BA English Literature and History of Art

This course offers you the opportunity to explore the way in which art and culture have represented and engaged with society over history and the ways in which visual and literary arts are evolving today.

Studying History of Art is not just about appreciating the ‘great works’, although a passion for art in all its forms is certainly a huge part of it. It is also about understanding past and present cultures, and the process of human creativity itself. This is your opportunity to study in great depth the tradition of European and North American art and visual culture, from the Renaissance to the present.

On the English Literature side of the programme you will explore the written word from medieval to modern times, investigating issues ranging from the literary culture of Chaucer to the interrelation of literature and digital technology.  Opportunities to integrate the two subjects in your programme include the option of writing a lengthy final-year ‘link’ Dissertation with joint supervision from the two Departments.

Studying works of art at first hand is particularly important, and you will have access to the original works in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, an award-winning art gallery on the University campus, as well as the Institute’s extensive library and visual resources.

Course fact file

UCAS code: QV3H

Duration: 3 Years

Places Available: 2

Applications in 2013: 32

Typical Offer: ABB (More detailed entry requirements and the international qualifications accepted can be found in the course details)

Start date: September 2015

Details

Your first year of study is split equally between English Literature and History of Art (60 credits in each subject). Following this, you have flexible options to alter your balance of study, meaning that you could take 80 credits in one subject and 40 in the other in either or both of years 2 and 3, or stay with the 60/60 balance. 

First Year

English Literature: Your first-year modules in Joint Honours English will introduce you to the key genres of English Literature across a wide historical and international span, and train you in new ways of thinking about literature. By studying core modules on ‘Poetry’, ‘Prose’ and ‘Plays and Performance’, you will develop the close reading skills needed to analyse all kinds of texts, from medieval plays and early modern poetry to contemporary drama. You will also develop new understanding of how the historical and cultural contexts in which literature is produced and read can shape its meaning.

Alongside these literature-focused modules, ‘Language for Literature’, taught by expert colleagues in English Language, will develop your technical skills and understanding of how literary texts are put together, and how literary language works.    

History of Art: The First Year serves as a foundation for the subject. The modules ‘Historical Concepts’ and ‘Debates and Methods’ to the History of Art introduce the methods and concepts employed in the study of art history. Other modules provide an outline of selected key historical periods and themes in the history of art such as Romanticism, Realism, the Renaissance, Modernism or the Enlightenment. Lectures and seminars are supported with study trips to galleries and current exhibitions in London or elsewhere. The first-year modules include: Historical Concepts in the History of Art; Debates and Methods; Object and Medium; Ideas of the Renaissance; Concepts of Modernism in the History of Art; Enlightenment and its Discontents; The Real Realism; and Romanticism and the Idea of Romantic Art.

Second Year

English Literature: The second year of your degree is an excellent opportunity to build on the new interests and passions that you discovered in your first-year modules.

You can choose between modules in ‘Histories of Literature’ to deepen your knowledge and understanding of all literary periods from medieval to the present day.

You will have the opportunity to encounter Shakespeare’s work through two exciting modules taught in collaboration with Birmingham’s world-leading Shakespeare Institute, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, and working closely with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

You will also have the option of exploring our ‘Themes in Literature’, from ‘The Gothic’ to ‘Tragedy’.

History of Art: The Second Year is structured to allow you to acquire greater depth by focusing a number of more specific subjects. You will have the opportunity to choose from a number of optional modules on themes or periods in the history of art. These are supported by a module on research techniques in the history of art as well as a study trip to a major artistic and cultural centre overseas, where you will have the opportunity to access works of art and architecture unavailable in Britain and to study them in situ. The second-year modules include: Renaissance Art in Italy and the Netherlands 1400-1460; Art, Architecture and Design in Fin de Siècle Vienna; Real and Ideal: Art and Society in Mid Nineteenth-Century France; Prague, Cracow, Budapest. Art, Architecture and Politics in Central Europe, 1867-1918; Inside the Gallery. Histories, Theories and Practices of Museums and Galleries; Research Techniques in the History of Art; and Art History in the Field – Overseas Study Trip

Final Year

English Literature: Depending on whether you elect to take 80, 60 or 40 credits in English Literature, you will take a number of the Special Subject modules below plus either a 12,000-word Dissertation or a 6,000-word Extended Essay on a subject of your choice, for which you will be supervised by an expert in the field. You also have the option of writing a ‘link’ Dissertation with joint supervision from the two Departments.

History of Art: In the Third Year you focus on a series of short 20-credit special subjects, which you study in depth and detail. In addition you have the opportunity to develop your research skills in a short Dissertation, a 6,000 word piece of writing on a History of Art topic of your own choice, if you have not chosen to complete a ‘link’ dissertation. Recent Final year Special Subjects have included: Inside Out: Interior and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture 1850-1940; Fashioning Flesh and Technology: Modernism and the Body in Germany 1918-1933; Women and Artistic Culture 1400-1600; Michelangelo; Inside Out: Interior and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture, 1840-1940; Contemporary Visual Art and Postcolonialism

Year Abroad

You will have the option to take a year abroad  between your second and final year at one of a wide range of carefully selected partner institutions from around the world.

Why study this course

On this programme you have an unparalleled opportunity, not only to engage with the materials of broad and diverse cultural and textual disciplines but also to develop skills in intellectual analysis, critical thinking and articulate expression. The programme allows you to bring two disciplines into an exciting and rewarding dialogue, with a huge amount of flexibility allowing you to tailor your course to suit your own interests. Below is a little more information about the Departments of English Literature and Art History, Film and Visual Studies:

English Literature

  • The internationally renowned staff in the Department of English Literature research, publish and teach across the full chronological range of English Literature from Old English to contemporary British and American fiction and poetry, with a commitment to a rich diversity of theoretical, historical and intellectual approaches to their subjects. Research and teaching areas cover both the traditional literary canon and non-traditional areas of literary study such as postcolonial literature, early modern women?s writing, and the interrelation of literary and digital culture.
  • English Literature students can take a year-long Shakespeare course, drawing on the unique resources of our internationally-renowned Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • BEDSOC (Birmingham English Department Society) is very active in organising social events, for example trips to the theatre and theme nights out such as Hawaii night. We also have a thriving Creative Writing Society, Writers? Bloc, which is open to all students.
  • Students at Birmingham will also benefit from frequent lectures and readings from award-winning writers and industry professionals. Speakers in recent years have included novelist David Lodge, poet and writer Jackie Kay, poet Simon Armitage, playwright Simon Stephens and theatre director Greg Doran.
  • We have signed an exciting new collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company for a pioneering project that will bring benefits to our students.

English Literature open day talk

[Video above - Dr Daniel Moore delivers the 2014 undergraduate open day talk on studying English Literature at the University of Birmingham]

Art History, Film and Visual Studies

The Joint Honours programme in History of Art provides an opportunity to study in depth European and North American art and visual culture from the Renaissance to the present. You will examine them in their social, cultural and political contexts, employing a wide range of approaches; particular importance is given to the study of works of art at first hand, in order to provide a critical appreciation of them as material objects, and also to help you develop your skills of visual analysis. Much of the teaching draws on the collection of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, and this is supported by the rich resources available elsewhere in Birmingham, including Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, one of the major regional British art museums, and the IKON gallery, one of the leading galleries of contemporary art.

  • The Department is located in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, one of the world's finest small art galleries giving you access to internally important collections of paintings, sculptures and rare coins.
  • Students are eligible to participate in The Barber's Institute of Education Programmes. This scheme involves the assisting of teaching of local school groups.
  • The Barber Fine Art Library contacts is the largest resource of it's kind in the region with over 60,000 volumes on art historical subjects.
  • There is the opportunity to be selected for one of the Barber Bursaries for six months of funded training in curatorial, education and marketing aspects of gallery work.
  • The second year includes a study trip abroad to a major art historical centre such as Berlin, Paris, Rome or Venice.

History of Art open day talk

Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange delivers the 2013 undergraduate open day talk on studying History of Art at the University of Birmingham.

Joint honours open day talk

[Video above - Dr Craig Blunt delivers an undergraduate open day talk about studying Joint Honours at the University]

Modules

Please note that this information is intended as an indicative guide to the programme and modules on offer may vary slightly from year to year.

First year

Second year

Final year

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 
Learn more about fees and funding
 
Scholarships
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required: 3

Typical offer: ABB

Required subjects and grades: A level English Literature or English Language and Literature grade A

Additional information: Other qualifications are considered - learn more about entry requirements

Additional information:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 35 points.

International students:

We welcome applications from international students and invite you to join our vibrant community of over 4500 international students who represent 150 different countries. We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com

Learn more about applying

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

Learning and teaching

University of Birmingham students are part of an academic elite and learn from world-leading experts. We will challenge you to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers.

You will have a diverse learning experience, including:

  • lectures
  • small group tutorials
  • independent study
  • and peer group learning, such as delivering presentations with your classmates

Support

You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and welfare advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Transition review - you will undergo a formal transition review during your first year with an academic member of staff. They will see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support.
  • Academic Skills Centre - the centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) - the AWAS team will provide guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level. You will receive individual support from an academic writing advisor and meet with postgraduate tutors who specialise in particular subjects. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, tutorials and email correspondence.
  • Student experience - our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.

Study trips play an important part in the teaching on the programme. These include visits to galleries and museums in Birmingham and the West Midlands, as well as overseas group trips that are funded by the University. Recent destinations have included Rome, Berlin and Paris, and provide you with the opportunity to examine works of art and architecture in situ.

One-to-one tutorials become increasingly important as you progress through your course. This is particularly the case in your final year, when a major part of your programme will be a dissertation on a topic of your choice. Tutorials enable you to discuss your research with your project supervisor in depth.

Assessment methods

Assessments - you will be assessed in a variety of ways to help you transition to a new style of learning. At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed. Assessments methods will vary with each module and could include:

  • coursework, such as essays
  • group and individual presentations
  • and formal exams

Feedback - you will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so you can learn from each assignment. You will also be given feedback on any exams that you take. If you should fail an exam, we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is provided to help you prepare for future exams.

The principal means of assessment for English are coursework essays and written exams.

Employability

English Literature

[Video above - Dr Daniel Moore discusses careers and employability during the English Literature open day presentation]

History of Art

[Video above - Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange discusses careers and employability during the History of Art open day presentation]

As a History of Art student you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are highly prized by employers, including visual and textual analysis and interpretation, clear and effective writing, visual discernment, making opinions, and respecting the views of others even if you disagree with them.

The University of Birmingham has graduate employability rates for History of Art graduates above the national average and in the top 10 UK universities for the subject. Over 50% of job vacancies advertised for new and recent graduates don't specify a degree subject, and our graduates have gone on to highly successful careers in art galleries and other cultural institutions, as curators, researchers and administrators. Others pursue careers in auction houses and the art business, teaching, and in administrative and management roles for a wide range of employers. Some also decide to pursue graduate study in specialist art and cultural areas or professions such as teaching and law.

Employers of Birmingham History of Art graduates have included the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Bodleian Library, Cath Kidston, Historic Royal Palaces, The National Portrait Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum. Examples of jobs they have taken up include Archivist, Assistant Curator, Curator of Fine Art, Gallery Coordinator, Programme Coordinator and Researcher.

Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal. This is a unique careers guidance service tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team who can give you expert advice. This includes individual careers advice and events to give you insight into the professions and employers of interest to arts graduates, and access to internships and job vacancies. Visiting speakers from institutions such as Christie's and Sotheby's, and events including 'Careers in Heritage and Museums' help History of Art students with their career ideas and choices. We also make work placement opportunities available to you in the University's Cultural Collections and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Developing your career

Employers target University of Birmingham students for their diverse skill-set and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of our wide range of opportunities you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

  • Careers events - we hold events covering careers in teaching, event management, marketing and working with charities to help you meet potential employers and learn more about these sectors.
  • Global Challenge - you can apply to work overseas on an expenses-paid placement during your summer vacation through our Global Challenge initiative.
  • Work experience bursary - we encourage you to apply your skills in the workplace by undertaking internships in the summer. Our work experience bursaries allow you to apply for funding to support you during unpaid internships.
  • Cultural Internships - our innovative Cultural Internships offer graduates the opportunity for a six month paid internship at a leading cultural institution in the West Midlands. These internships will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market. Our current partners include:
    • Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery
    • Birmingham REP
    • Birmingham Royal Ballet
    • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    • Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust
    • Library of Birmingham.

There are also internships available at our own cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Extra-curricular activities

To enhance your career prospects even further, you will need to think about engaging in some extra-curricular activities to broaden your skills and network of contacts.

  • Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme - our College of Arts and Law undergraduate research scholarship scheme enables interested students to work on a current academic research project being run by one of our academic researchers. Undergraduate research scholars gain work experience over the summer after their first or second year and have the chance to develop skills in both collaborative and independent research.
  • Personal Skills Award - our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.
  • Guild of Students - there is a vast number of student groups and volunteering opportunities offered by the Guild of Students, which cover a wide variety of interests.