Course overview

Do you love nothing more than a good book? Or perhaps you're fascinated by the inner workings of your favourite texts? If so, this course is for you.

Our published staff will support you to build your research skills and explore a range of literary genres, from Romantic poetry to dystopias.

We focus on:

  • 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

We also investigate textual and critical issues involved in studying literatures in their cultural and historical contexts. For example, you might trace the textual history of a modernist novel through its drafts, or investigate the epistolary networks which shaped court poetry.

You can also study what you enjoy the most, with optional modules in a variety of literary forms, genres and themes.

Why choose this course?

Ranked 10th

for grade point average among 92 universities, and 7th in the Russell Group.

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Explore opportunities

Course content

Pre-arrival reading lists will be sent out with registration information before you join your course, where available.

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.

For part time students, completing the course in 24 months, you will typically choose three 20-credit modules in the first and second years of study, and complete the 60-credit dissertation over two summers.

All classes take place during weekdays.


English Literature MA Dissertation

During the summer, you will complete a 14,000-word dissertation. This is a major piece of independent research, and you will be allocated a supervisor who is a specialist in your chosen area.

Students in past years have submitted dissertations on topics ranging from:

  • The presence of the book of psalms in medieval poetry to the ubiquity of violence in 'screen Shakespeares'
  • The linguistic and cultural appropriation of gangsta rap to postcolonial 'writing back'
  • Failed marriages in Jane Austen to ecological preoccupations in female-authored speculative fiction

This module is worth 60 credits.

The above is a sample of the typical modules 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. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Thursday 27 July 2023.

Due to timetabling availability, there may be restrictions on some module combinations.

Students must choose one from:

Mastering the Arts

This module introduces you to the wide range of interdisciplinary research happening in the Faculty of Arts. We invite you to ‘think outside the box’ in relation to your own research, while learning key research techniques and methods. The module aims to:

  • introduce the ideas, practices, complexities, and opportunities of interdisciplinary research in the arts
  • enable you to practice critical self-reflexivity about the conventions and expectations of your own disciplines in relation to those of others
  • train you in core research skills necessary for graduate-level study
  • develop your confidence in communicating research findings to non-specialist audiences

You will build on your existing research skills gained from your university career to date. Furthermore, you will develop a more nuanced understanding of your own research practice, inspiring you to explore different approaches questions. In addition, you will develop an understanding of professional practice in areas such as:

  • academic publishing
  • knowledge exchange
  • dissertation planning and writing
  • professional communication

This module is worth 20 credits.

Arts in Society

This module helps postgraduate students recognise the range of careers and opportunities that an Arts and Humanities MA/MRes can provide.

It highlights the skills and abilities present within these programmes and provides examples of the successful application of these skills. Students will explore how subjects within the arts can be ‘applied disciplines’ that serve to be impactful in wider society through research and engagement.

Through ‘live brief’ assessments, students work in groups, utilising their Arts and Humanities skill sets, to present and produce a consultancy report for a range of organisations, including SMEs/Third-sector.

And four or five from:

Literature: 1500 - The Present modules (20 credits each):

Dramatic Discourse

Explore the relationship between the ‘dramatic text’ of the written script, and the ‘theatrical text’ of the script in performance. 

Working with texts from the early modern period to the present day, we will draw on aspects of stylistics and discourse analysis. 

You will consider:

  • 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
  • the 'management' of performance through stage directions 

This module is worth 20 credits.

Literary Histories

It has often been suggested that the idea of literary history – a narrative that understands, classifies and explains the English literary past – is an impossibility.

The relationship between literature and the history of the time of its creation is an equally vexed and productive question. We will look at various ways in which literature has combined with the study of history and also how histories of literature have been constructed.

Topics explored include:

  • The development of the literary canon
  • Periodicity
  • Inclusions and exclusions
  • Reception
  • Rediscoveries
  • Representation

You will also look at the ways in which literary biography relates to the creation of literary histories. We will introduce key topics in the area and apply them to a variety of types of literature, and the myriad critical ways in which such literature has been viewed, both in its immediate moment and retrospectively.

This module is worth 20 credits. 

Literature in Britain Since 1950

Concentrating on the novel, we examine literature in Britain since the Second World War.

This isn't an exhaustive overview of the period, rather we aim to present important topics and debates. This is done through an appropriate combination of teaching blocks, often focussing on particular themes or time periods.

We take 1950 as the starting point, after which distinctive post-war cultural and social trends began to emerge. In recent years, we have concentrated on rather more contemporary writing, for example in the period since 1990.

You will be working with our academics on materials which make up their most current and innovative research.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Modernism and the Avant-Garde in Literature and Drama

Explore how writers of the modernist period responded to an age of dramatic change, and new formations in society, politics and art.

This was an an age in which revolutionary developments in science, technology, philosophy and psychology prompted the formation of radically new understandings of the self and the world.

Studying a range of literary, dramatic, cultural and critical texts, we consider the individual and collective nature of the formulation of radical aesthetics. We will be discussing modernist and avant-garde approaches to such subjects as:

  • Subjectivity and consciousness
  • Community and identity: gender, race, nation
  • Experimental form and the literary marketplace

We will study these texts in relation to the many relevant contexts of the period, as well as by the light of more recent critical and theoretical approaches that continue to make new the work of the moderns.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Place, Region, Empire

Explore the relationship between literary texts and cultural concepts of place.

You will consider a selection of texts that can range from the 16th century to the present. You will also consider a range of critical and theoretical approaches to these texts, which will involve delving into 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 studied will vary from year to year.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Poetry: Best words, Best Order

This module looks at various authors, movements, and genres in the history of English poetry, from 1500 to the present.

You will gain an overview of certain key chronological areas, and case 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 is worth 20 credits.

Riotous Performance: Drama, Disruption and Protest

Explore a range of modern drama, all themed around the idea of riot.

We will explore the phenomenon of the riot, examining how it is defined and how it might relate to other kinds of western performance event.

You will:

  • Analyse the way that riots have both been triggered by, and represented in, an assortment of other performances
  • Compare and contrast material from a range of different chronological periods and across a range of different genres

Although this module is largely focused on dramatic texts, it gives you the opportunity to consider an assortment of other performance events. For example, we will analyse the drama of Synge and O’Casey, the ballet of Stravinsky and Nijinsky, and the performance poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Shakespeare: Text, Stage and Screen

Explore the changing meanings of Shakespeare’s plays across text, stage and screen.

The module examines three plays in depth, looking at their literary interest (from textual history and sources to thematic concerns and characterisation) and their performative possibilities on stage and in film. The module is redesigned each year to take advantage of what theatres are currently staging.

By approaching the plays from multiple angles, you will discover the varied potential for reinterpretation and recreation that each text offers.

You will build on seminar discussions to develop your own project question about:

  • the interpretive possibilities that the plays offer
  • the choices made by specific interpreters of the text

Your project will be developed in consultation with tutors to consider the interplay of performance and text.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Speculative Fictions

Speculative fiction incorporates all those genres that imagine worlds not quite like this one, from science fiction to fantasy and beyond.

This module introduces a range of such fictions, attending to the generic traditions and historical context from which they emerge, as well as their ongoing cultural relevance. Both hugely popular and the object of increasing scholarly interest, speculative fiction allows for theoretical and critical discussion of a range of contemporary issues:

  • Utopias and dystopias: future visions, past reflections
  • Technology and the posthuman, from AI to the augmented body
  • Loving the alien: alterity and identity
  • Genre and beyond: expectations and experimentation

We also cover a range of different media, considering such forms as film and the graphic novel, testifying to the genre’s great scope and its ongoing power to intrigue and enthral as it explores the boundaries of time, space, and the imagination.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Textualities: Defining, making and using text

Every published document that we read, be it a novel, poetry anthology, or magazine article, has been through a complex process of evolution and editing. This module introduces you to how texts are transmitted from ‘author’ to audience.

We will consider:

  • modes of transmission, both manuscript and print
  • modes of representation, including scholarly editions and anthologies, both print and digital
  • editorial theory and practice, including ‘best text’, genetic editing and single witness

You are encouraged to apply questions of editing to your own areas of interest, and work through the practicalities of producing an edition yourselves.

This module is worth 20 credits.


If you would like to take modules from elsewhere in the school, you can take modules from the representative list shown below:

English Language and Applied Linguistics modules (20 credits each):

Students may choose one from:

Cognition and Literature

This module represents a course in cognitive poetics. It aims to understand the meanings, emotions and effects of literary reading based on our current best understanding of language and mind. This means drawing on insights developed in cognitive science, especially in psychology and linguistics. You will also develop skills in stylistics and critical theory.

Cognitive poetics attempts to find answers to the following questions:

  • How is it that different readers interpret the same literary work differently?
  • How can we care emotionally about fictional people in books?
  • How do some literary works make you cry, or laugh, or be fearful or joyous?
  • How do we understand the minds of other people, real and imaginary?
  • How do literary works create atmosphere, tone, and ambience?
  • Does reality and fictionality matter?
  • How does language create worlds?

You do not need to have a background in both linguistics and literary studies – either area will be perfect preparation for your exploration of cognitive poetics. You will be taught in a small-group two-hour tutorial discussion.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Consciousness in Fiction

This module studies the representation of fictional consciousness.

Character consciousness has become so fundamental to any narrative, that we hardly think about the problems involved in representing another person's mind.

On this module, you will:

  • explore in depth techniques for the presentation of consciousness in novels and other fictional texts
  • 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
  • examine the style of narrative texts that portray consciousness and study the theories that explain their methods
  • consider the historical development of consciousness presentation techniques

The module is worth 20 credits.


Study key work in narratology from literary, stylistic and sociolinguistic perspectives.

 We will explore narrative texts in terms of:

  • structure
  • temporal organisation
  • characterisation
  • point of view
  • ideology

You will examine both literary and non-literary narratives and gain an understanding of the historical development of narrative techniques.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Drama and Creative Writing modules (20 credits each):

Students may choose one from:

Creative Writing Conventions and Techniques

Develop your fiction through exercises and analysis of point of view, narrative voice, dialogue, and plot, among other techniques.

Expand your poetic range by playing with different approaches to form, exploring a range of creative techniques and sharpening your interpretive skills.

You will be encouraged to reflect on your writing output and incorporate the critiques of others when editing and developing your work.

This module is worth 20 credits. 

Dramatic Discourse

Explore the relationship between the ‘dramatic text’ of the written script, and the ‘theatrical text’ of the script in performance. 

Working with texts from the early modern period to the present day, we will draw on aspects of stylistics and discourse analysis. 

You will consider:

  • 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
  • the 'management' of performance through stage directions 

This module is worth 20 credits.

Learning to Publish: Contemporary Forms and Practices

Gain a practical introduction to the world of contemporary publishing, including:

  • journals
  • small presses
  • online writing
  • digital narratives
  • social media

You will explore the landscape of contemporary publishing, both offline and online, and study the practical skills needed to research, write, edit, and publish writing across a range of forms and platforms.

The module is structured around practical writing tasks, working towards a real-world publication project which will form the basis for your assessment. You will be taught through a mixture of lecture-style content on relevant topics and practice-based workshops.

Alongside the module, you also have the opportunity to take up a work placement with The Letters Page, the School of English's own literary journal.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Learning to Read: Criticism for Creative Writers

One of the key things you need to be able to do as a writer is critique and contextualise your own work.

This not only involves being able to edit and draft your work, it also includes understanding the wider influences from other literary and non-literary works.

These skills are really important when it comes to writing the critical essay – something you have to do alongside the creative work on the course. Yet, this module also explores how criticality itself offers new kinds of creative forms and approaches too, breaking down the traditional divide between prose, poetry and creative non-fiction.

You will explore:

  • How to critically examine your own creative work
  • How to write a critical essay
  • New hybridic forms of writing that cross traditional boundaries (for example, prose, poetry and non-fiction) such as autofiction and autotheory
  • New writers of creative, critical and hybridic work

This module is worth 20 credits

Writing Workshop: Fiction

Explore in depth how to write effective and compelling fiction.

Through in-class discussion and weekly readings and exercises, this module pushes and extends your own craft and technique.

Along the way, you’ll explore how to approach short story, flash fiction and novel writing. You’ll also be introduced to a range of secondary and critical texts that will help you deepen your own understanding of form, genre and style.

You will discover:

  • key prose-writing techniques, including point of view, characterisation, dialogue and setting
  • a range of form and genre, and the techniques and approaches that are relevant to them
  • a range of critical texts that deepen and extend your understanding of prose writing technique

This module is worth 20 credits

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, you are not only supported in your craft but encouraged to work towards submitting your work for publication. 

The reading list for this module includes: 

  • poetry magazines
  • new writers’ anthologies
  • debut poetry collections
  • poetry in performance 

This module is worth 20 credits.

Medieval Language and Literature modules (20 credits each):

Students may choose one from:

Middle English Romance

This module considers a major English literary genre and its critical heritage. It also demonstrates that medieval English romance narratives can be set in complex and profound critical relationship to each other and to other artistic media.

You are 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
  • represent public and private identities
  • ask 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 is worth 20 credits.

Reading Old English

This module introduces working with early medieval English texts in their original language.

We explore a wide variety of texts, both poetry and prose, literary and non-literary. This includes everything from the lives of virgin saints, to literary heroic reworkings of Bible stories.

Starting with the basics, you will study a different aspect of language each week. After learning the grammar, you will then work with texts through translation, linguistic analysis, and discussing the literary and historical contexts in which they were produced, preserved and reproduced. 

By the end of the module, you will understand Old English grammar and syntax, and will be familiar with texts from a number of genres.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Reading Old Norse

This module offers an introduction to the Old Norse language (no previous knowledge is necessary).

You will read selected texts in prose and verse, with an emphasis on the Old Icelandic sagas which describe Viking Age exploits and settlement from Norway to Newfoundland.

Each week you will study a different aspect of language and grammar through tailored exercises and focussed work on extracts from the set texts. You will also practise translating these extracts and discuss their literary and historical contexts.

By the end of the module, you will have an understanding of Old Norse vocabulary, grammar and syntax and you will be familiar with several key works of Old Icelandic literature.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Research Methods in Viking and Early Medieval English Studies

Discover the research resources and methods needed for interdisciplinary Viking and Early Medieval English Studies.

All teaching takes place through a series of workshops and when possible an intensive extended field-trip, which:

  • introduce a variety of approaches to studying the Vikings and early medieval England, including runology and name-studies
  • offer a practical insight to public engagement and museums
  • provide basic bibliographical training and an introduction to relevant research and presentation skills

The field-trip is an opportunity to:

  • discover material and linguistic evidence relevant to the study of the Vikings and early medieval England
  • understand the importance of interpreting the evidence within its landscape setting

Please note that the timing and location of the field-trip are to be decided.

You will produce a portfolio of assessed work on your learning. You are also welcome to share your skills and take part in our well-established 'Vikings for Schools' project.

This module is worth 20 credits.

The History of the Book: 1200-1600

The book, handwritten or printed, was as innovative and pervasive a technology in the Middle Ages as electronic technologies are in our own time.

This module introduces the study of the book as physical ‘artefact’ and world-changing technology.

We will cover:

  • methods of construction and compilation
  • handwriting and early printing techniques
  • reading marginalia as well as text

You 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.

This module is worth 20 credits.

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.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Advanced Study Module

The aim of this module is to provide the opportunity for students to take further, in the form of a project, a topic which has engaged their interest in modules already successfully completed on the MA. The project should be discrete and not merely an expansion of work already undertaken.

The topic might be (inter alia) a linguistic or literary study, but it must be discussed with and agreed by the supervisor, who will advise on the scope and writing up of the project so that it appropriately reflects advanced study.

A list of tutors available to supervise projects, and their areas of expertise, will be made available on the school website.

The above is a sample of the typical modules 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. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Thursday 27 July 2023.

Due to timetabling availability, there may be restrictions on some module combinations.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Seminars
  • Group study

You are taught in small seminar groups, so there is plenty of opportunity for discussion of ideas and development of our students as researchers.

MA Dissertation Preparation Day

This is an opportunity for students to learn more about the challenges of a larger-scale research project, about supervision and support, and about the resources available to Masters researchers. It is also a social occasion, bringing together our postgraduate students as an academic community. 

More about the Dissertation Preparation Day

Peer mentoring

All new postgraduate taught students can opt into our peer mentoring scheme. Your peer mentor will help you settle into life at Nottingham and access support if needed. 

More about peer mentoring

How you will be assessed

  • Essay
  • Dissertation

Most modules are assessed by written work of varying lengths, corresponding with the content and weighting of the module.

Your course tutors provide detailed comments on assignments.

Towards the end of your studies, you will complete a 14,000-word dissertation. This is a major piece of independent research, and you will be allocated a supervisor who is a specialist in your chosen area.

Your dissertation supervisor will provide advice and guidance to help you select your area of study, and offer close supervision and support as you complete your research. 

Contact time and study hours

You'll have around six hours of seminars (or equivalent) each week, which feeds into your independent study and research during the rest of the week.

As a guide, a 20-credit module is about 200 hours of work (combined teaching and self-study).

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent) in English literature or a related arts or humanities subject


Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification MA
Home / UK £9,250
International £22,600

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.


You'll be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to buy your own copies of core texts. The Blackwell's bookshop on campus offers a year-round price match against any of the main retailers (for example Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith).


There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

Our graduates enter a diverse rage of careers. The skills gained during this degree stand our graduates in good stead in areas from publishing to the heritage sector, and from marketing to academia.

You will gain a range of transferable skills, including:

  • collating information
  • writing persuasively
  • managing deadlines
  • balancing creative and analytical thinking

Career progression

75% of postgraduates from the School of English secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average starting salary was £20,796*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.


Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" The power to think critically, write persuasively, and read with a fine sensitivity to the nuances of prose and poetry are three remarkable skills that you will take away from your advanced studies of English Literature at Nottingham. These things will provide the basis for a truly enhanced appreciation of Literature and literary studies and will equip you for a competitive job market. "
Dr Rebekah Scott, Programme Director

Related courses

This content was last updated on Thursday 27 July 2023. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.