Logo of Royal Holloway University of London

MAEnglish Literature

More information



Interested? To learn more about this study programme, entry requirements and application process, please contact one of our consultants in a country nearest to you.

Programme structure

Core modules
Methods and Materials of Research
This module is designed to introduce you to a number of key topics related to the methods of postgraduate research, and to some of the resources and materials that will be useful to your studies.

This will be a piece of original written work, of between 12,000 and 15,000 words. The topic of the dissertation will be agreed between you and whichever member of staff is allotted as supervisor and is normally required to be submitted by the beginning of September in the year of the completion of the programme.

Optional modules
In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Contemporary and Modernist Special Topics
This module provides you with an advanced introduction to a selection of experimental prose fiction of the 1930s, either British or published in Britain. The 1930s are associated with the Depression Era (following on from the Wall Street Crash in October 1929) and the rise of totalitarian politics in Europe (i.e. Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism), leading together to the cataclysm of World War 2. You will also explore the re-appropriation and re-tooling of modernist aesthetic strategies by a range of contemporary African writers to address the crises of the postcolonial state and subjectivity, tracing the various genealogies of African literary modernism.

EN5315 Contemporary and Modernist Special Topics
Contemporary Special Topics
You will be introduced to the writing of selected contemporary women poets (post-2000). These texts will be placed in the context of contemporary debates in innovative poetics and also considered in relation to modernist strategies of avant-garde practice by previous women writers. You will then look at the literary-cultural significance of globalization as it relates to the movement of people, commodities and capital in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. You will evaluate key theorisations of these global phenomena and examine how they are reflected thematically and formally in contemporary literature.

The Works – Plays and Poetry
This module spans Shakespeare’s entire career as a playwright and poet, analysing in detail his nineteen major plays – including histories, comedies, tragedies, romances and problem plays – and the Sonnets. The theatrical, historical and theoretical issues raised by the works will be addressed as they emerge out of individual response and class discussion.

King Lear and The Tempest – Critical Debate and Creative Response
This course aims to engage you in a sustained, intensive study of Shakespeare’s supreme tragic masterpiece, the controversies it has provoked, and the diverse ways in which it has been adapted and transformed by poets, dramatists, novelists, and by film and theatre directors, since Shakespeare’s time. You will begin with detailed discussion of the play itself before turning to critical debate and then exploring the creative impact of King Lear on later poetry, drama and fiction. The second term is devoted to studying the creative response to King Lear in the theatre and the cinema, tracking its performance history on stage and screen through in-depth analysis of landmark productions and film adaptations.

Victorian London
This module provides a point of coherence for the interdisciplinary study of Victorian Culture. You will be introduced to the theories and methods of a variety of humanities disciplines through the medium of an in-depth study of the literature, history, geography, and visual culture of nineteenth-century London. You will be asked to reflect critically on your own approach to the material studied, through engagement with both primary materials and a variety of recent secondary sources.

Aestheticism and Decadence in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture
This module aims to provide an advanced understanding of the complex field of aestheticism in nineteenth-century literature and culture, with particular attention to concepts of ‘decadence’ and the relationship between the written word and the visual arts. Classes cover key theoretical and critical interventions into nineteenth-century aesthetic debates, from Ruskin and Pater through to Oscar Wilde and selected women writers of the 1880s and 1890s.

The Nineteenth-Century Novel – Contexts, Theories and Readers
This module aims to equip you with a systematic understanding of the scope and range of the mid nineteenth-century novel in the context of Victorian publishing, reading and critical practices. In the first half you will read three Dickens novels in depth, and while in the second half you will concentrates on theories of realism and the 19th Century novel. The module seeks to integrate reflections on recent critical approaches to the texts in order to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the critical techniques and discourses that will be applicable to your own advanced scholarship in the assessed essay and final dissertation.

The Pre-Raphaelite Revolution – Poetry and Painting
This module aims to equip you with a systematic understanding of the scope and range of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement in the context of Victorian art criticism, attitudes to gender and poetics. The first five-week block concentrates on poetry and the visual arts in the first decade of the movement; the second five-week block of the course deals with second generation of Pre-Raphaelites and their links with Aestheticism.

Medieval Narratives
This module explores traditions and forms of narrative in the light of historical record and medieval and modern critical approaches. Texts will be chosen to illustrate the development and relationships between the various narrative genres of the period, in Old and Middle English and also in French and Italian (non-English and Old English texts may be read in translation).

The Visual and The Verbal – Approaches to Medieval Art and Literature
This module provides you with an opportunity to explore the mutually illuminating relationship between art and literature in the medieval period. This is a literary rather than an art-historical module, using the procedures of literary study and the interpretation of texts. You will study manuscript art in conjunction with other visual arts. Classes centre on specific texts or themes and you will be encouraged to seek out visual material around these, whether from museum collections, facsimiles, the Web or library collections. You will become familiar with the terminology of iconography and with the techniques and study of manuscript production. You will be able to use the resources of the Museum of London, the Palaeography Room of the Senate House Library, as well as the libraries of Royal Holloway, Senate House and the British Library.

Arthurian Literature and Tradition in England
This module examines the development of Arthurian literature and legend across four centuries and three languages. Beginning with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, it focuses on the different ways in which Arthur’s reign was represented and understood in the Middle Ages.

Career opportunities

The Department has an impressive record for placing graduates in academic jobs and in prominent positions outside academia. In the field of Shakespeare and Renaissance studies alone, our postgraduates have recently secured positions at the Universities of Edinburgh, Sussex and Leeds, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the National University of Ireland. Recent postgraduates in American literature, modern and contemporary literature and theory have secured prestigious appointments in London.

Apply now! Fall semester 2023/24
Application period has ended
Please see the university profile or contact us for the deadlines that apply to you
Apply now! Fall semester 2023/24
Application period has ended
Please see the university profile or contact us for the deadlines that apply to you