English Literature MA

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

About the Course

How might the 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 Master’s 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 University London.

The course offers the opportunity to study a wide range of topics and periods, from the Early Modern/Renaissance through to the modern and contemporary, and a unique, concept-led module called 'Reading Cultures'.

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.


  • You 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 master’s can develop their own interests.
  • The MA in English Literature will equip you with a detailed and sophisticated understanding of English and related literatures. It will support your 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 from events and activities organised by the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing.
  • 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 core modules and two topic modules* and write a 15,000 word dissertation.

Core modules

Reading Cultures

This unique, concept-led module will introduce you to four key dimensions of the critical study of literature and culture. It will allow you to 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 Society’ explores how society can be interpreted and analysed by using and extending the scope and nature of our reading practices.

This module is split into two blocks (Reading Cultures 1 and Reading Cultures 2) and runs through both teaching terms. It will enable you to develop your own critical methodology as the course develops, building up to the 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 master's 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; 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.

Topic Modules (two from)

*Please enquire which modules will be running in the academic year for which you are applying.

Victorian Sensations: the Mass Media and the Novel, 1850-1900

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. 

Such cases were frequently sensationally reported in the newspapers of the day, and were further embellished in the Victorian sensation novel, such as those by Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

This 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

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. 

Recognising that sexual desire is not only privately experienced, but is always already publicly mediated, the module will pay attention not only to dissident sexualities, but also to the 'normalising' pressures of subjectivity, childhood, race, gender, social class, national belonging, citizenship, and local and global conditions, in addition to, and alongside, sexuality.

This module 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

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 module considers post-9/11 writing as the latest instalment in a long history of “writing terror”.

It 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 module, including discussions of persons deemed to be martyrs, freedom fighters, dissidents, and terrorists.

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

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 module 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.

The Brontës

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.

This module will read closely 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.

Writing Now

This module considers British fiction published after 9/11 in 2001 and uses various conceptual and theoretical materials to elucidate major themes in the texts and considers issues such as trauma, terror, the purported end of postmodernism, post-millennial negativities, challenges to traditional mores, the return of realism, and the so-called serious 'literary' novel's inflection with genres such as fantasy, experimentalism and other popular forms.

Post-colonial Literature

This module explores the work of a variety of postcolonial writers in the modern and contemporary periods. Its core focus is on examining the relationship between writing and history. It explores ideas of writing as historical intervention, writing as reclamation, and considers the historic responsibilities of writers when their works pose a challenge to prevailing assumptions and mores.

Popular Genres and Fictions

This module is designed to introduce students to some of the contemporary debates surrounding the term ‘popular fictions’. It sets out to provide students with the tools with which to identify the key genres in contemporary fictional forms, and to analyse forms of textual practice and of popular culture beyond the literary, including film, television and graphic novels. Case studies will assess and challenge traditional distinctions between ‘literary’ fiction and ‘popular’ texts, and situate these in the context of contemporary publishing and culture.

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)

There is also individual contact time 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 course offers innovative module topics which cross historical periods, disciplinary boundaries and geographical frameworks.
  • The course content is 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 Department of Arts and Humanities contribute to teaching the English Literature master's programme and to the research culture at Brunel.
  • You can draw on the Department’s archives such as the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies and SADAA (South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive).

Teaching and Learning

The English Literature MA is taught through workshops and seminars, led 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 Literature Master's course 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.

You 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, i.e you will be given feedback but not graded; this will enable you to improve and work towards graded assessments.


On completing the English Literature MA, you 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

  • A UK first or second class (2:1) Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification in a related discipline.
  • Candidates of the Master's 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: Thursday 24 September 2015