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English Language and Literature (MA)

Course Description

The English Language and Literature MA aims to allow you to explore the interconnections between language and literature. It will provide you with a thorough understanding of the linguistic features of English from a wide range of perspectives (theoretical and applied, synchronic and diachronic), as well as leading you to explore a wide array of texts in connection with the social, historical and political circumstances from which they emerge. Furthermore, the MA will equip you with the intellectual perspectives and the scholarly skills that will prepare you to conduct independent research.

Course content

The MA is suitable for students who have taken English language and/or literature modules at undergraduate level, and others who have taken allied disciplines such as TESOL. It is of particular interest to those wishing to pursue further study and those teaching English who wish to gain a further qualification and investigate recent and current developments in the field.

If pursuing the degree full-time, you will study 180 credits in one academic year; if part-time, you will normally complete 180 credits in two academic years. You will study four core modules (including a 60-credit dissertation on a topic of English language and/or literature), as well as two modules from the list of options. The core modules Subjectivities: Modern and Contemporary Fictions and Institutions and Histories examine classic and contemporary critical texts on literature in relation to ideas in larger contexts, such as history, the visual image, gender, psychoanalysis and post- colonialism, while the module English Language in Use will help you acquire the scholarly tools necessary for the stylistic interpretation of literary and non-literary texts.

The teaching is mainly through weekly two or three hour sessions for each module, which include tutorials, seminars, practical sessions and workshops. There is also independent self-directed study, and you will be prepared for the Dissertation via structured sessions in research methodology. Assessment methods include submitted coursework such as essays, reviews and exercises; there are no formal examinations.

Core modules

- Dissertation
The Dissertation gives you the opportunity to conduct autonomous work with supervisory support on a topic you feel passionate about. At the beginning of the module you will have a series of practical seminars on the different issues involved in the process of writing a dissertation, such as finding a topic, the role of the supervisor, research methodology and the conventions of academic writing.

- English Language in Use: Time, Texts and Contexts
In this module you will study English historical linguistics and stylistics, literary linguistics and cognitive poetics. Thus, you will gain a good knowledge of the ways in which the language has changed overtime and the stylistic effects of particular linguistic choices, as well as an in-depth understanding of the theoretical frameworks that can be used to describe the interaction between language and literature.

- Institutions and Histories: Modern and Contemporary Fictions
In this module you will examine a range of topics, including genre and history, literature’s contemporary globalisation, the historical development of English Literature as a discipline, the history and theorisation of the very notion of literature itself, and the material cultures of literary production and consumption.

- Subjectivities: Modern and Contemporary Fictions
This module focuses on the themes of reading and re-reading. You will explore different critical approaches, such as feminism and deconstruction, as well as looking at key issues in literary studies such as the author and the reader.

Option modules

- Analysing Spoken and Written Discourse
This module offers a range of different linguistic tools for exploring texts. They are analysed for lexical and grammatical cohesion, metonymy and metaphor, and register and thematic progression (Hallidayan functional grammar). Texts are also analysed using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Multimodal Discourse Analysis (MDA). You will acquire a theoretical understanding of the main approaches to discourse analysis, and the practical skills for carrying out these analyses on real texts. You will also gain a broader awareness of how written discourse is constructed by comparing it to spoken discourse, and by discussing it in terms of more general semiotic and communication theories.

- Current Developments in Language Teaching
In this module you will study a range of topical issues in language learning and teaching, including content and language integrated learning, individual differences in language learning, language for specific purposes, learner autonomy and strategy training, methodology, neurolinguistic processing and multiple intelligences, teacher language and national curriculum.

- Innovative Women's Writing
This is a research-led module which explores experimental women’s writing from 1900 to the present day. It has a theoretical focus on gender studies, philosophies of language, and theories of the avant-garde. Authors studied include Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Kathy Acker, Christina Brooke-Rose, Clarice Lispector, Ann Quin, Caroline Bergvall and Vanessa Place.

- Intercultural Communication
You will gain a greater understanding of what is happening in cross-cultural communication, and develop your ability to do it well. In the first part of the module you will examine critically different theories of the nature of cultural difference and its impact on cross-cultural interaction. You will also explore theories of the intercultural abilities needed to manage such interaction effectively. In the second part of the module you will apply these theories to specific issues in professional contexts of potential relevance, such as language teaching.

- Reading Contemporary Culture
This module examines the idea of British literary culture since the 1990s. Beginning with Carlyle, the notion of literature as an ‘industry’ has been resisted by a strong tradition of cultural criticism in Britain. This module discusses what happened to this tradition, whether it still exists, and what may have replaced it. By focusing particularly on the relationships between writing and film, and writing and the visual arts, the module investigates the state and status of literary writing during this period. Authors studied include A S Byatt, Sarah Kane, Zadie Smith, Sarah Waters and Irvine Welsh.

- Reading the Nation
Through this module you will explore ways in which texts can be contextualised and discussed in terms of the concepts and practices of nationalism, and of attempts to understand the nation as a discursive practice. You will address a variety of texts and relate these to theoretical concepts such as nationalism, decolonisation, colonialism and post-colonialism. You will consider how such concepts intersect with issues concerning gender, race and social class. Authors studied include Howard Brenton, David Hare, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Michael Ondaatje; you will also consider a range of influential theorists, including Benedict Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Michel Foucault and Edward Said.

- Re-reading Modernism
This module focuses on the literature, art and intellectual culture of the first half of the 20th century, and on the heterogeneous interpretations of the term modernism itself. The module covers a range of different forms, styles and practices included under the heading of modernism, and seeks to situate modernist literature within an international context. You will also look at the relationship of literature to other art forms, and discuss the central issues within ongoing debates surrounding modernism, including the politics of form, the concept of an avant-garde, myth, tradition, urban experience, and ideas concerning modern space and time.

- Sexuality and Narrative
Focusing on the period from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century, you will examine a range of cultural, literary, artistic and theoretical perspectives on sexuality, in order to investigate the complex relationship between sexuality and narrative. Key authors, artists and theorists studied include Georges Bataille, Judith Butler, Jeffrey Eugenides, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Michael Haneke, Michel Houellebecq, Adrienne Rich and Oscar Wilde.

- Sociolinguistics
You will critically explore concepts and issues in sociolinguistics, including: language in face-to- face interaction; language variation, choice, creation, planning, change, decline and death; languages and factors such as age, class, gender and ethnicity; multilingual communities; language and society; bilingualism and diglossia; casual and ritual interaction; conversational interaction focusing on issues such as linguistic politeness; oral narratives, and conversational routines; language socialisation; conversational code-switching; talk and gender. Throughout the module, attention will be paid to issues of methodology, and the most appropriate methods for studying each topic area.

- Translation Studies
This module aims to give you a better understanding of what translation is, how translation is a reflection of its social setting, and what goes on in the mind when a translator translates. Translation Studies has seen rapid growth in recent years, and this module reflects these developments. The topics you will cover include: discourse analysis approaches; equivalence; historical and contemporary translation theories; loss and gain; psycholinguistic approaches; ‘skopos’ theory; the unit of translation; translatability; translating culture; translating ideology; translating literature and sacred texts; and translation and ICT.

- Victorian Explorations
You will examine the ways in which both the world and ‘other worlds’ were formed through representation during the latter part of the 19th century. With particular emphasis on the idea of ‘exploration’, the module focuses on themes such as archaeology and the ruin, mapping the empire and the city, the afterlife, the life of the mind, the natural world, and the scientific world-view. You will consider key concepts in 19th-century culture, such as degeneration and criminality, as well as less investigated aspects of the Victorian imagination. Writers studied include William Booth, Darwin, George Eliot, Edmund Gosse, Richard Jeffries, Max Nordau, H. Rider Haggard, and James Thomson.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching is conducted mainly through weekly two- or three-hour sessions for each module, which include tutorials, seminars, practical sessions and workshops. There is also independent self-directed study. You will be prepared for the dissertation via structured sessions in research methodology, besides receiving one-to-one advice.

Assessment methods include submitted coursework such as essays, projects or reports. There are no timed written examinations.


The Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies at the University of Westminster boasts a long established research culture in literature and linguistics. Its commitment to the study of language and its interaction with literature, both from a theoretical and an applied perspective, has led to its more recent expansion of the English language and creative writing areas and the appointment of internationally renowned experts in these fields.

Associated careers

The English Language and Literature MA will provide you with sophisticated analytical skills and a widely applicable knowledge base, which will enable you to study at MPhil or PhD levels with a view to pursuing an academic career. The course is also particularly relevant to teaching English as a first or foreign language, and to a range of professions involving the study and use of language and literary texts.

While studying the MA, you will also benefit from the careers workshops organised by the departmental employability coordinator.


At Westminster, we have always believed that your University experience should be designed to enhance your professional life. Today’s organisations need graduates with both good degrees and employability skills, and we are committed to enhancing your graduate employability by ensuring that career development skills are embedded in all courses.

Opportunities for part-time work, placements and work-related learning activities are widely available, and can provide you with extra cash and help you to demonstrate that you have the skills employers are looking for. In London there is a plentiful supply of part-time work – most students at the University of Westminster work part time (or full time during vacations) to help support their studies.

We continue to widen and strengthen our links with employers, involving them in curriculum design and encouraging their participation in other aspects of career education and guidance. Staff take into account the latest data on labour market trends and employers’ requirements to continually improve the service delivered to students.

Visit the English Language and Literature (MA) page on the University of Westminster website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Applicants are normally required to have a good first degree (2.1 or above) or equivalent experience in a relevant subject (eg English language, English literature or TESOL). Students whose first language is not English must have an IELTS certificate with an overall score of 6.5, with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or be able to demonstrate an equivalent level of proficiency.

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