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English Literature (MA)

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Course overview

Reflecting the wide-ranging strengths of Royal Holloway's outstanding English Department, this flexible course gives you the opportunity to tailor your studies from four of our taught postgraduate courses.

You can choose from a wide range of units from the MAs in Medieval Studies, Shakespeare, Victorian Literature, Art and Culture and Literatures of Modernity. The course is ideal if you are interested in more than one period of English literature, or if you want to combine or juxtapose the literatures and genres of different periods.

At the end of your studies, a dissertation offers you the chance to explore a subject of your choice in depth.

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts
Duration 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
Department and Faculty English, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) --
Course director Dr Betty Jay B.Jay@rhul.ac.uk
Contact for more information Lisa Dacunha

Postgraduate Faculty Administrator
+44 (0)1784 443215

Fees / funding

Please visit the Fees and funding pages for the latest information about tuition fees and the different sources of funding which may be available to you.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online.

Further information on making an application, including the documentation that you will need to submit with the application is available in the How to apply section of this site.

If you are interested in applying to Royal Holloway, why not arrange a visit to our campus to see for yourself what academic and student life is like here. More information on arranging visits is available on our Open days pages.


Entry requirements

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent.

Candidates with professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area may be considered.

English language requirements:

IELTS 7 with 7 in writing, TOEFL (iBT) 100 with 26 in writing, or equivalent, for non-native English speaking applicants.

Applicants come from a diverse range of backgrounds and we accept a broad range of qualifications.

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

Additional requirements:

  • You will be required to submit a sample of recent written work, such as two short essays or an extract from a dissertation. 

A successful applicant will usually have the following qualities:

  • an existing interest in the works of at least two periods of English literature, and an interest in combining the study of these periods
  • proven skills in research and critical writing
  • a readiness to engage with a wide range of primary and secondary material from a variety of disciplines
  • fluent and precise written and spoken English
  • an enthusiasm for sharing and developing ideas through discussion, presentations and essay writing.

Why choose this course?

  • All members of staff are actively engaged in major research projects and the Department was awarded a 4* rating in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). This commitment to scholarly research means all our postgraduate courses are informed by the latest developments in literary studies.
  • You will have the opportunity to be taught by world-leading researchers in all aspects of English through the range of course units available to you.
  • The Department’s major research strengths span the Renaissance, the nineteenth century and the twentieth century and contemporary critical theory.
  • Royal Holloway is home to the Subject Centre for English which drives innovation in the teaching of English in higher education throughout the UK.
  • The College provides all the IT facilities and training that students need in order to access the burgeoning resources for study on the Internet.
  • Our excellent library resources span the full range of English studies and you will also have access to the University of London Library at Senate House as well as the British Library and the many specialist libraries located in central London.

Department research and industry highlights

In the most recent RAE (2008), 90% of the work submitted by the Department was judged to be of international standard with 30% assessed as world-leading (4*), 35% as internationally excellent (3*) and 25% as internationally recognised (2*). The Department’s performance, in terms of 4* and 3* results, was ranked 11th equal. Overall, the Department was ranked one of the top three English Departments in London.

We have particular strengths in the following research areas: 

  • Medieval Studies
  • Shakespeare and the Renaissance
  • 17th and 18th Century Literature and Culture
  • 19th Century Literature
  • 20th Century Literature and Theory
  • Postcolonialism
  • Creative Writing and Practice-based Research

Dr Betty Jay is Director of the MA in English Literature and Director of Post-Graduate Studies (Taught). She teaches and researches nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and in areas related to feminism and gender. She has published on E.M. Forster, Anne Bronte and on contemporary cinema.

Professor Robert Eaglestone is the author of four books including Ethical Criticism (1997), and The Holocaust and the Postmodern (2004) and the editor or co-editor of four books including Derrida’s Legacies (2007) and J.M. Coetzee in Context and Theory (2009). He works on contemporary fiction and philosophy and is Series Editor of Routledge Critical Thinkers.

Dr Ruth Livesey acts as an editor of the leading research journal in the field, the Journal of Victorian Culture and is, in addition a board member and an advisor to Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies and 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century.

Dr Anne Varty’s most recent monograph, Children and Theatre in Victorian Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007) was shortlisted for the best book award 2007 by the Society for Theatre Research and highly commended in the George Freedley Memorial Prize 2009, US Theater Library.

Dr Sophie Gilmartin has received fellowships and awards from the Leverhulme Trust, the AHRC and the National Maritime Museum for her current project Letters from the Sea: Literature, Navigation and Identity in the Age of Sail .

Professor Robert Hampson FEA, FRSA is the author of Joseph Conrad: Betrayal and Identity, Cross-Cultural Encounters in Joseph Conrad's Malay Fiction and Conrad's Secrets (forthcoming). He was co-editor of Conrad and Theory (with Andrew Gibson) and has co-edited various works by Conrad, Kipling and Haggard for Penguin. He was formerly editor of The Conradian and is currently on the editorial board of Conradiana and The Journal of Postcolonial Writing.He also co-edited Ford Madox Ford: A Re-Appraisal (with Tony Davenport), Ford Madox Ford and Modernity (with Max Saunders), New British poetries: The scope of the possible (with Peter Barry), Frank O'Hara Now (with Will Montgomery)and is on the editorial board of The Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. He is a Research Associate at the Centre Vortex, Paris III.

Dr. Will Montgomery works on contemporary poetry and poetics. He is the author of The Poetry of Susan Howe: History, Theology, Authority (Palgrave, 2010) and he has recently co-edited (with Robert Hampson) Frank O’Hara Now: New Essays on the New York Poet (Liverpool UP, 2010). He has published many articles on contemporary poetry and is a member of the Poetics Research Group at Royal Holloway. He is also involved, as both critic and practitioner, in contemporary experimental music, field recording and sound art.

Dr Finn Fordham is a specialist of James Joyce, modernism and "genetic criticism", and his published articles on DeLillo, Danielewski, Walcott and Hill. His most recent book has been described as "one of the most engaging works of literary criticism in recent times." See http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199569403.do and http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199215867.do

Dr Kristen Kreider, a practicing poet and artist, collaborates with artist and architect James O’Leary to make performance, installation and multi-media work in relation to sites of architectural and cultural interest. Kreider and O’Leary have performed and exhibited in the UK, as well as internationally in Europe, the US, Australia, and Japan. 

Professor Judith Hawley is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature. Her research interests cover a broad range of eighteenth-century topics, including private theatricals, relations between literature and science and literary groups such as the Bluestockings and the Scriblerus Club.

Dr Jennifer Neville specialises in Old English poetry, and has published on a wide range of topics, including seasons, law codes, monsters, plants, national identity, travel, the Assumption of the Virgin, out of body experiences, horses, riddles, and Tolkien's use of Old English poetry.  She is the author of Representations of the Natural World in Old English Poetry, Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 27 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).  She is currently working on a monograph on the Old English Riddles.

Susanna Jones has published three novels: The Earthquake Bird (Picador, 2001), Water Lily (Picador, 2003) and The Missing Person's Guide to Love (Picador, 2007). Her fourth will be published in 2012. She has set fiction in Japan and regularly writes articles and reviews on  books and topics related to Japan. Her fiction has won a Betty Trask Award, The John Creasey Memorial Dagger for Best First Crime Novel and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

Professor Jo Shapcott’s most recent collection of poetry, Of Mutability (Faber, 2010), was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Costa Prize.  She is the President of the Poetry Society.

Dr Christie Carson is co-editor of Shakespeare in Stages: New Theatre Histories (Cambridge, 2010), Shakespeare’s Globe: A Theatrical Experiment (Cambridge, 2008) and The Cambridge King Lear CD-ROM: Text and Performance Archive (Cambridge, 2000). She was also the Principal Investigator on a large AHRC grant that produced the online research resource Designing Shakespeare: an audio visual archive, 1960-2000.

Course content and structure

You will study the equivalent of two whole course units from those offered on the four MA courses, complete the research methodologies course, and write a dissertation.

Core modules:

  • Dissertation
  • Methods and Materials of Research

Optional modules:

In addition to the core modules, there will be a number of optional modules available during your degree.  Below are a selection of the optional modules that maybe available.

  • Modernism, Modernity and History
  • Contemporary Literature
  • Modernist Special Topics
  • Contemporary Special Topics
  • The Works: Plays & Poetry
  • King Lear: Critical Debate & Creative Response
  • Victorian London
  • Aestheticism and Decadence in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture
  • The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Theories, Contexts, Readers
  • The Pre-Raphaelite Revolution
  • Medieval Narratives
  • The Visual and the Verbal
  • Arthurian Literature

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • developed a critical understanding of the literature and culture of the main periods the student has chosen to study, and an advanced grounding in the theory and practice of interdisciplinary studies
  • the ability to evaluate relevant critical, theoretical and contextual research at the forefront of the field
  • skills of independent literary research at an advanced level using traditional and electronic resources
  • confidence in deploying the appropriate critical and technological skills as required in analysing a range of visual, historical and literary material.

View the full course specification for English Literature (MA) in the Programme Specification Repository


Assessment is carried out by essays and a dissertation.

Employability & career opportunities

The Department has an impressive record for placing graduates in academic jobs and in prominent position outside academia. In the field of Shakespeare and Renaissance studies alone, our postgraduates have recently secured positions at the Universities of Edinburgh, Sussex and Leeds, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the National University of Ireland. Recent postgraduates in America literature, modern and contemporary literature and theory have secured prestigious appointments in London.

The English Department also prepares postgraduates for successful careers in a variety of the other areas, such as teaching, writing and journalism, administration and marketing.


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