For Stanford students majoring in, or simply interested in, the humanities, studying at Oxford is a great opportunity to be part an environment where the humanities are studied and showcased, not just for their practical application, but for appreciation of the subject material in and of itself. Humanities subjects are popular among students in the Oxford program. This is possibly because the tutorial system lends itself well to humanities learning: reading, thinking, writing and describing your research. Oxford is one of the foremost humanities research institutions in the world. It is because the humanities are such a large and popular division at Oxford that Stanford students will have a lot of success proposing humanities tutorials, and having those proposals fulfilled.

Don’t just assume that this means you should plan to study English or History. Applicants often overlook the depth and breadth of courses within the humanities at Oxford. Pay attention to specifics within each department, you may find that your proposed tutorial is too broad. Luckily, you may also find ways in which you can make your tutorial more specific, or discover a new focus altogether

The Humanities departments are:


AXESS Code 195C and 197C

Classics is the study of the languages, culture, history and thought of the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome. The Oxford Classics faculty is the largest in the world, and Classics students never have the sense of being in a small minority within the university. Classics tutorials are available in languages (Latin and ancient Greek) as well as in Classical subjects, but beware that some language familiarity is necessary. Students are able to express an interest in taking classical language study alongside their tutorial, as an option to help with a language deficit.

Code 195C:

Latin or Greek, students will be required to take a placement test and the course will work on language skills, but those who achieve a higher placement may place into language tutorials that include text translation such as Virgil’s Aeneid or Homer’s Iliad.

Code 197C:

Tutorials that do not require knowledge of Latin or Greek language

Tutorials that are best undertaken with knowledge of Greek:

  • Plato, Republic
  • Plato, Theaetetus and Sophist
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Aristotle, Physics
  • Sextus Empiricus
  • Greek History 1
  • Greek History 2
  • Greek History 3
  • Roman History 4
  • Greek Core
  • Historiography, Greek
  • Lyric Poetry, Greek
  • Early Greek Hexameter Poetry
  • Greek Tragedy
  • Comedy, Greek
  • Hellenistic Poetry
  • Euripides, Orestes
  • Byzantine Literature
  • Modern Greek Poetry
  • Greek Historical Linguistics

Tutorials best undertaken with knowledge of Latin:

  • Latin Philosophy
  • Roman History 5
  • Roman History 6
  • The Conversion of Augustine
  • Latin Core
  • Historiography, Latin
  • Lyric Poetry, Latin
  • Comedy, Latin
  • Cicero
  • Ovid
  • Latin Didactic
  • Neronian Literature
  • Catullus
  • Seneca, Medea
  • Latin Historical Linguistics

English Language and Literature

AXESS Code 195T

The English department in Oxford is one of the largest in the world and, a broad spectrum of courses is taught there. Tutors typically teach areas sorted by historical period, so it is useful to think of your preferred course in terms of its historical period. The following are examples of Oxford tutorial titles, and what types of topics could be taken under each title. One important thing to note is that these courses are all taught about English language texts, students who wish to study comparative literature should look under Medieval and Modern Languages or the Oriental Institute.

Introduction to English Language and Literature:

Students taking this tutorial would include, or be able to study, the history of the English language and the history of literary criticism and approaches to reading literary texts. Students interested in looking more closely at theory - like Marxism, Historicism, Structuralism, Feminism, etc. would be interested in taking this tutorial. It is possible to take this tutorial at any point in the year, but most Oxford students take it in the fall, so you have a greater chance of attending supportive lectures if you choose to take it while abroad in fall quarter. Students interested in writing a thesis or attending graduate school should think about taking this tutorial.

Medieval Literature (650-1359):

This tutorial covers both Old and Early Middle English literature. If you have ever wanted to study Old English, here’s an opportunity to meet that challenge. You can also work comparatively with Old and Middle English. Anglo-Saxon texts like Beowulf are usually contextualized with other Old English, but you will be expected to try to learn the language and not just read in translation. This course, however, is more of a survey for those unfamiliar with the period, whereas below the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval English tutorials offer an opportunity to specialise for students who are already familiar with some of the key texts.

Victorian Literature (1830-1910):

Usually, Oxford students study this in the fall term. This tutorial can cover novels by Dickens, George Eliot, or the Brontës: poetry by Rossetti, Browning, Hopkins and Tennyson, and drama such as Wilde and Shaw. If you do not wish to focus on one author a theme could be a good guide: the sensation novel, social problem novel, dramatic monologue, women's writing, etc.

Modern Literature (1910-Present):

This tutorial looks at some of the most popular topics among Stanford students. For example students often choose Modernism, Woolf, Joyce, Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Beckett and Carter. This is also the appropriate tutorial for all students interested in post-colonial literature. If you are thinking of doing post-colonial literature, please consider two important factors in your tutorial request: it is very unlikely that you will be able to be placed with a tutor specializing in comparative post-colonial literature so please choose which post-colonial region you are interested in. It is also important to note that texts in these courses are typically not in translation, but originally written in English and that non-anglophone post-colonial literature, for example of Latin America, is located in Medieval and Modern Languages or Interdisciplinary Area Studies.

Anglo-Saxon Literature*:

Looking more closely at texts like: 'The Wanderer', 'The Dream of the Rood', 'The Battle of Maldon', 'The Seafarer', Aelfric and Beowulf. A student who does not have any familiarity with Old English might find this course challenging, but a student who thinks he or she might like to pursue graduate work in this area could find it very useful to look at these texts in depth.

Medieval English Literatures Depth Study:

In addition to Chaucer:, Troilus and Criseyde, Ancrene Wisse, Piers Plowman, Morte D'Arthur, Pearl, and Henryson's fables are common topics.

Renaissance Literature in English (1509-1642):

This tutorial could be on Milton, Spenser, Sidney, Donne; dramatists such as Kyd, Marlowe, Webster, and Jonson; and prose like More, Nashe and Bacon. This tutorial is designed to look at everything but the elephant in the room of Renaissance English literature, Shakespeare, and therefore could be a nice complement to a concurrent seminar in Shakespeare.


This is basically everything you could possibly want to do with reference to Shakespeare. Some tutors will expect you to have read all Shakespeare plays at least well enough to refer to them in your essays. If you think you would like to work on the bard, try to be specific about your research goals, a few plays or a few themes to study in more detail. Oxford students typically do Shakespeare fall and winter quarter.

Reformation Literature:

Popular authors studied in this tutorial include Milton, Behn, Marvell, Dryden, Rochester, Pope, Swift and Defoe. For students interested in drama, this course is particularly interesting.

Regency Literature:

This tutorial is in essence, Romanticism and Austen. Students can choose from among the famous authors of Romanticism (Blake, Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth), or to focus on a theme such as writing about the French revolution. Novelists like Fielding, Richardson, and Austen can be studied individually or as part of themed looks at British society.

Creative Writing (Tutorial Code 197T):

Is not typically taught at undergraduate level in Oxford. Stanford students can choose from Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction as concentrations.


AXESS Code 196E, 198E

‘History’ is the quintessential subject people imagine at Oxford and many Stanford students will want to take part in this tradition. For students unfamiliar with the United Kingdom who want to get the most out of their term abroad, a history course can add a lot of depth of appreciation. For those inexperienced in history though, it is important to consider the serious intellectual commitment a History tutorial can constitute. 196E tutorials are for non-majors and 198E tutorials are for history majors. The main distinction is the amount of primary source work and level of historiographical knowledge presumed.

196E History open to non-majors

Introduction to Britain and its History

A group of tutorials that focus on the United Kingdom from Early Britain to modern times taken by Oxford freshman historians. These tutorial subjects would be suitable for a non-major, but are still very in-depth for a history major who has not yet had the opportunity to look closely at British history. Even though the tutorials suggested below are on defined topics, students are still able to determine the tutorial content by expressing interest in different aspects of the topic. Tutorial options include:

  • Early Britain: The Romans and the Anglo-Saxons (300-1087): This tutorial looks closely at the earliest histories of the British Isles
  • Norman Britain (1042-1330): This tutorial looks at the Norman conquest and medieval life in Britain.
  • The Early English Monarchy (1330-1550): This tutorial looks at the Wars of the Roses.
  • The Tudors and their controversies (1500-1700): This tutorial is very popular and looks at Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Britain: Civil War and Reconciliation (1685-1830): This tutorial is sometimes overlooked, but can be very interesting for American history experts interested in a different perspective on the revolutionary war.
  • Queen Victoria and her legacy (1815-1924): This tutorial is good for students interested in understanding political reforms at home, as well as the experience of imperialism.
  • Modern Britain (1900-Present Day): This tutorial is very popular with students interested in WWII, and students interested in Thatcherism.

General History

A group of four tutorials that do not focus on Britain and can be good for students who are not history majors, but are interested in experiencing what an Oxford history tutorial is like. These tutorials look more closely at conceptual categories – such as gender, economy, culture, state and religion – and do not require students to have any language ability to work with non-English primary sources. These tutorial topics are broad, and students are encouraged to explain what about the topic appeals to them.

  • The Transformation of the Ancient World (370-900): This could also be entitled the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Medieval Christendom and its Neighbours (1000-1300): This course is good for medievalists who do not speak a foreign language but would like to study something aside from medieval Britain.
  • Renaissance, Recovery, and Reform (1400-1650): A tutorial for students who would like to compare the experience of Renaissance across Europe.
  • Society, Nation, and Empire (1815-1914): A course that compares the Imperial Experience, and looks at nation forming, such as the unifications of Italy and Germany.

Finally, 20 individualized subjects have been designed for novice historians. This means that although close attention will be given to primary sources, those sources are available in English translation. These tutorials are somewhat self-explanatory by title, and offer less flexibility in topic than those listed above. These tutorials can be useful if a student would like to select a class ‘off the shelf’ as one does in Stanford, but still have the experience of learning in a tutorial style.

198E History for majors

The following tutorials are more difficult, and some consideration should take place before enrolling in them. Often these courses require some prior knowledge of the period or the region, and work closely with historiography and primary sources. Students considering graduate work in history should seriously entertain these challenging courses, as well as student preparing independent research on one of these topics. The tutorials are grouped into two groups A and B. Group A tutorials are courses designed to promote deep study in a topic students already have familiarity with. Oxford students typically study these topics in winter quarter, so although you can choose them any time you might meet others studying this topic if you choose it in winter. Group B tutorials are built around reading specific primary sources, often not in translation, and students in these tutorials write essays that focus on primary source analysis. These tutorials are usually taught in the autumn quarter.

Group A (Winter quarter, depth study)

Group B (Autumn quarter, focus on primary sources)

  • St Augustine and the Last Days of Rome, 370-430
  • Francia in the Age of Clovis and Gregory of Tours.
  • Byzantium in the Age of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 913-959.
  • The Norman Conquest of England.
  • The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.
  • Joan of Arc and her Age, 1419-35.
  • Painting and Culture in Ming China
  • Politics, Art and Culture in the Italian Renaissance: Venice and Florence, c. 1475-1525.
  • Luther and the German Reformation.
  • Government, Politics, and Society in England, 1547-58. (suspended for 2016-17)
  • The Crisis of the Reformation: Britain, France and the Netherlands 1560-1610.
  • The Thirty Years’ War
  • The Scientific Movement in the Seventeenth Century.
  • Revolution and Republic, 1647-58.
  • English Architecture, 1660-1720.
  • Debating Social Change in Britain and Ireland 1770-1825.
  • Becoming a Citizen, c.1860-1902.
  • Slavery and the Crisis of the Union, 1854-65.
  • Art and its Public in France, 1815-67.
  • Race, Religion and Resistance in the United States, from Jim Crowe to Civil Rights.
  • Terror and Forced Labour in Stalin’s Russia.
  • From Gandhi to the Green Revolution: India, Independence and Modernity 1947-73.
  • Nazi Germany, a racial order, 1933-45.
  • France from the Popular Front to the Liberation, 1936-44.
  • War and Reconstruction: ideas, politics and social change, 1939-45.
  • Britain from the Bomb to the Beatles: gender, class, and social change, 1945-1967.
  • The Northern Ireland Troubles, 1965-85.
  • Britain in the Seventies.
  • Neoliberalism and Postmodernism: Ideas, Politics and Culture in Europe and North America, 1970-2000.
  • Revolutions of 1989.

History of Art

AXESS Code 196F, 198F

History of Art concentrates on objects generally described as 'art', and in Oxford this definition is framed broadly to embrace items beyond 'Fine art' or 'Western art'. Tutorials in the History of Art aim to bring historical understanding to artefacts and often draw on local and regional museums. For students interested in tutorials that will push them to engage with local resources, these tutorials might be a great choice. Suggested tutorials are divided between those appropriate for a student new to the subject, and those appropriate for a student with previous experience.

196F Suitable for beginners

  • Introduction to the History of Art, which introduces students to a wide range of approaches and world cultures. It shows how different kinds of societies and the availability of different kinds of evidence have elicited different responses from art historians both today and in the past. Lectures that supplement this tutorial take place in Autumn quarter.
  • European Art 1400-1900: Meaning and Interpretation, this tutorial teaches skills in looking at and interpreting works of art in critical perspective by concentrating on a relatively limited geographical and chronological span. Looking at works of art in the museum setting is central to the tutorial. Oxford undergraduates usually take this tutorial in autumn quarter.
  • Antiquity after Antiquity, this tutorial explores the ways the arts of ancient Greece and Rome have been borrowed, stolen, reworked and adapted to different purposes. It aims to consider how later art has engaged with classical models and texts of art writing engage with antique art. Lectures that support this tutorial are available in Winter and Spring Quarter.

198F Appropriate for students with prior experience

  • Approaches to the History of Art, an historiographical overview of the discipline of Art History and will address how methodological approaches from other disciplines have been incorporated into the field.
  • Understanding Museums and Collections, an introduction to the study of museums and collections. This tutorial can look at the history of museums; museums and time; museums, culture and nature; and collections as practices and will provide students with the opportunity to explore aspects of particular museums and collections. Typically taken by Oxford undergraduates in Winter Quarter.
  • Egyptian Art and Architecture, the Egyptian collections in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford are used for this tutorial.
  • Greek Art and Archaeology, c.500-300 BC, the cast collection at the Ashmolean Museum is used for this tutorial.
  • Hellenistic Art and Archaeology, 330-30 BC
  • Art under the Roman Empire
  • Anglo-Saxon Archaeology, 600-750: Society and economy in the Early Christian Period
  • Byzantine Art: the Transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, 500-1100
  • The Carolingian Renaissance, some of the texts for this tutorial can be in French.
  • Gothic Art Through Medieval Eyes
  • Culture and Society in Early Renaissance Italy, 1290-1348, this tutorial includes study of Dante.
  • Politics, Art and Culture in the Italian Renaissance: Venice and Florence, c.1475-c.1525
  • Flanders and Italy in the Quattrocento, 1420-80, in practice no foreign language is required for this tutorial.
  • Northern European Portraiture, 1400-1800, visits to galleries and other collections in Oxford and London are an integral part of the course.
  • The Dutch Golden Age: 1618-1672
  • Court Culture and Art, 1580-1700
  • Art and Its Public in France, 1815-67
  • Literature and the Visual Arts in France, writers and artists examined include Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Guillaume de Machaut, the Limbourg brothers, Poussin, Lebrun, Watteau, Marivaux, Diderot, Greuze, David, Baudelaire, Manet, Zola and Courbet. Some knowledge of French and French history and culture is required.
  • English Architecture, 1660-1720, this tutorial is very popular with Stanford Students and covers architects like Wren, Hawksmoor, Talman and Vanburgh, and such famous buildings as St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London churches, Greenwich Hospital, several royal palaces, most notably Hampton Court, the remodelling of the State Apartments at Windsor, and many important country houses, including Blenheim, Chatsworth and Castle Howard. No technical knowledge of architecture is necessary. It is important to visit a number of the buildings in London and elsewhere, so students are advised to set aside time for this purpose.
  • Intellect and Culture in Victorian Britain, among the possible areas of strudy in this tutorial are Carlyle, Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, and William Morris, whose grand Ruskinian project – the University Museum – as well as Ruskin’s own collection of drawings and watercolours are in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
  • Encountering South Asian Sculpture, the Ashmolean collections have some of the earliest sculptures from South Asia to arrive in any Western collection and are second to none in the UK.
  • Art in China Since 1911, no prior experience of Chinese art or history is required for this tutorial.
  • Painting and Culture in Ming China, this tutorial assumes no prior knowledge of Chinese art or culture.
  • American Art, 1560s – 1960s
  • German Expressionism in Literature and the Visual Arts, in order to take this course, students should have studied German, such as in high school.
  • European Cinema, an introduction to methods and issues of film criticism, and to the work of some of the most important European filmmakers. Lectures and seminars that take place in Winter focus on the 1970s to the present. This tutorial is typical taken in Autumn and Winter quarter by Oxford undergraduates.
  • Modernism and After (20th-Century Art in Europe and North America)
  • The Experience of Modernity: Visual Culture, 1880-1925

Linguistics Philology and Phonetics

No AXESS Code at present

Students in Linguistics and Symbolic Systems programs might be interested in the availability of linguistics tutorials. In the past, this area of scholarship has not been as popular with Stanford undergraduates, as one might expect. Should interest develop, the centre in Oxford is more than happy to meet student’s needs. Linguistics Philology and Phonetics tutorials traditionally taken by undergraduates at Oxford:

* Denotes tutorials that should be taken by students with prior experience.

Medieval and Modern Languages

No AXESS Code at present

In Oxford, Medieval and Modern Languages covers two areas: the actual language acquisition through regular group classes, and study of topics (traditionally literary) in the original language. Tutorials are conducted in English and texts can be read alongside English translation for beginner and intermediate level students. Language study is typically conducted in addition to a tutorial and entered in AXESS as a directed reading. The centre provides support to help students convey the quality of their language study to their home campus department, and to make sure that language study in Oxford supports home campus requirements.

  • Czech
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Modern Greek
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish


AXESS Code 195U, 197U

Music has been a longstanding part of Oxford life, and for Stanford undergraduates there are wonderful opportunities to participate in college choirs and university orchestras. The study of music is also possible but it must be noted that the study of musical performance and practical music is not possible. Music tutorials are divided into two groups, theory and appreciation. Students are encouraged to discuss their interest in a music tutorial with home campus guidance within the music department because the tutorial request will require individually designed specificity within the suggested topics below.

195U Theory

  • Composition*
  • Techniques of composition
  • Orchestration
  • Musical analysis*
  • Musical analysis and criticism
  • Musical thought and scholarship
  • Issues in the study of music*

197U Appreciation

  • Machaut’s songs*
  • Schubert’s last decade*
  • Psychology of everyday musical experience*
  • Global hip hop*
  • Topics in music history before 1750
  • Topics in music history after 1700
  • Music ethnography

*Suitable for beginners or non-majors.

Oriental Institute

AXESS Code 196J (Tutorial in Area Studies)

Moving past the colonial legacy of this department’s name, the Faculty of Oriental Studies is actually an amazing place. Oriental Studies is unique because it offers students tutorials about cultures and civilisations that do not usually form part of the mainstream curriculum in British schools. Many Stanford undergraduates might overlook this department because they assume their tutorial choice fits better as a more traditional subject such as history or philosophy. However, if the topic you are looking for does not appear the department you think it will, you could easily find it here. Languages that can be pursued are:

  • Akkadian
  • Arabic
  • Aramaic with Syriac
  • Armenian
  • Chinese-Mandarin
  • Coptic
  • Egyptian
  • Biblical and Modern Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Old Iranian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Pali
  • Persian
  • Prakrit
  • Sanskrit
  • Sumerian
  • Turkish
  • Urdu

Tutorials at the Oriental Institute focus on literature, history and culture, focussing on art and archaeology, history, literature, philosophy, religion and modern social studies in the following principal areas of study organized around the languages primarily necessary for courses:


AXESS Code 195V, 197V

195V Suitable for beginners

197V only suitable for philosophy majors

  • Early Modern Philosophy, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, Locke Berkeley and Hume.
  • Knowledge and Reality, epistemology.
  • Ethics
  • Medieval Philosophy: Aquinas, studied in translation.
  • Plato, Republic
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • The Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein
  • Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein, follow on from logic and language above.
  • Formal Logic, it is only advisable to take this tutorial if you have already taken symbolic logic.
  • Intermediate Philosophy of Physics, (conceptual problems in special relativity and quantum mechanics) /Advanced Philosophy of Physics (foundational questions in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics).
  • Philosophy of Science, applied epistemology and applied metaphysics.
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science, key questions about the nature of the mind dealt with by a variety of cognitive scientific disciplines: experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, linguistics and computational modelling of the mind. Studying this paper will provide insight into the ways that contemporary scientific advances have improved our understanding of aspects of the mind that have long been the focus of philosophical reflection. It will also introduce you to a range of theoretical issues generated by current research in the behavioural and brain sciences.
  • Jurisprudence, (not to be confused with ‘Tutorial in Jurisprudence’ which is a tutorial in Law)
  • The Rise of Modern Logic [this tutorial is only available to Oxford fourth-year students in Mathematics and Philosophy, and Physics and Philosophy, and requires an advanced level of physics and/or maths. It is worth considering your preparedness for this tutorial.]

Theology and Religion

AXESS Code 196B,198B

Many Oxford undergraduates are studying theology because they plan to be ordained, and it is important to bear in mind that there are both faith-based and secular approaches to study in this department. Oftentimes Stanford students are interested in studying a philosophical topic that is considered by Oxford to be primarily theological, such as the Christian existentialism of Kierkegaard, and will find themselves working with a theology tutor. Some umbrella topics under which theology tutorials are taught: