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Number of students per year: 9 - 11 

Typical offer: A*AA at A-level or 7 7 6 (42+ overall) in the IB. For other qualifications, please click here.

Essential subjects: A-level/IB Higher Level or equivalent in English Literature.

(If English Literature isn't available at your school and you're studying the combined English Language and Literature course, please drop us an email at and we'll be very happy to discuss your options.)

Useful subjects: Modern or ancient languages and other essay-based subjects such as History will be good preparation for the English Literature course.

English at Clare

English at Clare extends beyond formal teaching. Fellows have been known to arrange subsidised visits to theatres in Cambridge and London; to turn seminars into communal play-readings; to invite directors to discuss their productions; to arrange for film evenings introduced by specialists in film studies. On two memorable evenings one summer, Dr Stillman and the English third-year students took over the college gardens to produce a site-specific, multi-media performance for voices of Tennyson’s poem Maud (complete with original music and the arrival of Death on a punt).

The Clare Actors company and the college Literary and Writing Society flourish in line with the enterprise of the students who run them. The tradition has sprung up of an annual English dinner.

But perhaps most valuable are the wholly informal ways in which students interact with each other – sharing literary enthusiasms, discussing ideas, reading each other’s writing, and appreciatively responding to the special qualities, intellectual and creative, which each English student brings, in her or his own way, to the table.

At Clare we do not teach according to any preferred line of approach, but see our role as being to help the students to discover their own interests and to clarify their own thinking.

Students are supervised in pairs or singly and this means that someone who has or who comes to develop particular interests – in theatre, for example, or music, or gender studies, or historical context, or philosophy, etc – will be able to slant their course of work accordingly.

English is a humane discipline, and as a student's skill and knowledge grow, supervisions will evolve away from the teacher-pupil situation towards being a sharing and comparing of experiences between equals, who have in common a strong love of literature. That is an ideal, but one which is frequently approached, and sometimes achieved.

Key People


Dr Ian Burrows

Director of Studies & College Teaching Officer (Part IA)

I mostly teach early modern literature, but I have a particular interest in drama — whether written in the early modern period or well outside it. For the last few years my research has considered the non-verbal aspects of dramatic performance and how they were translated into early modern print.

These interests have expanded to think more widely about the many ways in which we read the not-words of dramatic performance, considering in particular the methods by which playwrights explore and exploit the physicality of their actors.

I’ve explored the power dynamics and ethics bound up in those methods in a forthcoming book, Shakespeare for Snowflakes: On Slapstick and Sympathy (visit for more details).