As well as receiving research skills training as part of the degree, you will have the opportunity to explore a diverse range of literary genres and to investigate textual and critical issues involved in the study of literature in their cultural and historical context.
Topics covered will include: questions of genre, establishing and challenging a literary canon, the idea of the archive, notions of orality and performance, the relationship between manuscript and print cultures, and editorial practice and politics.
The dissertation is a major piece of advanced independent research, which you will undertake with the supervision of a specialist in your chosen area.
We will provide you with advice and guidance while you select and refine your chosen area of study. You will be assigned a tutor to supervise your dissertation and offer support as you complete your research for the dissertation and the MA.
This course can be taken over 1 year, full-time (September to September) or part-time over two to three years.
The MA consists of taught modules totalling 120 credits (which are taken during the autumn and spring semesters) and a 60-credit dissertation module (undertaken over the summer period).
Full-time students normally take 60 credits of taught modules in each semester; part-time students normally take 30 credits.
All modules will be team-taught by a range of experts in the field. You will also be assigned an individual supervisor for your independent dissertation project.
All taught modules are assessed by written work of between 3,000 words (for a 15-credit module) and 6,000 words (for a 30-credit module), which is set towards the end of the semester in which the module is taught.
In the early stages of your dissertation, your supervisor will read through and comment on draft work. The dissertation itself comprises a piece of your own research, assessed by written work of 14,000 words.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result, may change from year to year. The following list is therefore subject to change but should give you a flavour of the modules we offer.
The MA English Literature is a flexible course, which allows students to solely take English literature modules, or to incorporate some modules from elsewhere in the School if they wish to.
1) Students take a minimum of 90 credits of English Literature modules. A typical list is shown below:
Textualities: Defining, making and using text (30 credits)
This module investigates the ways issues in modern editorial theory—the nature of authorship, what constitutes an ‘authoritative’ text, and the inevitably embodied nature of textuality—illuminates our understanding of literary creativity. Students will explore how modern editors describe and theorise the textual transmission of a range of works, drawn from a variety of periods, places and forms. They will examine different concepts of textuality—including copy-texts, plural or ‘mobile’ texts, and digital texts—and different theories of text-editing, such as ‘first’ and ‘final’ intention editing, ‘social’ and ‘eclectic’ texts, and genetic editing. Students will explore how theories of literary creativity are embedded in editorial practices, and so, therefore, how editorial treatment determines the ways we ascribe identity and value to texts. Students of all literary periods will gain a detailed understanding of how literary texts are produced, and why some versions of well-known literary works take precedence over others. Creative writers will appreciate how the editorial process—which may include the choice of illustrations, type-faces, cover designs, and the imposition of a house-style, be that paper-based or digital, as well as changes to the text itself—affects how readers engage with a work, and ultimately how they value it.
Students will be expected to reflect on editorial practice as they have encountered it, and also to undertake practice themselves.
Literary Histories (30 credits)
It has often been suggested that the very idea of literary history – of a narrative that understands, classifies, and explains, the English literary past – is an inherent impossibility. The relationship between literature and the history of the time of its creation is an equally vexed and productive question. This module will look at the various ways in which literature in the last few centuries has combined with the study of history, with significant changes in the ways in which works of the past are viewed, and also how histories of literature began to be constructed (a history of literary histories, so to speak) paying attention to such questions as the development of the literary canon, periodicity, inclusions and exclusions, rediscoveries, and lack of representation. It will also look at the ways in which literary biography, autobiography and life-writing relate to the creation of literary histories. This will be a team-taught module, introducing key topics in the area and apply them to a variety of types of literature from different historical periods, and the myriad critical ways in which such literature has been viewed, retrospectively.
Modernism and the Avant-Garde in Literature and Drama (30 credits)
This module will investigate radical strategies of aesthetic presentation and the challenge they offered to prevailing limits of personal, gender and national identity between 1870 and 1960. Through a selection of key literary, dramatic, cultural, and critical texts, the module will examine ways that modernist and avant-garde writings draw their formal, generic and political borders, how they reconfigure ideas of the self, and what the political consequences of that reconfiguration are. The module will also consider the multiple meanings of 'radicalism' in an aesthetic and literary context, relating those meanings to questions of taste, community, and the market. This will be a team-taught module which examines a wide spectrum of literature and drama, including as well the era's cultural criticism and more recent critical and theoretical studies. Some of the texts are difficult; students will be expected to have read material thoroughly before each seminar, and to come prepared to discuss its theoretical, aesthetic and political implications.
Speculative Fictions (30 credits)
This module address interests in speculative fiction, including a selection of the following genres: Detective Fiction, Gothic and Horror as well as Sci-Fi and Fantasy. The module will introduce students to the study of speculative fiction from across a broad historical spectrum ranging from the Medieval period to the present, including an awareness of the historical contexts out of which speculative genres emerge and of their ongoing cultural relevance. Not only is speculative fiction an area of ongoing scholarly and popular interest, but also it allows for the theoretical discussion of, and critical reflection on, key contemporary issues, such as the problem of evil, identity, alterity, freedom and terror. Students will read works by a selection of authors and will choose two particular authors – either from the same historical period or from different periods – to study in depth. The module will engage with a variety of genres and media, such as prose, poetry, film, the graphic novel and the illuminated manuscript (the exact selection of texts and type of text will vary).
Literature in Britain Since 1950 (30 credits)
This module embraces literature in Britain since the Second World War, taking 1950 as the starting point, after which distinctive post-war cultural and social trends began to emerge. The critical trend to divide the period into two, with 1979 as a watershed, will be subjected to critical scrutiny: continuities as well as discontinuities in the literature written before and after 1979 will be considered. The module embraces the poetry, the prose, and the criticism of the period, in three distinct blocks, each involving three or four weeks of study. Key practitioners will be discussed, but the aim is not to provide an exhaustive overview of the period, but rather to present a developed account of important topics and debates, using an appropriate combination of teaching blocks. We aim to offer a level of study that is appropriate for MA level, whilst clearly giving prospective doctoral students the opportunity to begin important work in the study of contemporary writing.
Place, Region, Empire (30 credits)
This module will explore the relationship between literary texts and cultural concepts of place. Students will be introduced to a selection of texts from the 16C to the present day, and a range of approaches deriving from recent interdisciplinary convergences between disciplines including literary criticism, cultural geography, literary history and theories of nationalism and postcolonialism. Topics for discussion might include: maps and cultural cartographies; urbanism and the literature of cities; travel and literary tourism; regional and provincial literature; nationalism and cosmopolitanism; colonialism and the postcolonial; the literature of empire; ideas of community and dwelling; the relation between literary and spatial forms. Writers to be considered will vary from year to year.
Early Performance Cultures (30 credits)
This module will introduce students to the range, practice and history of performance cultures in the medieval and early modern period. Students will be encouraged to understand extant texts within their historical conditions of production and circulation. The module will introduce theatrical performance from mystery cycles to professional playhouses; civic performance from provincial rituals to courtly masques; and oral cultures ranging from mumming to sermons. With close attention to the relationship between the manuscript and print traces of performance and the events to which they allude, students will develop an understanding of the physical conditions of textual and theatrical performance in their historical, cultural and political contexts. Students will be encouraged to relate texts to wider significant issues in the period such as national and religious identity, ideas of social, cultural, and geographical space and place, gender politics and generic experimentation.
2) If students would like to take modules from elsewhere in the School, then they can take modules from the representative list shown below:
Research in Literary Linguistics (15 credits, Autumn Semester)
This module explores the use of linguistic frameworks to investigate literary texts. Through a series of practical analyses, students will be introduced to a range of linguistic explorations of poetry, prose, and drama from a wide range of historical periods. The module will invite students to use the analyses as an occasion for the critical evaluation of the various approaches to language and literature, to investigate the notions of literariness and interpretation, and to consider the scope and validity of stylistics in relation to literature and literary studies. The range of key research methods and methodologies in stylistics will be studied.
Dramatic Discourse (15 credits, Spring Semester)
This module explores the relationship between language and drama. Taking a multi-faceted approach, drawing on facets of linguistic analysis from stylistics, discourse analysis and sociolinguistics, the module considers the role of language in moving dramatic scripts from page to stage, exploring aspects of characterisation (such as identity, power and provocation), the role of language in story-telling on stage and the 'management' of performance through stage directions. Working with a range of texts from the early modern period to the present day, the module investigates the role of language in shaping character, dialogue, interaction and staging.
Consciousness in Fiction (15 credits, Autumn Semester)
The module will explore in depth techniques for the presentation of consciousness in novels and other fictional texts. Students will learn about the linguistic indices associated with the point of view of characters and the various modes available to a writer for the presentation of characters’ thoughts and perceptions. Alongside detailed examinations of narrative texts which portray consciousness, students will also study different theories put forward to explain the nature of writing consciousness in texts. Our stylistic analyses of fictional minds will also aim to account for historical changes in the techniques used for consciousness presentation.
Cognition and Literature (15 credits, Spring Semester)
This module represents a course in cognitive poetics. It draws on insights developed in cognitive science, especially in psychology and linguistics, in order to develop an understanding of the processes involved in literary reading. The module also develops skills in stylistics and critical theory.
Fiction: Form & Context (15 credits, Autumn Semester)
This module explores the structures, techniques, and methodologies of fiction through both creative and analytical practice. Students examine a range of international fiction from a writer’s perspective, with an emphasis on craft. Assignments include creative exercises of imitation or modelling, as well as direct responses to works of fiction in ways that demonstrate a practical understanding of their qualities. Analytical writing focuses on the functional aspects of selected works. Particular issues for consideration might include narrative voice and technique, point of view, character development, dialogue, plot, and setting. Students consider not only the elements of fiction, but also how those elements contribute to overall structure of a narrative.
Poetry: Form & Context (15 credits, Autumn Semester)
The module is designed to make students familiar both with the craft and practice of using some common poetic conventions, and with the contexts in which poetry is published and read. Each session includes some lecture-style input, group discussion, and a workshop during which students share and discuss their draft poems. Through this ‘practitioner’ approach, students are not only supported in their craft but encouraged to work towards submitting their work for publication.
Creative Writing Workshop (30 credits, Spring Semester)
This module is designed to develop students' skills in writing while developing their awareness of contemporary publishing. Each session includes some lecture-style input, group discussion, and a workshop. Students are encouraged to contextualise their writing with reference to modern and contemporary writers. Students will discuss techniques relevant to both fiction and poetry, such as: beginnings, endings, voice and description.
Creative Writing: Conventions & Techniques (30 credits, Spring Semester)
Students are encouraged to develop their own creative practice through an examination of a range of ideas and techniques. Students will develop their creative writing skills through activities, including group discussions, exercises and workshops. Matters such as reviews, publication, public readings, and the teaching of creative writing may be included as ways of examining the context of creative practice. Students will learn how to incorporate the responses of others into their revisions, develop a more productive writing process, and become better editors of their own work.
Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Middle-English
The History of the Book 1200-1600 (15 credits)
This module introduces the study of the book as artefact. Students will learn about methods of construction and compilation, handwriting and early printing techniques, reading marginalia as well as text; they will also be introduced to the benefits and applications, as well as the problems, of applying an understanding of the artefact to the texts contained within.
The Study of Place-Names (30 credits, Spring Semester)
The module employs the study of place-names to illustrate the various languages - British, Latin, French, Norse and English - that have been spoken in England over the last 2000 years. Students will learn how place-name evidence can be used as a source for the history of English: its interaction with other languages, its regional and dialectal patterns, and its changing vocabulary. They will also undertake a directed self-study project which will assess the value of place-name evidence for some aspect of Anglo-Saxon and/ or Viking settlement-history.
Middle English Romance (15 credits)
This module considers twenty-first century historicized readings of a major English literary genre, and demonstrates that medieval English romance texts can be set in complex and profound critical relationship to each other and to other artistic media. Such an approach is possible largely because of the vibrant and privileged international socio-literary milieu in which many romance tracts were first written and received. Students will be encouraged to explore how reading Middle English romance texts can equip us with vocabulary and concepts to discuss the cultural specificities of the literary representations of romance, love and chivalry in this period, the representations of public and private identities, and the questions regarding individuality and selfhood that arise in literature produced in a volatile period of religious and social uncertainty and dissent. These are all issues that now define “the Middle Ages” for modern scholars.
Reading Old Icelandic Literature (15 credits, Spring Semester)
Through a series of short workshops, this module will train students in relevant aspects of runology, including how to examine, transcribe, transliterate, translate and present runic inscriptions. The workshops will be based on photographs and other visual materials, but students will then be able to test their skills on actual runic inscriptions in a one-day field trip. They will then develop an independent project in which they present and analyse a set of Viking Age or medieval Scandinavian inscriptions that are of particular interest.
The Hammer and the Cross: Religion in Viking-Age Scandinavia (15 credits, Autumn Semester)
This interdisciplinary module offers students the opportunity to explore the role of religion in pagan Scandinavia and subsequent changes after the conversion to Christianity. Students are expected to read and discuss a variety of texts (sagas, poems and histories) and study other media, such as artwork and runic texts. They will also be introduced to the critical studies in the field and be expected to conduct independent research into aspects of Scandinavian religion.
The final element of the course is a 60 credit dissertation, which students complete over the Summer period.
For more information on all modules, please visit the Module Catalogue.
Please note that all modules are subject to availability and may change.
Our postgraduate students move into an extraordinarily wide range of careers following their time in the School.
According to The Times, “English graduates have almost any career path open to them ... All of the big graduate recruiters look for communication skills.” (Clare Dight, ‘Degree Doctor…English’, The Times, 6 April 2006).
Conducting postgraduate work in the School of English Studies fosters many vital skills and may give you a head start in the job market. Studying at this level allows you to develop qualities of self-discipline and self-motivation that are essential to employment in a wide range of different fields.
We will help you develop your ability to research and process a large amount of information quickly, and to present the results of your research in an articulate and effective way.
A postgraduate degree from the School of English at Nottingham shows potential employers that you are an intelligent, hard-working individual who is bright and flexible enough to undertake any form of specific career training.
Average starting salary and career progression
According to independent research, Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and over 2,000 employers approach the University every year with a view to recruiting our students. Consequently – and owing to our reputation for excellence – more than 94% of postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts enter employment, voluntary work or further study during the first six months after graduation**.
* The Graduate Market in 2013, 2014 and 2015, High Fliers Research.
** Data is taken from known destinations of the 2013/14 leaving cohort of Nottingham home/EU postgraduates who studied full-time.
Career Prospects and Employability
The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential.
Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.