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English and American Literature BA

UCAS code
Year of entry
Course length
3 years full time
English »

On BA English & American Literature, you will have the opportunity to explore the distinct but interrelated literary traditions of two nations and cultures spanning five centuries, from the early 1600s to the present day.  This degree is directly informed by the creative and critical mix of academic experts in the College's top-rated English department.

You will begin the degree with a grounding in the two distinct literary cultures, then you choose options allowing you to explore different periods, genres and topics.  In your final year you will continue to follow your own interests, specialising and taking research-based options or writing a dissertation.

You'll be exposed to a wide variety of areas in American literature, including the literature of the first encounter, nineteenth-century and African-American writing, satire, New York School poetry, drama, the urban novel and writing about music and the novella. In addition you can take advantage of an exceptional range of options in English literature, theory and postcolonial literature.

  • You will have the chance to take courses in other departments, studying American history or film, to broaden your understanding of America.
  • You will be offered the chance to study abroad, enhancing your understanding of the USA or another country.
  • You can go beyond the study of existing literature, with the opportunity to take modules in creative writing.
  • You will be taught by academics who have won national and College prizes for teaching and for their publications, including practicing American novelists Ben Markovits and Douglas Cowie.

Core modules

Year 1

Introducing America, 1600 to 1900

This module gives you a sense of some central topics in American literature and provides a selective survey of the literature written between 1600 and 1900, focussing on the period of the American Renaissance and the Civil War. As well as examining cultural issues (Americas foundational myths, gender, race), the module will discuss more formal topics such as genre (the rise of the short story in America; the importance of the essay), poetic form, and the uses of emotion in literature. 

Critical Foundations - Thinking as a Critic

The aim of this module is to help youmake the transition into university level work by introducing you to reading, writing and thinking as a critic. The module focuses on developing the abilities and skills of literary criticism and introducing the concepts, ideas and histories that are central to English as a discipline, including questions about interpretation, periodization, form, genre, canon, value, intention, narrative, voice, framing and identity. 


This module facilitates a deeper - as well as a more pleasurable and rewarding - understanding of the range of Shakespeare’s work.  You will be encouraged to think about the plays as theatre as well as printed literature, although a main feature of the course will be its close attention to the extraordinary fertility and force of Shakespeare’s dramatic language.  While paying close attention to Shakespeare’s very different historical context in the Renaissance, the module will be equally concerned with the question of whether the plays are still relevant to us today.

Re-orienting the Novel

This module introduces students to the origins, developments and innovations of the novel form through a range of contemporary, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels. Organised thematically, the module considers earlier novels in relation to contemporary examples. 

Introducing English Poetry

The module is designed to introduce first-year students to a variety of major poems in English from the Renaissance to the present day. At the end of the module you will be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of a wide range of poems from Shakespeare to the present; a familiarity with a variety of poetic forms; an understanding of how poetry functions; and the necessary skills for analysing poetic technique.

Year 2

The American Century - American Literature, 1900 to 2000

The module explores American Literature in the twentieth century, looking at a selection of key topics and movements as American literature moves from realism to modernism and post-modernism. Topics covered may include race, gender, genre and the impact of specific historical events like the Great depression and the Cold War.

Year 3

All modules are optional

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1

Only core modules are taken

Year 2

Dark Reform - Scandal and Satire in American Arts

American Drama

Debates in Literary and Critical Theory

Literature of the Fin de Siècle

Modernist Fiction - James, Conrad and Ford

Year 3

The Great American Novella

Literature of Chicago

African-American Literature

Special Author Project - Dickinson

Writing Migrant Identities

You will take the equivalent of four units each year.

In year one this includes a core course introducing American literature from 1600 to 1900, as well as core courses in English, poetry, the novel and Shakespeare.

In year two students take a core course in American Literature from 1900 to the present, as well as one or more of the core second-year English full units, and other option choice.

In your final year, you will take a balanced combination of American and English Literature options, including Special Topics, Special Author papers and an optional dissertation

Options in American history or film can also be taken in other departments in years two and three, where pathway rules and timetabling allow it.

Teaching is mostly by seminars and lectures, with an additional small tutorial group in year one. These methods are backed up by individual consultations for feedback on essays throughout the degree, and dissertation supervision in year three.

All students will also belong to study groups and undertake co-operative work for some courses, and take training courses run by the Library.

Assessment is via a combination of:

  • exams
  • essays
  • take-away papers
  • projects
  • marked presentations in some courses

Typical offers

Typical offers

AAB-ABB including B in English
How we assess your application:  predicted grades lower than our typical offers are considered.  Read more about what we look for here.

  • Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required.
  • Socio-economic factors which may have impacted an applicant’s education will be taken into consideration and alternative offers may be made to these applicants.
Required/preferred subjects

Required subjects: 

  • A Level Grade B in English Literature or English Literature & Language
  • At least five GCSE passes at grades A* to C or 9-4 including Maths and English
Other UK Qualifications
International Baccalaureate

6,5,5 at Higher Level, including English Literature with a minimum of 32 points overall

BTEC Extended Diploma

Distinction*, Distinction*, Distinction in relevant subject, including distinction in all essay units plus grade A in GCSE English Literature

BTEC National Extended Diploma

Distinction, Distinction in relevant subject, plus grade B in A level English Literature or English Language & Literature

BTEC National Extended Certificate

Distinction in relevant subject plus A level grades A,B, including B in English Literature or English Language & Literature

Welsh Baccalaureate

Requirements are as for A-levels where one non-subject-specified A-level can be replaced by the same grade in the Welsh Baccalaureate - Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate.

Scottish Advanced Highers

AAB-ABB including English Literature or English Language & Literature 

Scottish Highers

AABBB including English Literature or English Language & Literature 

Irish Leaving Certificate

H2, H2, H3, H3, H3 at Higher Level including H2 in English Literature or English Lit/Lang at Higher Level

Access to Higher Education Diploma

Pass with at least 24 level 3 credits at Distinction and the remaining level 3 credits at Merit. All level 3 English studies units must be passed with Distinction. The Access to Higher Education Diploma is only acceptable if applicants have had a considerable break from education

Other UK qualifications

Please select your UK qualification from the drop-down list below

Please select a qualification

Please select a qualification

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

English language

IELTS 7.0 overall

  • with 7.0 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in each remaining subscore

For equivalencies please see here.

For more information about entry requirements for your country please visit our International pages. For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, we offer an International Foundation Year, run by Study Group at the Royal Holloway International Study Centre. Upon successful completion, students can progress on to selected undergraduate degree programmes at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Taking a degree in English sets you up with great prospects for future employability.  On the course itself we place a strong emphasis on your future employability, meaning the skills that you gain won’t just be applicable to the study of English.

Although many of our students go on to further study in literature and other fields, skills such as research, presentation, teamwork, negotiation and communication will prepare you for a wide range of career opportunities.  Recent graduate have gone on to careers in:

  • Accountancy and banking
  • Publishing
  • Law
  • Media, PR and journalism
  • Teaching
  • Theatre and arts

We currently run a structured work placement scheme, placing students with The Daily Telegraph, the Press Association, BBC Newsnight, publishers, literary agencies and media companies in London.  By taking part in the scheme and you will boost your employability, build your CV, and develop real skills to help you choose and prepare for a career.

Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

International students tuition fee per year**: £16,500

Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

How do I pay for it?  Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

*Tuition fees for UK and EU nationals starting a degree in the academic year 2017/18 will be £9,250 for that year, and is shown for reference purposes only. The tuition fee for UK and EU undergraduates starting their degrees in 2018 is controlled by Government regulations, and details are not yet known. The UK Government has also announced that EU students starting an undergraduate degree in 2018/19 will pay the same level of fee as a UK student for the duration of their degree.

**Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our  terms & conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

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