The English Tripos at Cambridge University offers undergraduates a dynamic combination of historical perspectives and contemporary approaches to literature and language. The broad range covered in Part I over the first two years gives students an historical grounding in the range of literature in English since 1300. This enables students to make informed choices about areas of specialisation in their third year work for Part II. Students are expected to combine wide reading, increasing specialisation and independent research.
Part I of the course takes two years and is principally concerned with English literature in its historical contexts from 1300 to the present. This involves four period papers. In addition, there are papers on Shakespeare, literary criticism and a language paper. For most undergraduates this will mean working on a foreign language, usually French, but it is not compulsory to do so. Many students choose a paper on literature and the history of the English language. Most of the papers are examined by a formal examination, but students may also opt to submit some form of coursework for selected papers.
Part II of the course involves further study of practical criticism, tragedy, and a dissertation on an independent research topic chosen by the student. There is a wide range of appealing options, such as American Literature, Shakespeare in performance, English Literature post-1979, Commonwealth Literature, a period paper, and papers on the history and theory of literary criticism and on moral and philosophical thought.