English Literature MA

  • Overview
  • Course Content
  • Special Features
  • Teaching & Assessment
  • Employability
  • Fees
  • Entry Criteria

About the Course

How might the postgraduate study of literature and culture enable us to understand and explain the everyday world we inhabit and the ways in which different social worlds have been invented and sustained across time and cultures? How might a Masters in English Literature help us both to explore ourselves and the ways in which we see and understand others? How does such an enquiry affect, and quite possibly change, the way we read texts and read the world? These are the kinds of questions at the core of the MA in English Literature, which is an exciting development in English studies at Brunel, offering the opportunity to study a wide range of topics and periods, from the early Modern/Renaissance through to the modern and contemporary.

Brunel’s Masters in English Literature is taught is taught by world-leading specialists; students of the masters will take a unique, concept-led compulsory module called Reading Cultures and a compulsory study skills module that will enable you to undertake advanced level study using all the available resources and facilities provided by Brunel and other libraries in the London area.

The programme is designed for those preparing to undertake further research, those wishing to take their general studies in English literature to a further level, and those hoping to enhance their career prospects.


The English Literature MA course aims to introduce students to the advanced study of a wide range of literatures in English, from the early modern to the contemporary period. Postgraduate students will explore the diversity of literary and cultural production through innovative modules designed to cross disciplinary, historical, and geographical boundaries, thereby offering a wide scope within which students of the masters can develop their own interests.

The MA in English Literature will equip students with a detailed and sophisticated understanding of English and related literatures, and support students’ critical and creative engagement with issues central to and at the cutting edge of English literary studies.

If, following the completion of the postgraduate English MA course, you wish to continue your studies at doctoral level, you will have essential research skills, and the opportunity to join a flourishing research culture at Brunel. Our staff have expertise in a wide range of literatures, and you will benefit by series of talks and events by writers, industry representatives, and scholars, as well as the activities organised by the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing, and the School’s research resources including its several archives. Additionally, there are financial benefits offered to alumni of the Brunel MA programmes to help you on your way.


College of Business, Arts, and Social Sciences
Department of Arts and Humanities
Brunel University London
Middlesex UB8 3PH
Email pg-arts-admissions@brunel.ac.uk
Tel +44 (0)1895 267214

Related Courses

Course Content

You will take two compulsory modules and two optional modules* and write a 15,000 word Dissertation.

Compulsory modules

Reading Cultures

This unique, concept-led compulsory MA English Literature module will introduce you to four key dimensions of the critical study of literature and culture, and allow you explore these – and their connections to each other – through literary and theoretical texts. ‘Reading Power’ opens up questions about the relationship of literature and culture to power, politics, and ideology; ‘Reading Selves’ explores the way in which cultural discourses mediate and construct social identities, and the relation of these processes to power; ‘Reading Others’ considers the other side of the formation of identity, which constructs differences against which identities are defined both within and outside the body politic and ‘imagined community’; ‘Reading Texts’ considers some fundamental aspects of textuality, such as the historical development of reading practices and technologies, the formation of old and new reading communities, and the relation of the text to the contexts explored in the other three sections of the module. This module is split into two blocks (Reading Cultures 1 and Reading Cultures 2) and runs through both teaching terms of the masters. It will enable you to develop your own critical methodology as the English Literature MA course develops, building up to the masters’ dissertation.

Research and Study Methods

This module will enable you to develop and refine advanced research skills that are fundamental to the study of literature and culture at Masters level and beyond. Sessions will include help with using online resources and maximising access to research libraries; writing ‘research questions’ and project management; advanced written and oral presentation skills; using archives; writing for publication; and preparing for your masters’ dissertation. This module has been designed to meet the requirements of the Arts and Humanities Research Council in terms of preparation of graduate students for advanced level study and doctoral research.

Electives* (two from)

Victorian Sensations: the Mass Media and the Novel, 1850-1900 (not running 2012-2013)

The 19th century was punctuated by a number of widely publicised criminal cases which shocked public sensibilities and threatened the values and ideals which the Victorians held dear. The most famous of these remains the unsolved Jack the Ripper case of 1888, which highlighted the prevalence of prostitution in Victorian London, and hinted at the possibility that criminal behaviour was not confined to the ‘lower orders’ of society. Other high profile cases included the Constance Kent murder case, in which a young girl was murdered by her sixteen year-old sister, and the Madeleine Smith case, in which an apparently respectable young woman was accused of poisoning her lover with arsenic. Such cases were frequently sensationally reported in the newspapers of the day, and were further sensationalised in the Victorian sensation novel, such as those by Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. This masters module examines the relationship between crime, the rise of the tabloid newspaper, investigative journalism, and the Victorian popular novel in the latter half of the 19th century, with a view to exploring some of the key issues which shaped both Victorian and post-Victorian attitudes.

Selves and Things: Two Traditions in Anglo-American Poetry Since the Romantics (not running 2012-2013)

Is poetry mainly a matter of self-expression? Should poets explore their emotions ever more deeply – perhaps even until they uncover the most painful, private experiences (mental breakdown, suicide attempt, alcoholism, adultery and so on)? Or, on other hand, should poets struggle to escape from the self and respond to the things of this world, its objects, its people, its politics? These questions reflect the positions of two central traditions – one increasingly subjective, the other increasingly objective – in Anglo-American poetry since the Romantics. This module of the English Literature MA will survey two hundred years of poetry in two continents, juxtaposing the confessional tendencies of figures like Wordsworth, Dickinson, Whitman, Tennyson, Lowell and Plath with the impersonal tendencies of Hopkins, Browning, Eliot, Pound, Bunting and Zukofsky.

Queer Theory and Reading Culture

In the contemporary world, queer theory mediates between normative ideologies and everyday practices, between intellectual enquiry and the processes of social change, between literary text and cultural context. This MA English Literature course uses queer theory both as a mode of analysis and as a strategy of opposition for reading culture and for challenging heteronormativity as it is embedded within a range of social norms, social categories, and social institutions. Recognising that sexual desire is not only privately experienced, but is always already publicly mediated, our discussions and debates will pay attention not only to dissident sexualities as axes of investigation in themselves, but to the persistent pressures of other normalising regimes pertaining to subjectivity, childhood, race, gender, social class, national belonging, citizenship, and local and global conditions, in addition to, and alongside, sexuality. This masters in English Literature will attempt to make connections between queer theory and literary and cultural texts, such as film, in order to demonstrate the ways in which queer theory may operate as a lens for reading texts and reading the world more critically.

Writing Terror (not running 2012-2013)

Following the events of 9/11, George Bush declared “a war on terror”, which has prompted military action, ongoing debates, and discourses about the meaning of terror, terrorism and states of exception. This masters module considers post-9/11 writing as the latest instalment in a long history of “writing terror”. Participants in this English Literature MA module will interrogate the ways in which literatures of terror represent and respond to events such as the Reformation, the French Revolution, the rise of fascism, World War II, crisis points in the history of empire, and the events of 9/11. Discourses by and about ‘enemies’ of the state and church will be analysed in this masters module, including discussions of persons deemed to be martyrs, freedom fighters, dissidents, and terrorists. An indicative list of genres of writing to be discussed in this English Literature module includes: government propaganda, drama, the Gothic novel, dystopia, life writing/testimonial, the terrorist novel, the dictator novel, trauma literature, and post-9/11 fiction.

Early Modern Identities: Selfhoods, Sexualities, and the Social Stage

From Burckhardt's formulation of the Renaissance as the 'age of man' to the New Historicists' insistence on the early modern as defined by the emergence of 'subjectivity', the period circa 1500-1700, and especially its drama, has been the site of contested debates about identity, selfhood, and the representations of gender, sexuality, race, and the 'other', often religious, economically, socially marginalised groups. This MA English Literature unit explores those debates through a wide range of plays from the period starting with Hamlet and considers a range of identities (sexual, ethnic, religious, economic) and their representation on the 'social stage'.

The topics to be studied in this masters module include: selfhood, gender, masculinities and sexualities, religion. Among the representations to be considered will be those of Catholics, Jews, Turks, gypsies, witches, the Irish and Scots, prostitutes, criminal subgroups and gangs, the poor, vagrants, and socially dispossessed. This English Literature MA course provides an introduction to how the early modern social stage opened up these identities for exploration as well as offering stimulating and unusual ways to study the works of canonical writers such as Marlowe, Middleton, and Shakespeare.

Literature and Philosophy

In this new century the dominance of literary theory and its relation to postmodernism has come under question. What is the new direction for the study of literature, how will we reconceptualise key terms in relation to this study, and what new concepts will come to play a dominant role? One clear direction is a more sustained and historically located consideration of the relation of literature to philosophy, a kind of ‘deep theory’ that traces theoretical concepts back not merely over the past three decades or so, but the past three millennia. Such an approach is at the cutting edge of a whole new suite of concepts that are set to radically change our relation to the arts in this our new millennium.

This masters module is designed to provide a historical, contextual and analytical grounding for the study of literary theory and aesthetics in the twenty first century. It presents a new conception of ‘theory’ as the ongoing conversation between literature and philosophy instigated by Greek thought and traceable across the whole history of both philosophy and literature. The aim of this MA English Literature module is to present the most current ideas in literary theory, aesthetics and philosophy as the result of the sustained interaction between literature and philosophy, and between modern ideas and their historical origins. This is a unique masters course in the UK, taught by world-leading experts in the field working to rethink what the study of ‘literature’ could come to mean.

The Brontës (not running 2012-2013)

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are perhaps the most mythologized and analyzed family of writers in Britain. Their childhood in Haworth, the intensity of their novels, the relationship with their father and brother—all have been fodder for literary and biographical analysis, and spawned an entire industry of memorabilia, imitation and criticism. In this course we will do close readings of five Brontë novels (Jane Eyre,Wuthering HeightsVilletteThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall), their juvenilia, some biographical selections, and a number of critical articles. In this English Literature module, they will be read within the historical, cultural and theoretical context of the Victorian novel, publication history, and biography.

Dissertation (compulsory for the award of MA)

The English MA programme culminates in the production of a 15,000 word dissertation, which will enable you to construct a programme of in-depth research into any topic of your choice. You will be personally supervised by a member of the English subject team who will assist you in planning and executing the research project.

Contact Hours

Full time contact hours - 6 hours per week all on one day, Wednesday Part-time contact hours in year 1 and 2 [3 hours per week, all on one day] For both options you will need to include individual contact with Academic Advisors, Dissertation supervisors and module tutors by appointment.

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel.

Special Features

  • This masters is taught by world-leading specialists
  • The English Literature MA covers a wide range of literature in English from the early modern and Renaissance through to the contemporary period
  • Innovative module topics which cross historical periods, disciplinary boundaries and geographical frameworks
  • Theoretically informed by the latest work in the field of English studies
  • Unique concept-led compulsory module provides a sophisticated framework for study of cultural and intellectual contexts
  • The location of Brunel University in West London places it in the heart of contemporary literary and cultural life
  • Important writers and creative practitioners in the School of Arts contribute to teaching the English Literature masters programme and to the research culture at Brunel
  • A unique opportunity to construct a programme of study in accordance with your own interests
  • You can draw on the School’s archives such as the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, and SALIDAA (South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive)

Teaching and Learning

The English Literature MA is taught through workshops and seminars, moderated by distinguished research-active staff working in the field. English students will be expected to contribute to discussions, present your own interpretations and raise new questions for debate.


This English Masters courses is taught through workshops and seminars, moderated by distinguished research-active staff working in the field. You will be expected to contribute to discussions, present your own interpretations and raise new questions for debate.

Students of the English masters will be assessed using a variety of methods including written work (essays and dissertation), oral presentations, seminar attendance and performance, and organisation and planning of the dissertation. Some assessments will be formative, ie students will be given feedback but not graded; this will enable masters students to improve and work towards graded assessments.


On completing the English Literature MA, students will have skills which are vital for careers in publishing, print and electronic media, the culture industries and education, as well as other professions such as law, the civil service, advertising, market research and marketing, and financial services and business.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2015/6 entry

UK/EU students: £7,000 full-time; £3,500 part-time

International students: £14,750 full-time; £7,375 part-time

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Requirements 2015/6

To study the English Literature Masters course, students must have obtained a UK first or second class (2:1) Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification in a related discipline.

Candidates of the Masters in English Literature may be considered with a 2:2 Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification in a related discipline and will be assessed on an individual basis.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 64 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.

Page last updated: Tuesday 01 September 2015