The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

Q320 MA English Literary Studies (1 year)

The MA in English Literary Studies will give you the opportunity to pursue literary topics and genres from a wide selection of authors and periods: from Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Eighteenth-Century fiction to Victorian print culture, Modernisms and Modernities, Literature and Law, Holocaust Literature, and postcolonial world literatures.

The programme can be taken over one year full time or two years part time.

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Introducing your degree

The programme will empower you to conduct advanced-level research and independent critical thinking; to make effective use of archives, manuscripts, and research libraries; and to examine how literature shapes the public understanding of diverse fields such as climate change, economics, medicine, religion, and more. Not only will you emerge with an internationally-recognised masters degree from a top Russell Group university, you will also acquire the critical thinking and writing skills that will give you the competitive edge, either as a future scholar or as a professional in careers such as writing, broadcasting, teaching, and public administration


The MA is a broad-based programme that allows you to explore the interrelations of text, theory, and culture across the field of English literary and cultural studies. The flexible structure is designed to give you an advanced understanding of the study and practice of academic English literary studies in terms of cultural analysis, textual interpretation, and theoretical method.

The MA in English Literary Studies will enable you to work independently in the field, to explore a range of periods and genres of English literature and culture as well as creative writing, and to evaluate unique archival resources. It will develop your knowledge and understanding of critical and research methods, raise your awareness of the historical and critical reception of literature in various periods, and help you explore the role of literature in a contested cultural framework.

View the programme specification document for this course.

Entry Requirements

Typical entry requirements


First- or upper second class honours degree or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University in English literature or a cognate discipline

English Language

IELTS 7.0 overall, with minimum of 7.0 in writing, 6.5 in reading, listening and speaking, or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University.

Mature applicants

Studying for a degree later in life can be extremely rewarding and mature students are often among our most successful.

If you are over 21 and feel you would benefit from degree-level studies, we can be more flexible about our entry requirements. For full-time courses, selectors will expect you to demonstrate your commitment by means of some recent serious study, for example, one or two A level passes, successful completion of an Open University foundation course or an appropriate Access course. Your application will be considered on individual merit and you may be asked to attend an interview.

For further information, please contact our Admissions Team:



Selection process

Selection process: Online application

Interview may be required on a case by case basis to assess suitability of course

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.


Typical course content

In the first semester, the MA English Literary Studies (full time) comprises one core module – Adventures in Literary Research – and up to two options. You may also select a double weighted ‘Approaches’ module that focuses on a particular period in English literary history, or one optional module (including a special subject). Three or four further optional modules, including special subjects from the MA in English Literary Studies and related modules in other MA programmes are taken in the second semester, along with the dissertation (which is completed at the end of the summer).

Differently from the full-time programme, the part-time MA programme in English Literary Studies allows you to study these modules across two years or four semesters. In the first semester of year one, the MA English Literary Studies (part time) comprises one core module – Adventures in Literary Research. You may also select a double weighted ‘Approaches’ module that focuses on a particular period in English literary history, or one optional module (including a special subject). Alternatively, you may prefer to take more optional modules (including special subjects) in semester one of your second year. Two further optional modules, including special subjects from the MA in English Literary Studies and related modules in other MA programmes are taken in the second semester of year one. In year two, you select two or three optional modules in each semester, including special subjects from the MA in English Literary Studies and related modules in other MA programmes from a range of modules, along with the dissertation (which is completed at the end of the summer of year two).

The MA in English Literary Studies (Part Time) is designed to be a flexible programme, which can be completed alongside other commitments. Where possible, classes for core modules are taught on the same working day.

You are strongly encouraged to discuss your module choices and specific areas of interest with the Director of Taught MA Programmes, Professor Stephen Morton, before commencing your programme of study.

Many of the optional modules below are taught as special subjects, where you will meet in smaller groups with your tutor and develop your own research projects and extended research essays through a mutually agreed programme of reading that is keyed to a cutting-edge area of critical inquiry in English Literary Studies.

Year 1

Semester One

Semester One

Adventures in Literary Research
Approaches to the Long Eighteenth Century
Approaches to the Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1914)
Approaches to the Long Twentieth Century (1914–Present)
Writing for Children
The Art and Craft of Fiction Part I
Shakespeare and his World
Special Project (Text, Context, Intertext)

Eighteenth Century Fiction: This special project invites you to explore the place of the novel in eighteenth-century culture, and to assess contemporary critical debates on the subject. While some critics have explored the early contexts of fiction writing in the late seventeenth century, the uncertain position of fiction between truth and lies, and the relationships between novel and romance, others have proffered Marxist re-readings of the traditional canon outlined by Ian Watt in The Rise of the Novel, turned to the vast number of non-canonical texts in order to raise questions of literary value, femininity and sexuality, or focussed upon fiction as a central act of cultural production. Taking a small number of texts central to these debates, this special project offers the opportunity to explore some of the issues raised.

Special Project (Text, Culture, Theory)

Literature and Law: This special project examines the interface between literature and law in the following key ways: through the representation of law within literature; the representation of law as literature; the use of literature in law; and laws relating to literature. It will examine a range of literary and legal texts from the nineteenth century to the present.

Jerusalem: City and Symbol
Jews and Non-Jews: Relations from Antiquity to Modernity
The Medieval World: sources and approaches in pre-modern history
English Social and Cultural Life in the Long Eighteenth Century
Jewish Society and Culture in Eastern Europe
New Approaches to American History
Semester Two

Semester Two / Summer

The Art and Craft of Fiction Part II
Sweatshops, Sexworkers, and Asylum Seekers: World Literature and Visual Culture after Globalisation
Special Project (Text, Context, Intertext)

Unknown Jane Austen: Jane Austen is one of the most celebrated English writers today, but was largely unknown in her time. This special project module invites you to explore various facets of this ‘unknown’ Jane Austen by examining Austen’s literary culture, pursuing the tributaries of her imagination and technique, and looking again at some of the texts that mattered most to her, the better to assess the balance of emulation and innovation in her novels.

Modernisms and Modernities: This special project module aims to provide a cultural history of the dynamic relationship between modernism and modernity in the early twentieth century. It focuses on the political, social, philosophical and technological dimensions of modernity, and the impact that this had on cultural and artistic expression from the Imagists through to Beckett. The course will also introduce you to current debates in modernist studies; indicative topics include the body and technology in modernist literature, the audience and market for modernism, the modernist city, and the importance of interdisciplinary practices in modernist culture.

Special Project (Text, Culture, Theory)

Victorian Readers and the Politics of Print: Beginning with the frequently proposed shift from intensive to extensive modes of reading in the 18th century, the module will consider the varied effects on Victorian reading communities of compulsory education, secularisation, social migration and new technologies, examine the complex ways in which print and the politics of taste intersected with Marxist and ‘New Woman’ ideals, and consider the very different ways in which British literature circulated in colonial contexts in this period.

Race and Literature: This special project module traces the conceptual trajectory between social Darwinist theories of race and the post-modern refutation of the ‘illusions of race’ by examining how racialised bodies and identities are represented in a range of literary texts in which they linked to various other social constructs and institutions – including slavery, colonialism, Apartheid, Empire and its legacies. Comte de Gobineau’s theories about the inequality of races will be allowed to be interrogated by the narrative of a female slave, W.E.B. Du Bois’ ground-breaking notion of double consciousness will be placed alongside Bildungsromane from both Harlem and the Caribbean, and ideas related to ethnic hybridity and silencing related to narratives of colonial India and postcolonial Australia. We will discuss the interface between race, culture and religion, and there will be sessions on multiculturalism and the framing of Muslims, migrants and asylum seekers in the recent ‘war on terror’.

Narrative Non-Fiction: The Interdisciplinary Art
The conversion of the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews and Christians
Medieval Political Thought
The Holocaust, Englishness and Americanness
Nehru’s India: Nationalism, Difference and the Path to Development (1930-1963)
Digital Frontiers: Conflict in Cyberspace, 1967 – present
Terrorists vs. Counterterrorists: Past, present and future policy
Religion and Politics in Henry VIII's England

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Fees & funding

Tuition fees

Fees for postgraduate taught courses vary across the University. All fees are listed for UK, EU and international full-time and part-time students alphabetically by course name.

View the full list of course fees


Scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships or grants may be available to support you through your course. Funding opportunities available to you are linked to your subject area and/or your country of origin. These can be from the University of Southampton or other sources.

Explore funding opportunities

Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In some cases you'll be able to choose modules (which may have different costs associated with that module) which will change the overall cost of a programme to you. Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Career Opportunities

An MA in English Literary Studies is excellent preparation for a career in teaching, publishing and arts administration. Graduates of our programme go onto professional careers in writing (from journalism to fiction), education, international PhD programmes, teaching, broadcasting, and varied work in the creative industries. Former graduates and alumni return to give talks throughout the year, and you will help you make the most of the opportunities here.

A number of our graduates have gone on to careers in teaching, journalism, media and found the year-long course invaluable in shaping and developing their voice.


Learning & Assessment

Study locations

Student life

Avenue campus

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