Student standing in front of the Radcliffe Camera with one hand on her hip

Tutorials are the cornerstone of the Virginia Program at Oxford experience. Replicating the tutorial system at Oxford, VPO tutorials are weekly, intensive, one-hour seminar meetings between one professor and three students. Your group will have an English and a History tutorial each week. You will alternate between writing a paper for your English and History tutorials (writing one paper per week), but you will prepare readings for both of your tutorials each week. Tutorials allow you to share, test, defend, and rethink your ideas about a particular topic. You will grow as a writer, speaker, and thinker.

This short video produced by Oxford University addresses the basics of the tutorial system.

Sample VPO Tutorial Assignments


Essay title: “The Prince is the life, the head and the authority of everything that be done in this realm of England,” wrote Sir Thomas Smith in De Republica Anglorum. Is this an adequate description of the government of Elizabethan England?

As you tackle this topic, consider the following questions: Did Elizabeth rule as well as reign? How extensive was her authority in theory and in practice?   How far did her gender constrain the queen’s role?  What functions did the royal court, parliament, and council play in the formulation of policy? How much control did the centre have over its unpaid representatives in the localities–the Justices of the Peace (JPs), Lords, and Deputy Lieutenants? Which ideology bound together the various elements of the Elizabethan polity?


Cole, M. H. The Portable Queen: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Ceremony, chs 6-7.

Collinson, Patrick. “The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 69 (1987), reprinted in his Elizabethan Essays (1994)

Collinson, P. (ed.) The Sixteenth Century 1485-1603 (2001).

Elton, G. R. “Tudor Government: The Points of Contact” (three essays on Parliament, Council, and Court), Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. 1974, 1975, 1976.

Haigh, Christopher. Elizabeth I, 2nd edition, especially ch. 7.

Smith, A. Hassell. Court and Country: Government and Politics in Norfolk, 1558-1603, Part II.

Williams, Penry. “The Crown and the Counties,” in C. Haigh, ed., The Reign of Elizabeth I.

Williams, Penry. The Later Tudors, ch. 5.



Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Produced 1588? 1592? Two alternate versions of the play of which you must be aware: the shorter 1604 and the longer 1616 text. See W. W. Greg’s parallel text (1950) and Keith Walker’s edition (1973). The Penguin paperback edition (ed. J. B. Steane) is acceptable; or any other recent annotated edition. If you have time, read other plays by Marlowe, especially Tamburlaine the Great and The Jew of Malta.

Secondary Reading:

Friedereich, Kenneth. “A Poet and a Filthy Play-maker”: New Essays on Christopher Marlowe. New York, 1988.

O’Neill, Judith, ed. Critics on Marlowe. London, 1969.

Sales, Roger. Christopher Marlowe. Basingstoke, 1992.

Sanders, Wilbur. The Dramatist and the Received Idea. Cambridge, 1968.

Steane, J. B. Marlowe: A Critical Study. Cambridge, 1964.

Tydeman, William. Christopher Marlowe: A Guide Through the Critical Maze. Bristol, 1989.

Essay Topics

  1. How far is Dr. Faustus responsible for his own damnation?
  2. “Dr. Faustus should be a heroic figure, but he is not.” Discuss.
  3. Doctor Faustus has many comic scenes. Do these enhance or detract from the play’s central concerns? Explain.
  4. Does Dr. Faustus affirm or deny the values of Christian faith?