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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.

Course Structure

If you choose to take one of the named pathways, you will be expected to select 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 the core Research Methods and Resources module and the dissertation alongside their three optional modules.

Core Modules

  • Research Methods and Resources - This module aims to provide you with the range of knowledge, understanding and high-quality skills that will enable you to study effectively at Masters level, and to offer a fitting training in research methods.
  • 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.

Optional Modules

In the past, typical modules have included:

  • Old Norse
  • Warrior Poets in Heroic Societies
  • Narrative Transformations: Medieval Romance to Renaissance Epic
  • Middle English Manuscripts and Texts 
  • Renaissance Tragedy
  • Renaissance Humanism 
  • Lyric Poetry of the English Renaissance and Reformation 
  • Shakespeare in Context 
  • John Milton: Life, Works and Influence 
  • Women and the Novel in the Eighteenth Century
  • Romanticism and the Forms of Romance
  • Reflections on Revolution, 1789-1922
  • Second-Generation Romantic Poetry 
  • Elegy: From John Milton to Seamus Heaney
  • Women in Victorian Poetry and Painting 
  • Thinking with Things in Victorian Literature 
  • Literary Masculinity at the Fin-de-Siècle 
  • The Literatures of Slavery 
  • Twentieth-Century Jewish American Literature
  • Twentieth-Century Satire
  • James Joyce and the Limits of Literature
  • Modernism and Touch
  • T. S. Eliot 
  • Representing the Self: From Sophocles to the Sopranos 
  • Post-War British Drama
  • Modern Poetry 
  • The Contemporary US Novel 
  • Blood and Soil: Regionalism and Contemporary US Crime Narrative
  • Short Fiction Today
  • Reading As A Writer 
  • The Writing of Poetry

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.

Course Learning and Teaching

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 the Research Methods and Resources module, which generates an additional 20 hours of contact time over the academic year. Again, a strong emphasis is given to independent research. Both pieces of assessed written work for the Research Methods and Resources module involve significant preparation for the MA dissertation (and in some cases for doctoral study later on). The MA dissertation is supported by 3.5 hours of dedicated individual supervision time. Drafts of the dissertation are read and commented upon by the 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. 

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply


Visit the MA English Literary Studies page on the Durham University website for more details!




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Recipient: Durham University

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