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For Stanford students majoring in, or simply interested in, the humanities, studying at Oxford is a great opportunity to be part an environment where the humanities are studied and showcased, not just for their practical application, but for appreciation of the subject material in and of itself.

Humanities subjects are popular among students in the Oxford program. This is possibly because the tutorial system lends itself well to humanities learning: reading, thinking, writing and describing your research. Oxford is one of the foremost humanities research institutions in the world. It is because the humanities are such a large and popular division at Oxford that Stanford students will have a lot of success proposing humanities tutorials, and having those proposals fulfilled.

Don’t just assume that this means you should plan to study English or History. Applicants often overlook the depth and breadth of courses within the humanities at Oxford. Pay attention to specifics within each department, you may find that your proposed tutorial is too broad. Luckily, you may also find ways in which you can make your tutorial more specific, or discover a new focus altogether

The Humanities departments are

0101 - Classics (including the study of classical languages)

AXESS Code 197C

Classics is the study of the languages, culture, history and thought of the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome. The Oxford Classics faculty is the largest in the world, and Classics students never have the sense of being in a small minority within the university. Classics tutorials are available in languages (Latin and ancient Greek) as well as in Classical subjects, but beware that some language familiarity is necessary. Students are able to express an interest in taking classical language study alongside their tutorial, as an option to help with a language deficit.

Code 195C

Latin or Greek, students will be required to take a placement test and the course will work on language skills, but those who achieve a higher placement may place into language tutorials that include text translation such as Virgil’s Aeneid or Homer’s Iliad.

Code 197C

Tutorials that do not require knowledge of Latin or Greek language

Tutorials that are best undertaken with knowledge of Greek

  • Plato's Republic
  • Plato, Theaetetus and Sophist
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Aristotle, Physics
  • Sextus Empiricus
  • Greek History 1
  • Greek History 2
  • Greek History 3
  • Roman History 4
  • Greek Core
  • Historiography, Greek
  • Lyric Poetry, Greek
  • Early Greek Hexameter Poetry
  • Greek Tragedy
  • Comedy, Greek
  • Hellenistic Poetry
  • Euripides, Orestes
  • Byzantine Literature
  • Modern Greek Poetry
  • Greek Historical Linguistics

Tutorials best undertaken with knowledge of Latin

0102 - English Language and Literature

Click here for English Language and Literature Tutorials

0103 - History

AXESS Code 196E, 198E

‘History’ is the quintessential subject people imagine at Oxford and many Stanford students will want to take part in this tradition. For students unfamiliar with the United Kingdom who want to get the most out of their term abroad, a history course can add a lot of depth of appreciation. For those inexperienced in history though, it is important to consider the serious intellectual commitment a History tutorial can constitute. 196E tutorials are for non-majors and 198E tutorials are for history majors. The main distinction is the amount of primary source work and level of historiographical knowledge presumed.

196E History open to non-majors

Introduction to Britain and its History

A group of tutorials that focus on the United Kingdom from Early Britain to modern times taken by Oxford freshman historians. These tutorial subjects would be suitable for a non-major, but are still very in-depth for a history major who has not yet had the opportunity to look closely at British history. Even though the tutorials suggested below are on defined topics, students are still able to determine the tutorial content by expressing interest in different aspects of the topic. Tutorial options include:

General History

A group of four tutorials that do not focus on Britain and can be good for students who are not history majors, but are interested in experiencing what an Oxford history tutorial is like. These tutorials look more closely at conceptual categories – such as gender, economy, culture, state and religion – and do not require students to have any language ability to work with non-English primary sources. These tutorial topics are broad, and students are encouraged to explain what about the topic appeals to them.

Finally, 20 individualized subjects have been designed for novice historians. This means that although close attention will be given to primary sources, those sources are available in English translation. These tutorials are somewhat self-explanatory by title, and offer less flexibility in topic than those listed above. These tutorials can be useful if a student would like to select a class ‘off the shelf’ as one does in Stanford, but still have the experience of learning in a tutorial style.

198E History for majors

The following tutorials are more difficult, and some consideration should take place before enrolling in them. Often these courses require some prior knowledge of the period or the region, and work closely with historiography and primary sources. Students considering graduate work in history should seriously entertain these challenging courses, as well as student preparing independent research on one of these topics. The tutorials are grouped into two groups A and B. Group A tutorials are courses designed to promote deep study in a topic students already have familiarity with. Oxford students typically study these topics in winter quarter, so although you can choose them any time you might meet others studying this topic if you choose it in winter. Group B tutorials are built around reading specific primary sources, often not in translation, and students in these tutorials write essays that focus on primary source analysis. These tutorials are usually taught in the autumn quarter.

Group A (Winter quarter, depth study)

Group B (Autumn quarter, focus on primary sources)

0104 - History of Art

AXESS Code 198F

History of Art concentrates on objects generally described as 'art', and in Oxford this definition is framed broadly to embrace items beyond 'Fine art' or 'Western art'. Tutorials in the History of Art aim to bring historical understanding to artifacts and often draw on local and regional museums. For students interested in tutorials that will push them to engage with local resources, these tutorials might be a great choice. Suggested tutorials are divided between those appropriate for a student new to the subject, and those appropriate for a student with previous experience.

196F Suitable for beginners

  • Introduction to the History of Art, which introduces students to a wide range of approaches and world cultures. It shows how different kinds of societies and the availability of different kinds of evidence have elicited different responses from art historians both today and in the past. Lectures that supplement this tutorial take place in Autumn quarter.
  • European Art 1400-1900: Meaning and Interpretation, this tutorial teaches skills in looking at and interpreting works of art in critical perspective by concentrating on a relatively limited geographical and chronological span. Looking at works of art in the museum setting is central to the tutorial. Oxford undergraduates usually take this tutorial in autumn quarter.
  • Antiquity after Antiquity, this tutorial explores the ways the arts of ancient Greece and Rome have been borrowed, stolen, reworked and adapted to different purposes. It aims to consider how later art has engaged with classical models and texts of art writing engage with antique art. Lectures that support this tutorial are available in Winter and Spring Quarter.

198F Appropriate for students with prior experience

  • Approaches to the History of Art, an historiographical overview of the discipline of Art History and will address how methodological approaches from other disciplines have been incorporated into the field.
  • Understanding Museums and Collections, an introduction to the study of museums and collections. This tutorial can look at the history of museums; museums and time; museums, culture and nature; and collections as practices and will provide students with the opportunity to explore aspects of particular museums and collections. Typically taken by Oxford undergraduates in Winter Quarter.
  • Egyptian Art and Architecture, the Egyptian collections in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford are used for this tutorial.
  • Greek Art and Archaeology, c.500-300 BC, the cast collection at the Ashmolean Museum is used for this tutorial.
  • Hellenistic Art and Archaeology, 330-30 BC
  • Art under the Roman Empire
  • Anglo-Saxon Archaeology, 600-750: Society and economy in the Early Christian Period
  • Byzantine Art: the Transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, 500-1100
  • The Carolingian Renaissance, some of the texts for this tutorial can be in French.
  • Gothic Art Through Medieval Eyes
  • Culture and Society in Early Renaissance Italy, 1290-1348, this tutorial includes study of Dante.
  • Politics, Art and Culture in the Italian Renaissance: Venice and Florence, c.1475-c.1525
  • Flanders and Italy in the Quattrocento, 1420-80, in practice no foreign language is required for this tutorial.
  • Northern European Portraiture, 1400-1800, visits to galleries and other collections in Oxford and London are an integral part of the course.
  • The Dutch Golden Age: 1618-1672
  • Court Culture and Art, 1580-1700
  • Art and Its Public in France, 1815-67
  • Literature and the Visual Arts in France, writers and artists examined include Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Guillaume de Machaut, the Limbourg brothers, Poussin, Lebrun, Watteau, Marivaux, Diderot, Greuze, David, Baudelaire, Manet, Zola and Courbet. Some knowledge of French and French history and culture is required.
  • English Architecture, 1660-1720, this tutorial is very popular with Stanford Students and covers architects like Wren, Hawksmoor, Talman and Vanburgh, and such famous buildings as St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London churches, Greenwich Hospital, several royal palaces, most notably Hampton Court, the remodeling of the State Apartments at Windsor, and many important country houses, including Blenheim, Chatsworth and Castle Howard. No technical knowledge of architecture is necessary. It is important to visit a number of the buildings in London and elsewhere, so students are advised to set aside time for this purpose.
  • Intellect and Culture in Victorian Britain, among the possible areas of strudy in this tutorial are Carlyle, Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, and William Morris, whose grand Ruskinian project – the University Museum – as well as Ruskin’s own collection of drawings and watercolours are in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
  • Encountering South Asian Sculpture, the Ashmolean collections have some of the earliest sculptures from South Asia to arrive in any Western collection and are second to none in the UK.
  • Art in China Since 1911, no prior experience of Chinese art or history is required for this tutorial.
  • Painting and Culture in Ming China, this tutorial assumes no prior knowledge of Chinese art or culture.
  • American Art, 1560s – 1960s
  • German Expressionism in Literature and the Visual Arts, in order to take this course, students should have studied German, such as in high school.
  • European Cinema, an introduction to methods and issues of film criticism, and to the work of some of the most important European filmmakers. Lectures and seminars that take place in Winter focus on the 1970s to the present. This tutorial is typical taken in Autumn and Winter quarter by Oxford undergraduates.
  • Modernism and After (20th-Century Art in Europe and North America)
  • The Experience of Modernity: Visual Culture, 1880-1925

0105 - Linguistics Philology and Phonetics

AXESS Code 199X

Students in Linguistics and Symbolic Systems programs might be interested in the availability of linguistics tutorials. In the past, this area of scholarship has not been as popular with Stanford undergraduates, as one might expect. Should interest develop, the centre in Oxford is more than happy to meet student’s needs. Linguistics Philology and Phonetics tutorials traditionally taken by undergraduates at Oxford:

* Denotes tutorials that should be taken by students with prior experience.

0106 - Medieval and Modern Language (Primarily languages of Western Europe)

AXESS code 196V

In Oxford, Medieval and Modern Languages covers two areas: the actual language acquisition through regular group classes, and study of topics (traditionally literary) in the original language. Tutorials are conducted in English and texts can be read alongside English translation for beginner and intermediate level students. Language study is typically conducted in addition to a tutorial and entered in AXESS as a directed reading. The centre provides support to help students convey the quality of their language study to their home campus department, and to make sure that language study in Oxford supports home campus requirements.

0107 - Music

AXESS Code 195U

Music has been a longstanding part of Oxford life, and for Stanford undergraduates there are wonderful opportunities to participate in college choirs and university orchestras. The study of music is also possible but it must be noted that the study of musical performance and practical music is not possible. Music tutorials are divided into two groups, theory and appreciation. Students are encouraged to discuss their interest in a music tutorial with home campus guidance within the music department because the tutorial request will require individually designed specificity within the suggested topics below.

195U Theory

197U Appreciation

*Suitable for beginners or non-majors.

0108 - Oriental Studies (as a throwback to empire, this department is a catch all for the Middle East, India and the Far East)

AXESS Code 196J

Moving past the colonial legacy of this department’s name, the Faculty of Oriental Studies is actually an amazing place. Oriental Studies is unique because it offers students tutorials about cultures and civilisations that do not usually form part of the mainstream curriculum in British schools. Many Stanford undergraduates might overlook this department because they assume their tutorial choice fits better as a more traditional subject such as history or philosophy. However, if the topic you are looking for does not appear the department you think it will, you could easily find it here. Languages that can be pursued are:

Tutorials at the Oriental Institute focus on literature, history and culture, focusing on art and archaeology, history, literature, philosophy, religion and modern social studies in the following principal areas of study organized around the languages primarily necessary for courses:

0109 - Philosophy

AXESS Code 195V, 197V

Philosophy literally means a love of wisdom. More casually, philosophers are interested in ‘the big questions’ of life, about the very foundations of reality and the core of human experience.

Which of the following actually exist: numbers, souls, the future, endless possibilities, the average plumber, God? If God exists, why does He permit evil? Does anything exist outside our minds? Are our minds distinct from our physical brains? Are there any non-physical objects, and how would we know about them? How do we know anything? How is knowledge related to truth, and truth to meaning? What values should guide our actions? Do these values exist objectively, or is morality subjective?

You may have intellectual, emotional, spiritual, or existential reasons for engaging with these questions. As a further reason, the skills you’ll acquire in a philosophy tutorial are transferrable: to read critically, think analytically, reason decisively, argue rigorously, communicate effectively, and write clearly and precisely. Above all, you’ll develop a curious and creative mindset, which will serve you well in both your professional and personal life.

Philosophy is also highly interdisciplinary: metaphysics overlaps with physics, ethics with politics, philosophy of mind with psychology, and philosophy of language with linguistics, to name just a few. You’re likely, therefore, to find a tutorial below that lets you examine your chosen field of study from a philosophical perspective.

195V Suitable for Beginners

  • 010925 Chasing Wisdom: A Philosophical Survey Course

    This is the ideal tutorial for you if you’re new to philosophy, or if you’re unsure which tutorial to request. With its flexible syllabus, the Survey Course is suitable for beginners, but can also be taught as a more advanced paper. It does not limit you to one specific area in philosophy, but offers you an opportunity to reflect deeply on a wide range of philosophical questions, such as: Why is knowing something better than merely believing it? Do we have free will? Can observations about the past support beliefs about the future? Is it a discovery that 2+3=5, or a stipulation? Since there are no unicorns, is it true or false that unicorns have a horn? Could a sufficiently detailed description teach a blind person what it’s like to see the colour green? Why would a benevolent, omnipotent God allow so much suffering and evil?

  • Dissecting Reality: Focus Courses in Philosophy

    The following tutorials provide an in-depth study of a particular area in philosophy. They are suitable for students who have already completed an undergraduate philosophy course. If you have no prior experience, but are interested in one of the topics below, please request the Survey Course above and indicate the area of philosophy you’d like to focus on. It is also the case that some philosophical topics are taught in other faculties such as Ancient Philosophy, taught in the Classics department. See the Classics section above for details. Likewise, Jurisprudence can be found under Law, in the social sciences.

  • 0109-XX Toward a Scientific Era: Modern and Enlightenment Philosophy

    The course enables you to think critically about the main philosophical views of Early Modern and Enlightenment philosophers, which have shaped the development of contemporary theories and debates in philosophy. You will examine some of the key theories and main problems of Rationalism, Empiricism, and Kant’s alternative theory. By studying some of the most significant philosophical works of René Descartes, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, David Hume, or Immanuel Kant, you will engage with core philosophical issues concerning human nature, God, and knowledge of the world and the Self. You will address questions such as: What are the origins and limits of our knowledge? Is causal power out there in the world or is it in the mind? Does the world as we see it really exists? Is it possible to doubt absolutely everything, or are some claims indubitable, such as mathematical statements? If God exists, can we reconcile human free will with God’s foreknowledge of everything we will do in our lives?

  • 010913 A Life Worth Living: Ethics

    Moral questions and dilemmas, and decision-making problems constantly face us in the social world we inhabit. Most fundamentally, how should we lead our lives, and how should we decide what is the right thing to do? Through the discussion of such questions, you will examine core ethical concepts, including happiness, virtue, duty, and justice. You will have an opportunity to study and examine some of the most influential ethical theories, and to discuss how they might shape moral decision making. You might, for example, examine Plato’s account of justice in the Republic, Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Mill’s hedonism and utilitarianism, Kant’s account of freedom and the categorical imperative, or Rawls’s theory of justice. You might apply these theories in the discussion of more practical issues such as animal rights, euthanasia, and environmental ethics. You might also consider meta-ethical questions concerning the nature of moral judgments: can they be objective and universal, or are they merely expressions of feelings? Are they relative to culture?

  • 010912 The World as You (Don’t) Know it: Metaphysics and Epistemology

    In Metaphysics, you’ll examine the most fundamental level of reality. You’ll not be satisfied to know what in fact goes on at this level, but you’ll want to understand what must and cannot go on there. You’ll look beyond the contingent truths about this universe and investigate necessary truths about existence itself.

    Could the tree in your garden have grown from a different acorn? Are there sandcastles in addition to the grains of sand that they’re built from? Do holes exist and what are they made of? Since Clinton could have beaten Trump, is there a possible world in which she did? What makes you the same person as the five-year-old child you once were?

    You may feel unsure how we could possibly know the answers to these questions. This is one of the problems you’ll reflect on in Epistemology. More generally, you’ll ask what it is to know something, whether we can know anything, and how we might acquire knowledge – e.g. through observation, reason, or testimony.

  • 010909 Philosophy of Mathematics

    If you have a background in mathematics, you can ask to study up to four topics from the philosophy of mathematics as part of this tutorial. Questions include: Do numbers really exist? If they do, how can we know about them? Might mathematics be just a convenient and useful myth? Are mathematical truths analytic or synthetic? What is the nature of infinity?

  • 010904 What It All Means: The Philosophy of Language

    Language has the power to induce beliefs in us. A newspaper article, for example, might lead you to believe that the Red Sox beat the Yankees. For this to happen, the words and sentences in the newspaper must be more than empty forms: they must be meaningful. In philosophy of language, you’ll study this phenomenon and ask: What is meaning, and what fixes the meaning of a word or sentence? How does context impact an expression’s meaning? What’s the difference between literal meaning and figurative speech? Do the meanings of your thoughts determine the meanings of the words you speak, or vice versa? Since sentences can be true or false, you’ll also have an opportunity to think about the nature of truth and how truth relates to meaning(fulness).

    The philosophy of language holds a central place in contemporary analytic philosophy and is intimately linked with other areas such as ethics and metaphysics. Anyone interested in analytic philosophy will therefore profit from this tutorial.

  • 010919 Philosophy of Logic

    If you have completed an introductory-level logic course, you can ask to study up to four topics from the philosophy of logic as part of this tutorial. Questions include: If you believe that Gandalf is a wizard, must you infer that wizards exist? If L is the claim that L is false, is L true or false? Could a rich person cease to be rich by losing a single penny? Assuming you never take arsenic, what makes it true that you die if you take it?

  • 010908 The Meaning of Life: Post-Kantian Philosophy

    The course enables you to cover a range of core views of a few of the most important philosophers of the Continental tradition and particularly of existentialism, phenomenology, and postmodernism. More specifically, the course gives you the opportunity to study some of the most influential works of Heidegger, Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, or Derrida. The course engages with questions and issues such as the following: What does it mean to be? How can we philosophically make sense of our everyday existence in the world and with other people? What does phenomenology reveal about our moods and understanding of our current life situations? What role do the body and gender play in shaping our experience of the world and our interactions with other people? To what extent do language and power relations inform our social world? What does it mean to exist authentically? How can we make sense philosophically of our finitude and mortality? What does it mean to (seek to) have a meaningful existence? Is it absurd to seek meaning in life and is life ultimately meaningless? If so, how can a life without ultimate meaning be (made) worth living?

Thinking Harder Still: Specialist Courses in Philosophy AXESS Code 197V

The following tutorials study the most advanced topics in philosophy. They are suitable for philosophy majors and minors, and other students with a sufficiently strong background in philosophy. Students with less prior experience can request the Survey Course above and indicate a topic from the below list that they’d like to focus on.

  • 010901 Going Mental: The Philosophy of Mind

    Can you move solid objects with only the power of your mind? No? Try harder: focus on your right hand and lift it. Although rather cheesy, this joke encapsulates a fundamental question in philosophy: What’s the relationship between your mind and body? While Descartes thought your mind (or, ‘soul’) is a non-physical substance inhabiting your physical body, others hold that your mind is simply a part of your body: it’s your brain by another name. Perhaps surprisingly, neither view is very popular today. In this tutorial, you’ll learn why that is, and what other views are available. Along the way, you’ll ask if others have a mind, too, and how you can be sure about this. Is a squid’s pain or pleasure anything like yours? Could you be mistaken about whether you’re in pain? Could you be mistaken about what you’re thinking? Are thoughts more like sentences, or more like pictures? How does your environment shape the contents of your thoughts?

  • 010903 For God’s Sake: The Philosophy of Religion

    There are some philosophical issues that all monotheistic religions must face. One concerns the very nature of God. What is meant by the claim that He is omnipotent, omniscient, beneficent, and infinite? Could a being exist that has all these properties?

    A second issue is the evidence for God’s existence. To examine this issue, you’ll consider some of the traditional arguments for and against God’s existence, such as arguments from the design of the universe, the occurrence of miracles, and the issue of evil. You’ll ask whether a theist can adequately explain evil and suffering; whether there is any evidence for the existence of God; and whether we can rationally believe in God without such evidence.

    Finally, you might be curious about the nature of religious experience and language: What does it mean to have a religious experience? How can one adequately speak about the divine, if at all? Are religion and science reconcilable? Are religious views and experiences gender-neutral? If they are not, how does gender shape religious concerns, conceptual schemes, and spiritual practices?

  • 010905 Aesthetics

    In this tutorial we read key texts on the philosophy of art to explore the main themes in Aesthetics: definition of art, place of expression in art, nature of representation in art, and relationship between art and the natural world. We discuss different perspectives on what art is and the role it plays in our lives. Does art reflect the idea of beauty, god or truth? Should it be determined by non-artistic motives or remain autonomous? Could it serve as a bridge across time, space and cultures? Would it unite people through shared emotions and thoughts? Does it represent a human condition or imply a kind of immortality? Selected authors include Kant, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Kierkegaard, Benjamin, Adorno, Bourdieu, Derrida and Deleuze.

  • 010917 Language Games and How to Play them: Wittgenstein

    Wittgenstein is one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth Century, both in Europe and the Anglo-American world. In the 1930s, he announced his break with the tradition of philosophy. At the same time, he announced the emergence, with his new work, of a ‘kink’ or revolutionary move in the evolution of philosophy, comparable to a revolutionary shift in the sciences. The course focuses on his major later work, the Philosophical Investigations. You’ll develop an in-depth understanding of the issues and arguments discussed there, an awareness of his particular style and method of philosophising, and a grasp of the distinctive role of his thought in the history of philosophy. Topics covered might include: the nature of language; meaning and understanding; rule following; private language and our ordinary sensation language; sense perception and seeing aspects; the nature of thought; the mental and its relation to behaviour; other minds; and the nature, method, and style of philosophy.

  • 010926 Becoming a Woman: Philosophy and Feminism

    How can feminist thinking contribute to our understanding of the social world we inhabit, and to the gender issues we face within it? The course offers you a general overview of key issues and debates in feminist philosophy. You’ll first familiarise yourself with its characteristic agenda and concerns, indicating the breadth and diversity of feminist thinking. You will then cover a range of contemporary feminist approaches to metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, ethics, and political philosophy. You might apply these approaches to more practical issues concerning, for example, sexuality, pornography, or surrogacy. You’ll think about questions central to feminist thought: What is gender? What is sex? How should these and other social categories be understood? How does gender interact with other individual features, such as race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality? Do men and women have distinctive ways of knowing and being? Do traditional accounts of knowledge discount the experience of oppressed groups? If knowledge is influenced by gender, how is objective knowledge possible, if at all? How does gender influence moral and political thinking? How can individuals and institutions adequately address traditional feminist issues such as the gendered division of labour, sexuality, prostitution, reproduction, or surrogacy?

0110 - Theology and Religion

AXESS Code 196B

Many Oxford undergraduates are studying theology because they plan to be ordained, and it is important to bear in mind that there are both faith-based and secular approaches to study in this department. Oftentimes Stanford students are interested in studying a philosophical topic that is considered by Oxford to be primarily theological, such as the Christian existentialism of Kierkegaard, and will find themselves working with a theology tutor. Some umbrella topics under which theology tutorials are taught: