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Music and English

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  1. Royal Holloway's institution code: R72
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    • Music and English BA - WQ33
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Music and English


Key information

Duration: 3 years full time

UCAS code: WQ33

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

The course

Music and English (BA)

This Joint Honours course combines the practical and theoretical study of Music with the study of English literature.

Studying Music at Royal Holloway allows you to tailor your studies to your own interests and passions.

We have expertise spanning traditional, modern and world music. Through studying musical texts, practices, cultures and institutions you will explore issues in history, sociology, ethnology, and philosophy covering an exceptional geographical and chronological range. You will also be able to gain practical skills in composition, music technology and performance.

You will join a music department that is among the very best in the country, ranked third in the UK for research quality (REF 2014) and the only music department in the country to hold a prestigious Regius Professorship.

From Beowulf to the Booker Prize, English offers you the opportunity to study the full historical range of literature in English as well as the latest developments in the field, and even to pursue your own creative writing.

You can discover the earliest works in English, deepen your knowledge of Shakespeare, find out what is great about Renaissance literature, darken your view of the 18th century, and unpack the Victorians. The course's structure allows you to develop a sound understanding of key periods, genres, authors, and ideas as well as choosing from a huge range of options. You can study Modernism, Postmodernism and American literature, explore literary criticism, develop your own creative writing, and analyse the latest developments in global literatures in English.

  • An adaptable course with a flexible core of modules.
  • Creative opportunities abound – take modules in creative writing or composition.
  • Enjoy creating ensembles with other musicians.
  • A unique perspective – work at the intersection of music and the written word.
  • Choral, organ, orchestral and music scholarships.

From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.

Core Modules

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the origins, developments and innovations of the novel form. You will look at a range of contemporary, eighteenth and nineteenth-century novels and learn to use concepts in narrative theory and criticism. You will consider literary history and make formal and thematic connections between texts and their varying socio-cultural contexts. You will examine novels such as 'The Accidental' by Ali Smith, 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe and 'North and South' by Elizabeth Gaskell, analysing their cultural and intellectual contexts.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to think, read and write as a critic. You will look at the concepts, ideas and histories that are central to the ‘disciplinary consciousness’ of English Literature, considering periodisation, form, genre, canon, intention, narrative, framing and identity.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of a variety of major poems in English. You will look at key poems from the Renaissance to the present day. You will engage with historical issues surrounding the poems and make critical judgements, considering stylistic elements such as rhyme, rhythm, metre, diction and imagery. You will examine poems from Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath and analyse topics such as sound, the stanza and the use of poetic language.

You will take four from the following:

  • This course aims: 1. to develop basic music-analytical literacy, 2. to introduce basic concepts concerning counterpoint, harmony, melody and form that underpin the analysis of music, 3. to put these concepts into practice in the analysis of pieces from a variety of repertories. The course addresses the contrapuntal, melodic, harmonic and formal elements of tonal music. Weekly lectures, in which students are introduced to analytical concepts and then practise deploying them, through listening, score study and the completion of practical exercises, are supplemented by private study based on Moodle and recommended readings, to consolidate concepts learnt in the lectures and provide further opportunities to practise new skills.

  • The aim of this course is to develop students' awareness of music theory through practical exercises and musical analysis. Through practical exercises that focus on musical literacy as well as aural awareness, students develop the ability to identify and analyse the musical parameters of metre, rhythm, pitch, harmony, counterpoint and form. In-class exercises may focus on listening, whereas exercises for self-study or small-group work may include written exercises. Tasks set for private study between classes provide a basis for students to continue their own practical training throughout their musical careers.

  • This course introduces students to some fundamental techniques of music composition. The precise topics taught may change depending on the research interests of the staff responsible for teaching the course, but typically include:

    • Soundworlds and scale formations

    • The vertical dimension: chords and simultaneities

    • The horizontal dimension: melody and voice leading

    • Developments in rhythm

    • Developments in harmonic vocabulary and tonalities

    • Form in contemporary composition

    • Acoustic timbre and texture

  • This course introduces a wide range of repertories within the history of music. It stimulates students to relate features of musical compositions and performances to their wider historical contexts and gives students a fundamental knowledge of specific musical cultures. It provides students with opportunities to develop skills in research and information retrieval and in critical reading of primary and secondary literature, to receive formative feedback on those skills, and to build a foundation for higher-level study. The course will offer students a conceptual map of musical styles, composers and practices by introducing them to a wide chronological range of repertories, from early music to music of the twentieth century. It will emphasise questions of change, interaction and transmission through the study of specific forms and repertories in their historical context. Lectures will be designed around major repertorial moments (e.g. Stravinsky in 1910) or problems (e.g. the post-Beethovenian symphony), to bring together questions of form, style, performing practice and historical context.

  • This course introduces concepts underlying the historical and critical study of music. It enables students to begin thinking critically about the priorities that underlie historical texts from different intellectual traditions and stimulates them to relate features of musical compositions and performances to wider historical contexts. It provides students with opportunities to develop skills in research and information retrieval and in critical reading of primary and secondary literature, to receive formative feedback on those skills, and to build a foundation for higher-level study. This course introduces students to the different kinds of historical question that we can ask about music, and interrogates some of the terminology and categories frequently used in the secondary literature (e.g. canonisation, reception, tradition, nationalism, exoticism, the work concept). Case-studies are used to illuminate specific topics and problems in the historiography of a wide variety of musics.

  • This course introduces students to the socio-cultural contexts, functions, philosophies, techniques, and organising principles of a variety of musics of the world; musics from at least three continents will be studied. These musical traditions will be approached from both theoretical and practical perspectives, also giving a variety of opportunities for hands-on experience. Course content will vary from year to year according to staff interests, availability of musicians to provide workshops, and to ensure freshness of approach. A typical curriculum might cover the following regions and theoretical themes:

    • World Music - Introduction (culture, contact & concepts)
    • South America: Andes to Amazon (exchange)
    • Africa: Jaliya and Mbira (the musician)
    • Indonesia: Sundanese Gamelan (temporal organisation)
    • North India: The Classical Tradition (improvisation)
    • Papua New Guinea: The Kaluli (music and ecology)
    • Iran: The Persian Classical Tradition (music & religion).
  • This course introduces students to a range of key debates and issues in contemporary musicology and to a range of key issues concerning music in the contemporary world. It encourages students to think about music’s relation to social and cultural contexts and introduces them to unfamiliar musical styles and repertoires as well as broaden understanding of those closer to home. It hones students’ skills in reading a wide variety of critical and theoretical writing about music. This course will survey some of the key contemporary issues in music that have arisen from the changes of the modern world, as well as contemporary debates in musicology. The twentieth century in particular has seen a transformation of musical cultures across the world, and this course looks at a range of the issues and controversies that have emerged as a result. The study of music has broadened to include many more social, cultural and political. This course will introduce students to truly contemporary ways of studying music, combining approaches and issues traditionally associated with musicology, ethnomusicology and popular music studies, divisions which are becoming increasingly blurred. Lecture topics may include:

    • Ideas of ‘authenticity’ in music

    • Value judgements about music

    • Protection and preservation of music

    • Heritage and revivals

    • Music and tourism

    • New forms of fusion and hybridity

    • The idea of ‘world music’.

    • Music and identity

    • Music and gender

    • Music and race

    • Music and nationalism

  • This course aims to further students’ skills as performers through regular (typically weekly) one-to-one vocal/instrument lessons with an approved visiting teacher.  Students will be offered opportunities to perform in practical seminars where matters of interpretation and stage manner will be discussed.  Constructive critical feedback given as well as developing students' skills in delivering feedback. 

    Students’ will develop the capacity to reflect on what constitutes good programming and fine performance.  Participation in College music events is fostered through ensemble and other activities. 

     The course consists of regular individual instrumental or vocal lessons with a teacher approved by the Department.  A series of practical seminars is run in which students perform and discuss suitable repertory under the supervision of the course co-ordinator, develop skills in the writing of programme notes to a high standard as well as concert reviews and  engage with  'professional preparation’ consisting of the development of stage presence and other relevant concerns.

  • The module aims to develop a broad range of innovative, practical, creative and collaborative musical skills. It promotes student initiative and creativity, while developing focused, critical, technical and context sensitive perspectives on selected musical repertoires/traditions/genres. It seeks to explore, reflect upon, extend and/or challenge specific musical performance conventions. The module will commence with at least two plenary lectures/seminars at the start of term one, when the module aims will be clarified, followed by fortnightly workshops and plenary meetings through terms 1 and 2. A list of student performance interests/skills will be circulated immediately after the first meeting. Students will then be requested to form their own groups. Flexibility in membership will be permitted until the end of term one when students must commit to a group with whom to be examined. Any student not integrated in a group will be allotted to one by the module tutor. All students will be required to regularly document their experience of group participation and creative practice in a performance diary.

  • This module will provide the opportunity to develop skills in working with music technology, write music to a brief and develop skills in. independent creative work. The topics taught will include a selection from: introduction to media, film and game music composition; introduction to non-linear compositional techniques; the basics of digital audio; composing to a brief; interpreting images; and audio engines for games.

Year 2

You will take at least two from the following:

  • The module introduces a range of important concepts for analysing music, and of the published secondary literature in music analysis. It puts these concepts into practice in increasingly sophisticated analysis of score-based and recorded pieces from the Western musical tradition and in the reading of more complex analyses. It lays foundations for further analytical and technical work in options modules and in final-year special studies. The analytical systems and repertories to be studied will vary from year to year, but students may expect to build on theoretical and analytical foundations established in the first year, by broadening their knowledge (through scores and recordings) of a wide range of Western musical repertoire, to learn and then apply standard analytical methods in order to gain a deeper understanding of the music's construction and expressive effect, and to learn the vocabulary and technical proficiency necessary for reading and evaluating analyses of music by scholars from those traditions. The module may address pre-tonal, tonal or post-tonal music.

  • This module will: develop your knowledge of a range of fundamental techniques of musical composition with particular focus on structure, harmonic control and the manipulation of rhythmic and melodic material provide an opportunity to practise the art of musical composition and to develop skills in creative work. Developing on areas covered in first-year Composition modules, this module will provide a framework in which you will be introduced to a number of techniques from diverse schools of composition in order to encourage you to explore and develop your own creativity. Key works from the past few decades will be studied and used as models or springboards for your own musical invention. You will create a portfolio of technical exercises and a short composition written in response to a given brief.

  • This module furthers students’ understanding of music history, by exploring two case-studies defined chronologically or thematically. It develops students’ ability to critically think and write about music in historical contexts that are both familiar and unfamiliar and explores more advanced concepts underlying the historical and critical study of music. It encourages students to put these concepts into practice in increasingly sophisticated historical and critical writing about music and it lays the foundations for further historical and critical writing in options modules and in particular for final-year special studies. This module will probe moments of music history that expose the complex relationship between musical repertories and historical contexts, or the nuanced processes of historical continuity, change, and cause and effect. The case-studies will vary year by year, but sample topics include: The Rise of Musical Notation in Medieval Europe; Music and the Reformation; Monteverdi: Between Renaissance and Baroque; Nationalism in Late Romantic Music; Popular and Art Music of the 1960s.

  • This module expands students’ knowledge of concepts characteristic of ethnomusicology and equips them with stimulating approaches to understanding, enjoying and studying their own music as well as that of others. It broadens students’ understanding of the possibilities of music as human activity and of the wider contexts in which music exists in the world. It raises issues concerning the political and ethical challenges involved with studying and writing about music across the globe, whether historically or in the contemporary world, and develops students’ ability to critically think and write about music in contexts that are both familiar and unfamiliar.

    This module will involve a combination of the study of musical repertoires from different parts of the globe and introduction to a range of methodologies that might be applied to a broad range of musics and contexts. Particular repertoires and areas will vary, but approaches and issues may include: the idea of music as culture/society; looking at music beyond concepts of ‘art’; understanding the strengths and problems of fieldwork as a methodology; looking at musical change and hybridisation; issues relating to music and gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity or religion; studying musical instruments; mapping music geographically, socially and historically; and the colonial legacy of ethnomusicology and ethical issues of contemporary research.

  • This module explores ways that electronic media and technology have brought about change in and opened up new possibilities for musical production, consumption, sounds, practices, experience, contexts and meanings. It considers the role of electronic media and technology in preserving and documenting musical culture as well as in changing it, and it examines how developments in electronic media and technology have affected and continue to affect dynamics of power in musical production and consumption across the world. The module explores the effects of electronic media and technology on popular, traditional and classical musics and introduces concepts and techniques for the study of the interaction of music, media and technology. It also encourages a deeper and more critical understanding of music, music making and musical culture through study in both familiar and unfamiliar cultures and contexts. The module will introduce students to a range of ways in which electronic media and technology have affected and transformed musical cultures across the world through their fundamental ability to: record and store musical sound; create new sounds, new ways of combining sounds and new ways of synching sound with other media; turn musical sound into a commodity; separate musical sound from live performance context; amplify music; mass produce music; mass disseminate music; and greatly alter dynamics of power in the production and consumption of music. The module will cover a range of key phenomena and issues in contemporary musical culture that are inextricably linked to electronic media and technology. Exact topics will vary, but may include: popular and mass-mediated music; recorded music; electronic music; the impact of technology on compositional practices; music industries; piracy; film music, video and multimedia; music and the Internet; globalisation; debates on the value of mass mediated music; and questions of power and representation.

  • This course will require the student to undertake the study of an instrument or voice, with the aim of developing technical ability and musical interpretation expressed through performance.  The student will consciously and actively address concerns such as the acquisition of technical competence in performance, the development of powers of interpretation, strategies of practice and performance, effective communication and so on.  These skills are further developed through the writing of programme notes, concert reviews and developing critical feedback skills in performance seminars.

    The course consists of the study of appropriate repertory with an individual instrumental or vocal teacher approved by the Department, the writing of programme notes and concert reviews, the development of ensemble musicianship and/or music-administrative skills through membership of college ensembles and/or the in-house concert administration team.

Year 3

You will take one from the following:

  • In this module you will carry out independent research providing specialist insights into a topic of your choice from the field of ethnomusicology, film studies, historical musicology, performance studies, or theory and analysis. You will look at digital sources, secondary literature, and archive material on your chosen theme, and critically engage with new thinking in musicology. You will be guided by a supervisor who will advise on the planning, organisation, development and presentation of your dissertation, which will be between 13,000 and 15,000 words in length.

  • This course will develop and refine students’ abilities as solo performers at an advanced level through weekly seminars in which performances will be subjected to critical scrutiny by the course tutor and members of the class.  Students will develop the ability to manage the occasion of performance at a professional level and will engage in the study and performance of music by twentieth-century or contemporary composers writing in particularly challenging or complex musical styles.

    The course consists of regular instrumental or vocal lessons with a teacher approved by the Department, regular two-hour practical seminars in which students perform suitable repertory according to a rota that requires appearance in front of their peers at least twice a term, thereby gaining platform experience in preparation for the final recital.  ‘Professional preparation’, consists of the development of stage presence and other relevant concerns, such as preparation for an audition, performance practice, interpretation and communication.  Students share participation in a public lunchtime recital.  The dates of the recitals are arranged by the Concert Office in the preceding summer vacation.

    The writing of programme notes and concert reviews to professional standard as well as the development of ensemble musicianship and/or music administration and concert management skills are key requirements.

  • This module develops students' knowledge of advanced compositional techniques with particular focus on structure, harmonic control and the manipulation of rhythmic and melodic material. It provides opportunities to practise the art of musical composition and to develop skills in independent creative work and increases students' awareness, knowledge and understanding of issues related to contemporary composition practice in a variety of contexts. Developing on areas covered in MU2213 Composition Portfolio, the module will provide a framework for you to further explore the possibilities in your own compositional method. You will complete a structured portfolio that will properly demonstrate your increased awareness, knowledge and understanding of contemporary art music and related compositional issues. You will be assisted in acquiring a deeper confidence in experimenting with a range of compositional methods and techniques whilst being encouraged to explore the possibilities of your own compositional voice in the hope that this trend will continue into your professional life. During workshops you will be given the opportunity to have your work rehearsed and recorded by professional musicians. It is hoped that through these workshops you will discover more about the possibilities of instrumentation and the many practical compositional issues facing composers today. You should also seek to develop your own opportunities for the performance of your music in order to develop your confidence and professional activity.

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules 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
  • All modules are core
Year 2
  • Solo Performance
  • Ensemble Performance
  • Composition Portfolio
  • Practical and Creative Orchestration
  • Composing with Technology 1
  • Introduction to Jazz: Theory, Practice and Contexts
  • Popular Music and Musicians in Post-War Britain and North America
  • Korean Percussion Performance
  • Practical Ethics
  • Musical Aesthetics
  • Mozart's Operas
  • Issues in Sound, Music and the Moving Image
  • Intercultural Performance: Theory and Practice
  • Music and Society in Purcell's London
  • Contemporary Music Performance
  • Music, Power and Politics
  • Ideas of German Music from Mozart to Henze
  • Music and Gender
  • Hearing the Orient: Critical and Practical Approaches to the Middle East
  • Develop your skills in the close reading and critical analysis of Middle English poetry, focusing on set passages from three important fourteenth century texts: Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Langland’s Piers Plowman, and the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The module invites you to think about how poets understood the status of Middle English as a literary language, in comparison with Latin and French.

  • The Lord of the Rings regularly shows up in lists of 'The Best Books of All Time', and Tolkien continues to inspire interest and imitation for all kinds of reasons. You will examine Tolkien’s work from the perspective of his engagement with Old English poetry, a subject which constituted an important part of his scholarly activity. You will look at his three main Old English poems (in the original and in translation) and Tolkien’s two most popular works of fiction, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

  • In this module you will explore a major literary genre which attracted all the great poets of late medieval England: the dream vision. It considers the use of the genre in the works of Chaucer, Langland and the Gawain-poet, as well as examining the visions in mystical writing. These authors’ treatments of the genre repeatedly ask us to reflect on the relationship of literature to experience, poetic authority and identity, and the development of English as a literary language.

  • Romance was one of the most popular genres of secular literature in late medieval England. You will begin by looking at the Arthurian romances of Chretien de Troyes, before going on to consider works by Chaucer, the Gawain-poet and Sir Thomas Malory. You will examine romances set in the mythical British past, in the classical cities of Troy, Thebes and Athens, and in the more recognisable landscapes of medieval England and France. Attention will be paid throughout this module to the often inventive and unpredictable ways in which medieval romance works to articulate specific historical and cultural anxieties.

  • An introduction to the literature of the English Renaissance, beginning in the 1590s with erotic narrative poems by Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, and concluding with John Milton's drama, Samson Agonistes, first published in 1671. Marlowe and Thomas Middleton represent the extraordinarily rich drama of the period, while John Donne and Andrew Marvell are the most famous of the so-called metaphysical poets. A feature of the module is the attention given to situating these works in their historical and cultural contexts.

  • This module explores in-depth three supreme examples of Shakespearean comedy, tragedy and historical drama: Richard III (1592-3), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595-6), and Macbeth (1606).

  • The texts covered in this module span virtually the whole period in which early modern English drama flourished: from Marlowe in c.1593 to 1634. The texts range from famous plays like Macbeth and The Tempest to little-known comedies like The Wise-woman of Hogsden. Two central texts will be The Witch of Edmonton and The Late Lancashire Witches, plays which deal with historically documented witchcraft accusations and scares. Non-dramatic texts about witchcraft are also included for study, including news pamphlets, works by learned contemporaries expressing their opinions about witchcraft, and popular ballads.

  • Charting a progression from Galenic humoral theory to Cartesian dualism, you will consider the representation and significance of corporeality in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts. Reading Renaissance plays and poetry alongside anatomical textbooks, manuals of health, erotica, and philosophical essays, the module seeks to contextualise the period's literary treatment of the body.

  • This module offers the opportunity to study one very important and characteristic aspect of Milton’s Paradise Lost: his depiction of Eden, the paradise that was lost at the fall. Throughout his account of Paradise, Milton works to make the loss of Paradise poignant by lavishing on it all his evocative powers as a poet. You will spend at least three sessions looking at Milton's epic, covering aspects such as Edenic sex and marriage, Eden’s fauna and flora, and work in Eden. Throughout the module images of Paradise will be given attention, starting with Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Garden of Earthly Delight'. Alongside artworks, you will look at some of the Bible scholarship which tried to locate the site of Paradise, and deduce its fate.

  • An introduction to English literature from the Norman Conquest to the birth of Chaucer. This period has been described both as a period of political crisis and also as a period of cultural renaissance. It saw the conquest and colonization of England, the rise of new forms of scholarship and spirituality, and, according to some accounts, the development of new ways of thinking about national and individual identity

  • Between the English Revolution and the French Revolution, British literature was pulled by opposing cultural forces and experienced an extraordinary degree of experimentation. The eighteenth century is sometimes called The Age of Reason, but it is also called The Age of Sensibility. It was dominated by male writers, but also facilitated the rise of the woman novelist and the emergence of coteries of intellectual women. It continued to be an essentially rural nation, but London grew to be the biggest city in the world and industrialisation was beginning to herd workers into towns. This module explores some of the tensions and oppositions which were played out in the literature of this period.

  • Explore the Victorian concept of the 'sensational' across a range of novels dating from the height of the sensation period in the 1850s and 60s. Together, we will examine some of the magazines in which these novels were originally serialized. Issues such as the role of public spectacle, the first detectives, advertising, domestic crime and the demonic woman will be explored in relation to the cultural and social context of this novelistic genre.

  • This module is framed by the personal: it begins with Queen Victoria’s private diaries of her happiest days in Scotland, and ends just beyond the Victorian period, with one troubled man’s intensely-felt account of his Victorian childhood. You will look at examples of the novelistic form, including sensation, Romantic, domestic realist and sentimental novels. Some of the works you will study are well-known and truly canonical, while others will be excitingly unfamiliar; all, however, will contribute to a sense of the variety and contradictions inherent in being Victorian.

  • This module will introduce you to a broad range of literatures from the period 1780 to 1830. The module aims to problematise and scrutinise the idea of Romanticism as a homogenous literary movement and to raise awareness of the range of competing literary identities present in the period.

  • This module, which is designed to enable non-creative writing students to try a creative writing module, will give you the opportunity to work through some issues associated with short-story and/or novel writing. Classes will alternate seminar discussions of aspects of the craft of writing with workshops in which you will interact critically and creatively with others' work.

  • Examine a range of novels by gay and lesbian writers in Britain and Ireland which have emerged in the wake of the AIDS catastrophe and queer theory. You will focus on interesting though rather peculiar trends in the post-queer novel: queer historical and biographical fictions, and explore the reasons behind the dominance of these approaches in recent gay and lesbian literature.

  • With the appointment of Carol Ann Duffy as the first woman Poet Laureate for the United Kingdom in 2009, poetry by women became publicly validated as never before. Setting fresh horizons for women’s poetry, Duffy joined Gillian Clarke who has served as National Poet of Wales since 2008; Liz Lochhead was appointed Scots Makar in 2011, and Paula Meehan was appointed in 2013 to the Ireland Chair of Poetry. By careful reading of two collections by each poet, you will assess how each poet has moved from a position of rebellion, liminality or minority into the very heart of the cultural institution.

  • Discover the 'dark' topics of late-Victorian and Edwardian literature. Perhaps the most important cultural influence on these texts is the negative possibility inherent in Darwinism: that of 'degeneration', of racial or cultural reversal, explored in texts like Wells's The Time Machine, and often related to the Decadent literature of Wilde and others.

  • An introduction to American literature via the tradition which David Reynolds labels 'dark reform'; a satirical and often populist mode which seek out the abuses which lie beneath the optimistic surface of American life, often through grotesque, scatological, sexualized and carnivalesque imagery. You will explore the contention that because of America's history, with its notions of national consensus and fear of class conflict, political critique in America has often had to find indirect expression.

  • This module will familiarise you with a range of influential critical and theoretical ideas in literary studies, influential and important for all the areas and periods you will study during your degree.

  • Providing an introduction to the study of literary modernism, a period of intense experimentation in diverse sets of cultural forms.  This module deals with issues such as modernist aesthetics; genre; gender and sexuality; the fragment; time and narration; stream-of-consciousness; history, politics and colonialism; technology, and the status of language and the real.

  • Explore British drama staged during the first half of the twentieth century against a backdrop of two world wars. The plays studied place the values of their age under scrutiny, to raise questions about social justice, spiritual choices, class and gender inequalities. Theatrical genres were under just as much pressure as the cultural values they sought to convey; the ten plays studies during the course reflect a range of evolving genres, from the well-made play, the play of ideas, social comedy, to poetic drama.

Year 3
  • Musical Aesthetics
  • Mozart's Operas
  • Issues in Sound, Music and the Moving Image
  • Intercultural Performance: Theory and Practice
  • Music and Society in Purcell's London
  • Contemporary Music Performance
  • Music, Power and Politics
  • Ideas of German Music from Mozart to Henze
  • Music and Gender
  • Hearing the Orient: Critical and Practical Approaches to the Middle East
  • Practical Performance 2
  • Composing with Technology 2
  • The fiction of the last twenty years or so is a gigantic and diverse field. Now global in dimension, the range of novels and writers is simply enormous, and the field is growing at frantic speed. It’s very hard to find out what’s going on, to identify trends and significance. The aim of this module is to offer a sense of some of the larger themes and patterns in contemporary fiction.

  • Investigate a variety of literature produced about Chicago by writers who lived and worked in the city. Although the module will focus on novels, it will also include some poetry and nonfiction prose. You will develop knowledge of the historical development of Chicago in the 20th century, as seen through its writers, from 'muckrakers' such as Theodore Dreiser and Upton Sinclair, through the boosterism of Carl Sandburg, the ‘urban naturalism’ of James T. Farrell, Richard Wright and Nelson Algren, to the later interpretations of Saul Bellow, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Stuart Dybek and Gwendolyn Brooks.

  • Examine the representation of murder in literature and popular culture. You will explore how and why writers from different historical periods and national traditions have created aesthetic works around murder, and how those aesthetic works engage with their historical, social and cultural contexts. You will ask why murder has remained a compelling subject for writers and audiences, and what literatures of murder reveal about, for example: the body, the self and its relationship to others, society and its institutions, moral and social responsibility, and faith or its absence.

  • A comprehensive study of three of Shakespeare's most difficult and most disturbing plays, collectively known as the ‘problem plays’: Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure. You will develop a detailed knowledge and understanding of the plays, both as individual works of dramatic art and as a group of texts sharing distinctive concerns and techniques.

  • An advanced introduction to debates about the philosophy of literature. This module is structured around three key questions: the ethics of literature, what literature is presumed to reveal and the relationship between literature and its interpretation.

  • Brexit is not simply a political or economic event. It is a cultural event too. This module uses the cultural event as a lens to analyse some aspects of contemporary literature and theory, and some aspects of contemporary literature and theory to analyse Brexit. These aspects include theories of nationalism; affect theory; cultural memory; postcolonialism and refugee studies; Literature and Human rights; rhetoric.

  • This module will introduces you to a number of theorists of tragedy, and a number of significant tragic texts (in dramatic and other idioms) from Classical Greece to the present day. All works not written in English are studied in translation. You will explore a variety of theories of tragedy with specific attention to a range of tragic works in various modes: plays, novels, poetry and film.

  • Focusing primarily on Joyce’s major work Ulysses while putting it into context with Joyce’s other work, you will have the opportunity of getting to know and getting to enjoy what has been described as ‘the greatest novel of the 20th century’. You will examine it in various contexts, including Joyce’s other writings and the various critical approaches that have found inspiration from Joyce, whether new critical, humanist, post-structuralist, politicizing, feminist, historicizing or textualist responses to his work.

  • This module explores aspects of nineteenth-century literature, science and culture in some depth and brings well-known works like Charlotte Brontë's Villette, Eliot's Middlemarch and Dickens's Our Mutual Friend into conversation with the evolutionary thought of Charles Darwin, the social investigations of Henry Mayhew and nineteenth-century writings on psychology. You will look at a number of genres, including novels, poetry, journalism, science writing, autobiography, history, art criticism and examine elements of contemporary visual culture.

  • This module uses The Victorian Serial Novel, a web resource, to re-create the reading experience of Victorians over the period Oct 1846 to March 1847. You will read, in real-time, six works published within this time period, as and when they were published and in the format in which they first appeared.

  • In this module you will examine a variety of literary responses to the First World War 1914-1918: poetry, prose and other modes, from immediate responses to the war written by combatants on the front line and civilians on the home front, through to postwar reconsiderations of what the war meant to civilisation. You will look at the most famous works of wartime poets such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Isaac Rosenberg, and also examine realist novels, Modernist experimentation, postwar memoirs and Fantasy by both British and Continental writers.

  • Examine fictional representations of the girl across a range of texts, from Charlotte Brontë's eponymous Jane Eyre through to Antonia White's Catholic schoolgirl, Nanda and Ian McEwan's remorseful Briony Tallis. As well as enabling an exploration of female development and subjectivity, you will also engage with a range of questions relating to sexuality and desire, place and belonging, knowledge and resistance, art and creativity.

  • In this module you will study a broad range of writing for children from the nineteenth through to the twenty-first century.

  • The end of the various colonial empires in the middle of the twentieth century saw an explosion of literatures from the newly emergent postcolonial societies. Rather than provide a survey of the field of postcolonial studies, this module aims at engaging the recent debates in postcolonial writing, theory and criticism. You will critically examine a range of postcolonial novels from Britain’s erstwhile empire, paying attention to issues such as the boons and contradictions of writing in the language of the colonial powers, the postcolonial reclamation of the Western canon etc. and focussing on genres such as postcolonial realism, modernism, magic realism, and science fiction. You will pay close attention to novels and their historical legacies of colonialism and resistance.

  • In this module you will consider two immediate, present-day concerns. The first is currently very much in circulation in English political culture and the media: what is and should be the relationship between England and continental Europe? How involved is and should the first be with the second? How close are they, how distant should they be? The second sounds rather more academic or theoretical, but is also at issue in the wider culture and involves us all. Over the past two decades, many thinkers and writers have announced that we have arrived at 'the end of modernity', and many more have declared that we are'post-modern', that we inhabit a 'postmodern condition'. Yet round about us, all the time, we hear of one kind of enthusiastic 'modernization' or another. What sense can we make of this?

  • The 1930s was a decade of extremes: extreme financial instability (after the Wall Street Crash of 1929) and extreme politics, with the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe. British colonialism was showing fractures; there was a war in mainland Europe (in Spain), and the increasing threat of another World War, which eventually came to pass. Could it be that it closely - all too closely - resembles the decade that we’re living in now – with the rise of nationalisms, extreme ideologies, unstable international relations, following on from a colossal crash in the financial markets? What can we learn about our world by reading fiction from the 1930s?

  • A chronological study of the novels of Virginia Woolf covering the period 1915-1941. These will be supplemented by selections from Woolf’s criticism and other writings. In addition to demonstrating Woolf’s development as a writer and familiarizing students with a range of key critical ideas relating to her work, you will explore Woolf’s relation to Modernism and realism; questions about language, form and consciousness; sexuality and androgyny; Woolf’s feminism and politics; war and subjectivity; nation, Empire and history; mourning and loss; and the maternal.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are among the greatest literary achievements of the middle Ages. Chaucer describes a group of pilgrims, drawn from all parts of late medieval English society, who enter into a tale-telling competition on their way to Canterbury. Their stories include romances, fabliaux, saints’ lives and beast fables, and address themes of love and sorrow, trickery and deception, fate and free will, satire, tragedy and magic, as well as raising questions about the nature and purposes of storytelling itself. In this module you will read The Canterbury Tales in detail in the original Middle English. You will examine how the tales relate to their literary and cultural contexts, and read them in the light of different schools of modern criticism. You will also have the opportunity to read a range of earlier writers who influenced Chaucer, including Ovid, Boethius, Dante and Boccaccio, and later writers who responded to him, including Lydgate, Hoccleve and Dryden.

  • In this module you will study the complete career of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), looking at eight novels in their historical and cultural contexts. You will examine Dickens's life and times, and the cultural discourses that shaped his fiction; the serialisation and illustration of his work, and the themes, forms and structures of his writing. You will also consider the richness and specificity of Dickens' actual work.

  • In this module you will have the opportunity to read in detail and in chronological order the full range of works by Oscar Wilde, from his early poetry to his last letters. Wilde’s work has captured the widest possible public attention since his death in 1900, and his readers and audiences are spread across the globe. His work is intensely literary and profoundly political yet it is popular and fleet-of-foot. And just as his output is exceptionally varied, so too the questions which arise from its study will take students in many directions. Aesthetic poetry, the role of the critic, the construction and betrayal of national and sexual identities, symbolist drama, platonic dialogue, fairy tale, farce, satire, wit: these are some of the topics you will examine.

  • In this module you will explore the works of American author Herman Melville (1819-1891) in breadth and depth. While Melville’s whaling epic, Moby-Dick (1851) is the lynchpin of the module, you will also have the opportunity to study Melville’s early travel writing, his fictions of social criticism, his short stories, and his poetry. You will consider critical approaches to Melville’s work, situating him in mid-century America – a time of social transformation, economic crisis, tensions over slavery, and increasing calls for a national American culture – as well as looking as his works through the lens of post-colonial theory, gender studies, and queer theory.

  • Often described as the most difficult and influential poems of the twentieth-century, T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" is undoubtedly one of the key Modernist texts. You will you look at Eliot's 1922 poem, along with a selection of his critical writings, engaging in an intensive reading experience in which you will examine ideas about composition, structure, voice, time, myth and intertextuality.

  • World-literature critics worry that queer theorists foist a Western, elitist approach to LGBTQ+ identities on to the rest of the world, that is, a Western homonormativity performs a similar role as the unequal distribution of power in a globalised world. Queer theorists, on the other hand, are anxious that queer perspectives get lost in world-literature theory and texts, which tend to, they argue, either privilege a masculine nationalist agenda or not pay enough attention to the effects of globalisation on local articulations of race, gender and sexuality. In this module you will explore this productive tension by paying close attention to variety of texts from around the world.

  • This module concentrates on a particular mode of writing, genre, theme, issue or idea. You will be encouraged to make creative work in relation to the focus, and develop your writing practice in relation to wider contexts relevant to the contemporary writer.

    Creative Writing Special Focus courses are open to both creative writing and non-creative writing students.

  • The dissertation is an opportunity for you to undertake a substantial piece of independent work in an area of your choice, and so to deepen your understanding of literature, culture and critical theory.

This course has a modular structure, whereby you take 12 course units at the rate of four per year. Some course units are compulsory while others are elective thereby offering flexibility and choice.

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials and instrument/vocal lessons. Private study and preparation are essential parts of every course, and you will have access to many online resources and the University's comprehensive e-learning facility, Moodle. When you start with us, you are assigned a Personal Advisor in Music every week, and each course unit is supported by weekly tutorials in small groups of ten to twelve students.

In year one in the Department of English, you will also work in small groups of just four or five students focusing on study skills such as close reading, essay writing and presentation and self-editing. As you progress throughout your degree, these tutorials focus on your own personal development, for instance working on your CV.

You will also take a study skills course during your first year, designed to develop the writing and research skills you will need to be successful in your degree. This course does not count towards your final degree award but you are required to pass it to progress to your second year.

Assessment is carried out by a combination of examinations, which take place in the summer term, along with extended essays, assessed coursework, recitals and portfolios of compositions and other practical work, and performance recitals.

A Levels: AAB-ABB

Required subjects:

  • A-level Music or Grade 7 Music Theory at pass and A-level English Literature or English Literature and Language
  • Applicants without A-level in Music or pass in Grade 7 Music Theory may be eligible for the Intensive Theory entry. This requires Music GCSE grade A/7 or equivalent, plus performance at Grade 7 level. In term 1 you will be required to take Fundamentals of Music Theory, an intensive music literacy course.
  • Students wishing to take Solo Performance options will need to be of Grade 8 level in performance at point of entry.
  • Five GCSEs graded A*-C or 9-4 including English and Maths.

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. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university, you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.


We accept T-levels for admission to our undergraduate courses, with the following grades regarded as equivalent to our standard A-level requirements:

  • AAA* – Distinction (A* on the core and distinction in the occupational specialism)
  • AAA – Distinction
  • BBB – Merit
  • CCC – Pass (C or above on the core)
  • DDD – Pass (D or E on the core)

Where a course specifies subject-specific requirements at A-level, T-level applicants are likely to be asked to offer this A-level alongside their T-level studies.

English language requirements

All teaching at Royal Holloway (apart from some language courses) is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start of your course.

The scores we require
  • IELTS: 7.0 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 69 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE IV.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.

Undergraduate preparation programme

For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, for this undergraduate degree, the Royal Holloway International Study Centre offers an International Foundation Year programme designed to develop your academic and English language skills.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at Royal Holloway, University of London.

You'll come away from our course with industry contacts, insider knowledge of music networks in London and specific practical skills in performance, composition and production. Our recent graduates have gone into a wide range of careers including roles as musicians, composers and performing arts teachers, but also technicians, publishers, managers, lawyers and policy makers –they've taken away transferable skills like communication, teamwork, time management, commercial awareness and critical thinking.

Find out where graduates from our department are going.  

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £23,800

Other essential costs***: £50

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, scholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.

**The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. The fee for the academic year 2024/25 is £9,250 and is provided here as a guide. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2025/26 has not yet been set, but will be advertised here once confirmed.

**This figure is the fee for EU and international students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25, and is included as a guide only. The fee for EU and international students starting a degree in 2025/26 has not yet been set, but will be advertised here once confirmed.

Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees annually for overseas fee-paying students. Please be aware that tuition fees can rise during your degree. The upper limit of any such annual rise has not yet been set for courses starting in 2025/26 but will be advertised here once confirmed.  For further information see fees and funding and the terms and conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this specific degree at Royal Holloway during the 2024/25 academic year, and are included as a guide. General costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.


in the UK for research quality

Source: Complete University Guide, 2024


in the UK for performing arts

Source: QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023 (Music)


in the UK for creative writing

Source: Complete University Guide, 2024


in the UK for Music

Source: Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, 2024

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