Modern English Literature begins in the extraordinary developments of the 16th and early 17th centuries. Under the influence of social, religious and political transformations, and through engagement with classical and continental European culture, new theories and practices of literature appeared that have influenced generations of writers since.
Studying the literature of this period allows us both to enter a world that is not our own, and to see the origins of modern western perspectives and predicaments. This programme offer you the opportunity to undertake a substantial piece of supervised independent research in this field.
We are the oldest department of English Literature in the world, and at the last Research Assessment Exercise were awarded the highest research rating possible, of 5*A. We have one of the largest graduate programmes in this area in the country and a rich research culture covering all aspects of literatures in English.
We offer supervision in all areas of Renaissance literature, and have particular strengths in Renaissance drama and performance, Renaissance poetry, the politics of literature in the Renaissance, religious writing in the Renaissance, Renaissance biographical and autobiographical writing, and the relevance to the study of Renaissance literature of modern and contemporary theory.
The research of staff has made valuable contributions to the areas of literature and philosophy, modernism/postmodernism, medieval and early modern literature, history of the book, romanticism, transatlantic studies and performance studies.
English Literature houses the Centre for the History of the Book and is one of the UK's leading forces in this area. It works closely with the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and with the National Library of Scotland. The latter's recently acquired Murray Archive is crucial for studies in Romanticism, Book History, Bibliography and Archive Studies.
Extensive collections of Renaissance manuscripts and printed books are held in Edinburgh by the University’s own library, the National Library of Scotland, and the National Archives of Scotland. These collections offer excellent research resources and opportunities for graduate study, and are particularly rich in materials relating to Shakespeare and Renaissance drama.
Training and support
The academic staff you will be working with are all active researchers or authors, many of them prize winners and leading scholars in their fields. As well as benefiting from their expert supervision, you will undertake a seminar-based programme of training in core research skills and subject-specific methodologies. You will also have the opportunity to develop other transferable skills through the University’s Institute for Academic Development
We encourage you to share your research and learn from the work of others through a vibrant programme of Work-in-Progress seminars, reading groups, visiting speakers and conferences.
Our postgraduate journal, Forum, is a valuable conduit for research findings, and provides an opportunity for editorial experience.
On hand are all the amenities you would expect, such as computing facilities, study areas and a common room and kitchen. Our location gives you easy access to the University’s general facilities, such as the Main Library and our collections, as well as to the National Museum, National Library and National Galleries of Scotland at the heart of the city.
In addition to the impressive range of resources available at the University’s Main Library (more than two million printed volumes and generous online resources) and the nearby National Library of Scotland, we host a number of collections of rare and valuable archival materials, all of which will be readily available to you as a postgraduate student.
Among the literary treasures are the libraries of William Drummond, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hugh MacDiarmid, Adam Smith, Dugald Stewart and Norman MacCaig, plus the WH Auden collection, the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott and the Ramage collection of poetry pamphlets.
Our cultural collections are highly regarded and include a truly exceptional collection of early Shakespeare quartos and other early modern printed plays, and world-class manuscript and archival collections.