English Literature

MA or PGDip or PGCert

Start dates: September 2024 / September 2025

Full time: PGCert: 4 months, PGDip: 9 months, MA: 12 months

Part time: PGCert: 2 semesters, PGDip: 3 semesters, MA: 24 months

Location: Headington

Department(s): School of Education, Humanities and Languages

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Are you ready to take your love of English literature to a higher level?

On the MA English Literature course at Oxford Brookes, you’ll explore everything from Elizabethan lyrics to New York stories. You’ll consider social issues such as gender, sexuality, and mental health through a literary lens. Your dissertation will enable you to explore an area you’re fascinated by, with expert support. On top of that, you’ll study in one of the world’s great literary cities.

We are a close-knit community. We prioritise small teaching groups, the sharing of ideas, and mature dialogue. Problem solving and critical thinking are key features of the course. Our staff are internationally recognised experts, meaning that you’ll be supported by specialists in most areas of English literature.

You’ll graduate with a greatly enhanced understanding of English literature, as well as critical thinking and research tools to thrive in any future career.

We like to give students the opportunity to showcase their work when applying for this course. Please include a writing sample with your application.

Attend an open day or webinar Ask a question Order a prospectus

Three students outside discussing

Why Oxford Brookes University?

  • Trained writers

    Our academic staff are respected in their fields and have broad writing experience.

  • Course flexibility

    Create your own specialist pathway based around your specific interests.

  • Research communities

    Benefit from a programme of conferences, public events, and lectures.

  • Small group seminars

    These help to build trust among peers and tutors.

  • The Bodleian Library

    You’ll gain full reader access to the world-renowned Bodleian Library.

Course details

Course structure

The MA English Literature course is made up of one compulsory core module, two elective modules and a dissertation.

The core module – Critical Debates and Methods – helps you make the transition from undergraduate to graduate-level work. You’ll learn about the different approaches to theory and method in English studies.

Your two elective modules will be taken from a wide range of choices. These include Transatlantic Poetry, Victorian Childhood, Shakespeare and his Legacies, and the Romantic 'Nature' Writing.

For your Independent Study module, you’ll have the fantastic opportunity to explore an area of literature that interests you. You’ll design, research, and write a dissertation of up to 15,000 words. Each step of the way, you’ll be supported by an academic tutor who has specialist knowledge in your area.

The department also has several collaborative research communities. We support our postgraduate students with a programme of conferences, public events, and lectures.

Lecture theatre

Learning and teaching

On this course, you’ll learn through:

  • Small-group seminars
  • Collaborative workshops
  • Individual tutorials.

Your classes will take place in the evenings, with sessions often running from 6:30pm to 9:00pm.

As a full-time student your classes are on two evenings per week and you’ll spend 30 hours per week in independent study.

Or if you’re a part-time student, your class is on one evening per week and you’ll spend an extra 12-15 hours per week in independent study.


You’ll be assessed by written work and oral presentations. There are no exams.

Study modules

On the MA, you’ll take a total of four modules, including:

  • one compulsory core module
  • two elective modules
  • a dissertation.

Taught modules

Compulsory modules

  • Critical Debates and Methods

    This core module in advanced literary studies helps you make the transition from undergraduate to graduate-level work. You’ll learn about a variety of perspectives on theory and method in English studies, and you’ll acquire the advanced study skills needed to engage in independent research. You’ll also be trained in using electronic research resources. 

    As well as this, you’ll address questions of canonisation: who decides what and how we read, in university and beyond? What constitutes ‘important’ literature? How do critical responses to it emerge? And what problems and opportunities do these responses pose for your postgraduate study in English Literature?

Optional modules

Queer Cities

In this module, you'll have the opportunity to explore urban fiction and you'll read and explore a range of LGBTQA+ sexualities and identities. 

You'll examine how the city space frames and interpolates subjectivities, including the negotiation of non-normative sexualities in such spaces. You'll read texts from the last one hundred years and you'll gain familiarity with both textual and contextual analysis, advancing your theoretical understanding of approaches to reading texts.

Romantic Nature Writing and its Afterlife

The Romantics (1789-1832) discovered ‘nature’, especially wild ‘nature’, and defined it as something magical or amazing, something powerful, with the potential to enrich humans as living beings. In this module, you'll look at the way ‘nature’ changed during this period and you'll explore a selection of works by Romantic writers. You'll go on to the legacy of the Romantic conception of nature, and its adaptation in Victorian, twentieth-century and contemporary ‘nature’ writing. 

You'll examine the representation of ‘nature’ and the many different, themed and formal approaches by different writers, for example in the work of contemporary Black and Asian British writers such as Elizabeth-Jane Burnett or Jini Reddy.

Madness, Psychoanalysis and Writing

In this module, you'll study the representation of madness within literature, demystifying madness as a medical construct and questioning simplistic notions of mental health. You will explore understanding of the binary opposition of sanity/insanity and how madness is produced and reinforced through forms of cultural representation.

You’ll explore the complex interconnections between literature and discourses of insanity, examining the relationship between writing and identity-formation, including the inter-relationship between social, medical and historical constructions of insanity. You'll investigate ideas around selfhood in language, gender and madness. 

Using the study skills you've developed, you'll contextualise your study with reference to psychoanalytical and theoretical positions established by:

  • Bakhtin
  • Foucault
  • Freud
  • Kristeva 
  • and Lacan.

Humans and Other Animals

In this module, you will explore the representation of interaction between humans and other animals in a range of novels, short stories and poems written during the long twentieth century. The full implication of Darwin’s discoveries will be examined in detail, as more artists and thinkers questioned the division between human and non-human animals, and the sense that humans are fundamentally no different from other animals began to emerge. You will consider some of the many literary texts of the period that represent non-human animals as antagonists, objects, vehicles to explore the human condition, or merely as a source of entertainment for humans. The reading list will also include depictive works that are much more critical of the human-animal opposition, and human treatment of non-human species.

Fallen Victorians: Aestheticism and Decadence

In this module you will  how the writing of the Aesthetes and Decadents challenged Victorian social, moral and artistic conventions. You'll examine key theoretical and critical interventions of the period, from John Ruskin, Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde and consider these alongside poems, novels and dramas by Charles Baudelaire, Michael Field, Vernon Lee, and others. 

The relationship between the written word and visual culture will be explored in detail. You'll also engage with paintings, illustrations, posters, periodical design and advertising. You'll study why the interaction of different art forms both excited and unsettled viewers and readers.

Artists you will look at include Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Simeon Solomon, James McNeill Whistler and others.


Shakespeare and the Emotions

You'll focus on the emotions as a novel way of approaching Shakespeare’s works in their original contexts and in the present. This is in tandem with the recent interest in some of the most urgent debates in Shakespearean studies, around race, gendered identity and class. 

You'll explore the emotional and passionate experience, as an animating and sometimes alienating force within the plays and poems. You'll engage with Shakespeare’s works in film and live performance including in text, so you can explore the continuing vitality of Shakespeare for our sense of who we are, and who we are to become.

The Fervent Thirties: American Literature and Culture during the Great Depression

W.H. Auden called it a ‘low dishonest decade’. The American Thirties was a time of Depression, political struggle, and the build-up to an international crisis. But it was also one of the most fervent and creative passages in American history. It was a moment when artists reflected on what it meant to be American - questions and challenges that remain deeply relevant today - and when they felt compelled to represent all Americans in their work, regardless of race, wealth, gender, or sexuality.

This elective ranges widely across work produced in the period 1930-1941, focussing particularly on the interrogation of American identity; the new style of documentary literature; the resurgence of Southern literature in works by the Agrarians; and the American Civil War as a reference point for writers.

Students will be encouraged to explore other forms of culture produced during this period too, such as photography, painting, music, and film.


The Romantic Political Aesthetic: Empire, Slavery, and Liberty

In this module, you will investigate the relationship between Romantic literature and politics, exploring how the aesthetic of the period was political in nature. You will examine the ways writers explored liberty, empire, slavery, and representations of the ‘other’, including women, the masses and non-white peoples (especially Africans). 

You will examine a range of literature, including the (Gothic) novel, poetry, slave narratives, memoirs, essays and political tracts, studying these within their historical and cultural contexts. You'll investigate how writers responded to the tensions caused by Britain’s claims to be a land of liberty, versus its imperial ambitions, slavery, and its treatment of women and the poor. 

You will challenge notions of Romantic art as transcendent, by contextualising works within their intellectual, political, and historical contexts. You will then explore how concerns at the time informed and influenced the works of ‘literary’ writers.


Transatlantic Lines: Modern and Contemporary Poetry

In this module, you'll trace the transatlantic interconnections and negotiations, between modernist and later poetries. Including addressing issues of gender and performance. 

You'll study an inclusive range of poets operating in the transatlantic and Black Atlantic space including poetry and poetics from an intersectional perspective. This will help you build a foundation of knowledge on major ideas about poetry. From recent times to the present day. You'll also study recent theoretical approaches to poetry including digital and multimodal works.

Urban Jungle: the American City in Modern and Postmodern Literature and Culture

New York, Chicago, Los Angeles: three of the greatest urban centres in America and the world. You'll explore writers and artists of the twentieth century who represented urban America in novels, poetry, drama, short stories, essays and a graphic novel. You'll also look at modernist authors such as John Dos Passos and postmodernists like Paul Auster, who have experimented with style and form to depict the bright neons and dark alleyways of the city. 

You'll study beyond the bounds of traditional literary criticism, drawing on theoretical, philosophical, and geographical writings about space and place. You’ll build your understanding of how different urban spaces influenced presentations of gender, sexuality, economic and racial differences including the relationship between the native-born and immigrants to the United States. You'll also look at the formation of communities in the cities and how the depiction of tensions are explored between them.

Victorian Childhoods

In this module, you will explore how a range of Victorian and early twentieth-century authors, including Lewis Carroll and Thomas Hardy, responded to shifting parameters in how they represented the child in their works. Looking at a variety of literary genres; from realist novels to ghost stories, children’s literature, spiritualist tracts and writings on childhood psychology, as well as aspects of visual culture, sentimental paintings, photography and a range of psychoanalytic texts, we will analyse how the figure of the child emerges as central to a variety of cultural registers, but at the same time is typically also portrayed as elusive.

You’ll use the representations of the children in these texts as starting points for thinking about broader Victorian concerns of innocence, sentimentality, nostalgia and loss.Topics of particular interest may include dreams, mourning and anxiety, amongst others. Psychoanalytic readings will be drawn from Freud, Klein, Riviere, Bowlby and others.


Shakespeare and his Legacies

We aim to extend your familiarity with Shakespeare's work and his literary and cultural legacy. You’ll examine key conceptual issues within the field of Shakespeare studies including historicism, the status of the Shakespearean text, the 'truth claims' made by Shakespeare in his work and the process of recuperating Shakespeare's legacy.

You’ll focus on a number of recurring themes in Shakespeare's work, including the status of knowledge and literary authority, the relationship between love and desire, and the construction of gender. You’ll also examine the literary appropriation of Shakespeare by a range of readers and critics from the 17th to the 21st centuries. We’ll encourage you to place Shakespeare's work within competing historical contexts as a way of problematising current approaches to Shakespeare.


Independent Study

This is a great chance to design your own course of study, allowing you to explore an area of literature that fascinates you. You’ll start by producing a detailed project plan, to be agreed with your supervisor and module leader. You’ll develop high-level research skills, manage your own schedule and produce well-structured, articulate work at master’s level. Examples of independent study have included:

  • Ecocriticism and Science Fiction
  • Poetry and Politics of the Great Depression
  • Class in the Black Arts Movement
  • Representations of the Witch and Gender in 19th Century fiction
  • Word, Image, and Woman in Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Ghosts in Shakespeare
  • Contemporary Metafiction: Auster, Danielewski, McEwan.

Final project

Compulsory modules

  • Dissertation

    This is your chance to undertake an advanced in-depth study of a topic of your choice from English Literature. You’ll design, research and write a dissertation of up to 15,000 words, supervised by a member of academic staff with specialist expertise in the area. The dissertation project allows you to demonstrate both a high level of skill in research and your ability to write articulately at master’s level. You’ll also strengthen your project management skills as you complete your self-defined task and maintain your long-term work schedule.

Please note: As our courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you can choose from may vary from those shown here. The structure of the course may also mean some modules are not available to you.


The School of Education, Humanities and Languages has several collaborative research communities, including:

We support our doctoral students and encourage wide participation both through our partnerships and our busy programme of conferences, public events and lectures.

Research students are supervised by a team of tutors, including a director of studies and at least one other supervisor.

Research supervision is offered in the following areas:

  • Romantic writing
  • Contemporary literature
  • The pre-raphaelites
  • American literature avant-garde writing
  • Witchcraft in the 19th century
  • John Clare and eco-criticism
  • Ben Jonson
  • Shakespeare
  • Theatre and science
  • Utopias
  • Thomas More
  • Modernist Poetry
  • Stylistics
  • Victorian religion
  • Literature and technology
  • Literature as therapy
  • Literature and war.
Student studying in the library


Our graduates are highly valued by employers for their creative, research, and critical thinking skills. They go on to work in various sectors of the economy including:

  • PR, marketing and communications
  • NGOs and charities
  • research
  • teaching
  • higher education
  • publishing
  • media and journalism.

In recent years, MA English Literature graduates have gone on to work for companies and organisations such as:

  • The British Museum
  • Better Pathways
  • the Chartered Institute for IT
  • Blue Zoo Animation Studio.

Student profiles

Our Staff

Dr Eric White

Eric White works on American modernism in the transatlantic context, and his research focuses on avant-garde writing, literary networks, and technology

Read more about Eric

Professor Nicole Pohl

Nicole Pohl has published and edited books on women's utopian writing in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, European salons and epistolarity.

Read more about Nicole

Entry requirements

International qualifications and equivalences

How to apply

Application process

All applicants should send their writing sample in English – together with the application form.

Tuition fees

Please see the fees note
Home (UK) full time
£9,150 (Masters); £8,150 (Diploma); £4,575 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International full time

Home (UK) full time
£9,600 (Masters); £8,600 (Diploma); £4,800 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

2024 / 25
Home (UK) full time
£9,150 (Masters); £8,150 (Diploma); £4,575 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International full time

2025 / 26
Home (UK) full time
£9,600 (Masters); £8,600 (Diploma); £4,800 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

+44 (0)1865 534400


Fees quoted are for the first year only. If you are studying a course that lasts longer than one year, your fees will increase each year.

The following factors will be taken into account by the University when it is setting the annual fees: inflationary measures such as the retail price indices, projected increases in University costs, changes in the level of funding received from Government sources, admissions statistics and access considerations including the availability of student support.

How and when to pay

Tuition fee instalments for the semester are due by the Monday of week 1 of each semester. Students are not liable for full fees for that semester if they leave before week 4. If the leaving date is after week 4, full fees for the semester are payable.

  • For information on payment methods please see our Make a Payment page.
  • For information about refunds please visit our Refund policy page

Financial support and scholarships

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences believes strongly in the importance of making a difference to the world of our students, and in the ability and potential of our students to make a difference in the world. The Dean's Scholarship is one small way in which we make that belief tangible.

International students can apply for our International Students Scholarship.

For general sources of financial support, see our Fees and funding pages.

Additional costs

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course are detailed below.

Programme changes:
On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our changes to programmes page.