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English and Creative Writing


Over the last 15 years a very strong Creative Writing team has been established at Royal Holloway, and Creative Writing now has a marked presence at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The team is made up of teachers with substantial experience and a distinguished publication record.

The BA offers a three-year joint honours degree in English and Creative Writing, American Literature and Creative Writing, or Drama and Creative Writing (in partnership with the Drama Department).  A growing number of our BA, MA and PhD students have gone on to success and major awards as writers, both in fiction and poetry.

Our Creative Writing programmes place writing practice at the heart of your learning experience, rigorously testing practice against your growing awareness of contemporary, theoretical and cultural debates. By combining Creative Writing with English, American Literature or Drama, you will be able to place these contemporary debates within a larger cultural context.  Increasingly within English degrees, creative practice—the writing of poetry, drama and fiction—has taken its place alongside more traditional research methods as a means of investigating literature. There is a unique insight to be gained by considering texts from within, appreciating as a practitioner techniques and innovations, the stylistic and cultural interventions that the writer is making, and that one wishes to make as a writer oneself.

You will find that learning how to generate and shape an artistic work is a valuable life skill, with  applications far beyond the immediate task of writing poems, plays, scripts and novels. The questions of character, voice, ambiguity, style and cultural context involve provide crucial skills for any kind of writing, from journalism and website creation, to advertising, copywriting and academic publishing. The degree, in effect, offers an advanced course in cultural understanding and appreciation, encouraging students to learn how to articulate and debate the process of cultural production.


The beautiful Royal Holloway campus is the focal point of student life and is home to an impressive range of modern facilities. The Departments of Drama and English occupy five substantial buildings in the heart of the campus, encompassing four theatres, substantial IT facilities, a digital studio and design cottage. The College’s extensive Library and Computer Centre are also close to hand.

In addition to the campus in Egham, the College has a well-equipped building at Bedford Square in central London which provides an important teaching facility. This is currently used particularly for the MA in Creative Writing.

Entry Requirements

Our standard offer is AAB/ABB with an A in English. We also welcome mature students who are coming to higher education from alternative routes.

The UCAS form requires an institution code and a course code. The institution code for Royal Holloway is R72, RHUL. The course code for English & Creative Writing is QW38. All students applying to this degree programme are encouraged to attend one of the UCAS Open Days and to visit both departments. Open Day details can be found on the College website at: www.rhul.ac.uk.

We also require samples of creative work, based on two short assignments. See the Admissions page for further details.

Typical Offers

AAB/ABB at A-level, normally with A in English Literature or English Language and Literature. 

Alternative Qualifications

Special consideration is given to mature applicants and students without a conventional educational background. We look favourably on students who are returning to study through an Access course. We also consider all appropriate overseas qualifications. Overseas applicants are expected to have considerable proficiency in the English language; the minimum levels we usually consider are an IELTS score with minimum sub-scores of 7, or a TOEFL score of 570.

Academic Staff

Professor Adam Roberts, MA (Aberdeen), PhD (Camb): His main research interests are in nineteenth-century literature (particularly poetry), science fiction, postmodernism and Creative Writing.  He has published widely on the 19th century, most recently a new edition of Coleridge's Biographia Literaria for Edinburgh University Press, and the monograph Landor's Cleanness (Oxford University Press, 2015). He also works on Science Fiction and Fantasy, both critically and creatively, and is the author of The Palgrave History of Science Fiction (Palgrave, 2006) and The Riddles of The Hobbit (Palgrave, 2014). He is the author of 15 novels, all SF. The most recent are: Jack Glass (Gollancz, 2012), which won the BSFA and John W Campbell Awards for best novel; Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea (Gollancz, 2014; with Mahendra Singh) and Bête (Gollancz, 2014). His short stories have been collected in Adam Robots (Gollancz, 2013) and his most recent SF-themed essays and reviews in Sibilant Fricative (Newcon, 2014).

Dr Prue Bussey-Chamberlain, BA, MA and PhD (London): her main research interests are contemporary poetry; American writing from 1950s onwards; New Narrative and Lyric Writing; queer theory and feminism. She is the co-author of House of Mouse (2016), and has two solo-authored collections forthcoming: Coteries with Knives, Forks and Spoons Press (2017) and Retroviral with Oystercatcher Press (2017). Her poetry reviews have featured in Poetry ReviewHix Eros, and The Shearsman Review. An interdisciplinary practitioner, she has also published sociological research, including The Fourth Wave of Feminism Affective Temporality (2017), and articles on contemporary feminism in both Gender and Education (2016) and Social Movement Studies (2014).

Dr. Douglas Cowie, BA (Colgate University, New York) MA, PhD (University of East Anglia), is primarily a fiction writer. He is the author of two novels, Owen Noone and the Marauder (Canongate, 2005) and Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago (Myriad Editions, 2016), and two novellas, Sing for Life: Tin Pan Alley (Black Hill Press, 2013) and Sing for Life: Away, You Rolling River (Black Hill Press, 2014). His main literary interests are American poetry and fiction of the 20th Century, in particular the work of Nelson Algren, as well as writing about music. He also has an interest in the history of Germany, in particular the history of the German Democratic Republic.

Professor Ben Markovits, BA (Yale), MPhil (Oxford) has published seven novels, The Syme Papers (Faber, 2004), Either Side of Winter (Faber, 2005), Imposture (Faber, 2007), A Quiet Adjustment (Faber, 2008), and Playing Days (Faber, 2010), a novel about the world of minor league basketball, and Childish Loves (Faber, 2011), the final novel in his trilogy about Lord Byron (which includes Imposture and A Quiet Adjustment). His most recent novel, about an experimental community in Detroit, You Don’t Have to Live Like This (Faber, 2015), won the James Tait Black Prize for 2016. He was awarded a fellowship to the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies in 2009, and won a Pushcart Prize for his short story 'Another, Sad, Bizarre Chapter in Human History'. He was awarded a fellowship to the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies in 2009, and won a Pushcart Prize for his short story 'Another, Sad, Bizarre Chapter in Human History'. In 2013, Granta selected him as one of the Best of Young British Novelists. He has published essays, stories, poetry and reviews on subjects ranging from the Romantics to American sports in The GuardianGrantaThe Paris Review, and The New York Times, among other publications.He has published essays, stories, poetry and reviews on subjects ranging from the Romantics to American sports in The Guardian, Granta, Slate, The Paris Review, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Dr Redell Olsen, BA (Camb), MA (Staffs), PhD (London). Poet and academic. Main research and teaching interests are in poetry and poetics, visual traditions in poetry (concrete, film-poems, bookarts, hybrid textual practice, ekphrasis), modernism, feminism and contemporary writing. Her publications include; Film Poems (Les Figues, 2014); which collects the poems for her films and performances from 2007–2012. Other books include: 'Punk Faun: a bar rock pastel' (Subpress, 2012), 'Secure Portable Space' (Reality Street, 2004), 'Book of the Fur' (rem press, 2000), and, in collaboration with the bookartist Susan Johanknecht, 'Here Are My Instructions' (Gefn, 2004). She has published articles on the poets Abigail Child, Susan Howe and Frank O'Hara. Her poetry and poetics are featured in Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets, (Shearsman, 2010), I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues, 2011) and Trenchart Monographs: Hurry Up Please Its Time (Les Figues, 2015). In 2013-14 she was the Judith E. Wilson visiting fellow in poetry at the University of Cambridge. She is the director of the department’s Poetics Research Centre. http://redellolsen.co.uk and http://filmpoems.wordpress.com/

Dr. Nikita Lalwani has published two novels, Gifted (Viking, 2007) and The Village (Viking 2012). Gifted won the Desmond Elliot Prize for Fiction, was shortlisted for the Costa Prize, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The BBC Radio 4 dramatised adaptation of Gifted won a Mental Health Media Award and the Italian translation won an Eduardo Kihlgren prize. The Village was a winner of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. She has published essays, journalism and reviews on subjects including giftedness, asylum/immigration, creativity, penal reform, HIV/AIDS, documentary journalism, surveillance and Indian cinema in The Guardian (UK), The New Statesman (UK) and The Times (UK), AIDS SUTRA (an anthology of essays published by Random House) and Bookslam Vol. III among other publications. In 2012 she was a judge of the books section of the Orwell Prize for political writing. She has appeared on BBC’s Hard Talk and ITV’s politics show The Agenda and is a trustee of human rights organisations Liberty. She is a member of the Folio Academy and has contributed to live discussions and panels for the Folio Sessions, the Royal Literary Fund and English PEN at the British Library, as well as performing at literary festivals in the UK and internationally. In 2016 she interviewed Zadie Smith for the London Review of Books launch of Swing Time, a live event that garnered over ten thousand views on Facebook Live, and she also conducted a live masterclass with comedian Stephen Merchant, co-creator of iconic comedy dramas 'The Office' and 'Extras'. In 2017 she appeared in the flagship BBC2 documentary 'Seven Days of Summer', discussing the partition of India in 1947. 

The general structure is pyramidal: in the first year you take ‘Introduction to Creative Writing,’ which is broadly focused and is intended to introduces a wide range of creative forms within fiction, poetry and playwriting. You also take the course 'Why Write?' designed to introduce debates about the value and significance of creative writing, against which we expect you to test your own ideas. This prepares you for the choices you make at the intermediate level, where you select two literary forms to specialise in, before taking one of those forms to honours level at stage three. It is generally recognised that creative writing develops best over longer periods, and the course is designed to foster a three-year process of development and understanding.

In the third year of the course, you build towards complete full-length creative works, offering a run of chapters of a novel, a sequence of poems or an hour-long play. Students in Year 3 also choose from a variety of Creative Writing Special Focus options. Drawing on staff areas of interest and expertise, each of these options focuses on a particular mode of writing, genre, theme, issue or idea. (Examples include: Science Fiction, Memoir, Falling, Word and Image and Intertextuality, Writing Masculinity). Students are encouraged to make creative work in relation to the option's focus, and to develop their writing practice in relation to wider contexts relevant to the contemporary writer.  This makes an important connection between the creative ambitions of the course and writing beyond university.

There are also opportunities for students to study abroad during their time at Royal Holloway.

Year 1 is a Foundation Year, in which Single Honours students study Poetry, the Novel, Shakespeare, and Medieval Literature and a foundation course 'Thinking as a Critic'.

Creative Writing

Students will take BOTH of the following courses:

  • CW1010: Introduction to Creative Writing (Fiction, Playwriting, Poetry)
  • CW1020: Why Write? The History and Theory of Creative Writing

Each of these courses is one unit in value, and will take the form of seminars/ workshops.  


Students will take the following courses, run as lectures/seminars:

  • EN1107: Reorienting the Novel (one full unit)
  • EN1112: Introducing English Poetry (0.5 unit)
  • EN1011: Thinking as a Critic (0.5 unit)

For specific information on these courses see the Single Honours English page.

It will be necessary to pass ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’ and ‘Why Write?’ as well as the English units to proceed into the second year.

Creative Writing:

Students will take TWO of the following options:

  • CW2010 Playwriting
  • CW2020 Fiction
  • CW2030 Poetry

All these courses are one unit in value, and will take the form of seminar/workshops. For information on these three courses please see the Current Course Options.


Students are encouraged (but  are not required) to take at ONE WHOLE UNIT from the historical spine:

  • EN2324: Debates in Contemporary Literature
  • EN2010: Renaissance Literature
  • EN2120: Age of Oppositions: Literature, 1660-1789
  • EN2212: Victorian Literature
  • EN2213: Romantic Literature
  • EN2325: Modernist Literature

Students must in addition take HALF UNITS from the range of English units offered (over 20 in year 2). These can change from year to year. Click here for current course options.

N.B. In either their second or third year,  students must take the equivalent of one whole unit focusing on literature from 1550-1780 (i.e. Renaissance literature, excluding Shakespeare).

Creative Writing:

Students will take two (one in the Autumn term and one in the Spring term) of: 

  • CW3103: Creative Writing Special Focus

In addition, students will also take ONE of the following options for their Final Project in Creative Writing:

  • CW3010 Playwriting 2
  • CW3020 Fiction 2
  • CW3030 Poetry 2

These final projects are one unit in value and are taught through intensive one-to-one tutorials across the year. There is also a lecture series devoted to issues around professional practice and the generation of long-term projects.  


Students are encouraged to take ONE WHOLE UNIT from the three following groups of options:

  • EN3401: Dissertation
  • EN350X: Special Author Project
  • EN3XXX: Special Topic

Students in addition take other courses from the range of whole or half-unit options. These can change from year to year. Click here for current course options.

N.B. In either their second or third year, students must take one half unit focusing on Medieval literature and the equivalent of one whole unit focusing on literature from 1550-1780 (i.e. Renaissance literature, excluding Shakespeare).





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