School of Society and Culture

MA English Literature

Explore the ever-evolving world of literature and culture through an exciting array of thematic modules, spanning a broad range of periods from the early modern to the present. You benefit from staff expertise in the field, and their connections with wider research communities. Gain a deep understanding of literary studies and acquire advanced research skills applicable throughout your studies and beyond. This course is also available to study part-time.

Careers with this subject

Focused on research, and with links to local cultural institutions, the MA English Literature programme builds on existing skills and nurtures new
ones. It provides the perfect platform for your future career, leading to PhD research, teaching, writing-based professions and work in cultural industries. 

Key features

  • Develop your research interests in literature and culture under the guidance of our internationally recognised academic staff.  Our department was first in the South West, and in the top quartile of English departments in the UK, for its 4/3-star research outputs and impact in the Research Excellence Framework 2021, signifying 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' work. Find out more about our research.
  • Select from an exciting suite of modules, each with a cutting-edge thematic focus and a broad chronological time span.
  • Benefit from a rich cultural environment with The Arts Institute events and local arts organisations, such as Theatre Royal Plymouth and The Box, Plymouth's new museum, gallery and archive.
  • Small class sizes provide invaluable face-to-face contact with your tutors.
  • The University library offers a vast range of electronic and print materials, and a rare books collection.
  • Choose from modules closely integrated with staff research interests, while being able to pursue your own ideas.
  • Build your experience: get involved in curating exhibitions and organising conferences.
  • Engage with unique local resources such as the nationally designated 18th-century Cottonian Collection.
  • Tailor your time at university to meet your needs by fitting your study around work and personal commitments. Our part-time route allows you to study over two years, giving you the flexibility to study at a pace which suits you. 

Course details

  • Programme overview

  • In your first semester you take our compulsory research methods module which hones your skills in postgraduate research. You also take a further module drawn from our exciting range of thematic modules which are closely linked with staff expertise. In your second semester, you take two elective modules. Over the summer period you research and write your dissertation on a subject of your choice, with one-to-one supervision and support. This is a chance to work independently on a sustained project that interests and excites you. 
    The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

    Core modules

    • Research Methods and Debates in Literary and Cultural Studies (MAEL700)

      This module will provide research skills including library and IT skills, the use of databases, archival research and the structuring, managing, and presentation of a project. It will explore current areas of debate within literary studies in English, including the nature of cross-disciplinary research, and may include breakaway session's specific to the exit awards.

    • MA English Literature Dissertation (MAEL701)

      The dissertation module provides the opportunity for students to undertake a supervised, self-directed, research project (15-20,000 words in length), on any topic of their choice, independent of the modules they have studied. It will make use of the IT, library, and other research and scholarly skills learnt the core Research Methods module and developed through subsequent modules.

    Optional modules

    • Independent Research/Professional Experience Project (MAEL712)

      This module enables students to conceive, plan and carry out an independent research project, with guidance from a supervisor on a topic not currently covered by the Programme's other modules. Students may engage with a topic, period or genre relevant to the study of English Literature or use their research to construct a project in the context of a professional work experience.

    • Ocean Modernity: Literatures of the sea, 1850- the present (MAEL707)

      This module explores literary and cultural representations of the ocean from 1850 to the present. By engaging with a diverse array of literary and cultural texts, including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, theory and visual art, it will examine diverse and shifting cultural imaginaries of the sea. In so doing, it will also investigate wider relations between humanity and the non-human world in modernity.

    • The Utopian Novel and Modernity (MAEL706)

      This module will explore the intersection of utopian thinking, theory and the novel over a period spanning the late nineteenth century to the present. It will explore how this intersection relates to relevant political and cultural issues and contexts such as globalism, politics, gender and the environment. The module will engage with prominent theorists of utopia such as Ernst Bloch and Fredric Jameson. It will also focus on the work of a range of authors, such as William Morris, Ursula Le Guin, Doris Lessing and Kim Stanley Robinson.

    • Filth and the Victorians (MAHI726)

      In this module students study the Victorian era from the perspective of environment, public hygiene, cultural values of cleanliness and fear of physical, moral and other forms of contamination. Drawing on urban histories, histories of medicine and science, the module also uses a range of literary and artistic sources.

    • Natural Knowledge and Narrative Knowing: Literatures of nature in North America (MAEL713)

      With a chronology from the colonial period to the twentieth century, this module examines the environmental literatures of North America, acknowledging the contexts and legacies of settler colonialism. By engaging with a diverse ranges of prose texts – eg. natural histories, the periodical press, novels, travel narratives – this module will analyse competing systems of knowledge production, western and indigenous, through a variety of literary forms.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA English Literature programme specification 6046

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

To apply for this programme you should normally possess one of the following:
  • a first or upper second (2:1) degree with honours (in a humanities subject or related field) or professional qualification, recognised as being equivalent to degree standard
  • an ordinary degree, foundation degree, higher national diploma, or university diploma, accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field.
Applicants with overseas qualifications can check their comparability with Ecctis, who provide an advisory service.
The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 7.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary. 
For academic queries please contact the course leader, Dr Rachel Christofides.

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,250 £9,700
International £16,500 £17,600
Part time (Home) £510 £540
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.
The MA is comprised of 180 credits.

Find out more about your eligibility for a postgraduate loan

You may now be eligible for a government loan of over £11,000 to help towards the cost of your masters degree.

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.
  • 10% or 20% discount on tuition fees for home students 
  • For 2024/2025 entry, a 20% discount on tuition fees for international students (International alumni who have applied to the University through an agent are not eligible to receive the discount)

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

How to apply

When to apply
Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full.
Before you apply
Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance. 
Disability Inclusion Services
If you have an impairment, health condition or disability, learn about the additional support the University provides.
International students
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office. Take a look at our how to apply information or email
Submitting an application
Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page). 
What happens after I apply?
You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeksof us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.
We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. 
If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:
Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Admissions policy
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

"We can no longer assume that the oceans are timeless and eternal. Human activities have changed the sea and we need to find new ways of imagining, conceptualising and interacting with them."

Dr Mandy Bloomfield, Associate Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature, describes how her research explores environmental questions through literary study.

Insight: The Utopian Novel and Modernity Module

This module explores how fiction has attempted to imagine a better world and the relationship between the utopian imagination and historical change.
'A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at,’ wrote Oscar Wilde in 1895. But what actually comprises ‘Utopia’ in capitalist modernity, and what might its role be on this map? This module explores utopian thought and fiction in a period ranging across the twentieth-century to the present, also taking in Sir Thomas More’s unignorable sixteenth century foundational work. It investigates the relationship between ‘Utopian form’ (the fictional text or genre) and the ‘Utopian impulse’, with particular attention to questions of community, narrative and historicity as they are channelled through the novel. The module encourages an active participatory approach from students, who might better be thought of, in this utopian context, as co-creators or partners. Where is utopia in your world? Our world? Where might it be, and how?
Students will come away from the module with a knowledge of utopian theory and fiction and a sense of how the core ideas in this tradition remain of pressing and varied relevance to the challenges facing us today. 
A modern city on a blue book. A lot of skyscrapers, icons, people and cars. Very complex and full of details.

Insight: Ocean Modernity Module

In recent years, oceans have become increasingly central to our contemporary sense of environmental crisis.
In this module, we will encounter a diverse array of literary engagements with the ocean and explore how these ocean imaginaries reveal shifting and intertwined cultural, global and ecological relations.
whale textEnglish Literature

Examples of other modules rotated on this programme

Natural Knowledge and Narrative Knowing: Literatures of Nature in North America

Dr Kathryn Gray
'Natural Knowledge and Narrative Knowing' examines the ways that literature shapes our understanding of the natural world. This module takes a long chronological view of the ways that environmental knowledge of North America was, and continues to be, shaped by hierarchies and systems of knowledge established in the colonial Atlantic world. During the semester, we’ll explore the literatures of North America from colonial encounters to Indigenous recovery, engaging with fictional and non-fictional texts: from novels, short fiction and poetry, to contemporary nature writing, natural histories and narratives of colonial and scientific encounter.

The Legacy of War: Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s

Professor Angela Smith
This module explores the impact of the experience of the First World War on literary developments of the 1920s and 1930s, with a primary focus on fiction. It examines the way in which the war impacted on society, politics and culture, influencing the production of new literatures. The module is designed thematically, to explore the historical period through a range of concepts and ideas. We will be reading the literature back through the experience of war and looking to the possibility of another war, even more devastating than the first, thinking about 'the Lost Generation', 'the Bright Young Things', 'the superfluous woman' and the rise of fascism on the way.

Poetry and the Modern Self

Dr Min Wild
This module asks a series of questions about British poetry and modernity in an interdisciplinary mode where poetry and philosophy meet.  The course moves through 18th-century 'public' poetry, the lyric genius figure of Romanticism, the doubts and voices of Victorian poetry, the shocks of early 20th-century Modernist poem-making, right through to the sense of playing on the edge of a precipice that marks so much of present-day poetry, including the digital. The emphasis in the second half of the module is on poetry since 1900. How do, say, Rochester and Descartes, Pope and Locke, Browning and Hegel, or Auden and Adorno speak to each other?

Student testimonial

“I cannot recommend the MA English Literature at Plymouth highly enough. The course offers a dynamic, engaging, and supportive learning environment that will appeal to both students progressing directly from a BA course, or those who may be returning to further study. The range of modules offered at Plymouth allowed me to expand my knowledge across a range of periods and genres while the research methods and dissertation modules enabled me to pursue my own specialist interests. There is truly something here for everyone.
The staff are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and supportive, always taking the time to offer prompt feedback, advice, and guidance, tailored to helping students fulfil their maximum potential. With a dedicated and proactive staff, as well an engaging creative environment, this is not just a course, but also a community. Through additional research seminars and active partners, such as The Arts Institute, the course provides a fantastic springboard for those considering careers across a range of creative industries and institutions as well as preparing them for PhD study."
Stephen Allard, MA English Literature

Learn about the opportunities and experiences that could benefit you

Students looking out over the Barbican

Student experience

Student at the city museum

Cultural surroundings

Jo Rowland, dyslexia and learning support advisor

Student support

Plastic Scoop: A Synthetic Ocean

 Plastic Scoop brings together lecturer in English Post-1950 Dr Mandy Bloomfield and photographer Andy Hughes, to create an innovative creative project which will share new perspectives and approaches about plastic pollution, climate change, the Anthropocene and sustainability. Using game footage from Grand Theft Auto V, alongside archival footage and new research material, it connects futurology and global environmental issues, watery worlds, ecology and the everyday way we think of ourselves and the ocean.
“Gaming and virtual reality has often been accused of being a form of escapism. It takes us away from the material world and in some ways distracts us from many of the problems we face in reality."
Dr Mandy Bloomfield 

Let our graduates inspire you