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English Literature Subject Guide

Considering taking a postgraduate course in English literature? Need to know what you can expect? Then we have the perfect thing for you – a subject guide all about English literature qualifications. 

This popular subject allows students to build on established skills gained in school or university, or delve into a subject that greatly interests them. It offers flexibility in what can be studied or achieved and allows students to focus on a particular topic that they find fascinating. 

Read on to see what sort of postgraduate English literature opportunities are available, how you could be taught and what jobs a qualification in the subject can help you get. 


Why do an English literature degree?  

English literature degrees are often pursued by students who have a deep appreciation for language and words. Many students have a desire to delve into a specific part of literature, whether that be particular eras, genres or authors – English literature degrees will allow these students the chance to do this while developing skills that will become invaluable in their work. 

Many students will take English literature degrees to further their skills of close reading and analysis of texts. These skills can be used in a variety of academic situations and can help with research in educational settings. 

What qualifications can you get?  

There are a few options for English literature students when it comes to available qualifications. Many will take a taught master’s course, which are predominantly MA degrees, though there are some MSc degrees which focus on historical literature. There are a variety of different specialisations for MA courses, letting students explore a topic that they are passionate about. 

Alongside taught master’s degrees, research-based courses like PhD and doctorates can provide a route for students who want to delve into a larger project with lots of research.  

You may also be able to find MLitt degrees in English literature, which can be more research or taught style depending on the university offering the programme. 

What jobs can you do with an English literature degree?  

Due to the transferable nature of the skills developed on these courses, there are many options for English literature graduates when it comes to jobs. Some of the roles you could consider include... 

  • Journalist 
  • Copywriter 
  • Editor 
  • Teacher/lecturer 
  • Marketer 
  • Academic researcher 
  • Technical writer 
  • Copy editor 
  • Campaigns manager 
  • Author 

What are the English literature degree entry requirements?  

Many postgraduate courses in English literature will ask for at least a 2:2 grade bachelor’s degree, though some will ask for a 2:1. This will often need to be in a related subject, though some courses will accept students with degrees in unrelated subjects if they have significant experience that would benefit the student during the programme. 

What English literature courses are there?  

One of the most attractive elements of English literature degrees is that there is plenty of scope for students to dig deeper on a specific aspect of the subject that they are interested in. Here are a few examples of English literature courses that you could take... 

  • English Literature PhD 
  • English Literature: Modern and Contemporary MA 
  • Creative Writing and English Literature Master's by Research 
  • English Literature: Literature and Society: Enlightenment, Romantic and Victorian MSc 
  • English Literature: Fantasy MLitt 

What topics does an English literature degree cover?  

Each course will have a different set of modules depending on which university is offering the programme. It is advised that you look at the course details when searching for a potential degree to undertake. Example of modules you could encounter while studying English literature include... 

  • Children's And Young Adult Literature 
  • Practice as Research, Research in Practice 
  • Themes in Irish Writing in English 
  • Nineteenth-Century Literature: The Canon and Beyond 
  • Themes and Problems in Modern and Contemporary Literature 

How will you be taught and assessed?  

Many courses will feature lectures on various topics, allowing students to build their knowledge of the subject. The focus of these lectures can be analysing pieces of literature, discussing themes, feeding back on creative writing tasks and more. These lectures can also offer students ideas that they can research outside of contact hours. 

Assessment for English literature courses can come in the form of coursework, presentations, essays, research proposals and a dissertation. 

How long is an English literature degree?  

English literature degrees will vary in length dependent on the type of qualification it awards. Master’s courses will usually last between one to two years if studied full-time. PhDs and doctorates can last up to four years when studied full-time. Part-time students can expect courses to take twice as long to complete. 

Where can you study English literature?  

English literature is a popular subject at the postgraduate level, and as such, many universities across the country offer courses in it. Take a look at our course search tool, which can be filtered for start date, qualification and course type, to see what programmes are available. 

What similar subjects are there to English literature?   

If English literature isn’t quite right for you, there are several similar subjects that might be more suited to your educational goals. This includes... 

  • Creative writing 
  • Media studies 
  • Communication studies 
  • Journalism 
  • Poetry 

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