Literature Summer School

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Term I: 5 – 18 July 2015
Term II: 19 July – 1 August 2015
Programme Directors: Dr Fred Parker and Dr Jenny Bavidge

The Literature Summer School, now in its 30th year, gives its participants an experience of 'Cambridge English', with its emphasis on small group teaching, close attention to the words on the page, and radical inquiry into why literature matters.

Who can apply?

Programmes are open to university students, professionals and those with other life experience; gap-year students preparing for university may also apply (students must be accompanied by a parent/guardian if under 18 when the programme commences). Participants must also meet our language requirements.

How to apply

Applications for 2015 will open in December 2014 when the new programmes go live.

For more information about other Summer School programmes please visit:

The academic programme

  • Plenary course GH0:
    Tragedy and Comedy
  • Four special subject courses
    (two for each week)
  • Evening lectures

Special subject courses

Classes allow for close and continuing discussion, and you will be expected to have done substantial preparatory reading before you arrive in Cambridge.

For reference, the following courses ran in 2014:

Term I:

Week 1:

9.15am – 10.45am

- A long look at Rudyard Kipling
- His 'scrupulous meanness': style, text and context in James Joyce's Dubliners
- Jane Austen I: Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park
- Cli-Fi? Climate change and contemporary fiction

2.00pm – 3.30pm

- Writing the death of the Raj
- G K Chesterton: writer and thinker (and saint?)
- Jonathan Swift, satirist in prose and verse
- Russian sin: Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Lolita

Week 2:

9.15am – 10.45am

- Three great British fantasists: Lewis Carroll, Mervyn Peake and J R R Tolkien
- ‘A lifetime burning in every moment’: T S Eliot’s Four Quartets in context
- Jane Austen II: Emma and Persuasion
- The child in Edwardian fiction

2.00pm – 3.30pm

- From Baker Street to Bible John: British crime writing 1890-2000
- Form, style and ideology in Victorian poetry
- Shakespeare: the mature comedies
- The tragic South

Term II:

Week 3:

9.15am – 10.45am

- Grime and crime: Dickens' Our Mutual Friend
- From Troy to Ithaca and Rome: classical heroes, and those who care for them
- Civilising sex in Spenser's The Faerie Queene
- Major lyrics of the 17th century

2.00pm – 3.30pm

- Philosophy of literature: understanding other minds through fiction
- The play's the thing: 20th-century American theatre
- The Canterbury Tales
- An introduction to Dante

Week 4:

9.15am – 10.45am

- Mad or bad? Approaches to crime solving in Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles
- War and trauma in Greek tragedy
- More's Utopia: a radical Renaissance vision
- The lyric voice in the 19th century

2.00pm – 3.30pm

- Philosophy of literature: understanding other minds through fiction
- Variations on the tragic
- Shakespeare and the English sonnet
- Dante's Inferno

Plenary lectures

Following the theme Tragedy and Comedy, the plenary lectures bring fresh perspectives to familiar masterpieces and encourage exploration in new directions.

Evening lectures

Additional general evening lectures will add to your enjoyment of the programme.


Accommodation is available for participants who want to stay in a Cambridge College. Please see the accommodation options available for this programme.

Non-residential attendance is also available if participants prefer to find their own lodgings.

Programme fees

Programme fees include tuition, bed, breakfast and evening meals unless otherwise indicated.

Pre-enrolment information

Booking terms and conditions


2014 brochure as a PDF (5.31MB)

Contact us

University of Cambridge
International Programmes
Institute of Continuing Education
Madingley Hall
United Kingdom
CB23 8AQ

Tel: +44 (0) 1223 760850
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 760848


Teaching and assessment is in English. Students for whom English is not their first language should refer to the Competence in the English Language Policy for further guidance.

Printable versions of our brochures are available to download from the Summer Schools brochure download page.