• Intake: 8 - 10 
  • Offers: A*AA 
  • Essential Subjects: English Literature 
  • Desirable Subjects: none 
  • Faculty website: www.english.cam.ac.uk
  • The Patterson Fund supports the academic activities of Queens' students reading English.


The Cambridge English course is distinctive for its combination of a solid grounding in the essentials of the discipline, and the opportunity to specialize and to innovate. The course is divided into two parts: Part I, largely historical in focus, occupies the first two years of study, and is assessed by a preliminary examination in the first year, and a full set of examination papers at the end of the second year; while Part II, in the third year, includes more independent work on a range of optional modules. 

Years 1 and 2 - Part I- A broad range 

Most students take a full complement of four historical papers in Part I, which introduce English literature and its contexts from 1300 to the present day. In addition, Part I also includes compulsory papers in Shakespeare Practical Criticism. It is possible to substitute an Early Medieval Literature (1066-1350) paper, or a foreign language paper from the MML Faculty. Queens' English students normally replace two of the historical papers with coursework (one portfolio of three essays, totalling no more than 6,000 words, and a dissertation of 5,000 words). It is also possible to 'borrow' Part I papers from the Anglo–Saxon, Norse, and Celtic course.

Year 3 - Part II- Deeper questions, new areas 

In Part II all students are obliged to take two compulsory papers: Practical Criticism and Tragedy. Final-year students must also write a compulsory dissertation (of 6,000 – 7,500 words) and either submit a second dissertation and take one optional paper, or choose two optional papers. The optional papers change regularly but cover a range of topics and periods. It is also possible to ‘borrow’ papers from the Anglo–Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Classics; or Modern and Medieval Languages triposes. The full list of options can be seen on the English Faculty‘s website.

For students who are applying for 2020 entry there will be some changes to the course. These changes can be found here.  

English at Queens’ 

In addition to lectures and occasional classes in the Faculty of English, students reading English at Queens’ will be supervised at least once a week on the main Tripos papers and will also take part in weekly classes on Practical Criticism and other topics. Supervisions, in which students are seen either individually or in small groups, provide an opportunity for detailed discussion of topics of a kind not possible within the Faculty context, and they enable the College to keep a careful check on each student's progress. A student usually prepares an essay for each supervision, and these essays form the basis of supervision discussion and teaching.

There is no Queens' orthodoxy in English studies.  We aim to bring students into contact with a wide range of critical approaches to literary study and to encourage them to judge and discriminate for themselves. Queens' has a high reputation for English, and gains very good Tripos results. In most years, the percentage of our students who have gained Firsts and Upper Seconds has been substantially above the University average.

Prior to interview applicants are asked to submit two pieces of written work completed during their normal studies; the essays should be recent, and if possible one should have been written in class. During the interview candidates will be asked to read and discuss a short, unseen poem, and to talk about the texts they have studied in class, as well as any books they enjoy reading outside class.

All applicants for Cambridge English will be required to take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT), before interview, at an authorised local centre (in most cases, the applicant's school or college); for further information on the ELAT, see the university's notes on "Entry Requirements" for English at http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/english. When assessing an applicant's performance on the ELAT, we look for a flexible and independent approach, analytical thought, and imagination. Extra information can be found the University's Admissions website http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying/admissions-assessments. 

The Queens' College Estelle Prize for English is awarded annually to a student in the Lower Sixth (Year 12), or equivalent, for the best submitted essay on a set question. For details on this year's prize https://www.queens.cam.ac.uk/apply-to-queens/undergraduates/the-estelle-...

Queens’ English Fellows  

Dr Andrew Zurcher, (Bruce Cleave Fellow in English) Director of Studies - Part I  

Andrew works on sixteenth and seventeenth century English literature, with a particular focus on the works of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, and William Shakespeare. 


Dr Sarah Haggarty, Fellow in English and University Lecturer 

Sarah works on eighteenth-century and romantic literature, with special interests in William Blake, cultural theory, religious writings, and economics. 


Dr Sophie Seita, Junior Research Fellow

Sophie works on twentieth- and twenty-first-century experimental poetry, performance, and art.

Dr James Kelly, Senior Tutor 

In addition to his role as Senior Tutor, James works on Milton, and has interests that range from Shakespeare to the twentieth century. 

English is a great subject, and Queens' is a great place to explore it. I have loved navigating my way through the challenges and joys of literature. English students at Queens' invariably have a lovely group dynamic and Andrew and Ian are inspiring, encouraging and supportive directors of studies. English at Queens' gives you the chance to discover and develop your own interests and to share ideas with other people when you're still looking for your own critical voice.

– Lydia, 3rd year English