e. Greek and Roman) literature, or more generally the "literary canon". In the former realm though it would probably be helpful to have read at least one Greek tragedy, since it has influenced subsequent Western literary traditions possibly more than any other classical genre. Fortunately, you can find just about any classical text available online and in translation on Perseus, so you have plenty of options.

They're also not extremely long typically, although usually have a lot to analyse. Oedipus Tyrannus and Medea are pretty major works in the genre (with the latter perhaps subverting aspects of the genre somewhat, while the former I think Aristotle considered to be the best representation of the genre), and may be interesting to read if you've not yet read them. Oedipus Tyrannus also provides some background to psychoanalytic approaches (as in some ways Freud's theory is based on it). There are lots of Greek tragedies to choose from though, and there won't be any assumption you've read any particular ones (or even any, although some understanding of the nature of tragedy as a genre is probably essential and since the Greek tragedies were the sources of this, it makes sense to start there perhaps).

In terms of "critical thinking", this will stem from your reading and analysing (or just, thinking!) about the texts both within and outside of your curriculum. Some important things to develop are forming your own opinion on the texts (not just "here are points for and against"), and also being able to argue against yourself in doing so (i.e. identify potential flaws in your argument - ideally things that may seem to be flaws, and you can present a rebuttal to them, but then you are able to shoot down those rebuttals and demonstrate that actually the argument is sound).

Also developing a broader appreciation of different literary/critical theories and approaches can help this, as you'll find that perhaps some don't really gel with you. Focusing on why that is and how you would then argue against such an interpretation is then developing and using critical thinking, as you aren't just mindlessly applying a formula in line with one approach (whether you like it or not), and aren't just outright rejecting something because of your own social and political upbringing and living context but considering how that might be interpreted differently by someone from a different position.
Last edited by artful_lounger; 3 months ago
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Becca204
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That's so useful, thank you! I meant classics as in classic English literature, as in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, the Brontës etc. But I'll certainly have to research more Greek tragedies and the others you have mentioned since that sounds really interesting.Again, thank you, this is really helpful since I really don't have an idea of where to begin. 😊
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