Q300
A Level: A*AA IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Subject Requirements

Essential: A Level / IB Higher Level English Literature or English Language and Literature.

Also Useful: An A Level / IB Higher Level in a modern or ancient language and/or a second essay-based subject (e.g., History)

 While a second essay-based subject is good preparation for the Cambridge degree, Robinson English students come from a wide range of different academic backgrounds: you will not be disadvantaged if you've studied, for example, English with Maths and Further Maths, providing you've read widely and know that you want to study English at University.

Written Work

Candidates will be asked to send in two recent pieces of marked English Literature schoolwork, one of which should be, if possible, writing that engages with literature before 1900 (for example, an essay on Shakespeare). These essays should be samples of your normal schoolwork and not specially prepared projects. We recommend that you keep copies of your essays for your own reference. One or both of these essays may be discussed at interview. 

Admission Assessments

All applicants for English are required to take a written assessment if shortlisted for interview. You will not need to register in advance for this assessment: the Colleges will provide details directly to you. For more information: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/english#entry-requirements

The 2022 English assessment will take place on Wednesday 23 November. Further information will be provided if you are invited to interview. You do not need to register for this assessment.

Why Robinson?

English at Robinson is thriving: students come here because they are passionate about literature. This passion shows itself not only in their rigorous approach to their academic work – our students consistently perform extremely well in the University Tripos examinations – but also in the various extra-curricular activities in which they are engaged, from dramatic production (Robinson boasts the best college auditorium in the university, as well as the only outdoor theatre) to poetry recitals.

We are committed to nurturing the academic development of our students – which is a far broader, far more important thing than mere examination tutoring. In addition to the university-wide lectures in English that are open to everyone from all colleges, our students are taught several times per week in groups of up to five people (with much work conducted in pairs, and all dissertation and portfolio work, one-to-one). In this close ‘supervision’ system it is possible for teachers to be highly responsive to the particular needs of the individual. You will be encouraged not only in what you learn, but in how you learn. Detailed feedback on your weekly essays will help you to write (and think) with greater clarity; the opportunity for discussion allows you to develop your ideas, to take intellectual risks in an environment where you feel comfortable and supported.

Robinson is very well situated for English students, immediately next to the University Library, and a couple of minutes from the English Faculty on the Sidgwick site, with its library and lecture rooms.

The English Fellows at Robinson have a wide variety of teaching and research interests, which include Dante and translation, ethics and expressions of emotion in Medieval literature, financial crisis in literature from 1800s to the present, modernism and the philosophy of language.

Dr Scott Annett (Part 1A)

Dr Helen Thaventhiran (Part IB)

Dr Claire Wilkinson (Part II)

Dr Elizabeth Rawlinson-Mills

Course outline

You are introduced to the full range of English literature from the Middle Ages to the present day. There are few set texts, so that while you must study widely, you can also focus on topics of interest to you.

Teaching is provided through lectures, seminars, and small-group supervisions and classes.

You typically attend at least six hours of lectures or seminars, and two to three hours of individual, paired or small-group supervision each week. You normally write one or two short essays per week which you then discuss with your supervisor.

Year 1 (Part IA)

You take two compulsory papers:

  • Paper 1: Practical Criticism and Critical Practice;
  • Paper 2: Shakespeare (assessed by a portfolio of essays submitted in Easter Term).

You also start work on two of the period papers, which will be examined in Part IB.

Year 2 (Part IB)

You take four papers, from the following list:

  • Paper 3: Early Medieval Literature and its Contexts 1066-1350;       
  • Paper 4: English Literature and its Contexts 1300-1550;     
  • Paper 5: English Literature and its Contexts 1500-1700;     
  • Paper 6: English Literature and its Contexts 1660-1870;        
  • Paper 7a: English Literature and its Contexts 1830-1945 or Paper 7b: English Literature and its Contexts 1870-Present.

One of Papers 4 – 7b can be replaced by a dissertation.

Year 3 (Part II)

You take two compulsory papers:

  • Practical Criticism and Critical Practice II
  • Tragedy, which ranges from ancient Greek drama to contemporary writing

You also write a compulsory dissertation (of 6,000-7,500 words) and either submit a second dissertation (of 6,000-7,500 words) and take one optional paper, or choose two optional papers. The optional papers change regularly, and the following were available in 2021-22:

  • Chaucer;
  • Medieval English Literature 1066-1500: The Medieval Supernatural;
  • Early Modern Drama 1588-1642;
  • Material Renaissance;
  • Love, Gender, Sexuality 1740-1824;
  • Lyric;
  • Special Period of English Literature 1847-72;
  • Prose Forms: 1936-56;
  • Contemporary Writing in English;
  • Postcolonial and Related Literatures;
  • American Literature;
  • The Ethical Imagination;
  • History and Theory of Literary Criticism;
  • Literature and Visual Culture.

Subject to certain restrictions, it’s possible to take papers from the Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Classics; or Modern and Medieval Languages courses in Part IB and Part II. Further details of these papers are available on the Faculty website.

For incoming 1st year students, the following reading list will be helpful: English Reading List

Updated September 2022