University of Oxford in popular culture
The University of Oxford is the setting for numerous works of fiction. Quickly becoming part of the cultural imagination, Oxford was mentioned in fiction as early as 1400 when Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales referred to a "Clerk [student] of Oxenford": "For him was levere have at his beddes heed/ Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,/ of Aristotle and his philosophie/ Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie". By 1989, 533 Oxford-based novels had been identified, and the number continues to rise.
Literary works include:
- Gaudy Night, a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers (who was herself a graduate of Somerville).
- Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is set in Oxford, where main characters read history at Hertford College and Christ Church respectively.
- A Staircase in Surrey, a quintet of novels by J. I. M. Stewart.
- A series of whodunnits by Veronica Stallwood, including Oxford Blue, Oxford Exit, etc.
- The His Dark Materials trilogy of Philip Pullman (alternative reality)
- The Reluctant Cannibals by Ian Flitcroft
- The Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter is set in Oxford and frequently refers to the University (although most of the college names are fictional).
- An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
- Where the Rivers Meet, a trilogy of novels by John Wain
- Loss and Gain, by John Henry Newman
- The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon takes place in a dystopian, ruined Oxford. The names of the colleges are used as house names.
- Tom Brown at Oxford, by Thomas Hughes
- Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerbohm
- Jill, by Philip Larkin
- Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout/All Clear, and the short story Fire Watch, by Connie Willis
- Accident, by Nicholas Mosley; the novel served as the basis for the film of the same name, which is mentioned below
- The Soulbane Stratagem, by Norman Jetmundsen; set at Magdalen College in Oxford
- The Children of Men, by P. D. James, has a protagonist, Dr. Theo Faron, who is an Oxford don and much of the first half of the novel is set in Oxford, frequently describing the surroundings of the University and town.
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald; refers to Trinity Quad at Trinity College and Merton College Library at Merton College
- Not a penny more not a penny less, by Jeffrey Archer; An important part of the novel is set at Oxford on the day of Encaenia.
For a list of fictional colleges of the University of Oxford, see List of fictional Oxford colleges.
Many poets have also been inspired by the University:
- The Oxford Sausage was an anthology published in 1764 and edited by Thomas Warton. The Glamour of Oxford (1911) is a collection of verse and prose edited by William Angus Knight, and another anthology — Seccombe and Scott's In Praise of Oxford (1912) — spans two volumes. More recent compilations include Oxford and Oxfordshire in Verse (1983) and Oxford in Verse (1999) (see 'Further Reading').
- 'Duns Scotus' Oxford' is one of Gerard Manley Hopkins' better-known poems.
Films set in the University include:
- A Chump at Oxford (1940) starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
- Accident (1967), film about an Oxford don, co-written by Harold Pinter
- Sebastian (1968), film about an Oxford don, who runs the decoding section of British Intelligence in the late 60s
- May Morning (1970), a critique of social mores in early 1970s Oxford
- Incense for the Damned (1972), starring Peter Cushing, Patrick Macnee and Edward Woodward (based on the novel Doctors Wear Scarlet by Simon Raven)
- Brideshead Revisited (1981), based on Waugh's novel; a miniseries enormously popular in Britain and America, the film has sometimes been seen as drawing unwanted attention to Oxford's stereotypical reputation as a playground of the upper classes. It stars Jeremy Irons, and most college shots are of Christ Church and Hertford.
- Oxford Blues (1984), starring Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy and Amanda Pays
- American Friends (1991), starring Michael Palin
- Shadowlands (1993), starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, about the life of C. S. Lewis
- The Madness of King George (1994), with Nigel Hawthorne
- Tom & Viv (1994), a film which explores the troubled relationship between T. S. Eliot (played by Willem Dafoe) and his mentally ill wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood (Miranda Richardson)
- True Blue (1996), about the mutiny at the time of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race of 1987
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), a James Bond sequel starring Pierce Brosnan (Bond returns to Oxford to brush up on his Danish.)
- The Saint (1997), film starring Val Kilmer as the sleuth Simon Templar
- Wilde (1997), film about the outlandish playwright starring Stephen Fry, Jude Law and Vanessa Redgrave
- The Red Violin (1998), the violin arrives in Oxford after being given to an English lord
- Iris (2001), starring Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet, about the life of Iris Murdoch
- National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2: Rise of Taj (2006), under the name of "Camford"
- What A Girl Wants (2003), movie about a vivacious teenager called Daphne who goes to visit her father in London, only to learn he is a lord. Eventually she attends Oxford University, just like her father.
- New York Minute (2004), A teenage girl goes through hurdles to obtain a scholarship to Oxford.
- The History Boys (film) (2008) movie about a group of boys applying to do history at Oxford. Set in 1983 and based on the play by Alan Bennett.
- The Oxford Murders (film) (2007) starring Elijah Wood and John Hurt.
- Blue Blood (2007)
- The Golden Compass (film) (2007)
- An Education (2009)
- X-Men: First Class (2011)
- The Riot Club (2014)
This list does not include movies in which university buildings appeared as a backdrop but were not depicted as the University of Oxford, such as the Harry Potter movies and the earlier Young Sherlock Holmes.
- Law and Order: Criminal Intent" - Recurring character Nicole Wallace is a visiting lecturer from Oxford.
- Lewis - set in Oxford.
- Lost - character Daniel Faraday is depicted as a student of Oxford, and later a professor of physics at The Queen's College.
- Rumpole of the Bailey - Rumpole attended Keble College. His son Nick later studied sociology at Oxford.
- The X-Files - male lead Fox Mulder is shown to be a graduate of Oxford.
- Yes Minister - Sir Humphrey Appleby, GCB, KBE, MVO, MA (Oxon), attended the fictional Baillie College.
- Madam Secretary - Jareth Glover, intended son-in-law of Secretary of State Dr Elizabeth McCord (later potential Vice-President candidate), is expected to take up a fellowship.
In other media
- Charley's Aunt, an 1892 farce by Brandon Thomas.
- The adventure video game Gray Matter takes place in Oxford University.
- Oxford in Fiction: an annotated bibliography, Judy G. Batson