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The Languages course is run by Pembroke College, University of Oxford, in close collaboration with colleagues from Queen Mary University of London and Princeton University. It is aimed at pupils who wish to study any language at university, either from advanced level or ab initio (from scratch). It is a course that aims to enhance students' skills in both language and literary analysis, including questions of philosophy, gender studies, politics, history and identity. In essence, it mimics a university-style programme of the study of Languages.

The seminar series for this course is themed around the theme, "Languages, Literature and Identity." Students will be set a book in the language they are studying at A Level (or a book in English of the language they wish to study ab initio) which they will read alongside a seminar series examining questions of identity and writing the self:

To apply for the Languages course, there are two steps. Both of these are compulsory.

1) Fill in this application form

2) Answer the following question in response to the prompt. You must write a one-page essay (one side of paper) using size 12 font. 

You must submit your completed essay to before 9am on 1st November.

Late submissions will not be considered.

Before proceeding to the extracts in the theme you are interested in, you should read the following:


REMEMBER: This is simply a device to allow us to get (a) a sense of your understanding and approach to an unfamiliar exercise that you are unlikely to have encountered at school or college  and (b) find out your approach to writing or/and problem solving. 

What is a Gobbet?  

It is a short commentary relating to a piece of primary evidence, a passage of literature, an ancient image, an artefact etc. or (included in this instance) a science or mathematics-based question.  

A response to a gobbet is an analytical commentary on a brief extract from texts that you are probably not encountered before based on the themes of our intensive courses.

It should not be a wide-ranging essay and should be no more than a page in length. It does not require an introduction and a conclusion in the way an essay does. However, it should have a narrative arc; that is, the reader should note a structure and shape to what you have written. 

What you need to do above all is to extract as much meaning as you can from the text. Squeeze it until the pips squeak! In the case of science, what is the essence of the problem under review and how might it be solved. 

What is its purpose?  

The idea of a gobbet is for you to show that you less know something about the extract but that you can display curiosity, imagination, and enough intellectual independence to tackle material that you would have not necessarily have encountered before. It is a chance for you to show the examiner you can work critically, deploy the relevant knowledge that you do have and feel able to either assess the value of what they tell us or answer the problem with some flourish.  

No extract will be without bias of some kind, and none will give you the complete picture, so it is your job to identify that bias, establish the limits of the picture it gives us, and to extract information accordingly shaping it as you will.  

How do you write a Gobbet?  

Approach a gobbet like an upturned pyramid: start with the more general information and work toward the more specific. 



1. DON’T write an essay about the subject the piece relates to. If you are shown an extract, say from and eighteenth century ‘economist’, don’t just write an essay about she/he was. Say a little bit about him but also talk about the WHEN, WHERE and WHY the source was created.  

2. DON’T just paraphrase what is already in the piece. You need to evaluate that information as well, that is the point of a gobbet.   

3. DON’T get carried away writing a short biography of the author or the extended background to the scientific of mathematical problem: only include information on the author that is relevant to assessing the value of this particular piece; for example, don’t write a gobbet about a passage from Hume by writing down all you know about his life. The gobbet is about THIS PASSAGE, not Hume in general. Aspects of his life will be relevant to evaluating the information contained in the passage, so keep it to that.  

4. DON’T write an introduction and conclusion as you would with an essay.  


1. DO include cross-references to any other sources, written or otherwise, that you are aware of that contrast or corroborate with what is said in this piece 

2. DO be PRECISE, CONCISE and STRICT about only sticking to relevant information:  you’ve a limited time on each response 

Make one response from each extract in your chosen subject. You may seek to answer the accompanying ‘guide question’ or challenge it.

Respond to the extract and question below. Submit your response to before midnight on the 8th of November 2021.

"The term ‘autobiographical pact’ was coined by the French academic Philippe Lejeune in his search for a distinctive definition of the genre ‘autobiography’, which he contrasted with the genre of the novel (Lejeune 1971, 1975). Lejeune stated that we can only speak of an autobiography when a threefold identity is established: an “identité de nom entre l’auteur (tel qu’il figure, par son nom, sur la couverture), le narrateur du récit et le personnage don’t on parle” [“identity of name between the author (such as he figures, by his name, on the cover), the narrator of the story, and the character that is being talked about”] (Lejeune 1975, 23–24 [1989, 12]). What differentiates autobiography from fiction is that an autobiographical text posits this identity between writer, narrator and protagonist, whereas in fictional work we generally have to discern between the author and the narrator. Lejeune considers the stating of this identity in an autobiographical text as a kind of agreement between author and reader, an autobiographical pact. By presenting his/her text as an autobiography the author declares his/her commitment to the reader to write in such a serious way about his or her own life that the reader trusts that the author will tell him/her a true, and thus autobiographical, story."

Missinne, L. (2019). ‘Autobiographical Pact’ in Wagner-Egelhaaf, M. (ed.) Handbook of Autobiography/Autofiction, Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter

Is autobiography fiction? 

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