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Victorian Literature, Art and Culture (MA)

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Course overview

Taught at our Centre for Victorian Studies, this lively course offers you the opportunity to study nineteenth-century literature and art history in the midst of the outstanding Victorian architecture of our Egham campus. 

A central element of the course is the study of Victorian London; you will explore a variety of texts from a range of perspectives, from Dickens to the phenomenon of the department store; from the painters of fashionable life to the panic surrounding the Whitechapel murders.  

You will also complete three other courses covering specialist areas of this rich period of literature and art ,and towards the end of the course you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject of your choice when completing the dissertation.

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 Sophie Gilmartin
+44(0)1784 443212
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.

Professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area will 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, including first degrees in subjects other than English.

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:

  • Applicants are invited to submit a sample of recent written work, such as two short essays or an extract from a dissertation, in support of their application.

A successful applicant will usually have the following qualities:

  • an existing interest in the literature, art, and culture of the Victorian period
  • 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 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*). The Department’s major research strengths span the Renaissance, the nineteenth century and the twentieth century and contemporary critical theory.
  • This is a lively interdisciplinary course with an excellent track record, taught by dedicated staff internationally renowned for their expertise in the field.
  • You will be supported in work in the disciplines of either art history, literature, or cultural history regardless of the subject of your first degree.
  • In addition to the academic component of the course, you will be offered the unique opportunity to undertake an optional internship of 4-6 weeks in the summer, in a leading library, museum, publisher or other setting.
  • You will be invited to participate in the regular research seminars and graduate reading groups organised under the auspices of the Centre for Victorian Studies as a route to preparing for PhD research.
  • 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

  • The course director, 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.

Course content and structure

You will take five core course units and complete a dissertation.

Core course units:

Victorian London
You will be introduced to the theories and methods of a variety of humanities disciplines through the medium of an in-depth study of the literature, history, geography, and visual culture of nineteenth-century London. It invites students to reflect critically on their own approaches to the material studied through an engagement with both primary materials and a variety of recent secondary material.

The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Contexts, Theories, Readers
You will be equipped with a systematic understanding of the scope and range of the nineteenth-century novel in the context of Victorian publishing, reading and critical practices.

Aestheticism and Decadence in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture
You will be provided with an advanced understanding of the complex field of aestheticism in nineteenth-century literature and culture, with particular attention to concepts of decadence and the relationship between the written word and the visual arts.

The Pre-Raphaelite Revolution
You will examine the most important artistic development ever in the history of British painting; the founding of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, and the subsequent evolution of a new pictorial language, notable for its hard-edged drawing, brilliant colour, hallucinatory detail, and intensity of feeling.

Methods and Materials of Research
You will develop skills in researching and writing critical essays and dissertations, including use of footnotes, bibliography and using criticism. You will also be provided with an introduction to information technology, essay formatting, and advanced information retrieval, with special emphasis on journals and individual masters specific websites.

The dissertation is a piece of original written work, of between 12,000 and 15,000 words, to be submitted in the first week of September. The topic of the dissertation will be agreed between yourself and your supervisor. You may also be required to complete an unassessed research proposal and bibliography during the summer term.  

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • developed a critical understanding of Victorian culture by focusing on the developing cultural representations and presences of London in the nineteenth century
  • an advanced grounding in the theory and practice of cultural studies
  • evaluated relevant critical, theoretical and contextual research at the forefront of the field
  • completed independent literary research at an advanced level using traditional and electronic resources
  • confidence in deploying the appropriate critical and technological skills as required the field.

View the full course specification for Victorian Literature, Art and Culture (MA) in the Programme Specification Repository


Assessment is carried out by essays and the dissertation.

Employability & career opportunities

The Department has an impressive record for placing graduates in academic jobs and in prominent positions outside academia. In the field of twentieth-century literature our postgraduates have recently secured positions at Queen Mary, University of London, the Universities of Wales, Nottingham, Lancaster, Newbold College and elsewhere; and have published academic books with Cambridge University Press, Palgrave, Berg and other publishers, as well as popular books on gay studies, music and other topics. The English Department also prepares postgraduates for successful careers in a variety of other areas, such as teaching, writing and journalism, curating, administration and marketing.


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