Four years ago when I began studying at Oxford, the number of books I read for pleasure dropped drastically. In year 13, the year before I went to uni, I read 75 books. In my first year of uni I probably read 5 at best. Why? The reading list at Oxford is, quite frankly, insane. No matter what degree you study you’ll be presented with a very long reading list each week for a new essay but if you study a literature degree (i.e. Modern Languages or English), then you’ll also have to read the set texts.
Keep on reading to find out just how many books I read for my French finals in 4th year.
I studied French at Oxford, which means I only studied one language as opposed to two, which is the norm. This meant that I studied one more ‘content’ paper than the average modern languages student at Oxford, which is already a tonne more than those at other universities where non-literature modules are also offered. During my fourth and final year at university, I had to reread many of the texts I’d studied (and then promptly forgotten) in second year. I made list after list of all the options I’d already studied and then whittled it down to the bare minimum I had to read to get through the exams (can’t say I ain’t efficient 😜). The list I’ve made is therefore not even all the books I studied throughout my degree, it is simply those I chose to write on in my finals!
For my Oxford final exams, I sat four pure literature papers and one linguistics paper. I won’t bother talking about the latter because it required a completely different set of skills and in the end I thought it was a waste of my time. Out of my four literature papers, I sat two special author papers and two period papers. For the former, I picked two authors that I would read extensively and for the latter, I picked three topics, which may have contained several authors or just one. Although in the final exam I only wrote on three topics, I actually studied eight for each paper!
There are many, many options on offer for French at Oxford but the ones I chose were:
Special Authors: Molière, Racine, Flaubert, Stendhal
Period Papers: C17th, C18th, C19th, C20th literature (i.e. basically everything.)
From those options I chose to read the following texts:
L’Ecole des Femmes
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
Les Fourberies de Scapin
Le Malade Imaginaire
Le Rouge et le noir
La Chartreuse de Parme
Les Trois contes
Bouvard et Pécuchet
Le Taureau blanc
Discours sur les sciences et les arts
Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes
Supplément au voyage de Bougainville
Ceci n’est pas un conte
Mme de la Carlière
L’Ile des esclaves
La Double Inconstance
Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard
Le Barbier de Seville
Le Mariage de Figaro
La Mère coupable
La Vénus d’Ille
Pied de momie
La Cantatrice chauve
Tueur sans gages
Albert Camus (3)
Le Mythe de Sisyphe
Extended Essay (6)
Un Barrage contre le pacifique
L’Amant du Chine du nord
Le Ravissement de Lol V Stein
Le Vice Consul
Voilà! Sixty-six books for the literature part of my final exams at Oxford University. This list only includes the set texts, which you are supposed to read during the vacation period. During term time you are supposed to be reading critical reading and God knows how many of those books I read in the last minute scramble before finals! To anyone considering studying languages at Oxford, or more specifically, French at Oxford, I would suggest that you think long and hard about how much you like literature and reading because those modules will dominate your degree and take up far more of your time than any of the language work.
Spot any works you know? I know Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a fairly popular book even in the English language but a lot of these are fairly niche!
For more posts on my time at Oxford University, check out these posts: