Since its foundation, Modern Languages has played a major role in the intellectual life of St Hugh’s and has been one of the largest subjects here. We are keen to attract applicants to read French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as the Joint Schools with History, Philosophy, Classics, English and Middle Eastern Languages. Prospective candidates who wish to study other languages or unusual combinations are encouraged to approach the College Tutors for advice. Around twelve students are admitted each year.
The College has a very active and successful Modern Languages department. Alongside the normal complement of Tutors and Lecturers, we are fortunate to have the services of several native-speakers, and we have recently created a Research Fellowship in the subject.
The College Tutors in both French and German are particularly interested in twentieth-century literature and in theatre. Michael Holland specialises in twentieth-century French literature and thought, with special emphasis on the work of Maurice Blanchot. He has also published on Ionesco and on avant-garde theatre more generally. Tom Kuhn has written on Brecht, on Nazi and anti-fascist literature, and on more recent German drama; he is the general editor of Brecht’s works in English. They both teach the full range of language and literature of the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries. The Tutor in Italian, Giuseppe Stellardi, teaches modern literature and Dante; he has written mainly on Michelstaedter, Svevo, Gadda, Eco and on Deconstruction. The Tutor in Spanish, Robin Fiddian, has interests in Spanish literature from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, Spanish film, and twentieth-century Spanish American literature. College Lecturers and native speakers assist in the teaching of these and the other languages. We are also lucky to have the services of a Tutor in Linguistics in the College, Matthew Husband, who has a special interest in Psycholinguistics, as well as of a College Lecturer specialising in French Linguistics, John Charles Smith.
The College Tutors are happy to give information and advice to teachers and pupils with an interest in Modern Languages at Oxford and in St Hugh’s.
St Hugh’s has unusually good resources in Modern Languages. The College hosts the biennial Bickley Lectures (on matters Italian), it offers an annual verse translation prize, and it disburses generous funds devoted to study abroad. Over the years, the Library has grown to become a rich holding of primary and secondary works, and new books (as well as DVDs and other media) are being added all the time. In addition, the College is situated conveniently close to the University Language Centre and to the Maison Française, both with their own facilities. At the Language Centre students can make use of resources for the study of over eighty different foreign languages.
Study at Oxford
The study of Modern Languages at Oxford involves the use of languages at the highest level. To provide the necessary base, an A grade at A-level or equivalent in the languages concerned is essential. In the case of Italian, good linguists may be admitted as beginners in that language. Generally, the Tutors are looking for candidates with proven linguistic ability and with a lively enthusiasm for the literature, culture and history of the countries in question. Students will need a healthy appetite for reading, but next to no expertise in literary studies is required at this stage.
In the course of their studies at St Hugh’s, students prepare for a variety of subjects, taught either by the College Tutors and Lecturers or by specialists elsewhere in the University. Modern literature and language often form the core of the course (about half of a student’s ‘Finals’ will consist of language papers), but students can also specialise in medieval literature or in linguistics. Later on in the course they can choose from a broad range of options, including literature and film studies or the visual arts, political or philosophical writings, the ‘Grail Romances’ or the German ‘Minnesang’, modern Latin American fiction, modern literary theory, and so on. Within every paper there are plentiful opportunities to pursue individual interests and enthusiasms.
In addition to the Tutors the College has a share in a French lectrice and a German (Austrian) Lektorin. In Italian and Spanish, native-speaker teaching is organised centrally by the Faculty.
Modern Languages and Linguistics at Oxford features Dr Matt Husband.
The Marjorie Countess of Warwick Travelling Bursary is awarded by the University to the female candidate whose performance in French Prelims is judged to be the best. Last summer, the award was given to St Hugh’s undergraduate Jacqueline Uren; Jacqueline decided to use the opportunity to explore the artistic history of the French Riviera this August – an account of her travels can be read here.