Working Life of a Classics Student

You may be wondering what the day-to-day life of a Classics student at St Hilda’s is like. Your days at university are on the whole less strictly timetabled than they are at school. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to fit in on the academic side: classes for Latin and Greek, lectures, tutorials in college, and many hours of private study.

The Course

For the first five terms, students take a variety of papers which develop their skills in language, literary criticism, historical analysis, appreciation of ancient material culture, and philosophy. All students at St Hilda’s start in the first term with an interdisciplinary paper, Texts and Contexts, which brings together literary, historical and visual sources on a selection of central aspects of ancient culture. They then move on to study Homer’s Iliad, Vergil’s Aeneid, and choose two from a range of special subjects – one in philosophy and one in history, archaeology or philology. Language work is a central element for at least the first five terms. In the second part of the course, there is a huge range of choice in all areas of Classics and students can develop their own interests in particular subjects. For more details on the syllabus, see the Classics Faculty website.

Tutorials

You will usually have one or two tutorials a week. The tutorial is a meeting between a tutor and a small number of students (normally two or three) where a particular topic is discussed. Students prepare work in advance for every tutorial they attend; this is often, but not always, an essay.

Your tutor for any given subject may or may not be one of the St Hilda’s team. Each paper is taught by specialists, but the range of expertise within the college is such that the majority of Classics tutorial teaching takes place within St Hilda’s.

Language Teaching

Depending on how much Latin and/or Greek you have studied at school, you will receive more or less intensive tuition in classes run centrally by the Classics Faculty. Those starting either language will have classes every weekday for the first two terms, followed by a programme of grammar and reading classes both centrally and in college until the fifth term. For those with Latin and/or Greek A level or equivalent, there is a centrally run language consolidation class once a week for the first two terms, accompanied throughout and beyond by college-run translation and grammar work.

Lectures

There is an extensive and exciting range of centrally-run lectures on offer every day of the term. Students are encouraged to attend lectures which are directly related to the topics they are studying, as well as to follow their own interests. As a rough guide, most Classics students will go to six or seven lectures every week.

Academic Work in Vacations

One of the most satisfying aspects of the Classics courses at Oxford is the emphasis placed on reading texts in the original languages. Although some of this reading takes place during term alongside other work, it is important that students set aside a significant proportion of the vacations for translating set texts. Students benefit enormously from taking the opportunity to mix academic work with their holiday travels and any paid employment during the extensive Oxford vacations.

A classical ruin