English Literary Studies
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Our taught MA course offers choice, flexibility and the opportunity to specialise. You can learn from the rich variety of research expertise in the Department and you also have the chance to concentrate on a particular area of literary study. Our commitment to research-led teaching means that students are able to explore the cutting edge of the discipline - from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day, from medieval manuscripts to contemporary crime narrative. We provide an intimate, dynamic and supportive environment for students of all backgrounds and nationalities.
Our courses offer up-to-date training in research methods and skills and a wide selection of literature modules from which you choose three; you will also write a dissertation. You will have the opportunity to follow up particular interests by studying a named pathway, or to designate your own area of study within the broad MA in English Literary Studies, tailoring an individual course based on period, theme or genre.
An MA in English is often the platform for further research at PhD level, as well as providing an excellent grounding for jobs in education, the arts and the media.
If you choose to take one of the named pathways, you will be expected to select at least two modules from those available within a pathway and to write your dissertation in an area related to your named pathway. You need not confine your choices to a named pathway, as on the broad MA in English Literary Studies you may choose any three from the full list of modules on offer if you prefer. Students may, with permission, take one module from other modules on offer elsewhere in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. All students must take a triple-weighted dissertation alongside their three optional modules.
Dissertation - Your dissertation will enable you to make an in-depth study of a particular topic, author, or genre at a complex level and at substantial length. This module also aims to provide you with the range of knowledge, understanding and high-quality skills that will enable you to study effectively at Master’s level and to offer a fitting training in research methods.
Examples of optional modules:
Previous modules have included:
- Old Norse -The object of this module is to enable students to acquire or deepen a knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of the Old Norse language, and an ability to read both prose and poetry in Old Norse. An introduction to the historical culture of Iceland and Norway in the period c. 900-1300 is also offered.
- Warrior Poets in Heroic Societies - This module examines the role, craft and representation of warrior poets in Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Iceland, two related but distinct societies that inherited Germanic heroic values.
- Narrative Transformations: Medieval Romance to Renaissance Epic - This module will explore forms and practices of fiction from Antiquity through the Medieval and Early Modern periods and the ways in which two of the great story-matters (the Trojan War, tales of King Arthur) have been refashioned through the interplay of romance with the genres of epic, history and legend.
- Middle English Manuscripts and Texts - This module will encourage participants to look beyond the modern printed editions in which Middle English texts are now most often read, to the medieval manuscripts on which those editions are based.
- Renaissance Tragedy - This module will give participants the opportunity to look in detail at the work of the best-known playwrights of the period, and to consider lesser-known but fascinating tragic writers.
- Lyric Poetry of the English Renaissance and Reformation - Trace the development of lyric poetry in England over the course of the Renaissance and the Reformation, beginning with the early Tudor court and ending with the English Civil War.
- Shakespeare in Context - This module explores Shakespeare and will discuss his poetic and dramatic texts - in and of themselves and in comparison with the work of his contemporaries - as aesthetic, ethical, historical, political and social works.
- John Milton: Life, Works and Influence - This module will give students the opportunity to engage directly with a diverse range of the poetical and prose writings by John Milton, one of the key figures of his age and one of the most eminent and influential figures in English literary history.
- Women and the Novel in the Eighteenth Century - This module will take for its main focus a range of novels from the period 1700-1800. In its examination of the relationship between gender and genre, the module will also involve reading a variety of non-fictional texts.
- Adventures in Reading: Romantic Books and Political Possibilities - This module explores the question of what is lost if we read Keats’s or Landon’s poems only in a Norton Critical paperback or a Broadview edition—or on one of the many literature websites - and asks why might it have mattered to Romantic-period authors and readers in what kind of format—magazine, codex, pamphlet, gift book—their poetry and prose appeared.
- Romanticism and the Forms of Romance -An exploration of the diverse forms taken by the genre of romance – writings of the improbable, wild, and marvellous – in novels and poems of 1790-1830, in the context of other art forms of the period, especially architecture and design. Key authors: Radcliffe, Charlotte Smith, Scott, Coleridge, Keats, Hemans.
- Reflections on Revolution, 1789-1922 - The focus of this module is literary reaction to the French Revolution in Britain and Ireland from the 1790s through to 1922.
- Second-Generation Romantic Poetry - This module will explore the poetry of Byron, Shelley, and Keats. It will concentrate principally on questions of poetic achievement in the work of the poets, and will also invite you to compare and connect works by the poets.
- Romantic Forms of Grief - Explore Romantic poets’ experimentation with poetic forms of grief by attending closely to their representation of loss, memory, death, and mourning across a variety of genres, typically works by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Clare, Smith, and Hemans.
- Women in Victorian Poetry and Painting - This module examines the position of women as both the writers and subjects of Victorian poetry. We will explore a range of depictions of women, as well as the figure of the artist/ muse more broadly, in the poetry of the period alongside the paintings and illustrations of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and other Victorian artists.
- Thinking with Things in Victorian Literature - This module explores the representation of objects in Victorian literature. Discrete material items throng the period’s fiction. What is the bodily and psychological experience of material things? What significance inheres in them?
- Literary Masculinity at the Fin-de-Siècle - This module will examine the different ways in which masculinity might be ‘performed' in literature at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Texts – and given the nature of the topic, fiction in particular – will be read from the point of view of how versions of masculinity are textually created.
- Narrative and Thresholds of Consciousness - This module aims to investigate liminal cognition (including, for example, dreaming, mindwandering, meditative states, felt presences, hypnagogic experience, hallucinations) through the reading of (mostly, though not exclusively) narrative fiction by nineteenth-century, modernist and contemporary writers.
- The Literatures of Slavery - This module will explore a selection of the various literatures in English written in response to slavery and the subsequent black diaspora. It ranges from the late eighteenth century to the present day and across genres of autobiography, historical fiction and poetry, taking up questions of race and representation, the legacies of colonialism, writing the past, travelling cultures, and voice.
- Twentieth-Century Jewish American Literature - This module will explore a range of representative fictional texts (poetry and prose) written by Jewish-American Writers since the 1930s. The aim of the module is to study the literary forms and preoccupations of Jewish-American Fiction immediately before and after the Second World War up until the close of the twentieth century.
- Twentieth-Century Satire - This module aims to examine in depth a range of prose and verse satires written in the first half of the twentieth century, in part through comparison and connections between works of several modern satirists.
- James Joyce and the Limits of Literature - Joyce’s work has often been seen as challenging (or over-stepping) the ‘limits of literature’ and this module will seek to read Joyce in the context of that phrase, understood historically, generically and conceptually.
- Modernism and Touch - What does it mean to touch and be touched, to feel and be felt? With what organ, or set of faculties, do we achieve touch? Is it a physical or psychological experience? How might it shape our sense of self? This module seeks to explore these questions by looking at a range of literary texts from the period 1890-1945.
- T.S. Eliot - This module aims to examine in depth a range of poetry and prose criticism by the acclaimed Nobel Prize winning author, T. S. Eliot. The module seeks to gain an enhanced understanding of the radical modernist avant-garde techniques that were employed by Eliot, and to reflect critically upon the cultural, social and political contexts relevant to Eliot’s controversial contemporary and his later academic reception history.
- Anti-Capitalist Poetics: Writing and Resisting the Modern World-System - This module explores anti-capitalist poetics across a range of modern and postcolonial fiction and non-fiction and investigates the intersection of anti-capitalism with postcolonialism, feminist struggle, and Utopian imaginaries, inviting students to consider resistance and critique not only as political and sociological phenomena but also as issues of writing, form and representation.
- Post-War British Drama - British theatre of the post-Second World War era has been marked by its constant and radical developments, and this module aims to provide you with a detailed knowledge of the major dramatists, movements, and themes that have dominated British drama in this period.
- Modern Poetry - This module will be accessible both to those who have not studied poetry intensively at undergraduate level but who would like to extend their knowledge and enjoyment of the subject, and to those with a more specialised interest and expertise.
- The Contemporary US Novel - This module offers an advanced survey of the American novel since the end of the Cold War. We will begin with fiction concerned with questions of epochal/millennial transformation and historical retrospection before moving on to consider a range of topics
- Blood and Soil: Regionalism and Contemporary US Crime Narrative - This module explores the regional dynamics of contemporary US crime narrative. It places a special emphasis on fictional works set in rural and/or blue-collar environments in the American South and West.
- Short Fiction Today - This module examines a range of postmodern and contemporary short fictional forms, including the short story, short story cycle, novella, microfiction and digital short story. It draws on stories from a range of cultures and perspectives to examine how questions of race, gender, sexuality and class intersect in increasingly complex ways in the contemporary world.
- Reading As A Writer – This is a lecture-based module that looks at poetry and prose, as well as music and film, from the 20th – and 21st The focus is on technical innovation, and the forms of creative dialogue between writers and other artists. .
- The Writing of Poetry - The aim of this module is to familiarize students with the formal, generic and technical conventions and properties of poetry, in their historical context; to enable students to relate these conventions and properties to issues of poetic composition; and to enable students to enter into and understand the technical / formal choices made by poets as they write.
Modules are subject to staff availability and normally no more than twenty of the above will run in any one year.
Please use the 'additional comments' section of the application form to indicate your choice of modules as well as to provide a personal statement.
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One of the distinctive features of the Durham MA in Literary Studies is that it permits both a broad-based, eclectic study of literary topics from the earliest periods of literature to the present and the possibility of specialisation through designated pathways in such areas as Medieval and Renaissance Studies or Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Studies. All students take 3 optional modules, taught in small seminar groups of up to 10, with each module generating 18 hours of contact time (9 seminars x 2 hours) over the academic year. A strong emphasis is placed on independent research, and seminars usually involve a considerable amount of preparation, including short presentations and workshop activities. Assessment for these modules is usually by coursework essay.
All students also register for a triple-weighted dissertation, which generates an additional 20 hours of contact time over the first two terms in the form of fortnightly seminars, together with an additional 3.5 hours of dedicated individual supervision time in the third term. Strong emphasis is placed on independent research. In preparation for the MA dissertation, all students submit a 1,000 word research proposal at the beginning of the second term, and are given constructive feedback on it. A draft chapter (approximately 3,500) words will be read and commented upon by their supervisor.
Each MA student is assigned an Academic Advisor who can guide and support her or his progress during the programme of study.
Throughout the taught MA degree course, all students are strongly encouraged to participate in a lively series of staff-postgraduate research seminars, usually involving invited guest speakers from the UK and beyond.
You will normally require an English or English-related Honours degree (at least a 2:1 or equivalent) from a recognised university.
Please use the 'additional comments' section of the application form to provide a personal statement.
In addition to your three module choices, you will also need to include a piece of written work of approximately 2,000 words in length on a literary subject. This can be any piece of literary-critical work you have completed recently and should be emailed to the applicant portal.
Fees and funding
Full Time Fees
|Home students||£10,800 per year|
|EU students||£22,300 per year|
|Island students||£10,800 per year|
|International students||£22,300 per year|
Part Time Fees
|Home students||£5,940 per year|
|EU students||£12,265 per year|
|Island students||£5,940 per year|
|International students||£12,265 per year|
The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).
Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.
Scholarships and Bursaries
We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities.Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries
Our graduates are highly valued by employers. They progress into a diverse range of careers and sectors, including arts and theatre management, broadcasting, publishing and journalism, business, accounting, marketing and advertising, teaching, higher education, law, third sector and government positions.
For further information on career options please visit our web pages.
Study literary forms ranging from creative writing to romantic and Victorian literature. The Department of English Studies is one of the largest and most respected English departments in the UK. It provides an inclusive environment that values curiosity, intellectual rigour, imagination and individual response.
For more information see our department webpages.
- World Top 50 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2021.
- 2nd in The Guardian University Guide 2021.
- 3rd in The Complete University Guide and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.
Research Excellence Framework
90% of our research activity was judged to be 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' in REF 2014
The Department is housed in a Grade II listed building, Hallgarth House and in Elvet Riverside. Both buildings are close to the University’s Bill Bryson Library and the special collections in the Palace Green Library. The Department has strong links with the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Institute for Medical Humanities, the Centre for Poetry and Poetics, which oversees the archive of the distinguished Northumbrian modernist poet, Basil Bunting, and the Institute of Advanced Study.
Durham students run their own English Society, which provides many opportunities for theatre visits, especially to the Royal Shakespeare Company season in Newcastle every year. There is also a strong tradition of student drama and music within the Department and the University as a whole.
The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!