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English Literature

MA / PGDip / PGCert

Department of English and Modern Languages

The 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.

The course enables you to develop subject expertise at an advanced level. It allows you to carry out independent research projects in your own areas of interest while benefiting from our world class research culture.

The core compulsory module provides a secure grounding in the key methods and critical contexts of postgraduate study. Elective modules cover the full range of periods and genres offered by the Department, while Independent Study Modules and the Dissertation offer the chance to pursue a personalised project matching your interests.

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Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: PGCert: 4 months, PGDip: 9 months, MA: 12 months
  • Part time: PGCert: 2 semesters, PGDip: 3 semesters, MA: 24 months

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • A curriculum that allows you to study either a broad range of literary texts, or specialise in periods and genres from the Renaissance to the present day 
  • You have the opportunity to study with internationally-renowned scholars who regularly publish in their field.
  • You have access to a state-of-the-art learning environment, and use of Oxford's world-famous Bodleian Library.
  • You have access to the Man Booker Prize archive, based here at Oxford Brookes.
  • Oxford is a vibrant student city that has much on offer, including the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums, Modern Art Oxford and a wide range of lively food and music cultural events.
  • The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is home to a thriving poetry community. 
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.
General Literature Studies
This pathway allows you to choose a 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
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.
Other 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.
Module 1 
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.
20th-Century Texts
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.
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, 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.

Specialist facilities

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.

Attendance pattern

Classes are held in the evenings, with sessions running from 6.30pm to 9.00pm.

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.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £5,670 (Masters) £5,100 (Diploma) £2,835 (Certificate) 2020/21: £6,950 (Masters) £5,950 (Diploma) £3,475 (Certificate)

Home/EU - part time fee: 2019/20 £2,890 2020/21: £3,475

International - full time: 2019/20: £13,730 2020/21: £14,200

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 in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

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.

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

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.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

Applications should be accompanied by two references, and if English is not your first language, you will need to supply evidence of English language proficiency. 

All applicants should send a sample of their recent academic writing in English, 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.

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.

How this course helps you develop

The MA English Literature offers you the opportunity to develop your literary critical skills to a high level, but it also fosters your professional and personal growth through improving:

  •  advanced critical thinking skills
  •  verbal and literary presentation skills
  •  interpersonal and teamwork skills
  •  research skills
  • management and strategy skills
  •  digital literacy skills.


Our alumni go on to a wide range of careers in different sectors, including teaching, publishing, NGO/charity work, media production, and 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.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Throughout your time at Brookes you will receive support from our Faculty staff, both academically and personally. Our student support co-ordinators are there to support you in all aspects of your academic career, from module choices to any personal issues you may experience. 

Your academic adviser will be allocated when you start, and will provide support throughout your studies.

We have a dedicated English librarian who will help you access relevant materials and guide you through the huge range of information available to you. The University library boasts an impressive range of materials including e-journals, e-books and databases.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Research highlights

Oxford Brookes University’s Department of English and Modern Languages performed exceptionally well in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, or REF. This is the national system used for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The Guardian’s league table of REF 2014 results ranked our Department 13th in the country based on our returns of 4* (World Leading) and 3* (Internationally Excellent) research submitted by members of staff.

The department has particular strengths in 20th century fiction, modernist culture, gender studies, Romanticism and the environment, Renaissance writing including drama and performance history, 19th century fiction, Irish and American writing and culture.

Some recent research highlights include:

Dr Katharine Craik is Principal Investigator on Watching, a project funded by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust to explore the Renaissance history of sleep. A collaboration between academics, scientists, theatre practitioners and schools, Watching culminated in March 2015 with four full-scale promenade performances by twilight of Katharine's new opera on sleep in the landmark Glasshouses of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden. Watching was featured on BBC Radio 3 (Free Thinking) and on Radio Scotland (The Culture Show). Katharine is now working with Ewan Fernie (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham) on Marina, a new play based on Shakespeare's Pericles, which has been adopted for Research and Development in 2016 with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Dr Simon White recently held an AHRC Early Career Fellowship, the object of which was to complete his book Romanticism and the Rural Community. This focuses on the polemical writings of John Thelwall, Hannah More, Arthur Young and Thomas Spence, the poetry of Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, George Crabbe, Robert Bloomfield, John Clare, Susanna Blamire and Ebenezer Elliot, and the fiction of Jane Austen. He is also leading a collaborative British Academy funded project which is exploring the relationship between reported incidents of witchcraft and fictional narratives.

Dr Eric White was awarded a Vacation Visiting Fellowship at the Rothermere American Institute (RAI) in the University of Oxford. The focus of his research programme at the RAI was The Transatlantic Avant-Garde: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism, 1912-1932, which culminated in the production of his first monograph. Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernismwas published by Edinburgh University Press in 2013. He is also the PI for the Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology (AGAST) Project, which is recreating technologies designed by early 20th-century writers and artists with digitally Augmented Reality.

Research areas and clusters

The Department of English and Modern Languages comprises of several collaborative research communities, supporting our doctoral students and encouraging wide participation both through our partnerships and our busy programme of conferences, public events and lectures.

The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre with a specific focus on women’s poetry, working class poetry, avant-garde poetry and poetics, nineteenth-century poetry, and performance poetry.

Materialities including including early modern performance history, textual scholarship, Victorian materiality, and cultures of the modernist avant-garde.

Networks and Localities explores human communities in diverse forms. Staff research interests include utopias, literature and ecology, diasporic societies, spiritual communities and ideas of nationhood.

Medicine, Science and Technology with focal areas in the early modern body and emotions, technology in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, hysteria, and psychoanalysis.

Memory and Life-writing including contemporary literature, women’s lives, writing the writer, and the literature of war.

The Oxford Brookes Language and Discourse interdisciplinary group has a specific focus on the relation between forms discourse, ideology and society.

Research students are supervised by a team of tutors, including a director of studies and at least one other supervisor. You will benefit from further research training programmes offered by the University.

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.


Course downloads

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