The total credits for this course are 180, which in a full-time degree is made up of three 20-credit modules in autumn, three 20-credit modules in spring, then a 60-credit dissertation over the summer.
Professional development modules
All students will take one of the following two modules (worth 20 credits each):
Mastering the Arts: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Research
You will achieve:
- greater confidence in dealing with original research
- a recognition of the huge range of approaches that can be used to address research questions.
We build on the research skills you have already developed during both your undergraduate degree and discipline-specific MA modules. The emphasis is on:
- ensuring you are possessed of a range of practical ways to approach research
- making you think about the nature of your discipline-specific approaches within a context of growing interdisciplinarity.
You will have the chance to consider topics as varied as:
- academic publishing
- digital transformations
- use of illustrations in dissertations.
You will also have the opportunity to hear academics from across the Faculty talk about the problems they have confronted and how they overcame them.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Mastering the Arts introductory video
Arts in Society
We will help you to apply your arts MA across society to enhance your career and contribute to wider society.
We'll demonstrate how the arts can be used to:
- transform society, politics and culture
- enhance the careers of arts and humanities MA students.
You'll be able to explore, explain and then detail how your disciplinary skills can impact upon wider issues to emphasise the applicability of the arts and humanities. From the role of the scholar activist to understanding ‘knowledge transfer’ and ‘public engagement’, you'll develop professional skills in preparation for a career within academia or across a range of sectors.
- harness the ways in which the arts and humanities enable us to think differently and to innovate
- work on issues of research, networking, grant-writing and cultural exchange
- learn how to engage, communicate and create.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Subject specific modules
This is a flexible course, which allows you to solely take English literature modules, or to incorporate some modules from elsewhere in the school if you wish.
Literature modules (worth 20 credits each)
Early Performance Cultures
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.
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.
Literature in Britain Since 1950
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. 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.The module concentrates on the novel.
Modernism and the Avant-Garde in Literature and Drama
This module will investigate radical strategies of aesthetic presentation and the challenge they offered to prevailing limits of personal, gender and national identity between 1890 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.
Place, Region, Empire
This module will explore the relationship between literary texts and cultural concepts of place. Students will be introduced to a selection of texts that can range from the 16C to the present, 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.
Poetry: Best words, Best Order
This module will look at various authors, movements, and genres in the history of poetry written in English from 1500 to the present, offering both an overview of certain key chronological areas, and cases studies of more specific movements or ideas. Themes and areas of focus may include: late medieval, the 'drab', religious verse, poetry and science, Epicureanism, verse epistles, gender and recovery, 'minor' poets and failure, Empire and Romanticism, the dramatic monologue, modernist poetics, free verse, ecopoetics.
This 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).
Textualities: Defining, making and using text
This module provides an introduction to the presentation of text through editing and anthologising.It considers modes of transmission, both manuscript and print, and modes of representation, including scholarly editions and anthologies, both print and digital. It interrogates editorial theory and practice, including ‘best text’, genetic editing and single witness. Students are encouraged to apply questions of editing to their own areas of interest, and work through the practicalities of producing an edition themselves.
If you would like to take modules from elsewhere in the school, you can take modules from the representative list shown below:
Literary Linguistics (worth 20 credits each)
Cognition and Literature (20 Credits)
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.
Consciousness in Fiction
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.
Working with a range of texts from the early modern period to the present day, this module explores the relationship between the ‘dramatic text’ of the written script and the ‘theatrical text’ of the script in performance through the lens of linguistic analysis. Drawing on facets of stylistics and discourse analysis, 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.
Research in Literary Linguistics
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 course 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.
Creative Writing (worth 20 credits each)
Creative Writing Conventions and Techniques
Develop your writing practice by exploring a range of creative techniques and media as they apply to both prose and poetry. You will be encouraged to reflect on your writing output and incorporate the critiques of others when editing and developing your work.
Writing Workshop: Fiction
Examine the process of novel writing by exploring various structures, techniques, and methodologies and engaging with an international body of work in genres such as fiction, creative non-fiction, and autofiction.
Writing Workshop: Poetry
Explore a range of poetic conventions and the contexts in which poetry is produced whilst developing your own poetic style. Through the ‘practitioner’ approach, students are not only supported in their craft but encouraged to work towards submitting their work for publication. The reading list includes poetry magazines; new writers’ anthologies; debut poetry collections; poetry in performance.
Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Middle-English (worth 20 credits each)
The History of the Book: 1200-1600 (Distance Learning)
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.
Middle English Romance
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.
This module will train you in the essential skills of runology: you will learn how to examine, transliterate, transcribe, translate and present runic inscriptions. This includes working with databases, corpus editions and specialist literature. In the workshops you will develop and practise your skills using photographs and other visual materials. You will then be able to apply these skills on a field trip, with hands-on study of inscribed objects. At the end of the semester you will undertake an independent project in which you will study and present a set of inscriptions which are of interest to you.
Conflict and Cohesion: Religion and Cultural Change
The Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings is a marked watershed in both cultures. Whereas Anglo-Saxon Conversion appears to be straightforward, the Conversion of the Scandinavians seems to have been more complex, or so it seems. This course will introduce the processes that led to the Conversion; it will introduce the major texts and primary sources, but also consider the important research questions and the methods with which we can approach such a complex period of change, with often incomplete or missing sources.Students will be asked to read a range of different text types, including historical and religious sources, as well as poems and sagas, and be guided towards weekly secondary reading. Students will also consider evidence from material culture, such as manuscript illuminations, sculpture and evidence from burial archaeology. At the end of the module students should be familiar with the methods with which a range of divergent and sometimes incomplete pieces of evidence can be analysed, as well as major debates in the field. This knowledge will lead to the development of a research question for their own coursework.The module will be assessed by a) a 1000 word methodology essay (20% of the overall mark) which will be submitted before the Easter break and marked in time to be useful for feedback and the development of the final essay (20% of the overall mark) and b) a 3,000 word project which discusses Conversion processes in either the Viking homelands or Viking Age Britain and Ireland or Anglo-Saxon England (80% of the overall mark).
Place-Names in Context: Language, landscape and history
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.
Contextualising Old Norse
This course will introduce you to a range of Old Norse texts in both poetry and prose, and to current critical thinking about Old Norse literature in its cultural and historical contexts. The course will equip you with a range of practical and theoretical frameworks for your own study which will be tested in the contextual commentary. Seminars will be student-led: you will present and discuss recent critical approaches and test them against your own reading of texts themselves. You will write an essay similarly combining theoretical, historical or cultural reflection with analysis of a text or texts of your choice. Knowledge of Old Norse is NOT required for this module, though students who have done ENGL4264 Reading Old Norse will be expected to deploy the knowledge gained there.
The final element of the course is a dissertation (worth 60 credits), which you complete over the summer period.
Students will choose a topic in consultation with the MA Course Convenor and an appropriate supervisor. The topic will normally be based on interests and skills students have developed in the course of the modules already studied.
The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. This course page may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.
Teaching methods and assessment
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
- editorial practice and politics
- a dissertation – a major piece of advanced independent research
Most taught modules are assessed by written work of varying format and length commensurate with content and weighting. Tutors provide detailed comments on assignments. The objective is to provide you with the confidence to work as professional academics, at ease with the conventions of the discipline, and ready to tackle any area of research in literary studies.
Towards the end of your studies, you will complete a supervised dissertation of 14,000 words. This 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 area of study, and offer close supervision and support as you complete your research and your MA.