a.non4
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hiii everyone, I'm planning on applying for English and classics at oxford and since my summer started now I wanted to get on w my reading. Just wanted to know what sort of books you'd recommend to read for the personal statement along with what sort of questions to think about and reflect on whilst reading a book. My current reading list is :
- Beowulf
- Midsummer
nights dream
- mary barton
- a doll's house
- the great gatsby
- jane eyre
- the god of small things
- great expectations
- metamorphoses by Ovid
- whos afraid of Virginia wolf
- the art of happiness
- the testaments and THT by Atwood
- the Iliad and Aeneid (not sure which one to start with or what the order is)
I'm prob going to add a few more but that's all I have for now ) any suggestions are appreciated
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artful_lounger
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You probably don't need to read all of those; a smaller selection which you've taken the time to analyse would probably suffice. You don't need to read the Iliad and Aeneid in any particular order I think; chronologically the Aeneid takes place after the Iliad, and was written after it so the author was familiar with the Iliad, but that doesn't mean it would be impossible to approach without having read the Iliad first I think. Likewise the Odyssey takes place after the Iliad but you could just as well read it before reading the Iliad.

I would say your list is very light on tragedy and poetry, two areas which are pretty heavily influenced by classical literature since the classical period and which were important genres in the classical period itself. You may want to explore those genres a bit more perhaps? You also don't seem to have much of classical comedy (or even modern comedy) either, although (arguably) this was less influential than classical tragedy. Thinking about whether classical comedy or classical tragedy had more of an influence on modern literature in English might be an interesting consideration for you in fact!
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a.non4
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
You probably don't need to read all of those; a smaller selection which you've taken the time to analyse would probably suffice. You don't need to read the Iliad and Aeneid in any particular order I think; chronologically the Aeneid takes place after the Iliad, and was written after it so the author was familiar with the Iliad, but that doesn't mean it would be impossible to approach without having read the Iliad first I think. Likewise the Odyssey takes place after the Iliad but you could just as well read it before reading the Iliad.

I would say your list is very light on tragedy and poetry, two areas which are pretty heavily influenced by classical literature since the classical period and which were important genres in the classical period itself. You may want to explore those genres a bit more perhaps? You also don't seem to have much of classical comedy (or even modern comedy) either, although (arguably) this was less influential than classical tragedy. Thinking about whether classical comedy or classical tragedy had more of an influence on modern literature in English might be an interesting consideration for you in fact!
thank you so much for the suggestions. I will definitely try to narrow down the list since I don't want o simply be speeding through books without having some deep understanding. Also, would you mind suggesting any specific tragedies or poetry you would recommend?
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by a.non4)
thank you so much for the suggestions. I will definitely try to narrow down the list since I don't want o simply be speeding through books without having some deep understanding. Also, would you mind suggesting any specific tragedies or poetry you would recommend?
Note that the English course at Oxford is, I believe, specifically restricted on the whole to "literature in English" i.e. literature originally written in English (modern, middle, or old); I don't think there is much translated literature in that side of the course. Might be something to bear in mind. Poetry I can't advise too much since it's not really my thing and I've not really read much classical poetry (just one of Pindar's odes). You could probably just look for some kind of "anthology" type collection of classical things for that purpose and just leaf through and see what strikes you.

Tragedy I've read a bit more, there are a lot of options though so it depends a bit on what interests you! I think The Bacchae by Euripides and Oedipus Rex by Sophocles met up with my expectations of tragedy a great deal and might be quite good examples of the structure of classical tragedy. Medea and Ion (both by Euripides as well) are also structurally tragedies but in certain respects subvert some of my expectations of what a tragedy is (Ion by all accounts has a happy ending for example, and it's not wholly clear how affected by the events Medea is in the end - she certainly doesn't seem too put out by the whole episode). On the modern side there are lots of classic options available; various Shakespeare plays (some directly drawn from classical stories), Streetcar is pretty seminal, several of David Mamet's works have tragic elements (Glengarry Glen Ross certainly does at least) as well.

Medea might be interesting to look at in comparison to A Doll's House in your current list (although bear in mind the above comment about the scope of the English side of the course). The Bacchae is interesting to read alongside The Frogs (a comedy by Aristophanes) for some quite different presentations of Dionysus. The Frogs also has a lot of meta-textual stuff at the end about (classical) tragedy as a genre. Also both The Frogs and The Bacchae are, I believe, normally read by students doing their first public exam at Oxford in Classics and joint schools if they are doing Greek in that exam. So that might be indicative of some of the kinds of things you might do in your first year or two at Oxford if you are successful.

I gather that one of the central elements of the Classics & English course at Oxford are the cross-disciplinary genre papers, so it might be worth using this as a starting point - looking to read a couple key texts in each of the major genres (of tragedy, epic, comedy) from both modern and classical texts, plus a selection of poetry. Also in general you might want to look into aspects of the reception of classical literature (which is a pretty big field now anyway).

It would probably be worthwhile to also read a little up on critical/literary theory. There are lots of introductory books on that; the Terry Eagleton one seems quite popular, I skimmed through some of the Bennet & Royle book which was interesting and readable enough. I gather Harold Bloom's "anxiety of influence" concept is influential still (if his politics are not anymore), and if you are interested in aspects of mythology (as they connect to literature or otherwise) structuralism might be something to look into, especially Levi-Strauss' bricoleur paper (and maybe Derrida's follow up on that) which I gather was (and maybe still is) an important paper in that field.
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