Find a course


English Literature

MA or PGDip or PGCert

Key facts

Start dates

September 2023



Course length

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

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


Explore writers, forms and genres - and see where your passion for literature will take you.

On this course, you’ll take your interest in literature to the next level. You’ll explore everything from Elizabethan lyrics to New York stories. You’ll consider key social issues through a literary lens - like gender, sexuality and mental health. You’ll discover new interests. And you’ll have the freedom to specialise in the area you care about most.

You’ll join a close-knit community where everyone knows each other well. And you’ll learn directly from leading experts who are internationally recognised in their fields.

You’ll study in one of the world’s most iconic literary cities. Oxford has been home to major literary pioneers - from Lewis Carroll, to Vera Brittain and Monica Ali. And it features in countless literary works - from Brideshead Revisited to His Dark Materials. You’ll have access to the renowned Bodleian Library, one of the most important literary collections in the world.

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.

You also need to provide writing sample; it should showcase your writing at its best. For many the sample would consist of an advanced-level undergraduate essay that features:

  • Close engagement with primary sources (literary texts and/or other evidence)
  • Critical engagement with secondary sources (scholarly criticism, and/or theory, where appropriate)
  • A formal scholarly apparatus (notes, bibliography, works cited, etc).

If the above is not an option for you, then we're happy for you to submit one of these alternatives:

  • A piece of professional writing that engages with academic study or other research
  • A review of a literary work you have read recently, which makes use of current literary criticism/academic sources about the writer(s).

The sample should be 1500-2500 words, but if you use a longer piece - highlight the 2500 words you want us to focus on.

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 their writing sample in English – together with the application form.

Apply now

Tuition fees

Please see the fees note
Home (UK) full time
£8,350 (Masters); £7,350 (Diploma); £4,175 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International full time

Home (UK) full time
£8,700 (Masters); £7,700 (Diploma); £4,350 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

2022 / 23
Home (UK) full time
£8,350 (Masters); £7,350 (Diploma); £4,175 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time

International full time

2023 / 24
Home (UK) full time
£8,700 (Masters); £7,700 (Diploma); £4,350 (Certificate)

Home (UK) 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's International Student Scholarships available for 2022 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 are detailed below.

The published course and module descriptions were accurate when first published and remain the basis of the course, but the University has had to modify some course and module content in response to government restrictions and social distancing requirements

Learning and assessment

You’ll explore literature from the Renaissance through to the 21st century. The course is highly flexible, and you’ll have the freedom to explore your interests. You’ll be able to pursue a specialist pathway in:

  • Renaissance Literature 
  • Nineteenth Century Literature
  • Modern and Contemporary Literature

Or you can create your own specialist pathway - based around your specific interests.

Sharing ideas is central to how you’ll learn. You’ll explore your opinions and those of your peers. You’ll question. You’ll challenge, and be challenged - in a supportive and trusting environment.

You’ll have full reader access to the world-renowned Bodleian Library. And you’ll have direct access to the:

You’ll be taught by internationally-renowned tutors with a wide range of specialisms. This means you can access highly specialised insight and expertise in almost any area of literature - from the American literary canons, to women’s writing and speculative technology.

Lecture theatre

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

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.


Through this module, you’ll develop an increasingly complex understanding of what the Romantic period meant, culturally, historically and in terms of literary development. You’ll examine a variety of genres – poetry and prose, dramatic texts, periodical essays, popular ballads and political tracts. You’ll discover networks of sociable connections between writers, for example Blake and radical London circles, Wollstonecraft and Godwin, Keats and the 'Cockney' circle, to name just a few. But you’ll also explore their contrasting aesthetic and political responses to key social and cultural issues, stimulating different responses to the  overarching question, ‘What are Romanticisms?’

Victorian Texts: Visions and Revisions

You’ll have critical encounters with texts from a range of genres, writers and forms of the Victorian period, reading a mixture of canonical and less familiar material. You’ll consider some of the ideas central to 19th-century writing and culture. However, you’ll also compare and contrast various elements of the texts in order to reconsider traditionally received views of the Victorian period. 

Each year the module focuses on a particular aspect of Victorian writing, drawing on the research expertise of staff. In recent years, these have included:

  • literary Pre-Raphaelitism: text and image
  • the Victorians and theatricality: from the stage to the séance

Spaces and Bodies in Early Modern English

In early modern literature, how were bodies shaped by the spaces they inhabited – countries, towns, cities, houses, theatres and other buildings? What do early modern drama, poetry and prose reveal about the history of pleasure, desire, grief, anxiety, shame and melancholy? In this module, you’ll explore the relationship between bodies and spaces in English literature from the 16th to the 18th centuries, forging links between the corporeal and the spatial imagination. 

You’ll study examples of:

  • travel writing and fantastic voyages
  • Elizabethan lyric and epic romance
  • the comedies of Shakespeare and his contemporaries
  • texts which thematise London and the metropolis.

Shakespeare and his Afterlife

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
  • 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.


Modern and Contemporary Fiction

You’ll engage with a compelling range of texts written in the 20th and 21st centuries. You’ll concentrate on textual and contextual analysis, and you’ll also consider theoretical approaches to the reading of texts. 

Each year the module focuses on a particular aspect of modern and/or contemporary fiction drawing on the research and expertise of staff. In recent years these have included:

  • metafiction
  • New York stories
  • madness, psychoanalysis and literature.

Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics

This is a broad-ranging module in which you’ll trace the interconnections and negotiations between modernist and subsequent poetries, as well as addressing issues of gender and performance. You’ll gain a grounding in major ideas about poetry across the century up to the present day, and in recent theoretical approaches to poetry. The poets you encounter may include Armitage, Auden, Baraka, Jay Bernard, Bishop, Brooks, H.D., Futurist poets, Gunn, Heaney, Larkin, Moore, Plath, Walcott and Williams, among many others

Twentieth-Century Texts

You’ll read texts from a range of genres, writers and forms of the 20th century and consider some of the ideas central to 20th-century writing and culture. You’ll also explore theoretical perspectives that seek to organise and articulate the concerns of modernity and the 20th century – for example, to do with race, sexuality, history or economics. 

Each year the module focuses on a particular aspect of 20th-century writing, drawing on the research expertise of staff. In recent years these have included:

  • American literature and its transatlantic contexts
  • the American Civil War in myth and memory
  • the human animal.

Twentieth-Century American Poetry

You’ll develop your understanding of, and sensitivity towards, poetic traditions and forms by exploring American poetry of the 20th century. You’ll also sharpen your knowledge of the specific developments and movements that energised American poetry. By tracing the emergence of a specifically American identity, you'll examine the relationship between poetry and historical events, and the politics that shape both. Other topics may include:

  • radical experimentation: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Mina Loy
  • conservative modernism and neo-classicism: Robert Frost and TS Eliot
  • the avant-garde
  • poetry and popular culture: Langston Hughes and Hart Crane
  • the Beat Poets
  • the Language Poets.

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


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. Your supervisor will be 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 that shown here. The structure of the course may also mean some modules are not available to you.

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.


Assessment methods used on this course

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


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.