Students have the option of pursuing an specialised pathway in Early Modern (Renaissance), Nineteenth Century, or Modern and Contemporary Literature, or they can take a combination of modules that matches their interests. The programme is flexible, allowing students to adapt it according to their needs and research ambitions.
Early Modern Literature
This specialisation allows you to focus your study on literary and cultural production from the 1500s to 1800s. It gives you the opportunity to take modules that examine in depth the historical, political and aesthetic contexts that influenced the making of the Renaissance period, but also the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries more generally.
The modules will consider specific thematic, generic and stylistic questions, allowing you to engage in depth with the plays and poems of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Topics will include the development of Renaissance print culture and theatre, the history of the body and the emotions in early modern literature, social class and popular literature, contemporary legacies of Renaissance culture, and a range of independent study options.
19th Century Literature and Culture
This pathway allows you to focus your study on the literary and cultural production of the 19th century. It gives you the opportunity to take modules that examine in depth the historical, political and aesthetic contexts that influenced the making of the Romantic and Victorian periods. This broad pathway enables analysis of a variety of forms of writing, and modules will be dedicated to specific thematic, generic and stylistic aspects of the century.
Topics covered will include the development of the romantic sensibility, the place of religion in the 19th century, the role of women in literature and culture, travel and empire, the limits and possibilities encompassed by the definitions of ‘Romantic’ and ‘Victorian’, and a range of independent study options.
Modern and Contemporary Writing and Culture
This pathway allows you to focus your study on literary and cultural production since the 1900s. It gives you the opportunity to take modules that examine in depth the historical, political and aesthetic contexts that influenced the making of the 20th and 21st centuries. This broad pathway enables analysis of prose, poetic and dramatic forms of writing from the Anglophone world, and in translation.
Modules will be dedicated to specific thematic, generic and stylistic aspects of the period and topics covered will include the modernist avant-garde; postmodern experimentation; landscape and the search for place; literature and madness; New York stories; the Irish novel; and a range of independent study options.
Shorter postgraduate courses in English Literature are also available (the Postgraduate Diploma and the Postgraduate Certificate) and it is possible to transfer between these courses.
All pathways within the MA in English Literature share the same structure, consisting of four modules: a compulsory core module, two elective modules and a dissertation. Postgraduate Diploma students take Modules 1, 2 and 3. Postgraduate Certificate students take Module 1 and one elective module.
Modules may change from time to time; an indicative list is shown below.
Critical Debates and Methods (English)
Every student takes this compulsory core module in advanced literary studies which is designed to help you make the transition from undergraduate to graduate-level work. You will be introduced to a variety of perspectives on theory and method in English studies, and you will acquire the advanced study skills needed to engage in independent research. You will also receive training in the use of electronic research resources. This module is taken in Semester 1 and is assessed by two written assignments.
Modules 2 and 3
Class and Emotion in Shakespeare
This elective explores whether emotion is coloured in Shakespeare’s plays and poems by social difference. Do Shakespeare’s kings and commoners feel love, sadness, joy and shame in the same ways? Why does Ophelia suffer from love melancholy whereas the Jailer’s daughter suffers from mopishness? Does class affect the ways in which Shakespeare’s men and women arrange their inner lives, and dispose themselves in front of others? In what ways might a ‘noble’ or ‘fine’ emotional landscape differ from a ‘coarse’ one; and how can we define their differing claims to sympathy – from other characters, or within the playhouse? What was the class composition of Shakespeare’s audiences, and how might people of varying social origins have experienced his drama and poetry? This elective contributes to the recent surge of interest in effect by considering from a class perspective the history of senses, passions, affections, moods and dispositions.
Shakespeare and his Afterlife
Introduces Shakespeare's work, and his literary and cultural legacy. In the process it will 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 reading Shakespeare's legacy. The module will also examine the literary appropriation of Shakespeare by a range of readers and critics from the 17th century to the 21st century. You will be asked to place Shakespeare's work within competing historical contexts as a way of questioning current approaches to Shakespeare.
Questions understanding of the literary period known as 'Romantic', through a range of contrasting and contesting texts, contexts, and positions which emerged in Britain in the period 1780-1832. Through detailed and historically-informed case studies, this module traces the shifting shapes and interests of Romantic-period literary study. Contrasting theoretical approaches to texts will question issues of history, gender, class, creativity, ecology, ethnicity, empire, social change and modernity. The course will also question period definitions and canon formation, requiring you to consider how textual and cultural value have developed and been transformed.
Victorian Texts: Visions and Revisions
Covers a range of genres, writers and forms of the Victorian period and provides the opportunity to consider some of the ideas central to 19th-century writing and culture. It demands critical encounters from a range of perspectives with a mixture of canonical and less familiar material. You will be expected to compare and contrast various elements of this material in order to reconsider traditionally received views of the Victorian period. Each year the module will focus on a particular aspect of Victorian writing, drawing on the research expertise of staff.
Modern and Contemporary Fiction
Offers the opportunity to engage with a number of texts written in the 20th and 21st centuries. Textual and contextual analyses will form a significant part of the study, and theoretical approaches to the reading of texts will also be addressed. Each year the module will focus on a particular aspect of modern and/or contemporary fiction drawing on the research and expertise of staff.
Explores the dynamic variations of 20th century writing and culture through examination of a range of genres, writers, forms, and nations. Creative engagements with texts may be encouraged along with theoretical perspectives that seek to articulate the nature and concerns of modernity and postmodernity, particularly those relating to aesthetics, sexuality, history, race and space. Each year the module will focus on a particular aspect of 20th century writing, drawing on the research expertise of staff.
This module offers the opportunity to design a course of study to suit your own research interests and concerns. You organise and carry out your own work schedule, and determine a set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria in collaboration with the module leader and a supervisor.
Full-time MA students take one elective module in each semester. Part-time MA students take their first elective in Semester 2 of the first year and their second elective in Semester 1 of the second year.
Module 4: Dissertation
This is the capstone of the Master's programme. You will have the opportunity to conduct a major, in-depth investigation into a literary topic of your choice, leading to the production of a 15,000 word thesis. The topic may be related to one of your elective modules, or may be chosen from another area of interest. You will be supported in your research with individual supervision from a specialist tutor, and by group workshops on advanced research techniques that take place during Semester 2 (for part-time students this is taken in Year 2). The dissertation is completed over the summer and submitted in September.
The postgraduate certificate provides an introduction to advanced work in your discipline. Students are required to complete Key Concepts and Methods in Research (40 credits) and one elective module (40 credits).
Duration: 1 semester full-time, 2 semesters part-time.
The postgraduate diploma enables a greater degree of specialisation in your chosen field. Students are required to complete Key Concepts and Methods in Research (40 credits) and two electives (each 40 credits), but are not required to produce a research dissertation.
Duration: 2 semesters full-time, 3 semesters part-time.
Please note: our courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the module lists you choose from may vary from the ones shown here.
Teaching and learning
The MA course is taught through small-group seminars, workshops and individual tutorials. Classes are held in the evenings, with sessions running from 6.30pm to 9.00pm.
Part-time students attend the University one evening per week and should be able to devote an additional 12-15 hours per week to private study.
Full-time students attend classes on two evenings per week and spend 30 hours per week in private study.
Approach to assessment
Assessment is entirely by written work and occasional oral presentations. There are no examinations.
Oxford Brookes houses the Booker Prize Archive and has research and teaching strengths in fiction, drama, and poetry.
Our virtual learning portals provide core materials relating to learning and assessment online. These include lecture schedules, module guides, supporting materials, guidelines and criteria for coursework along with notes on essay writing and report presentation.
The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre hosts a range of readings and research presentations, and regularly includes world class poets and researchers in its activities.
In addition to Oxford Brookes’ own specialised library collections, our MA students get full reader access to the Bodleian Library, one of the most important research collections in the world.
Classes are held in the evenings, with sessions running from 6.30pm to 9.00pm.
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