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Living Literary History in Oxford

Written by Great Books on Thursday, November 8, 2018

Living Literary History in Oxford

Live the literature! Great Book’s Oxford program takes students on an adventure-filled journey through English literature. Each morning begins with university-style seminars. reading classic texts, engaging in deep conversations and debate while honing critical thinking skills. Afternoons are spent exploring the bookish treasures found throughout Oxford. Two days are spent heading out of town to visit key points of interest in the English countryside. Everywhere you turn, there is another piece of captivating literary history to be discovered and understood. Join us for a preview of our favorite sites and the authors and literary works to which they are ascribed.


The Eagle & Child Pub - C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien

Cloisters at New College

A standout Oxford landmark is The Eagle and Child public house. This was a frequent meeting place for the Inklings, an Oxford writers' group which included C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Hugo Dyson. They visited regularly on Monday or Tuesday around lunchtime at the Eagle and Child, in a private lounge at the back of the pub known as the 'Rabbit Room.'

The formal meetings ended in October 1949 when interest in the readings finally petered out. but the meetings at the Eagle and Child continued and it was at one of those meetings in June 1950 that C.S. Lewis distributed the proofs for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Known locally as “the Bird and the Baby,” the Eagle and Child is a great place to stop for sustenance and literary inspiration. We recommend the cheddar, potato, and spinach pie.


Christ Church College - Lewis Carroll

Christ Church College

Christ Church College is one of the most outstanding literary landmarks within Oxford’s 38 constituent colleges. This is where Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) first met the Dean of the College’s daughter, Alice Liddell, who became the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland .

Christ Church College was used in the filming of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter movies series and also the film adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel Northern Lights (the film bearing the title of the American edition of the book, The Golden Compass ).

There are also a number of notable alumni who attended Christ Church. They include 13 British prime ministers (more than any other Oxbridge college), King Edward VII, King William II of the Netherlands, 17 archbishops, writers Lewis Carroll and W.H. Auden, philosopher John Locke, and scientist Robert Hooke.


Alice’s Shop and Café Loco

Cafe Loco

Right across from Christ Church College are two shops dedicated to all things Alice in Wonderland .

The first, Alice’s Shop, was the inspiration of the Sheep’s Shop that Alice visits in Through the Looking Glass.  Alice's Shop is where the real Alice bought her sweets 150 years ago. The shop is one of the most tangible links to an entire episode in the Alice in Wonderland adventures. It offers lovers of the stories a moment of intimate connection with the World of Alice as well as an insight into Carroll’s creation.

Next door is Café Loco,  a European style cafe nestling in a 500-year-old building in the center of Oxford. This Alice in Wonderland themed tea shop lets you immerse yourself in a traditional cream tea with a Mad Hatter twist.


New College - Harry Potter

New College

If you walk fifteen minutes north of Christ Church College, you arrive at New College, another constituent college of Oxford. This historical institution served as a backdrop in filming multiple scenes of the Harry Potter movies.

Our favorite spot at New College is the cloisters, which are beautiful on their own, and even more exciting when you realize you’re standing by the very tree where Mad Eye Moody turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret in The Goblet of Fire.

Many of its buildings are listed as being of special architectural or historical importance and, today, the college is one of Oxford's most widely visited.

New College alumni include novelists John Fowles, Patrick Gale, Adam Thirlwell, and Peter Hobbs.


Blackwell’s Bookshop

Blackwell's Bookshop

Blackwell’s is a required destination for any bibliophile. The shop’s small façade belies the magical mountains of books hidden inside. A visit to Blackwell’s starts out normally enough: you enter the first floor of what looks like a perfectly normal bookstore. Then you turn a corner and find a staircase. At the end, a gigantic room of books…and another staircase.

Be on the lookout for the “Norrington Room,” named after Sir Arthur Norrington, the President of Trinity College. It room boasts three miles (5 km) of shelving and at 10,000 square feet merited an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single room selling books.

It’s hard to find the end of this amazing bookstore. Blackwell’s also has its own art shop, a cartography room, an entire print music store, and more book-loving gifts and memorabilia that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.



Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) - William Shakespeare


Imagine reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth in morning seminar and then seeing it performed live that afternoon in the very town he was born. That is just part of the magic of our Literary Oxford program.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) is a 1,040+ seat thrust stage theatre owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company dedicated to the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is located in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon–Shakespeare's birthplace–in the English Midlands, beside the River Avon. 

The theater is a "one-room" theater, which allows the actors and the audience to share the same space, as they did when Shakespeare's plays were first produced. The stage reaches out into the audience, who are seated on three sides of it. This one-room theatre creates a more traditional Shakespearean performance area, allowing the audience to draw closer to the actors and creating a more personal theatre experience.


Warwick Castle - Historical Experience

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is where students can experience more than 1,100 years of jaw-dropping history, magic, myth, and adventure in one place! This medieval fortress was developed from an original built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It is located in Warwickshire, England, situated on a bend of the River Avon.

The original wooden motte-and-bailey castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. During the Hundred Years War, the facade opposite the town was refortified, resulting in one of the most recognizable examples of 14th-century military architecture.

Students tour the mighty towers test their courage in the Castle Dungeon, peacefully stroll through the beautiful gardens or witness the colossal catapult. The Might Trebuchet is an authentic recreation of one of the biggest and most deadly military machines of all time.


Stonehenge - Lore & Mystery


Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, 7 feet (2.1 m) wide and weighing around 25 tons. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. The site is considered to be a British cultural icon. The history of its creation is imbued with folklore and legend. Mythological accounts include:

  • The Devil bought the stones from a woman in Ireland, wrapped them up, and brought them to Salisbury Plain
  • The infamous Wizard Merlin reconstructed the site to use the rocks’ healing properties
  • The monument was erected as a sign of remorse for misdeeds in war


Cultural Explorations - Iconic Landmarks


In addition to literary trips, students also take part in activities to immerse themselves into the culture of England.

They embark on a scavenger hunt to identify and photograph themselves at scenic landmarks and pop culture attractions that include the red phone booth, a serious pose on Logic Lane, and finding memorabilia of the royal family.

A separate excursion to the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse helps students learn more about a favorite British past time, called punting. A punt is an open, flat-bottomed boat with square ends and it is propelled by a long pole.




Learn More - Join Us

Are you interested in visiting these amazing sites of English literary history? Join us at Oxford for an unforgettable summer of literature and history abroad.

Category : Oxford

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