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English Literature

MA or PGDip or PGCert

Key facts

Start dates

September 2020 / September 2021



Course length

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

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


Our MA in English Literature offers an exciting and challenging course of graduate study covering a range of periods and genres from the Renaissance to the Contemporary.

During the course you will:

  • take core compulsory modules that provide a secure grounding in the key methods of postgraduate study
  • choose elective modules from a wide range of periods and genres
  • take Independent study modules and complete a dissertation to pursue a personalised project matching your interests.

You will study with internationally-renowned scholars who regularly publish in their field. And you will have access to inspiring, on-campus literary resources such as:

As well as full reader access to the Bodleian Library, one of the most important research collections in the world.

Oxford is one of the most literary cities in the world. Home to J. R. R Tolkien and C.S Lewis, and inspiration to countless authors, poets and dreamers - what better city in which to study literature?

Three students outside discussing

How to apply

Entry requirements

Specific entry requirements

You should normally hold an upper second-class honours degree, or its equivalent, in English Literature or a related subject.

 If it is some time since you completed your undergraduate education, or you do not meet the standard requirement, it may be possible to consider your application based on evidence of other relevant personal and professional experience, the support of your referees, and examples of written work.

Please also see the University's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you will need to provide certification of your English language proficiency. For this course you will need an IELTS score of at least 7, with at least 6.0 in each element.

Please also see the University's standard English language requirements.

International qualifications and equivalences


English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the University's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

Pathways courses for international and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you meet the entry requirements for your postgraduate course and also familiarise you with university life in the UK.

Take a Pre-Master's course to develop your subject knowledge, study skills and academic language level in preparation for your master's course.

If you need to improve your English language, we offer pre-sessional English language courses to help you meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s course.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Application process

All applicants should send a sample of their recent academic writing in English - ideally a high-scoring undergraduate essay with critical sources - together with the application form.

If this is not possible you may substitute a 1,500 word essay reviewing a work of academic criticism or work of fiction, poetry or a recent theatrical production you have seen. The work should engage with recent research in the field (which can be found on databases such as JSTOR, the MLA Bibliography, etc).

Apply now

Tuition fees

Please see the fees note
Home/EU full time
£6,950 (Masters); £5,950 (Diploma); £3,475 (Certificate)

Home/EU part time

International full time

Home/EU full time
£8,200 (Masters); £7,200 (Diploma); £4,100 (Certificate)

Home/EU part time

International full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

2020 / 21
Home/EU full time
£6,950 (Masters); £5,950 (Diploma); £3,475 (Certificate)

Home/EU part time

International full time

2021 / 22
Home/EU full time
£8,200 (Masters); £7,200 (Diploma); £4,100 (Certificate)

Home/EU part time

International full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

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.

Financial support and scholarships

There are International Student Scholarships available for 2020 and other scholarships and funding options for postgraduate international students.

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, if any, are detailed below.

Learning and assessment

You have the option of pursuing either a specialised pathway in Early Modern (Renaissance), Nineteenth Century, or Modern and Contemporary Literature, or a General Literature Studies Pathway, in which you take a combination of modules that match your interests. The course is flexible, allowing you to adapt it according to your needs and research ambitions.

For the MA in English Literature you take a total of four modules comprising:

  • one compulsory core module (Critical Debates and Methods)
  • two elective modules
  • a dissertation.

The Postgraduate Certificate provides an introduction to advanced work in your discipline. You will take:

  • Critical Debates and Methods (40 credits)
  • one elective module (40 credits).

The Postgraduate Diploma enables a greater degree of specialisation in your chosen field.  You are not required to produce a research dissertation but will complete:

  • Critical Debates and Methods (40 credits)
  • two electives (each 40 credits).
Lecture theatre

Study modules

The modules listed below are for the master's award. For the PGDip and PGCert awards your module choices may be different. Please contact us for more details.

Taught modules

Compulsory modules

Critical Debates and Methods

Every student takes this compulsory core module in advanced literary studies. It 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.

Optional modules

19th Century Literature and Culture (Pathway)

This pathway allows you to focus your study on the literary and cultural production of the 19th century. You will have the opportunity to take modules that examine 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. 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. 

General Literature Studies (Pathway)

This pathway allows you to choose from a wide range of topics, genres and periods, across all of the modules on offer. You have the opportunity to take modules that examine in depth the historical, political and aesthetic contexts in multiple periods. This flexible pathway enables you to pursue your interests across the specialisms offered by our Department.

Early Modern Literature (Pathway)

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 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.

Modern and Contemporary Writing and Culture (Pathway)

This pathway allows you to focus your study on literary and cultural production since the 1900s. You will have the opportunity to take modules that examine 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.

20th-Century Texts

This module 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.

Class and Emotion in Shakespeare

This module 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 module contributes to the recent surge of interest in effect by considering from a class perspective the history of senses, passions, affections, moods and dispositions.

Modern and Contemporary Fiction

This module 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.


This module 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. It will also question period definitions and canon formation, requiring you to consider how textual and cultural value have developed and been transformed.

Shakespeare and his Afterlife

This module Introduces Shakespeare's work and his literary and cultural legacy. 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.

Victorian Texts: Visions and Revisions

This module covers a range of genres, writers and forms of the Victorian period. You will have 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.

Independent Study

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, determining a set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria in collaboration with your module leader and a supervisor. 

Final project

Compulsory modules


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.

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

Learning and teaching

We teach using:

  • small-group seminars
  • Workshops
  • 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.

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.


Assessment methods used on this course

Assessment is entirely by written work and occasional oral presentations. There are no examinations.

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 Department of English and Modern 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

After you graduate

Career prospects

Our alumni go on to a wide range of careers in different sectors, including:

  • teaching
  • publishing
  • NGO/charity work
  • media production
  • the creative industries. 

Employers value our postgraduate students’ advanced problem-solving, research, and communication skills. 

Recently, Jenny Mayhew, English PhD student, had her first novel published, A Wolf in Hindelheim. A significant number of successful MA students continue into further research and academic careers, at Brookes and other institutions. 

The MA course offers an excellent grounding in further study in English no matter what you decide to do afterwards, and provides the research experience and training you need to pursue a successful PhD project.

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

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.