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Course overview

This course is for the curious. It’s designed for literature lovers who want to explore beyond the surface, questioning how the very language in our favourite literary texts works.

We will explore the role of language in literature, using approaches from discourse analysis to corpus linguistics, from cognitive poetics to narratology. We believe that linguistics and literary study cannot be separated, and aim to turn you into a creative-thinking interdisciplinary expert in literary linguistics.

You will have the opportunity to work with some of the leading scholars in this field as you develop your own thinking and follow your own research interests.

Explore the interface of language, literature, culture and cognition, all while discovering your own position as a stylistician.

Why choose this course?

Ranked 9th

in the UK by 'research power'

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Get involved

and attend research events with the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics (CRAL)

Top 100 University

Ranked in the top 100 Universities

QS World University rankings 2021

Want flexible study?

specialise in one of ten areas on our MA Applied English Distance Learning Programme

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.

Part time students will typically take three modules each academic year. You can take one in the autumn term and two in spring, or visa versa, depending on your preference and module choice.

The dissertation will take place over the final summer of your studies.

All classes take place during weekdays.


All students take the below module:

Mastering the Arts: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Research

This module has been developed to introduce you to a range of research techniques and methodologies. It will also help you develop a variety of valuable transferable skills for your future career.

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 

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 Friday 30 April 2021.

You will take at least three of the following 20-credit modules:

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.

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.

Dramatic Discourse

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.

English Vocabulary: Teaching and Learning

This module introduces theory and research from the field of vocabulary studies.

Vocabulary is a key aspect of language learning and use. This module aims to discuss the key issues related to this process, particularly from the perspective of learning and teaching a second language.

You will explore a number of key topics, including

  • The nature of lexical knowledge and the key question of what is involved in knowing a word
  • Different categories of vocabulary (i.e. academic or technical vocabulary)
  • The use of corpora, large databases of language, in the study of vocabulary
  • Practical applications of vocabulary research in language teaching, syllabus design and materials development

We look at a wide range of vocabulary teaching approaches, learning activities and strategies and examples of vocabulary tests. We pay particular attention to how research findings can inform language pedagogy, materials development and teaching methodology more broadly.

By engaging with the relevant literature and critically reviewing existing findings, you will gain solid foundations in the theory of vocabulary and learn how to apply in practical ways across various learning and teaching contexts.

This module is worth 20 credits. 

Group Dynamics and Motivation in the Language Classroom

Discover the main psychological factors and processes that determine how students learn foreign languages within a classroom context.

We will focus on two key issues that have a considerable practical significance. They are language learning motivation, and the internal dynamics of the learner group (which can either enhance or hinder the individual members' achievement).

Key topics to be discussed include:

  • the components of L2 motivation
  • strategies to increase student motivation
  • structural and developmental characteristics of the 'good' learner group
  • group building techniques
  • effective leadership roles

This module is worth 20 credits.

Intercultural Communication

With ever increasing interactions in the world today taking place between people of diverse cultural backgrounds, it is important to consider how language use may lead to misunderstandings and communicative difficulties.

In this module, we explore language use in different cultural environments and in interactions between speakers of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

We look at what language barriers might be present, and how these might be overcome. We examine intercultural interactions in a variety of contexts, including:

  • business and other professional encounters
  • the media
  • education

This module is worth 20 credits.

Language, Gender and Sexuality

Explore the relationship between language and gender.

We consider both spoken interaction and written texts, drawing on key approaches in the areas of discourse analysis and interactional sociolinguistics.

We will focus on:

  • how gender and sexuality affect the language we produce when interacting with one another in a variety of contexts
  • the critical analysis of how individuals and groups of people are represented in the media, in ways related to their gender and/or sexual identities
  • issues of sexist and discriminatory language towards LGBT people

You will explore current theories which explain the relationships between language, gender and sexuality. These include how ideologies of gender and sexuality are reproduced both in cultural discourse and everyday interaction.

You will also engage in hands-on analysis of data from spoken interaction, as well as from print, broadcast and social media.

The practical consequences of the discipline, in terms of how findings can have a political impact on wider society, will also be discussed.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Language Teaching: Speaking and Listening

Develop your skills and knowledge relating to teaching second language (L2) speaking and listening. The module is suitable for all, whether you have prior language teaching experience or not.

As a basis for discussion, we focus on teaching English as a foreign/second language. You will explore issues and ideas not often included on teacher training programmes, including topics relating to:

  • Spoken grammar
  • Fluency and pronunciation
  • Metacognitive approaches
  • Varied textbooks and materials critique

The module is centred around the notion of research informed practice, and we will draw on diverse bodies of research to inform discussion. We then relate this to a practical critique of English language textbooks, materials and activities, and consider their relevance and/or application to varied English language teaching contexts worldwide.

You have the opportunity to analyse, plan, prepare and present a research-informed teaching activity to your peers, designed to target a specific aspect of speaking/listening of your choice. These will contribute to a Speaking and Listening Activity Database. This is growing resource throughout the module, providing a concrete forum for resources and ideas sharing.

You will both reflect on and relate the issues under discussion to your own experiences as a language learner, and/or as a language teacher. 

This 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.

Psychology of Language

C4N 70U R34D 7H15?

With some difficulty, you may be able to read the above question (which says Can you read this?). How do you do this? What explains our impressive capacity to speak, listen, read and write in a first language, as well as potentially in a second, third or fourth?

In this module we consider and try out language experiments that tell us how we produce, understand, and learn language.

You will explore:

  • how we learn, produce and understand speech, words, sentences and discourse
  • how is this the same and different in a first, second or third language
  • how we understand non-literal language like how 'spill the beans' means ‘reveal a secret’
  • what is the relationship between language and emotion and how emoticons may convey emotion

This module is worth 20 credits

Research Methods: Corpus Linguistics

Corpus linguistics provides methods for studying collections of electronic texts. These could be written texts (including literary texts), material from the internet, or transcripts of spoken language.

We introduce fundamental corpus methods, that include:

  • retrieving and interpreting word frequency information
  • studying patterns of words in the form of concordances
  • analysing key words and key semantic domains

The module will explain these concepts and illustrate methods through case studies, with an emphasis on the use of corpus methods for the purposes of discourse analysis.

Through hands-on sessions, you will practise using corpus analysis software and several online interfaces. Throughout the module, you are encouraged to reflect on the applicability of a range of methods to your own areas of interest (for example, literary linguistics, critical discourse analysis, ELT).

For the assessment, you will complete a small-scale corpus project on a topic of your choice (in consultation with the module convenor). This project can test ideas that might be further developed during the dissertation.

This module is worth 20 credits.

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.

Second Language Acquisition

This module focuses on Second Language Acquisition (SLA), an area of research which focuses on the process of learning a second language.

With many factors determining the success of language learners, we will study this process in detail and gain a better understanding of how second language competence is developed. You will be introduced to the main theories and findings from the field, related to topics such as:

  • The effects of age and individual learner differences
  • The influence of mother tongue on second language learning
  • The acquisition of grammar, vocabulary and other aspects of language
  • The role of language teaching in the classroom and in other contexts

We will draw on a diverse body of research to inform our discussion. We also analyse case studies of language learners and specific learning situations. Crucially, you will develop important research skills, culminating in the development of your own research proposal in the area of SLA.

This module is worth 20 credits. 

Sociolinguistics of Work

Communication is an essential aspect of any workplace. From the language used in the cockpit of aeroplanes, to the language used in advertising and call centres, spoken, written and visual discourse is at the very centre of, and often defines, contemporary work practices.

Discover the theories and insights of sociolinguistic-related research, as applied to a vast array of work-related and institutional settings. We cover a range of communicative topics that reveal how language is used and abused in the workplace and institutional setting, including:

  • linguistic coercion in courtrooms, classrooms, prisons
  • electronic communication
  • miscommunication
  • advertising communication
  • critical discourse analysis and multimodal critical discourse analysis
  • political talk and the use of persuasive discourse
  • jargon, double speak, and fake news

Often taking a critical perspective on language in the workplace (exposing inequities in institutional discourse), the module will emphasise the vital relationship between power and communication in the workplace. It shows how looking closely at and through language can illuminate and enhance communication in a range of workplaces and institutional settings.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Business and Organisational Communication

Investigate the multidisciplinary subject of business and organisational communication.

We cover a range of quantitative and qualitative approaches, examining how individuals and groups use spoken, written and digital communication to enact their workplace identities, how workplace teams and communities communicate effectively and how tasks at work get achieved through communication.

The wide range of methodologies and analytical frameworks for interrogating business and organisational communication include:

  • conversation analysis
  • corpus linguistics
  • critical discourse analysis
  • pragmatics
  • linguistic ethnography
  • sociolinguistics

We also highlight contemporary issues emerging from the field, exploring, for example, new multi-media technologies and globalisation on communication in commercial domains and organisational environments.

The module demonstrates how the findings of communicative research can be practically applied in teaching and training materials and in consultancy work.

This module is worth 20 credits.

You then take two further 20-credit modules from the School of English. This can be from any of the below areas:

  • Applied Linguistics
  • English Language
  • Medieval Studies
  • Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies
  • Creative Writing
  • English Literature
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 Friday 30 April 2021.

You will complete a 60-credit dissertation:

Literary Linguistics MA Dissertation 60 credits

During the summer, you will complete a 60-credit dissertation (14,000 words). You will be supervised by a member of staff with expertise in your chosen field.

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 Friday 30 April 2021.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Seminars
  • Group study

Students 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. 

Find out 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

  • Exams
  • Essays
  • 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 will typically have six hours of face-to-face timetabled contact a week. Your tutors will also be available during office hours to discuss your work, address any issues, and help you develop your understanding.

Study hours

One credit is approximately 10 hours of student work, so a 20-credit module will be around 200 hours of work.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2021 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent) in English language/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 £8,500
International £20,000

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs


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 (i.e. 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.

More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

Graduate destinations

This course provides the perfect preparation for a career in:

  • publishing
  • teaching English
  • creative writing
  • journalism

Career progression

For postgraduate taught students from the School of English: 

  • 97.4% are in work or study 15 months after graduating
  • 81.6% are in graduate level work or study 15 months after graduating 

Source: University of Nottingham derived figures from HESA's Graduate Outcomes Survey of the Class of 2017/18 (Open Data Release 23rd June 2020)

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" Literary Linguistics is a discipline that empowers the reader. It gives us the tools to explain why literary texts affect us so powerfully, why we love some texts more than others, why we feel transported when we read literature. You will be able to understand your own interpretations and those of others through examining how texts are crafted and investigating the techniques that account for their literariness. "
Violeta Sotirova, Associate Professor in Stylistics

Related courses

The University has been awarded Gold for outstanding teaching and learning (2017/18). Our teaching is of the highest quality found in the UK.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a national grading system, introduced by the government in England. It assesses the quality of teaching at universities and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.

This content was last updated on Friday 30 April 2021. 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.