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Wilfred De’Ath: Oxford vs Cambridge

Regulars | By Wilfred De'Ath | September Issue


I have lived my life the wrong way round. I ‘read’ English Language and Literature at Oxford in the 1950s and now live in Cambridge. I would have done better to study English at Cambridge and live in Oxford, a much bigger and nicer city. At Oxford, at that time, English was very badly taught. The course finished at 1820, the end of the Romantic Movement (Keats, Shelly, Byron, Wordsworth etc), whereas all my favourite writers, such as Dickens and Hardy in the 19th century and Joyce and Woolf in the 20th, were regarded as inadmissible. Three of the nine papers we sat for Finals were to do with Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. I managed fairly well at these, having German as a mother tongue, but still ended up with a very bad degree, an ‘actor’s Third’. (Cambridge would have been far more up-to-date). What can you do with a...

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