Earlier this month, the Oxford German Network launched their third annual ‘German Classic Prize’. This is an essay competition for sixth formers (those going from Year 12 into Year 13 over the summer), which is designed to explore and celebrate a different ‘classic’ German text each year.
This year, the prize focuses on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s ‘Der Sandmann’ (1816) – one of the most captivating short stories in German literature and a masterpiece of Gothic fiction. Hoffmann’s eerie and mysterious tale centres on a young, impressionable student called Nathanael, who becomes convinced that he is pursued by a shadowy figure called Coppelius. Filled with Doppelgänger, mechanical dolls, alchemistic experiments, inexplicable fires, uncanny optical toys, and misaddressed letters, ‘Der Sandmann’ explores the power of the imagination as it erupts into a dark obsession.
The Oxford German Network is offering free study packs to Year 12/ Lower Sixth students who wish to take part. You can find more details about this here – be sure to request a study pack by midday on 10 June 2019.
In connection with this prize, the Oxford German Network has also produced a fantastic video podcast series about the text. One of these videos forms part of a special tie-in with our Virtual Book Club.
The episode below is a discussion between doctoral student, Karolina, and three undergraduates about an extract from Hoffmann’s short story. The full story is available here, and the extract under discussion begins ‘Seltsamer und wunderlicher’ and runs until ‘nicht anzufangen.’
The Virtual Book Club is back, and this episode features a discussion of a text in French. Here, Junior Research Fellow, Macs, talks to undergraduates Isobel and Hector about a short extract from Rachid Boudjedra’s Topographie idéale pour une agression caractérisée (Paris: Denoël, 1975, pp. 173-4).
They consider questions such as:
What is the style of this passage? Is it difficult to read and understand and if so, why?
Is there a relationship between the style and what’s happening in the excerpt?
What kinds of translation take place in this passage?
How does the protagonist respond to the image of the lotus? Is it right to say that he’s reading the advertisement even though he’s supposedly illiterate? Is he misreading it? What would a “correct” reading of this advertisement look like?
What language skills are required to read a map or an advertisement?
If you would like to be sent a copy of the text so you can follow the discussion, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The next episode will be on German, and will be a special tie-in with this year’s German Classic Prize. Stay tuned…
In January, the Virtual Book Club returned with our first ever Spanish episode. Swift on its heels, here is the second episode of 2019, which focusses on Italian. This episode is a discussion of an extract from Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities), by Italo Calvino. The discussion is led by doctoral researcher Rebecca, with undergraduates Pauline and Maga. If you would like to sign up to receive a copy of the text, or to receive information about future episodes, please email email@example.com
Out last Italian episode is available here. Stay tuned for the next episodes in French and German over the next few months!
Good news, bookworms! After an extended hiatus while this year’s cohort of undergraduates settled into the academic year, the Virtual Book Club is back, this time with an episode focussing on Spanish. This episode features a discussion about an extract from El castigo sin venganza (Punishment Without Revenge), a seventeenth-century play by Lope de Vega.
The discussion is led by doctoral researcher Rebecca, with undergraduates Lottie and Hector. They consider how the extract deals with questions of masculinity, honour, and morality, and ask how our reading as a twenty-first-century audience might differ from that of an early modern audience. Sixth formers interested in the Medieval and Modern Languages course at Oxford might be interested to know that the course offers the opportunity to study literature throughout the ages, from the medieval to the present. This episode is designed to offer a glimpse into the early modern period, and how some of the central questions asked by writers at that time continue to resonate in new ways today.
If you would like to receive a copy of the text, which will be provided in both the original Spanish and an English translation, or if you would like future Virtual Book Club updates, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Virtual Book Club returns once more, this time with an episode focussing on German. The German episode features a discussion about a short story by Franz Kafka, ‘Der Kaufmann’ [The Tradesman]. Here, Joanna Raisbeck leads the discussion with undergraduates Hannah and Colleen, as they consider the questions: what is the tradesman worried about?; what does he think about in the lift?; and why do you think he has these thoughts in the lift?
If you would like to receive a copy of the text, which will be provided in both the original German and an English translation, or if you would like future Virtual Book Club updates, please email us at email@example.com
The Virtual Book Club returns once again, and this time with an episode in Portuguese. This episode features a discussion about the poem ‘Paisagem’ by Maria Manuela Margarido (1925 – 2007), which was translated by Julia Kirst in 1995. Margarido was from São Tomé and Príncipe. Throughout her writing life she spoke out against colonialism, becoming a prominent voice in the liberation of Portuguese colonies in Africa.
Here, doctoral student Alex discuss the text with two undergraduates, Clare and Ebere, looking at topics like anxiety about colonialism, the role of the poetic voice, and the use of surreal imagery.
If you would like to receive a copy of the poem (in both the original Portuguese and the English translation) to follow as you watch the discussion, or if you would like future Virtual Book Club updates, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Virtual Book Club is back once again, this time with an episode on Italian. The Italian episode features a discussion about a poem by Patrizia Cavalli, which was published in 1992. Here, doctoral student Nicolò Crisafi guides two undergraduates, Kirsty and Hannah, through the poem, looking at topics like gender, voice, and form.
If you would like to receive a copy of the poem to follow as you watch the discussion, or if you would like future Virtual Book Club updates, please email us at email@example.com
Last month saw the launch of our virtual book club with an episode in Russian.
This month, we’ve moved on to discuss an extract of a text written in French. This episode focuses on a passage from Suzanne Dracius’s La Virago. Dracius is an author and playwright who was born in the Caribbean island of Martinique, which is a French overseas territory. Dracisu grew up on the outskirts of Paris, and her writing draws on her dual heritage as both Caribbean and French.
Watch as Dr Vanessa Lee guides some undergraduates through a discussion of gender assumptions, narrative suspense, and reader expectations in this text, touching on details like the use of tenses and imagery. To receive a copy of the text, as well as future book club updates, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and school.
Last month, the Modern Languages Faculty at Oxford launched our virtual book club. For all you bookworms out there, this is a chance to engage more with literature beyond your school curriculum, and in languages other than English.
Each month we will focus on a different language but will always provide the text in translation, as well as in the original language. At the start of the month, we will circulate the texts chosen, which will be poems or short prose extracts, by email. At the end of the month we will upload a video discussion of the text with some of our academics and undergraduates.
The first episode focussed on a passage from the Russian novel The Naked Year, by Boris Pilnyak. It is available below. To receive a copy of the text or to sign up for future episodes, email us at email@example.com with your name and school.
A blog for students and teachers of Years 11 to 13, and anyone else with an interest in Modern Foreign Languages and Cultures, written by the staff and students of Oxford University. Updated every Wednesday!
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