School of Humanities and Performing Arts

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.

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.

Find out more about your eligibility for a postgraduate loan

Applications for 2020 entry

As a result of COVID-19, the English and Creative Writing team want to assure all applicants that we will be commencing our teaching with the new academic year of September 2020. We’ll be heeding government advice, but please know our programmes will be running this autumn, be it as traditional in-class delivery, a blend of this with some online teaching, or, if need be, fully online options. Ensuring the delivery of a quality education and a rich student experience is paramount, and we look forward to welcoming you.

Masters R&D Studentship 2020–21

This new initiative will pair highly skilled masters level students from across our faculty with local businesses in order to undertake a defined R&D challenge that will contribute to the development of a new product, process, service or experiential offering for the business and deliver an unprecedented learning experience for our students. The student will receive a scholarship of £3000 towards their programme fees.  

Find out more about the scheme.

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 across the modern period.
  • 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.
  • An exciting suite of modules rotates yearly, offering a fresh choice each year.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Core modules

    Research Methods and Debates in Literary and Cultural Studies:

    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.


    The dissertation module provides the opportunity for students to undertake a supervised, self-directed, research project (about 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 on the Research Methods module and developed through subsequent modules.

    Elective modules for Semesters 1 and 2

    The elective modules on offer will change each year but will be selected from the list below.

    Writing War 1850-1950: The impact of Modernity:

    This module to will explore the impact of modernity on literary representations of the experience of warfare from c. 1850 to the end of the Second World War. Using a range of written records by both men and women, and examining a variety of genres the module will track the influence of technological, social, political and cultural developments on representations of war.

    The Haunted Mind: Ghosts 1750 to the present:

    This module examines the distinctly modern form of the ghost in the haunted spaces and minds of nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and culture. We explore the ways in which the ghost embodies new modes of experience across a number of fields, including psychoanalysis, evolutionary theory, economics and new communications technologies. Writers studied will include, for example: Sheridan Le Fanu; Wilkie Collins; Henry James; Sarah Waters and Don DeLillo.

    Poetry and the Environment:

    On this module we cover some of the major landmarks in recent “eco-critical” thinking through an extended focus on poetry, ranging from Wordsworth and the Romantics to postcolonial Australian poetries.

    The Legacy of War: Fiction of the 1920s and 30s:

    This module explores the literary developments of the 1920s and 1930s, with a primary focus on fiction. It examines the way in which society recovered from the First World War and the political and cultural upheavals that followed, and how these influenced the production of new literatures.

    Ocean Modernity: Literature and the Sea 1850-the present:

    On this module we encounter a diverse array of literary engagements with the ocean, ranging from Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad to contemporary writers like Amitav Ghosh and Caroline Bergvall. We’ll explore how these ocean imaginaries reveal shifting and intertwined cultural, global and ecological relations.

    Poetry and the Modern Self:

    Focusing on lyric and the short poem from the 18th century, the module traces the changes to important concepts in philosophical and cultural ideas of the self, and assesses how they impacted on poetic content and practice over time until the present day.

    Fictions of femininity in eighteenth-century England:

    This module explores imaginations of women in literary and visual culture during the making of the modern world, engaging with contexts from emergent global capitalism and social mobility through the first articulations of feminism. Incorporating material by turns complex, comic, and cynical, the course also draws on local connections in the Cottonian Collection and other archival resources.

    The Utopian Novel and Modernity:

    This module examines the intersection of utopian thinking, theory and the novel from the late nineteenth century to the present, and traces how this intersection relates to issues such as globalism, gender and the environment. The module engages with prominent theorists of utopia such as Ernst Bloch and Fredric Jameson, and writers such as William Morris, Ursula Le Guin, and Kim Stanley Robinson.

    Remembering Things Past: Literature and Memory, 1780 to Present:

    This module examines the interrelationships between literary culture and memory from 1780 to the present. Students will engage with a diverse array of texts including fiction, poetry, film, and theory in order to examine issues such as the role of literature in constructing national memory, the historical tensions between the written word and orality, and contested sites of memory in postcolonial contexts. In doing so, the module investigates current debates in the broader interdisciplinary field of Memory Studies.

    Independent Research Project:

    This module allows you to negotiate, plan and carry out a small-scale independent research project, under the supervision of an appropriate expert from the English team. This option gives you the opportunity to pursue a focused topic of your own choosing as well as building invaluable project management skills.

    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
    • MAEL700 Research Methods and Debates in Literary and Cultural Studies

      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.

    • MAEL701 MA English Literature Dissertation

      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
    • MAEL704 The Haunted Mind: Ghosts 1750 to the Present

      The module will explore the ways in which the ghost embodies new modes of experience across a number of fields: in psychoanalytic concepts of the unconscious, dreams, melancholia , mourning, sexual difference, and the uncanny; in evolutionary formulations of history and memory; in spiritualism and psychical research; in the ghosts in the machine of early communication and visual technologies such as the wireless, the telegraph, the magic lantern show, photography and the cinema. We will investigate the spectral in key modern sites: in the enchantments of an expanding commodity culture, in the intangible circulation of money, in the urban spectacle. The module will consider the ghost in postmodernity, in the hyperreal, cyberspace, in explorations of technology and the post-human. Writers will include, for example: Sheridan Le Fanu; Wilkie Collins; Charles Dickens; MR James; Henry James; Algernon Blackwood; Edith Wharton; W.H. Hodgson; May Sinclair; Vernon Lee; Marghanita Laski; Susan Hill; Sarah Waters; Toby Litt; A.N. Wilson; Shirley Jackson, William Gibson, and Don DeLillo.

    • MAEL706 The Utopian Novel and Modernity

      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.

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

      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.

    • MAEL712 Independent Research/Professional Experience Project

      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.

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 the UK equivalent through NARIC, who provide an advisory service.

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 7.

English language requirements. 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

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

New Student 2020 2021
Home/EU £7,800 £8,100
International £14,800 £15,200
Part time (Home/EU) £450 £450
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. For more information about fees and funding please visit

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

The University applies a discretionary alumni reward where alumnus meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • a 20 per cent discount on home/EU tuition fees
  • or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.
  • a 10 per cent alumni discount is available on the following programmes: MSc Advanced Psychology, MSc Clinical Psychology, MSc/PgDip Psychology, MSc Physiotherapy (Pre-Reg) and MSc Occupational Therapy.

PGCE programmes, Master of Architecture, MChem, MEng, MGeol, MPsych, MSci, ResM, MSc Environmental Consultancy, MSc Sustainable Aquaculture, MSc Environmental Geochemistry and postgraduate research degrees are not included in this reward.

Please note that students must have applied directly to be eligible.

For further details, and contact information, please review our alumni discount policy.

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

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

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

The MA is comprised of 180 credits.

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 services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage 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 weeks of 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 by downloading our Student Admissions Policy 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.

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

Cultural surroundings

Collaborations with local partners such as the National Trust at Saltram and the Plymouth City Museum and Gallery have seen our students involved in exciting, high profile projects.

Discover the wealth of culture on your doorstep

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