At Oxford students of classical reception in the final year of a specialist classics course write a 6000-word extended essay for which they get four weeks’ writing time; previous preparation includes a weekly lecture course on a wide area of classical reception (currently covering poetry in English since 1900) and three one-to-one sessions with a teacher, plus an extensive reading list. This framework raises some interesting questions. On what principles should we assemble a syllabus for such a subject? Students will need to be guided towards the most interesting modern works. How can we help our classical students to close the knowledge gap which they inevitably have in dealing with the modern end of reception?
In practice, their knowledge levels of literature in English will differ dramatically, and we need to be ready to help them with this. What is it reasonable to expect a student to cover in an extended essay of this type? It is crucial to help the student scope the work properly (we require treatment of at least three authors, one of which must be classical). How much assistance should a student get from a teacher? We find that three solo sessions is enough with adequate lecture and reading back-up. While the Oxford experience is a niche one, some generalizable conclusions can be drawn.