Course overview

English and Philosophy are both ways of exploring and understanding human life. The great themes of literature and debates around language are continuous with the big issues of philosophy.

Shared questions include:

  • what are the struggles, conflicts, and challenges of human life?
  • how should we navigate the social, moral, and personal struggles that make up the drama of living?

Both of these subjects at Nottingham are especially diverse:

  • English - language, literature, linguistics and drama from Old English to the present day
  • Philosophy - traditional topics such as ethics and philosophy of mind alongside emerging areas like environmental and social philosophy

You'll study each subject separately but equally. Choice of specialised modules means you'll be able to follow your passions. You'll also be able to choose modules that complement each other, allowing you to look at the same topic in different ways.

There's lots of reading involved! Also plenty of opportunities to develop your own ideas and work with others.

An ideal degree if you want to be able to say what you mean and mean what you say.

Your departments

This course is a collaboration between two departments. Find out more about what it’s like to study in the:

Why choose this course?

  • You're not locked in to a set programme - build a degree that suits your interests
  • Develop skills central to a wide range of professions
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities to enhance your CV
  • Option to study abroad - experience living and learning in different cultures
  • Unleash your creativity - live in a UNESCO City of Literature, take part in the student-run New Theatre and on-campus Lakeside Arts, experience a vibrant visual arts scene and legendary music venues

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.

UK entry requirements
A level BBB including B in an English-based subject in Clearing for home students

Please note: Applicants whose backgrounds or personal circumstances have impacted their academic performance may receive a reduced offer. Please see our contextual admissions policy for more information.

Required subjects

B in English Literature, English Language, English Literature and Language or Creative Writing in Clearing for home students

IB score 30; 5 in an English-based subject at Higher Level in Clearing for home students

Excluded Subjects in Clearing for home students

  • General Studies
  • Citizenship Studies
  • Global Perspectives
  • Critical Thinking

Foundation progression options

If you have faced educational barriers and are predicted BCC at A Level, you may be eligible for our Foundation Year. You may progress to a range of direct entry degrees in the arts and humanities.

Mature Students

At the University of Nottingham, we have a valuable community of mature students and we appreciate their contribution to the wider student population. You can find lots of useful information on the mature students webpage.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

With such a diverse range of modules across both subjects you'll encounter a wide variety of teaching methods.

You'll be part of large lectures, small seminars and individual tutorials - some will be in person and some will be online.

You'll work in groups on projects and presentations but also be responsible for doing a large amount of individual study.

Teaching quality and support

We work hard at our teaching to give you the best experience possible:

  • philosophy staff have been awarded three Lord Dearing Awards in the past five years. Nominated by students and other academics they recognise outstanding student learning
  • over 95% of our 2019 English BA students graduated with a 1st or 2:1 degree - a reflection of quality teaching as well as their abilities

If you have worries abut your work we won't wait for them to become problems. As a joint honours student you will have a personal tutor from the Department Philosophy as well as a Joint Honours advisor from the School of English. They will support your academic progress and help find solutions to any issues.

Teaching methods

  • Field trips
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Placements
  • Workshops

How you will be assessed

A combination of essays and exams are the norm for most modules. Weekly reading summaries, presentations, performances and online quizzes may also be used by individual lecturers depending on the module. 

Assessment methods

  • Commentary
  • Dissertation
  • Essay
  • In-class test
  • Portfolio (written/digital)
  • Presentation
  • Reflective review
  • Written exam

Contact time and study hours

We provide a structure of lectures, seminars and tutorials around which you organise other study and commitments. Our minimum expected contact time with you is:

  • Year one - 12 hours
  • Year two - 10 hours
  • Year three - 8 hours

Your lecturers will also be available outside of these times to discuss issues and develop your understanding. This can be in person and online.

Weekly tutorial support and the accredited Nottingham Advantage Award provide further optional learning activities, on top of these class contact hours.

As well as your timetabled sessions you’ll carry out extensive self-study. This will include course reading, seminar preparation and group study with coursemates. As a guide 20 credits (a typical module) is about 200 hours of work (combined teaching and self-study).

Class sizes vary depending on topic and type. A popular lecture may have up to 200 students attending while a specialised seminar may only contain 10 students.

Your lecturers will usually be from our academic staff in English and Philosophy many of whom are internationally recognised in their fields.

Study abroad

Nottingham's a global university so we support a range of opportunities for you to study abroad.

In the past five years over 1500 of our students have benefitted from living and learning in a different culture. And boosted their CVs for prospective employers.

You've a range of options - from short summer schools, a single semester to a whole year abroad.

We've a dedicated team to help you with the practicalities and many opportunities mean you pay reduced fees.

If you need support for your language skills before you go our Language Centre will have resources to help.

Explore your study abroad opportunities


Become 'workplace-ready' with our Work Placement module. It helps you develop skills and experience that allow you to stand out to potential employers.

Our successful and long-running Philosophy in Schools project gives volunteers:

  • classroom practice with Key Stage 2 children
  • experience of team working and safeguarding
  • training on how to deliver philosophy

The School of English have a range of work placement and volunteering opportunities - including working with schools to raise pupils' literacy and reading in care homes to support residents with dementia. 

You also have access to a wide range of schemes through the:

Study Abroad and the Year in Industry are subject to students meeting minimum academic requirements. Opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university’s control. Every effort will be made to update information as quickly as possible should a change occur.

Why study two subjects?

The benefits of doing a joint honours degree.


We know everyone comes from a variety of backgrounds and experiences so our first year:

  • ensures you have the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive
  • is designed to help you connect to and build relationships with your fellow students

You'll take 120 credits split as follows:

  • core philosophy modules - 40 credits
  • optional philosophy modules - 20 credits
  • optional English modules - 60 credits

You must pass year one but it does not count towards your final degree classification.

Philosophy core modules

Reasoning, Argument, and Logic

Ideas are at the heart of philosophy. Creating them, arguing your case and defending your thinking is a core skill. Equally, being able to interrogate other people's arguments is essential.

The knowledge, skills and tools to do this can be learnt. And that's what we'll do together in this module. We'll help you to:

  • understand the nature and structure of arguments
  • acquire critical tools for assessing the arguments of others
  • improve your ability to present your own reasoning in a clear and rigorous manner, particularly in essays

Philosophy isn't just about opinions and arguments. It's also about clear proof. So we'll also develop some knowledge of logic and its technical vocabulary.

As a core first year module it will help you develop some of the key skills you need to philosophise with confidence.


This module is worth 20 credits.

Mind, Knowledge, and Ethics

This is your main starting point to explore philosophical thinking about understanding ourselves and relationship with the world.

It introduces several different areas of philosophy, and the links between them. These include:

  • philosophy of the mind
  • perception
  • epistemology
  • agency
  • normative ethics
  • meta-ethics

Some of the key issues we'll look at include:

  • the relationship between mind and body
  • free will
  • moral scepticism and relativism
  • the nature of moral judgements

We know our students come with a wide range of philosophical knowledge and skills so this core first-year module helps develop a common level of:

  • understanding of philosophical terms and concepts
  • skills in argument and debate

This gives you the building blocks for successful study and philosophising in the rest of your degree.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Philosophy optional modules

Choose one module from this group.

Metaphysics, Science, and Language

Come and explore some fundamental thinking about the world around us and our knowledge of it.

You'll look at questions such as:

  • metaphysics – how should we think about the identity of things over time and through change? What does your personal identity over time consist in?
  • philosophy of science – is science the guide to all of reality? Is there a scientific method?
  • philosophy of language – what is truth? Is truth relative? Does language create reality?

An ideal introduction to metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of language.

This module is worth 10 credits.

Philosophy of Religions

All religions have a distinctive philosophical framework. Together we'll look at some of the common concerns such as:

  • the variety of conceptions of ultimate reality
  • goals for the spiritual life
  • the nature of religious experience
  • the relations of religion and morality
  • explanations of suffering and evil
  • human nature and continuing existence after death

As there is such a range of beliefs we'll also look at the problems of religious diversity.

Some of the sources we draw on might include (but is not limited to):

  • atheists - Feuerbach, Nietzsche
  • Buddhists - Śāntideva, Dōgen, Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Christians - Augustine, Pascal, Weil
  • Hindus - such as the writers of the Upanisads and Shankara
  • Jews - Spinoza, Buber
  • Muslims - Mulla Sadra, Nasr
  • Taoists - Zhuangzi

More contemporary thinkers might also be included.

With such a wide range of issues and traditions the exact mix will vary - each year will focus on a few key thinkers and themes.

This module is worth 10 credits.

Philosophy and the Contemporary World

Philosophy can teach us to ask hard questions and help change the world for the better. 

We'll help you develop the skills to critically understand and constructively engage with a wide range of contemporary issues. Together we'll tackle topics relevant to university life and wider society. You should finish the module with a greater understanding of:

  • the value of philosophical thinking in relation to the contemporary world
  • using key philosophical arguments, concepts and methods in everyday contexts

Possible topics we'll look at

  • What is the purpose of education?
  • Why value free speech?
  • Censorship and pornography
  • Race and Racism
  • Sexual identities
  • Disability
  • Implicit bias
  • People, animals and the environment
  • Migration and refugees
  • Drugs and sport
  • Ethics and artificial intelligence
  • Mental illness

This module is worth 20 credits.

Gender, Justice, and Society
  • What is institutional racism?
  • What do feminists mean when they say, 'The personal is political'?
  • Are borders unjust?
  • Are direct action and criminal damage legitimate forms of protest?

These are just some of the questions you'll think about on this module.

We'll take a critical look at some of the answers given by thinkers across the political spectrum, from right-wing libertarians like Robert Nozick to socialist anarchists like Emma Goldman.

We'll also look at some of the political contexts in which these questions have been asked and answered. This might include the:

  • Peterloo Massacre
  • civil rights movement
  • invention of the police
  • Paris Commune of 1871
  • Black Lives Matter and Youth Strike4Climate movements

This module is worth 20 credits.

History of Politics: Ancient to Modern

Through considering some of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived, students on this module will become familiar with some of the main philosophical ideas which have shaped philosophy. They will understand how and why these ideas arose and developed across the history of philosophy in response to wider contexts and movements. The historical scope runs from the ancient to the modern period. Typical figures might include: Plato, Aristotle, Ibn-Tufayl, Ibn-Rushd, Montaigne, Locke, Wollstonecraft, Marx, Gandhi, Fanon, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Murdoch. Typical topics might include: ancient Greek conceptions of the good life, reason and tradition in classical Islamic philosophy, medieval philosophy, existentialism, and Afro-Caribbean philosophy.

English optional modules

Select three from four modules. The choices you make here structure the modules you can take in years two and three.

Drama, Theatre, Performance

Who makes theatre? Where does performance happen, and who is in the audience? How is society represented on stage?

These questions are at the heart of this module, and we will explore the extraordinary variety of drama in the Western dramatic tradition. You will examine dramatic texts in relation to their historical context, spanning:

  • ancient Greek tragedy
  • medieval English drama
  • Shakespeare and his contemporaries
  • the Restoration stage
  • 19th century naturalism
  • political theatre of Brecht
  • drama and performance, for example the West End hit Emilia by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (2018), a celebration of women’s voices and history, inspired by the life of the trailblazing 17th century poet and feminist Emilia Bassano

Alongside texts, you'll also consider the extra-textual features of drama, including the performance styles of actors, the significance of performance space and place, and the composition of various audiences.

You will study selected plays in workshops, seminars and lectures, where we will explore adaptation and interpretation of the texts through different media resources. You can also take part in practical theatre-making, exploring extracts from the selected play-texts in short, student-directed scenes in response to key questions about performance.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Studying Language

On this module you will learn about the nature of language, and how to analyse it for a broad range of purposes. It aims to prepare you for conducting your own language research across your degree.

The accompanying weekly workshops will explore levels of language analysis and description – from the sounds and structure of language, through to meaning and discourse. These can be applied to all areas of English study, and will prepare you for your future modules.

In your lectures, you will see how our staff put these skills of analysis and description to use in their own research. This covers the study of language in relation to the mind, literature, culture, society, and more. Your seminars then give you a chance to think about and discuss these topics further.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Studying Literature

This module introduces the core skills for literary studies, including skills in reading, writing, researching and presentation. Topics covered include:

  • close reading
  • constructing an argument
  • handling critical material
  • introducing you to key critical questions about literary form, production and reception

You will put these new skills into practice through reading specific literary texts. These are focused on poetry and prose selected from the full range of the modern literary period (1500 to the present).

Across the year, you will learn about different interpretive approaches and concepts, and will examine literary-historical movements and transitions.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Beginnings of English

What was the earliest literature in English like? Where does English come from? What does ‘English’ really mean, anyway?

On this module, we’ll explore a range of English and Scandinavian literature from the medieval period. You'll also meet themes and characters who are at once familiar and strange: heroes and heroines, monster-slayers, saints, exiles, tricksters, lovers, a bear, and more.

From Tolkien to Marvel, the medieval past has been an inspiration for fantasy fiction and modern myth. As well as introducing you to stories and poetry which is exciting, inspiring and sometimes plain weird, we’ll also be looking at some of the challenges of the modern world.

Thinking about the past, means thinking about how it is used in the present day. The idea of a 'beginning' of English language and literature often gets incorporated into modern beliefs about national, ethnic and racial identity. On this module, we’ll begin the necessary work of challenging these ideas and building a better understanding of the medieval past and why it still matters.

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 Friday 02 September 2022.

With a free choice of modules you can deepen your knowledge of an existing topic or dive into something new as your interests develop.

You'll study each subject equally (60 credits in each).

Our Work Placement module allows you to develop valuable professional experience.

You must pass year two which counts one third towards your final degree classification.

Philosophy optional modules

The Nature of Meaning

The module begins with an exploration of various theories of naming, paying particular attention to the works of Frege, Russell (including the theory of descriptions), and Kripke. We then turn our attention to various puzzles concerning the nature of meaning, including the distinction between analytic and synthetic sentences.

In the final part of the module, we move on to a discussion of some of the mainstream theories of meaning; particularly, a truth-conditional semantics, and we explore how this might be developed to take into account indexical terms such as 'I', 'now', and 'here'. Some of the skills acquired in Elementary Logic will be applied in this module.

Freedom and Obligation
  • Are you obliged to obey the law even when you disagree with it?
  • What features must a state have in order to be legitimate?

In this module we will approach these classic questions of political philosophy by examining the work of a number of important past political philosophers. This might include Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau but this isn't a fixed list - it may vary according to particular issues and student input.

We will look at both:

  • why the thinkers' works have been open to different interpretations
  • evaluate their arguments under these different interpretations

This module is worth 20 credits.

Mind and Consciousness

Where does the mind meet the world? In sensory perception.

By perceiving, we become conscious of a reality beyond our minds. Or do we?

Mind and Consciousness explores perception and perceptual consciousness.

It asks question such as:

  • Do we really perceive a world beyond our minds?
  • What are the theories of perception and perceptual consciousness?
  • How do we distinguish different senses – what makes seeing different from hearing?
  • Can our perceptions be biased? Do our prejudices change the way we see things?
  • Is dreaming perceiving, or does it belong to another category of mind like imagining?

By the end of this module, you'll be able to:

  • understand the main positions in the philosophy of perception
  • analyse and evaluate rival views on these topics

This module is worth 20 credits.

Knowledge and Justification

This module explores contemporary treatments of issues pertaining to knowledge and the justification of belief. It addresses issues such as the following:

  • The structure of justification and its relation to one's mental states and evidence (foundationalism vs. coherentism; internalism vs.externalism; evidentialism)
  • The justification of induction; the notion of a priori justification
  • The relation between your evidence and what you know
  • The natures of perceptual experience and perceptual knowledge
  • Safety and contextualist theories of knowledge
  • Moore's response to scepticism
  • Testimonial knowledge, "virtue" epistemology and its relation to "reliabilist" epistemology
Normative Ethics

We all have opinions about moral matters. But for most of us, our moral opinions are not very well-organised. Indeed, upon reflection we may discover that some of our beliefs about morality are inconsistent.

Normative ethics is the branch of moral philosophy that attempts to systematize everyday judgements about the rightness and wrongness of actions.

It's a wide area of study and we'll focus on two traditions within it:

  • contractualism - which holds that the rightness and wrongness of acts depends on principles no one could reasonably reject
  • character ethics - which emphasises the relationship between right action and good and bad character

By the end you'll have a clear understanding of:

  • the aims and methodologies of involved
  • some of the main theories, such as consequentialism, deontology, contractualism and virtue ethics (and some of their influential variants)

You'll also be able to:

  • reason to a well thought-out position on various topics in ethics
  • develop your own views, drawing upon the sources on which the module focuses

This module is worth 20 credits.

Being, Becoming and Reality

We look at some fundamental metaphysical questions about the cosmos. A selection of the following topics will be studied:

  • Objects: concrete vs. abstract; existence and nothingness
  • Sets and mereology
  • Properties, Property bearers, Relations
  • States of affairs and non-mereological composition
  • Modality (including counterfactuals) and possible worlds
  • Time, persistence, change, and the non-present
Topics in Asian Philosophy

We'll examine the Asian philosophical traditions, especially those of India, China, and Japan.

These Asian traditions address familiar philosophical themes - in ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics - but often approach them in ways that seem unfamiliar.

You may well find your culturally inherited presuppositions challenged. This is good! As global power relationships change understanding culture is vital to meaningful communication.

Topics we may cover include:

  • Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism the relationship between morality and religion
  • etiquette, ethics and aesthetics
  • the family and moral life
  • social and political philoosophy
  • animals, natural environments, and human flourishing
  • the nature of ultimate reality and the good life
  • the relation of Asian philosophies to the Western tradition


This module is worth 20 credits.

Social Philosophy

This module addresses issues in social metaphysics and social epistemology. We will examine the metaphysics of social kinds and explore different accounts of social kinds that have been offered. We will also examine how the fact that we are situated in a social world can affect what we can or cannot know or understand about ourselves, each other, and the social world itself. We will also address ethical and/or political issues that arise once we take account of social metaphysics and social epistemology.

In particular, we might consider whether there are special kinds of injustices that arise due to our social reality. What is epistemic injustice and how does it relate to social injustice? How do certain privileged groups structure the social world that create and maintain privilege and patterns of ignorance that perpetuate that privilege? What are some obligations that we have, given metaphysical and epistemological concerns we have explored? 

Philosophy of Art
  • What is art?
  • Is there a relationship between art and ethics?
  • What is the relationship between art and emotion?

Together we'll explore these philosophical issues and more. By the end of the module you'll:

  • have a good awareness of many of the critical debates in the philosophy of art
  • recognise and judge for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of arguments on the issues

This module is worth 20 credits.

Philosophy of Science: From Positivism to Postmodernism

What is science? Is there a scientific method, and if so, what is it? Can science tell us what the world is really like? Is it the only way to know what the world is really like? Does science progress? What is a paradigm and when/how does it shift? Is science socially constructed? Can a sociological study of the practice of science tell us anything about the nature of science? Is science "value-neutral"? Should we save society from science? What are "the science wars" and who won?

These are some of the questions we will explore in this module. We will start with the positivism-empiricism of the early 20th century and culminate with the postmodernism-relativism of the late-20th century and its aftermath.

Readings will include seminal works by Ayer, Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyeraband, Bloor, and Laudan. While we may consider various examples from the history of science, no background knowledge of science or logic (beyond elementary first-year logic) is presupposed. 

Ancient Greek Philosophy

This module explores some of the major thinkers, texts and themes of Ancient Greek philosophy. Ancient Greek philosophy stands at the beginning of the western philosophical tradition and western philosophy has been shaped by a sustained engagement with Ancient Greek thought in areas of philosophy, such as epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and political theory.

Topics and thinkers may include: Presocratic Philosophy; Heraclitus; Parmenides; the Sophistic movement; Plato and Platonism; Socrates and the Socratic Schools (Cynics, Cyrenaics and Megarics); Aristotle (ethics, political theory, natural philosophy, metaphysics); Epicurus and Epicureanism; Stoicism; Academic and Pyrrhonian Scepticism; Plotinus and Neoplatonism; Pythagoreansim. No knowledge of the Ancient Greek language is required.

Continental Philosophy

This module will introduce the European tradition of philosophical thinking prevalent over the past two centuries. It will begin with an introduction to the influence of Kant and Hegel and recurrent characteristics of European thought, before turning to focus on representative texts by key thinkers. Texts for more in depth study might include, for example: Ludwig Feuerbach's Principles of the Philosophy of the Future, Henri Bergson's Creative Evolution, Friedrich Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols, Martin Heidegger's Being and Time, Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition, and Luce Irigaray's Speculum of the Other Woman. Emphasis will be placed on the different images of thought at work in European philosophical texts, as well as on how differing approaches to metaphysics, ethics and politics are grounded in newly-created perspectives.

Intermediate Logic

This module takes formal logic beyond the basics (as covered in first year Reasoning, Argument, and Logic). We’ll cover Propositional Logic, First-Order Logic, and Modal Logic (going into more detail where these were covered in first year).

We’ll learn about existence, identity, possibility, and necessity, and we’ll learn formal techniques for testing the validity of arguments. We’ll apply these logical techniques to help us make sense of challenging concepts and arguments in metaphysics and philosophy of language.

An Introduction to Metaethics

Metaethics is about how ethics works. It's not about judging whether something is morally good or bad in any particular instance but critiquing the foundations used to make the judgements. Some of the questions we might ask are:

  • Are there moral facts?
  • What is moral truth?
  • Do psychopaths really understand moral language?

Like many areas of philosophy metaethics has several branches and by the end of this module you'll be able to:

  • understand the main positions in contemporary metaethics
  • analyse and evaluate rival views on these topics

This module is worth 20 credits.

For a good pre-module introduction to the subject have a read of chapter six of Ethics for A level by Mark Dimmock and Andrew Fisher. It's an open-source resource so free to access.

English optional modules

Choose three modules in total from at least two of the areas below.

Literature, 1500 to the Present

From Talking Horses to Romantic Revolutionaries: Literature 1700-1830

This module introduces different kinds of literature, written between 1700-1830. This was a dramatic time in literary history, resulting in the Romantic period. It involved many areas of great contemporary relevance, such as class, poverty, sexuality, and slavery.

We will examine:

  • utopian literature (through Gulliver’s Travels)
  • the developing novel (such as Moll Flanders and Pride and Prejudice)
  • how irony works
  • what is self-expression
  • how the emergent genre of autobiography can be either manipulated, or used as part of a larger cause

As part of this module, you will explore novels, poems, and prose works that bring to life the intellectual, social and cultural contexts of the period.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Literature and Popular Culture

This module investigates the relationship between literature and popular culture. You will explore works from across a range of genres and mediums, including:

  • prose fiction
  • poetry
  • comics
  • graphic novels
  • music
  • television
  • film

As well as exploring topics such as aesthetics and adaptation, material will be situated within cultural, political and historical contexts allowing for the distinction between the literary and the popular.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Modern and Contemporary Literature

This module charts the dramatic transformations and innovations of literature in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Moving between genres, the module unfolds chronologically from modernism, through the inter-war years, and into postmodernism and the contemporary scene.

We explore some of the huge artistic shifts of this long and turbulent period. You will examine how modern and contemporary literature connects to the cultural revolutions, intellectual debates, political and social upheavals, and ethical complexities of its times.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Shakespeare and Contemporaries on the Page
This module focuses on material written between 1580 and 1630 to provide you with an introduction to methods of reading early modern texts. Shakespeare’s poetry will be among the core texts; other canonical writers will include Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney and John Donne. You’ll explore the practice of historicised readings of early modern texts and you’ll consider the related challenges and limitations. You’ll have one hour of lectures and two hours of seminars each week.
Victorian and Fin de Siècle Literature: 1830-1910

Explore a wide variety of Victorian and fin-de-siècle literature, with examples taken from fiction, critical writing and poetry.

You will examine works by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, HG Wells and Joseph Conrad.

We will focus on understanding changes in literary forms and genres over this period, and how these relate to broader developments in Victorian social, economic and political culture.

The module is organised around the following interrelated themes:

  • Empire and race
  • Class and crime
  • Identity and social mobility
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Literature and consumerism

This module is worth 20 credits.

Texts Across Time
This module will consider key issues in the study of English language and world literature, locate language and literature in time and place, and extend your knowledge of the intellectual, political, historical, and cultural developments in language and literature.

English Languages and Applied Linguistics

Language in Society

When we study language, we learn about how society works. Why do some people have more noticeable accents than others? Why are some people taken seriously when they talk, while others aren’t? How do those with power use language to manipulate us into thinking a certain way?

On this module, these are the sorts of questions you’ll be thinking about. We focus on how people use language, how language varies between different speakers, and how language is used to represent different social groups. We consider:

  • The way that language is used by people online to create communities
  • How the mainstream media uses language to represent particular groups, such as immigrants or gay people
  • The ways that language is used in particular contexts, such as the workplace
  • How advertisers use language to persuade us that we need their products
  • The relationship between language, gender and sexuality
  • How language can be used to signal a person’s race or ethnicity

You’ll learn how to conduct a sociolinguistic study which explores topics such as these. You will also spend time each week analysing original language data.

The module is worth 20 credits.

Language Development

You’ll explore how English is learnt from making sounds as an infant through to adulthood. Topics relating to early speech development include: the biological foundations of language development, the stages of language acquisition and the influence of environment on development. Further topics which take into account later stages of development include humour and joke telling abilities, story-telling and conversational skills and bilingualism.

Literary Linguistics

All literature is written in language, so understanding how language and the mind work will make us better readers and critics of literary works.

This module brings together the literary and linguistic parts of your degree. It gives you the power to explore any text from any period by any author.

You will study how:

  • Literature can feel rich, or pacy, or suspenseful, or beautiful
  • Texts can make you laugh, cry, feel afraid, excited, or nostalgic
  • Fictional people like characters can be imagined
  • We can get inside the thoughts, feelings, and hear the speech of characters, narrators and authors
  • Imagined worlds are built, and how their atmosphere is brought to life
  • You as a reader are manipulated or connect actively with literary worlds and people

This module is worth 20 credits.

The Psychology of Bilingualism and Language Learning

Are you interested in languages and the multilingual world? Have you ever wondered how our brains process learning a second language? Would you like to teach English overseas one day? If so, this module could be for you.

Drawing on current theories of second language acquisition, we will consider:

  • How globalisation has increased bilingualism in the world
  • How languages are learnt
  • How students differ from each other in their mastery of languages
  • How the psychology of the classroom environment impacts the effectiveness of learning
  • How to motivate students and create good learner groups

You will spend three hours per week on this module, split equally between a lecture and follow-up seminar.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Texts Across Time
This module will consider key issues in the study of English language and world literature, locate language and literature in time and place, and extend your knowledge of the intellectual, political, historical, and cultural developments in language and literature.

Medieval Languages and Literatures

Chaucer and his Contemporaries

Chaucer dominates our conception of late Middle English literature, but he was one among several exceptional writers of his time.

This module focuses on 40 years of writing, to consider whether Chaucer’s concerns with identity and authority, comedy and tragedy, and wit and wisdom are uniquely his, or shared with other writers.

We will cover a wide range, including:

  • romance
  • dream vision (both mystic and secular)
  • love poetry
  • lyric

You will read works by the so-called Ricardians: Chaucer, Gower, the Gawain-poet, and Langland, but also the mystic writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe and some poetry by Thomas Hoccleve.

By the end of the module, you will have gained confidence in reading and discussing Middle English texts, and be aware of key issues around form, language, and authority and influence.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Ice and Fire: Myths and Heroes of the North

Odin, Thor and Loki: almost everyone has heard about them, but where do their stories come from?

In this module, we will learn about the origins of their myths from various sources: images on stone and wood in the Viking Age, as well as the written texts of the Middle Ages.

We will learn about giants, dwarves, valkyries and rumour-spreading squirrels, as well as the cosmology and religion which are embedded in Old Norse mythology. We will talk about heroes and villains, from dragon-slayers to queens who kill to avenge their brothers.

The stories of Old Norse mythology have influenced writers throughout history. from Tolkien to the Marvel Universe, they are still part of our culture. This module will take you back to the beginnings and show that there are so many more marvellous myths to explore.

The module is with 20 credits.

Old English: Reflection and Lament
This module explores the tradition that the poetry and prose of Old English often focuses on warfare and heroic action. You will study and analyse poems from the Exeter Book 'elegies' and also passages from Beowulf to explore this rich and rewarding genre. You'll have a two-hour lecture and one-hour seminar each week for this module.
Names and Identities

What can given names, surnames and nicknames tell us about people in the past? What determines the choice of a name for a child? Where does our hereditary surname system come from? How have place, class and gender impacted upon naming through time? This module will help you answer all these questions and more. Interactive lectures and seminars, and a project based on primary material tailored to each participant, will introduce you to the many and varied, fascinating and extraordinary types of personal name and their origins.

Drama and Performance

Shakespeare and Contemporaries on the Stage
This module offers an in-depth exploration of the historical and theatrical contexts of early modern drama. This module invites students to explore the stagecraft of innovative and provocative works by Shakespeare and key contemporaries, such as Middleton, Johnson, and Ford (amongst others). Students will explore how practical performance elements such as staging, props, costume and music shape meaning. You’ll have one hour-long lecture and one two-hour long seminar each week, with occasional screenings.
From Stanislavski to Contemporary Performance

Develop your understanding of some of the most influential performance theories and practice, from the beginning of the 20th century to the present. 

Building on the ‘Drama, Theatre, Performance’ module, you will deepen your understanding of Stanislavski and Brecht in practice, as well as exploring the work of other influential theorists and practitioners. 

Possible material includes: 

  • Konstantin Stanislavski
  • Vsevolod Meyerhold
  • Bertolt Brecht
  • Antonin Artaud
  • Jacques Lecoq
  • Ensemble physical theatre makers such as DV8, Gecko & Frantic Assembly 

For this module, you’ll have a mix of lectures and practical workshops, totalling three hours a week.

Workshops offer the opportunity for practical drama. You will explore theory in practice, through work with excerpts from canonical theatrical scripts and other performance scripts.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Twentieth-Century Plays

Theatre makers in the long 20th century have been dealing with a series of pressing artistic and social issues, many of which still concern us today.

These issues include:

  • What makes a play worth watching?
  • Why do audiences enjoy watching bad things happening?
  • How are minority groups represented on the stage?
  • How might the stage advance the cause of gender or sexual equality?
  • What role does social class or nationality play in the workings of theatrical culture?
  • How can we talk accurately about an art form like performed theatre, that is so fleeting and transitory?

In order to answer such questions, this module gives an overview of key plays and performances from the 1890s to the present. You will study these key texts in their original political, social, and cultural contexts. You will also:

  • consider their reception and afterlife
  • focus on the textual and performance effects created
  • place the texts alongside the work of relevant theorists and practitioners

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

Specialise deeper or explore new areas - the choice is yours!

You'll study each subject equally (60 credits in each).

If there's a particular topic that fascinates you, you can write a dissertation on it. This can be in English or Philosophy or something that combines both into a single piece of work.

You must pass year three which counts approximately two thirds towards your final degree classification.

Philosophy optional modules

Dissertation in Philosophy

The aim of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to write an 8,000-word dissertation on a philosophical topic, the precise subject of which is by agreement with the supervisor. At the completion of the module, you will have had an opportunity to work independently, though with the advice of a supervisor.

Philosophy of Criminal Law

There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. This power relationship raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as:

  • Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation?
  • What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why?
  • What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible?
  • Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why?
  • What is the proper role for the presumption of innocence: Who must presume whom to be innocent of what? 
  • Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment?
  • How should the criminal law function in the international context?

We'll look at thinking from across history, from seminal figures such as Plato, Bentham, and Kant, to more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others.

No experience of criminal law necessary. Ideal for both philosophers and practitioners.


This module is worth 20 credits.

Communicating Philosophy

This module will teach you how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing them in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, webpages, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations).

A number of the sessions will be delivered by professionals from outside the university, with support from the module convener. Seminars will be used to develop each of the items for assessment. You will be invited to draw upon your prior philosophical learning to generate your assessments, except in the case of handout where you will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.


Karl Marx's thoughts and words have had an enormous impact on history. Revolutions have been fought, economic policies pursued and artistic movements established by followers (and opponents) of Marxism.

Together we'll examine some of Mark's original writing and explore his thinking. Specific themes we'll cover include:

  • alienation
  • the materialist conception of history
  • ideology
  • the labour theory of value

By the end of the module you should have a good overview of Marx's attempt to synthesise German philosophy, French political theory, and British economics.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Environmental Ethics

In this module we'll ask questions like:

  • How should human beings interact with the non-human natural world?
  • Is nature intrinsically valuable, or does it possess value only by being valuable to us?

As part of this we'll cover topics such as:

  • the moral status of animals
  • the ethics of zoos
  • responsibility for climate change
  • whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature
  • the environmental impact of having children
  • the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development

This module is worth 20 credits.

Advanced Logic

This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will investigate the syntax and semantics of various logics, including first order logic, modal logics, and three-valued logics, as well as ways to apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics such as possibility and necessity, vagueness, and the Liar paradox.

We’ll cover ways to reason and construct proofs using the logics we study, and also ways to reason about them. We’ll look at proofs regarding the limits of formal logic, including proofs of soundness, completeness, and decidability.

Free Will and Action

This module involves the study of a set of related issues concerning the nature and explanation of action and the requirements for free action and free will. Questions to be discussed are likely to include all or most of the following:

  • What would it take for an action to be free (or an exercise of ‘free will’) in a sense that would make it an action for which we are morally responsible?
  • Is there is any way in which our actions could be free in the relevant sense, whether or not determinism is true?
  • How do actions differ from bodily movements that are not actions?
  • Actions are typically (perhaps always) done for reasons, but what exactly is the relation between the reasons and the actions?
  • Do the reasons cause the corresponding actions - and if they do, can this be the same kind of causation as is involved in ordinary ‘mechanistic’ causal explanation?
  • And what about the fact that at least some of our actions seem to have purely physical causes?
  • If they do, doesn’t this make any ‘mental causes’ of those actions redundant?
  • What is the connection between intentional or voluntary action and rational action?
  • In particular, it seems that we sometimes intentionally and voluntarily do things that we ourselves regard as irrational - but how is such ‘weakness of will’ possible?
Philosophy of Mortality

Illness, ageing, dying and death are integral parts of human existence. They're related to deep philosophical questions, for instance, about the nature and meaning of human life. Moreover, our mortality poses new challenges for familiar concerns within philosophy. This module explores such philosophical issues raised by mortality.

Subjectivism and Relativism in Ethics

One often hears the opinion that ethics is subjective. But what does this mean, exactly?

And one often hears the view that ethics is relative. But relative to what?

And what is ‘ethics’ anyway?

And if ethics is subjective, or relative, what does that mean for ethics as a discipline? Does it mean, for example, that our ethical pronouncements can never be incorrect, never be challenged, or never disagreed with?

This module addresses these and other questions about the foundations of ethics, and gives you the material to develop your own views of this peculiarly human phenomenon.

Philosophy of Recreation

We expect recompense when we work but appear to do recreational activities just for their own sake.

You'll use philosophical tools to examine the meaning and value of such recreational activities, exploring questions such as:

  • Is recreational sex and drug consumption merely about pleasurable sensations?
  • Why do we put such great effort into achieving seemingly arbitrary goals in sport?
  • Does it make sense for fans to feel elated if they played no part in a team’s success?
  • Is there something special about being in a zone of effortless attention whilst playing an instrument?
  • Could risking death seeking sensations of the sublime by climbing a mountain be better than safely siting on your sofa watching trash tv?
Taking Utilitarianism Seriously

This module is an extended discussion of utilitarian approaches to moral and political philosophy, including utilitarian accounts of:

  • the nature of wellbeing
  • reasons and rightness
  • rights and justice
  • democracy
  • individual decision-making
  • praise and blame
Advanced Topics in the Philosophy of Mind

The philosophy of mind addresses philosophical questions about the mind and aspects of the mind: mental or psychological states and capacities. Advanced topics in the philosophy of mind will focus on a specific area (or areas) of the philosophy of mind.

Which specific area (or areas) of philosophy of mind is in focus may vary from year to year. So the topics for this area of philosophy of mind may include:

  • the nature of perception
  • the nature of perceptual consciousness
  • the directness or indirectness of perception
  • the perception-knowledge link
  • what properties or kinds perception can present
  • issues about the senses
  • specific issues about vision and audition
Advanced Topics in Aesthetics

This module is a discussion of some philosophical problems pertaining to art. Topics could include definitions of art, the objectivity versus the subjectivity of aesthetic evaluations, emotional response to art, the ontological status of artworks, and Walton's theory of make-believe.

This module aims to promote a deeper understanding of philosophical issues pertaining to art. By the end of the module, you should be able to discuss and evaluate different views of the expressive power of art, to explain certain current views on the status of aesthetic evaluations, and to present the main contemporary viewpoints pertaining to the nature of artworks.

Language, Metaphysics and Metametaphysics

Typically, this module introduces you to some advanced topics in contemporary analytic metaphysics. The module focuses on important topics, which have received recent attention. The topics covered will include:

  • metaphysical nihilism (why there is something rather than nothing, and the subtraction argument)
  • causation (the counterfactual theory and other accounts)
  • the metaphysics of grounding (and concerns with such a notion)
  • the metaphysics of absolute and relational space and time
  • vagueness and indeterminacy

The module presupposes a certain basic familiarity with general issues in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, but is designed to serve as an advanced introduction to new topics that is completely accessible to the uninitiated.

Buddhist Philosophy

This module will focus on a critical examination of core aspects of Buddhist thinking, with emphasis on some of its basic psychological, spiritual, and metaphysical conceptions.

These include, in particular: the origin and nature of suffering; the no-self thesis; enlightenment; consciousness; experiential knowing; and the doctrine of Emptiness (the lack of inherent nature in all things and impermanence).

Philosophy of Education

Education plays a fundamental part in all our lives. It shapes who we are as individuals, our value systems, our political and religious outlooks. As a consequence it changes how society looks, how it operates, and what we think society ought to be like. Education then, is of the most profound importance.

As philosophers we are uniquely placed to think long and hard about education:

  • what is its role?
  • what should its role be?
  • who gets to decide what is taught?

Rising to this challenge this module creates the space, and provides the tools, for you to do just this.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Philosophy of Sex
  • How many people have you had sex with?
  • Is there a difference between sex work and working in a supermarket?
  • What is love? Do we chose who we love?
  • What is gender? What do we mean when we say 'trans women are women'?

These are some of the many philosophical questions which arise when you start thinking about sex and related topics.

During this module we will tackle the conceptual, moral, political, and metaphysical issues raised by sexual activity. Possible topics we'll look at include:

  • the nature of sexual desire
  • sexual consent
  • sexual objectification
  • prostitution
  • pornography
  • sexual orientation

Together we'll look at the experiences and testimony of a variety of groups, including those considered sexual and gender minorities. Then we'll use philosophical tools to explore the issues that such testimony raises.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Knowledge, Ignorance and Democracy

Politics and truth have always had a complicated relationship. Lies, bullshit, spin, and propaganda are nothing new.

Polarization is on the rise in many democracies and political disagreements have spread to disputes about obvious matters of fact.

But have we really entered the era of 'post-truth' politics? Is debate now framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the facts?

In this module, we'll explore questions such as:

  • Should the existence of widespread disagreement in politics make us less confident in our own views?
  • Are voters morally or epistemically obligated to vote responsibly?
  • Is it rational for citizens to base their political views on group identity rather than reasoned arguments?
  • Should we have beliefs about complex policy questions about which we are not experts?
  • Is democracy the best form of government for getting at the truth?


This module is worth 20 credits.

English optional modules

Depending on your module choices in your first and second year, you choose three modules in your final year that cover at least two areas of study.

Joint honours students enjoy the same wide range of final-year options in English as single honours.

Literature, 1500 to the Present

Songs and Sonnets: Lyric poetry from Medieval Manuscript to Shakespeare and Donne

Through the exploration of lyric poetry, this module examines cultural and literary change from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. It will consider the rise of ‘named poet’, the interaction of print and manuscript culture, the representation of love, and the use of the female voice. It will develop further students’ confidence in handling formal poetic terminology and reading poetry from this period. It will also enable students to think pragmatically about the transmission of lyric in modern editions, and about how best to represent the form.

Contemporary Fiction

Explore the novel from the late twentieth century onwards, in Britain and beyond.

We will concentrate on the formal operations and innovations of selected novelists, considering how the contemporary socio-historical context influences these questions of form. Topics considered include:

  • an interrogation of the ‘post-consensus novel’
  • an exploration of postcolonial texts which represent the transatlantic slave trade
  • the cultural politics of late twentieth-century and twenty-first century Scottish literature

Contemporary fiction is focused on writing emerging from Britain and closely-related contexts in the post-war period. This module offers strands structured around a number of political, social and cultural frameworks in Britain. These include:

  • formal analysis and literary innovations in Britain
  • temporalities and the representation of time
  • issues of gender, race and class
  • histories of colonialism and slavery
  • national traditions and politics of state
  • the country and the city
  • postmodernism

This module particularly explores the network of relationships between context, content and form, supported by related literary and cultural theory and philosophy.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Single-Author Study

This stranded module provides students with a detailed introduction to the major works of a single author (e.g. James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence). Students will select one author to study from a range on offer. They will then have the opportunity to consider in detail important thematic and stylistic aspects of their chosen author’s work, taking account of the chronological development of his/her writing practice (if relevant), and his/her relationship to key historical and literary contexts.

Reformation and Revolution: Early Modern literature and drama 1588-1688

Literature and Drama across the early modern period contributed to, and was often caught up in, dramatic changes in social, political, and religious culture which changed the way that people experienced their lives and the world around them. This module gives students the opportunity to read a wide range of texts in a multitude of genres (from drama, to prose fiction, pamphlets and poetry) in their immediate contexts, both cultural and intellectual. This module will situate the poetry, prose and drama between 1580 and 1700 against the backdrops of civil war and political revolution, scientific experimentation, and colonial expansion; in doing so, it will ask how the seventeenth century forms our current understandings of the world. Students will be encouraged to read widely, to develop a specific and sophisticated understanding of historical period, and to see connections and changes in literary and dramatic culture in a period which stretches from the Spanish Armada of 1588 to the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688.

Modern Irish Literature and Drama

Examine 20th century Irish literature and drama.

Taking the Irish Literary Revival as a starting-point, you will consider authors in their Irish and European context. Such authors include:

  • W.B. Yeats
  • J.M. Synge
  • Lady Gregory
  • James Joyce
  • Seán O'Casey
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Brian Friel
  • Marina Carr

We focus on reading texts in relation to their social, historical, and political contexts.

This includes tracking significant literary and cultural responses to Irish experiences of colonial occupation, nationalist uprising and civil war, partition and independence, socio-economic modernisation, and the protracted period of violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Oscar Wilde and Henry James: British Aestheticism and Commodity Culture

Henry James and Oscar Wilde had a passionate dislike of each other, as well as very different values. Even so, they moved in similar circles. Both men found themselves at the centre of British cultural and intellectual life, experimenting within the same set of literary, critical and theatrical modes.

This module uses the writings of Oscar Wilde and Henry James, alongside some of their contemporaries, to examine changes in literary culture and the practices of literary composition in the late 19th century.

We will explore:

  • The role of new technology in literary creativity
  • The growth of mass and 'celebrity' culture
  • The development of consumerism and resulting commodification of literary art
  • The changing relationship of art to politics
  • Anxieties about artistic originality and plagiarism
  • Attempts (via censorship) to police literary expressivity

You will study a range of texts by Wilde and James, including drama, fiction and criticism. These will be compared with pieces by a number of their contemporaries (including Walter Pater and William Morris), in order to assess both the modernity and radicalism of their writings.

This module is worth 20 credits.

The Self and the World: Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century

The years from 1660 to 1830 are enormously important, especially in terms of the representation of the self in literature: Milton promoted the idea of the poet inspired by God; Pope and Swift mocked the possibility of anyone truly knowing their self; Wordsworth used poetry to explore his own life; and Byron and Austen provided ironic commentaries on the self-obsessions of their peers. This period also saw the rise of the novel (a form that relies upon telling the story of lives), a flourishing trade in biography, and the emergence of new genre, autobiography. This module will look at some of the most significant works of the period with particular reference to the relationship between writers and their worlds. Topics might include: the emergence, importance and limitations of life-writing; self- fashioning; the construction – and deconstruction - of the ‘Romantic’ author’; transmission and revision; translation and imitation; ideas of the self and gender; intertextuality, adaptation, and rewriting; creating and destroying the past; and writing revolution. Texts studied will range across poems, novels and prose.

Making Something Happen: 20th Century Poetry and Politics

This module introduces key modern and contemporary poets.

You will build a detailed understanding of how various poetic forms manifest themselves in particular historical moments. Unifying the module is an attention to poets’ responses to the political and ideological upheavals of the 20th century.

The module will include such (primarily) British and Irish poets as:

  • W.B. Yeats
  • T.S. Eliot
  • W. H. Auden
  • Dylan Thomas
  • Ted Hughes
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Wislawa Szymborska
  • Tony Harrison
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Derek Mahon
  • Adrienne Rich
  • Geoffrey Hill
  • Jo Shapcott
  • Patience Agbabi
  • Alice Oswald

Some of the forms examined will include: the elegy, the pastoral (and anti-pastoral), the ode, the sonnet (and sonnet sequence), the ekphrastic poem, the version or retelling, the villanelle, the parable and the sestina.

To develop a more complete perspective on each poet’s engagement with 20-century formal and political problems, we also examine these figures’ writings in other modes. This includes critical essays, manifestos, speeches, and primary archival materials such as letters and manuscript drafts.

Grounding each week will be readings on poetry and the category of the ‘political’ from an international group of critics, including such thinkers as Theodor Adorno, Charles Bernstein, Claudia Rankine, Peter McDonald, Angela Leighton, Christopher Ricks and Marjorie Perloff.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Island and Empire
While the vexed questions of British identity and its relationship to empire have been at the forefront of political debate in the last decade, they have also been integral to literary production for many centuries. This module interrogates English and British representations of colonisation and empire, within Great Britain and Ireland and with particular reference to India. Well known writers such as Edmund Spenser, Jonathan Swift, Walter Scott, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Salman Rushdie, will be set against less familiar voices, to consider the ways in which dominant narratives come about and can be challenged.
The Gothic Tradition

This module focuses on the connections between literary texts, politics, and relevant historical/cultural contexts in gothic texts. You may cover:

  • poetry
  • novels
  • graphic novels
  • films

Examples include The Haunting of Hill House (both Shirley Jackson’s novel and the Netflix adaptation), The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez, and Saga of the Swamp Thing by Moore, Bissette and Totleben, and The Visions of the Daughters of Albion by William Blake.

You will explore various critical and theoretical approaches to literature, film, comics, adaptation, and popular culture. The module also seeks to decolonise Gothic Studies, including work by creators from a wide range of backgrounds who identify with a diverse range of subject positions.

This module is worth 20 credits.

English Languages and Applied Linguistics

Advanced Stylistics

This module offers an advanced study of the language of literary texts and how it impacts reading and interpretation. It bridges the gap between the literary and linguistics aspects of our BA degrees. It also equips you with skills that will be useful in the teaching of English, or for a career in publishing.

You will study:

  • literary style and technique
  • the style of poetry and narrative
  • the representation of characters' voices and consciousness
  • the style of difficult texts, such as surrealism
  • the history of literary style

You will learn to explain how style contributes to meaning and interpretation, and why texts affect you in different ways.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

The module is designed to provide students with an understanding of the process of English Language Teaching (ELT) and of the theoretical underpinnings of this practice. In this module students will learn the principles behind the learning and teaching of key aspects and skills of English, including:

  • vocabulary
  • grammar
  • reading
  • writing
  • speaking
  • listening
  • intercultural communicative skills

Students will also learn how to apply these theoretical principles to the development of teaching materials. This module will therefore be of interest to students who want to pursue a teaching career, and in particular to those interested in teaching English as a second or foreign language.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Language and Feminism

This module provides comprehensive knowledge of feminist theory, as applied to a series of language and linguistic contexts.

You will explore a range of analytical approaches to language, including conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, and interactional sociolinguistics. You will also respond to, and critically engage with, contemporary real-world problems associated with gender and sexuality, through the consideration of discourse-based texts.

Topics covered include:

  • gender and sexual identity construction in a range of interactive contexts
  • sexist, misogynistic, homophobic and heteronormative representations in texts
  • feminist theory from the 1970s to the present, with particular focus on contemporary approaches to gender theory

This module is worth 20 credits.

Language and the Mind

Speaking, listening, reading, and writing are a complex set of behaviours that are a fundamental part of our daily lives. And yet they remain difficult to fully explain.

When you hear ‘FIRE’, you immediately look for an exit and start moving. Yet all that a speaker has done is produce a string of sounds. Your mind distinguishes these from the murmuring of other voices, feet clomping on the floor, and any background music. Your mind matches the sounds f-i-r-e with a word, retrieves the meaning, and relates them to the current circumstances and responds accordingly.

How does the mind do this? And what makes our minds so special that we can do this? On this module, we begin to address these questions.

You will consider:

  • Is there a language gene?
  • What makes human language different from animal communication?
  • What is the relationship between thought and language?
  • Does everyone talk to themselves? What purpose does our inner voice serve?
  • How do we learn language? And does cognition underpin our ability to learn language?
  • What do language deficits tell us about language and the brain?
  • How do we understand and produce speech, words, and sentences?
  • What is the best way to teach children to read?
  • How is sign language similar to/different from spoken language?

This module is worth 20 credits.

Medieval Languages and Literatures

English Place-Names

The module uses the study of place-names to show the various languages – British, Latin, French, Norse and English – that have been spoken in England over the last 2000 years.

You will learn how place-name evidence can be used as a source for the history of English, including:

  • its interaction with the other languages
  • its regional and dialectal patterns
  • its changing vocabulary

We also consider the interdisciplinary contribution that place-names offer to historians and geographers.

For this module's assessment, you can choose a geographical area of particular interest.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Songs and Sonnets: Lyric poetry from Medieval Manuscript to Shakespeare and Donne

Through the exploration of lyric poetry, this module examines cultural and literary change from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. It will consider the rise of ‘named poet’, the interaction of print and manuscript culture, the representation of love, and the use of the female voice. It will develop further students’ confidence in handling formal poetic terminology and reading poetry from this period. It will also enable students to think pragmatically about the transmission of lyric in modern editions, and about how best to represent the form.

Dreaming the Middle Ages: Visionary Poetry in Scotland and England

The genre of dream-vision inspired work by all the major poets of the Middle Ages, including William Langland, the Pearl-Poet, and Geoffrey Chaucer. The course will aim to give you a detailed knowledge of a number of canonical texts in this genre, as well as ranging widely into the alliterative revival, and chronologically into the work of John Skelton in the early sixteenth century. The course will depend upon close, detailed reading of medieval literary texts, as well as focusing on the variety and urgency of issues with which dream poetry is concerned: literary, intellectual, social, religious and political.

Old English Heroic Poetry
This module gives an opportunity to those who already have a basic knowledge of Old English language and literature to explore some of the astonishing range of texts from the earliest stages of English literature. The texts studied are heroic and Christian. Themes include Germanic myth and legend, heroic endeavour, Christian passion. A study of the epic poem Beowulf — its characters, its themes, its ‘meaning’ — is essential to the module. Texts are read in Old English (with plenty of help given).
The Viking Mind

Our images of Vikings come largely from the Icelandic sagas. These present a Viking Age of daring exploits, global exploration and bloody feuds, as carried out by valiant warriors and feisty women. But how accurate are the sagas when it comes to understanding what really happened in the Viking Age? Can they provide an insight into the Viking mind?

This module explores Norse and Viking cultural history, using an interdisciplinary approach grounded in the study of texts. 

Topics covered include:

  • The Viking Age and Viking society
  • Exploration and diaspora
  • Gender, marriage and family
  • Religion and belief
  • Outlaws
  • Poetry
  • The supernatural

Your one-hour lectures will provide the evidence base for discussion in the two-hour, student-led seminars. The seminars also include some language work.

Assessment for this module is by a one-hour exam of comment and analysis, and a 3000-word project on a topic of your choice in consultation with a tutor.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Drama and Performance

Changing Stages: Theatre Industry and Theatre Art

Peter Pan, Les Misérables, Hamilton... just a few of the iconic productions that started life in London’s West End, or on Broadway in New York. But why and how did they become so successful?

The 20th and 21st centuries have seen major changes in the way theatre is financed, produced and presented, both on stage and on screen. This module explores the fascinating world of theatre production, covering:

  • the development of long-running, commercial productions
  • the role of the theatre producer in making theatre
  • subsidised theatre
  • touring and national theatre companies
  • reviewing cultures
  • relationship between the theatre and film industries
  • the advent of the mega-musical

Examining the mainstream and the fringes, we apply case studies including Shakespeare in production, new plays, revivals, and international hits like the ones listed above, illustrating how theatre responds to changing contexts and audiences.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Modern Irish Literature and Drama

Examine 20th century Irish literature and drama.

Taking the Irish Literary Revival as a starting-point, you will consider authors in their Irish and European context. Such authors include:

  • W.B. Yeats
  • J.M. Synge
  • Lady Gregory
  • James Joyce
  • Seán O'Casey
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Brian Friel
  • Marina Carr

We focus on reading texts in relation to their social, historical, and political contexts.

This includes tracking significant literary and cultural responses to Irish experiences of colonial occupation, nationalist uprising and civil war, partition and independence, socio-economic modernisation, and the protracted period of violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

This module is worth 20 credits.

Reformation and Revolution: Early Modern literature and drama 1588-1688

Literature and Drama across the early modern period contributed to, and was often caught up in, dramatic changes in social, political, and religious culture which changed the way that people experienced their lives and the world around them. This module gives students the opportunity to read a wide range of texts in a multitude of genres (from drama, to prose fiction, pamphlets and poetry) in their immediate contexts, both cultural and intellectual. This module will situate the poetry, prose and drama between 1580 and 1700 against the backdrops of civil war and political revolution, scientific experimentation, and colonial expansion; in doing so, it will ask how the seventeenth century forms our current understandings of the world. Students will be encouraged to read widely, to develop a specific and sophisticated understanding of historical period, and to see connections and changes in literary and dramatic culture in a period which stretches from the Spanish Armada of 1588 to the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688.

English dissertation

English Dissertation: Full Year

You have the option of writing an individual research project in your final year. This can be on a topic of language, literature or performance.

You will work on a one-to-one basis with a supervisor, producing a detailed and sustained piece of writing.

There is also the option of completing a project-based dissertation. This is useful if you are interested in applied or practical aspects of English.

Recent dissertation titles include:

  • 'From Diamonds to Dust: An Ecocritical Comparison Between Modernist Literature and Contemporary Environmental Fiction'
  • 'The Representation of Racial Injustices in Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric'
  • 'Seamus Heaney and Samuel Beckett in Relation to British Imperialism'
  • 'Ethical Criticism and Zadie Smith'

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

We're keen to offer you the opportunity to develop your language skills while studying here.

You can learn a language for its own sake or because it complements your degree or intended career.

We cater for all levels - from complete beginners to near-native competence.

There are currently nine language options available.

Check out the Language Centre for more information

Fees and funding

UK students

Per year

International students

Per year

*For full details including fees for part-time students and reduced fees during your time studying abroad or on placement (where applicable), see our fees page.

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) .

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.

Essential course materials are supplied.


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.

A limited number of modules have compulsory texts which you are required to buy.

We recommend that you budget £100 per year for books, but this figure will vary according to which modules you take.

The Blackwell's bookshop on campus offers a year-round price match against any of the main retailers (for example Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith). You can often buy second-hand copies of textbooks through them as students from previous years sell their copies back to the bookshop.

Volunteering and placements

For volunteering and placements, such as work experience and teaching in schools, you will need to pay for transport and refreshments.

Optional field trips

Field trips allow you to engage with source materials on a personal level and to develop different perspectives. They are optional and costs to you vary according to the trip; some require you to arrange your own travel, refreshments and entry fees, while some are some are wholly subsidised.

Scholarships and bursaries

Faculty of Arts Alumni Scholarships

Our Alumni Scholarships provide support with essential living costs to eligible students. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

University of Nottingham bursaries and scholarships

The University offers a wide range of funds that can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. See our bursaries and scholarships page for what's available.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £1,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International students

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

International scholarships


This joint honours degree will help you develop a wide range of skills that employers are looking for:

  • an eye for detail and close analysis
  • analytical reasoning
  • articulating complex arguments and lines of reasoning
  • constructive criticism and discussion
  • presenting and persuading
  • excellent communication ability

The skills you develop will make you:

  • resilient - as the nature of work changes you can adapt
  • flexible - you can choose across different sectors as you develop and grow and opportunities arise

Typical careers for our students include:

  • advertising and marketing
  • business, consultancy and management
  • journalism
  • law
  • education
  • publishing

We also have a good record of our undergraduates progressing to Masters and PhD study.

Find out more about about career pathways and opportunities for both English and Philosophy students.

Key fact

Only 14% of employers state that specific degree subjects are a selection criterion. (Institute of Student Employers recruitment survey 2019)

Average starting salary and career progression

79% of undergraduates from the School of English secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £23,096.*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. 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.

71.3% of undergraduates from the Department of Philosophy secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £22,196.*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. 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.

Studying for a degree at the University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take.

Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers (Ranked in the top ten in The Graduate Market in 2013-2020, High Fliers Research).

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" The lecturers are always really happy to engage with you on any topic you think is relevant and have a really in depth discussion. "
William Phillips, English and Philosophy BA

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Important information

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.