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 10th

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

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Get involved

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

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

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.

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 Tuesday 01 August 2023.

Students must take at least three 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.

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 Linguistics

Explore the use of linguistic frameworks to investigate literary texts.

Through a series of practical analyses, you 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 you 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.

This module is worth 20 credits.


In this pod, we will investigate how narratives are structured, presented, and conceptualised in the mind of the reader. We consider key topics which are fundamental to the creation of narrative, from the representation of point of view through to the articulation of time, reflecting critically on contemporary narratological theory and practice.

Students can also choose up to two from:

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Learning to Publish

Explore the full range of publishing opportunities available to writers, including literary journals, online writing, social media, and small press publications. You will learn how to tailor your writing for particular audiences and publishing forms, and develop a portfolio of short-form writing.

Please note: This is an optional module

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 Tuesday 01 August 2023.

You will complete a 60-credit dissertation:

Literary Linguistics MA Dissertation

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 Tuesday 01 August 2023.

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

  • 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 2024 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 £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 (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.

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

This course provides the perfect preparation for a career in:

  • publishing
  • teaching English
  • creative writing
  • journalism

"The MA has been hugely helpful with regards to my career, as it deepened my knowledge of my subject. It also showed to my current employers, and the interviewers for my PGCE, how committed I am to my subject and learning. I'm confident I wouldn't be where I am now without it."

- Jessica Heather, Literary Linguistics MA graduate

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
" 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

This content was last updated on Tuesday 01 August 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.