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English Literature - MA

  • Level: Postgraduate Taught
  • Starting: September 2021
  • Study mode: Full Time
  • Location: City Centre

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Any arrangements put in place by the University for the 2021/22 academic year will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

Our MA in English Literature is taught by a team of distinguished critics, scholars and creative writers, all working at the cutting edge of their disciplines. As well as developing your skills as a critical thinker, you will join a thriving intellectual community, and benefit from a range of guest seminars and masterclasses, many of which are organized through our Institute of Creative and Critical Writing.

What's covered in the course?

The course is aimed at undergraduates who want to take their interest in literature to the next level, as a career development opportunity or simply for the love of the subject. Students with interests in both literary criticism and creative writing can opt to take a module from our MA in Creative Writing.

At the centre of the course is the module ‘Literature and Place’, which encourages students to think about how literary writing responds to, and creates, the places we inhabit and move through. Situated in the heart of a culturally diverse and always evolving city, you will be perfectly located to think about how writing intersects with the world it describes.

Texts for study are drawn from a range of historical periods, but the intellectual focus is distinctly contemporary.

As well as receiving specialist tuition from expert tutors, you’ll attend our programme of guest speakers and public events devoted to the ongoing life of literary writing.

"This new MA has been in development for quite some time, and everyone involved in teaching literature at BCU is really excited about welcoming the first cohort of students to Birmingham" Dr Anthony Howe, Course Director

Why Choose Us?

  • You'll become part of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media’s 6,000-strong student community, and you will be supported by our highly experienced staff, who are all nationally and internationally recognized academics and writers.
  • 77% of research undertaken by lecturers from the School of English, is classed as world – leading or internationally excellent (The Research Excellence Framework (REF2014)). 100% of the School’s research that had an impact beyond academia, was judged to be ‘outstanding’ or ‘very considerable’ in reach and significance (The Research Excellence Framework (REF2014)).
  • You’ll study at both the home of the School of English in Millennium Point, and at our £63 million development the Curzon Building, which boasts a richly stocked University Library, a wealth of digital learning resources, a Students’ Union and a dedicated student support hub.

Similar Courses

This course is open to International students

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Discover the School of English

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

New £10,906 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,906 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements

2.2 or above in English Literature or relevant subject.

Alternative equivalent professional qualifications and experience may be considered.

Online interviews will be offered at the discretion of the course team.

EU For anyone who has studied at undergraduate level in a non-English-speaking country, we also require an English Language qualification equivalent to a British Council IELTS score of 7.0, with no score in any category under 6.5.
International For anyone who has studied at undergraduate level in a non-English-speaking country, we also require an English Language qualification equivalent to a British Council IELTS score of 7.0, with no score in any category under 6.5.
International Students

Entry requirements here

International Students

Don't meet our entry requirements? You could apply for courses at our International College.

Apply now

  • UK students
  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • TBC
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • TBC
  • Register interest

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • TBC
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • TBC
  • Register interest

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

*Professional Placement option

The Professional Placement version of the course is optional and is offered as an alternative to the standard version of the course.

This will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree. The purpose of the Professional Placement is to improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market. Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.

You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study. You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School.

Placements will only be confirmed following a competitive, employer-led selection process, therefore the University will not be able to guarantee placements for students who have registered for the ‘with Professional Placement’ course. All students who do not find a suitable placement or do not pass the competitive selection process will be automatically transferred back to the standard, non-placement version of the course.

Personal statement

Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.

Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Your passion and motivations

Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?

Why this course?

Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.

What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?

Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.

Relevant academic or work experience

Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?

You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items.

Based on the past experience of our students, you might find it helpful to set aside about £50 for each year of your studies for your personal stationery and study materials. All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you can apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,906 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans


In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 140 credits)

Texts in Transition
20 credits

This module allows students to explore the evolution and transformation of literary texts through processes of writing, publishing, editing and adapting. There is a focus on the roles of different participants (authors, publishers, editors, readers) in respect of three case studies from different periods and genres (normally but not exclusively a play, a collection of poems, and a work of prose fiction, one of which will usually be by a living writer). So doing, the module provides an introduction to Master’s level study of key critical issues and debates concerning authorship, the literary canon, and the roles of publishers, performers, editors and readers in the production of meaning. An editorial exercise forms part of the assessment regime, encouraging skills of research, pedagogy, transcription and critical evaluation.

The module will centre on William Shakespeare, Macbeth; Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805 and 1850 versions) and a contemporary novel.

Literature and Place
40 credits

The content of this module will be drawn from a range of historical periods, relating to locations and environments, both real and imagined. You will be encouraged to think about the connection between writing, place and placelessness as it develops through history. The module is also interested in the ‘place’ of literature in our own local, national and global contexts: how does an informed understanding of writing and its relation to place (or displacement), through time, help us to see how literature might intervene in, or modify, the world now. Indicative texts for study: The country house tradition of poetry; dystopian/utopian writing – e.g. Thomas More, Utopia; Romanticism and ideas of nationhood (e.g. the poetry of Robert Burns); contemporary fiction and statelessness (e.g. Abdulrazak Gurnah, By the Sea).

Research Methods
20 credits

The 20-credit bespoke Research Methods module focuses on the skills necessary to complete a major project: project management, networking, liaising with partners, extended writing skills, archival skills. It is carefully placed to support the initial stages of the major project and your progression on to a significant piece of independent research. Assessment will involve organizing a conference with your classmates, at which you will each give a 20-minute presentation.

Major Project
60 credits

During the second semester you will begin your 60-credit Major Project. You will have developed a proposal for your major project as part of the Research Methods module. The field will be restricted only by academic credibility and availability of supervision. You may wish to pursue a traditional English Studies option as a PhD route in. You will also be encouraged to develop projects with other areas of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media (Literature and Visual Arts; Literature and Musical Composition). Tuition will be arranged between you and a dedicated tutor until the end of May and your project will be submitted and marked in September.

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete at least 40 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.

Literature and Truth
40 credits

Literature and Truth is a provocative and original module that typifies the MA in exploring a range of literary and intellectual concerns while enabling a focus on the here and now. We will take an in-depth look at literature preoccupied with the presence and absence of truth. We will consider literary experience as a distinct mode of truthfulness, dystopian fiction, social critique, and the role writing plays in creating individual identity.

Indicative texts for study: Shakespeare’s Othello; Swift, A Tale of a Tub; George Eliot, Daniel Deronda; Ezra Pound’s poetry; D. H. Lawrence, The Rainbow and Fantasia of the Unconscious; Sylvia Townsend Warner, Summer Will Show.

Creative Non-Fiction
40 credits

In this module, you will study the nature and practice of creative nonfiction, exploring the distinctive issues it raises for writers in recent published works and in your own, including the ethical considerations involved in drawing from real-life subjects as source material, the quality of truth, and the interplay between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’. You will explore several forms of creative nonfiction, including memoir, travel writing, nature writing, auto/biography, the personal essay, the nonfiction thriller, and literary journalism, and consider the variations in style these might involve.

Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.

MA English Literature is full time, taught over two semesters, and incorporates 180 credits. You will take one 40 credit and one 20 credit taught module in each semester. A major project or dissertation extends from semester two into the summer vacation.

Taught seminars will be supplemented by guest speakers who are concerned in various ways with the positive role that literature and literary study might take on in our present political and social climate (nationally and globally). This will include experts drawn from our impressive range of professional and creative sector contacts: e.g. Birmingham Literature Festival and Writing West Midlands.

Assessment briefs will allow you to develop a range of projects in the form of extended essays, and you will also develop a major project. This might have a traditional English Literature academic focus, but there is also scope to develop original projects with other parts of the Faculty (Media, Fine Art, Music) or in pedagogical theory (e.g.. a project concerned with innovate teaching techniques).

Further Study

Your Major Project is an excellent opportunity to develop a potential PhD project, and apply for Midlands 4 Cities doctoral funding.

Studying MA English Literature will help you to develop a range of high-level skills and knowledge.

Upon completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Form and communicate complex judgements and ideas and demonstrate comprehensive research skills relating to the advanced study of English Literature.
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of techniques in conceptual analysis as it relates to the advanced study of English Literature.
  • Critically evaluate current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline, to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.
  • Demonstrate originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline.
  • Develop the independent learning ability and self-direction required for continuing professional and academic development.

Industry Links

The School of English has links with local and regional arts organisations, authors, poets, and many more leading professionals. Our staff and students have worked with:

  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • The Birmingham Midland Institute
  • Writing West Midlands (the Literature Development Agency for the region)
  • Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
  • The Library of Birmingham

Find out more about how we work with industry here.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

students on the grass in front of Curzon

School of English Blog

A blog that offers you an insight into life as a student at the School of English at Birmingham City University.

Visit the blog 

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Parkside and Curzon Buildings

Our Facilities

When you join Birmingham City University, the first thing you will notice is the high standard of our campuses. With an investment of £340 million across our buildings and facilities, we are committed to giving you the very best learning environment to help shape your experience.

You will study at both the home of the School of English in Millennium Point, and at our £63 million development the Curzon Building, located on our City Centre campus in the vibrant second city that is Birmingham.

Discover your bright and open learning spaces, your 24 hour (during term time) library, drama, media and radio studios, along with state of the art lecture theatres, and a variety of sociable break-out areas, all adding to your unique learning experience.

Dr Anthony Howe

Reader in English Literature and MA English Literature Course Director

Dr Anthony Howe is Reader in English Literature and Associate Director of Research in the School of English at Birmingham City University. Originally from the North East of England, he studied at Liverpool (BA; MA) before taking a PhD at Cambridge. Prior to his current post he taught at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. He is a Senior Fellow of the HEA. Dr Howe’s major research concern is in the field of English Romantic period poetry, especially Byron and Shelley.

Professor David Roberts

Professor of English
David has taught in a variety of universities and maintained a strong interest in seventeenth-century drama and theatre. His most recent books have been about the lives of actors and writers. In 2010 his CUP biography of Thomas Betterton was shortlisted for the Theatre Library Association of America Prize. David followed this up in 2014 with another book for Cambridge, Restoration Plays and Players. As a National Teaching Fellow, he also wrote about pedagogy in English and in 2016 his co-authored guide (with Izabela Hopkins), Games for English Literature, is published by Libri.
Gemma Moss

Dr Gemma Moss

Senior Lecturer in English Literature

I teach twentieth century literature and culture across all levels of study. My teaching is informed by my research interests, which include modernism, gender and sexuality, and Critical Theory.

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students interested in any aspect of modernist studies, Critical Theory or in literature (1890 – present) in conjunction with music or gender and sexuality.

Major Project Supervisors

Major project supervisors will be drawn from across the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media.