English Language and Literature
English and Modern Languages (also see Modern Languages)

Keble College has a very strong tradition in English. Many renowned writers have studied here, including Ian Hamilton and Geoffrey Hill, the late Professor of Poetry at Oxford (2010-2015).

We take around eight undergraduates each year for Single-Honours English, and one for Joint Schools (English and Modern Languages). We also have visiting students from the US (from Washington University). Students apply to Keble from every type of educational background and from many different countries. There are three fellows currently tutoring the subject, providing comprehensive cover across the course. We all pride ourselves on the welcoming, inclusive community we foster here, and it tends to produce excellent results. This year, for example, our results in Finals examinations were also among the best (6 out of 7 students achieved First-Class Honours).

Library resources for English at Keble are very strong. In addition to the superb holdings of literary texts in the library, the college is home to the Martin Esslin collection (a rich resource for plays and criticism on twentieth-century drama), and the Ian Hamilton poetry library. We also house one of the finest collections of illuminated medieval manuscripts anywhere in Oxford outside the Bodleian.

At Keble, the organisation of teaching varies to suit the individual student. Students have one-to-one tutorials for Special Papers, but we also teach in pairs and run small classes, group presentations, and a range of study-skills sessions. Collectively, the tutors offer expertise in a huge span of literature – from Beowulf to Beckett and beyond – and we’re committed to widening our own literary and conceptual horizons as well as those of the students we teach.

There is plenty going on outside teaching hours too. The college has a wonderful theatre – the O’Reilly, one of Oxford’s newest student theatres, with a 181-seat capacity – and many of our students put on and take part in plays. We have also recently set up The Salutation and Cat reading group, which offers the opportunity for staff and students from different subjects to discuss poetry in a relaxed, informal setting. In addition, the college hosts a lively Arts Festival each year, featuring many shows and events (on drama, film, music, dance, poetry, and the fine arts), and we run a termly series called Poets at Keble, which invites established and emerging poets to visit the college, read their work, and meet the students. Our most recent venture is a series of seminars on The Poet's Essay, which is led by the psychoanalyst and essayist Adam Phillips.

More details about our teaching team can be found below, and information about the library, the theatre, and other resources here can be found elsewhere on this website. On the right-hand column of this webpage, click on the link to get detailed feedback about what we look for in prospective students during the admissions process. For more information about the English Literature degree, see: https://www.english.ox.ac.uk/course-summary

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Professor Diane Purkiss (Fellow in English and CUF lecturer) teaches early modern literature, from 1550-1760. Her publications include The Witch in History (1996), Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories (2000), Literature, Gender and Politics During the English Civil War (2005), and The English Civil War: A People’s History (2006). Current projects include a history of food, a history of the dissolution of the monasteries, a book on Shakespeare and the supernatural, and work on the poet Andrew Marvell and manuscript culture. She is also a published children’s author.

Professor Matthew Bevis (Fellow in English and Professor of English Literature) teaches Romantic, Victorian, and twentieth-century literature. His publications include The Art of Eloquence: Byron, Dickens, Tennyson, Joyce (2007), Some Versions of Empson, ed. (2007), Comedy: A Very Short Introduction (2012), and The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Poetry, ed. (2013). His next book, Wordsworth’s Fun, is coming out from Chicago University Press in 2019, and he’s currently finishing a book entitled Knowing Edward Lear for Oxford University Press. His recent essays have appeared in Harper’s, The London Review of Books, RaritanPoetry, and other journals and magazines.

For further information see the English page and the English and Modern Languages page of the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.

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Approximate yearly intake Keble: 9
Faculty: 275
Department Website Faculty of English


Via the College Office.


Professor Diane Purkiss, BA Hons, DPhil, Fellow in English and CUF lecturer

Professor Matthew Bevis, BA Hons, MPhil, PhD, Fellow in English and Professor of English Literature

Dr Diana Leca, Robin Geffen Career Development Fellow in Modern English

Dr Emily Dolmans, Stipendiary Lecturer in Old and Middle English