MRes Medieval Literature

This comprehensive and focused programme offers you world-class training in the study of medieval English and related literatures.

We specialise in a variety of areas of Old and Middle English literature, ranging from the Anglo-Saxon period to the sixteenth century - and even beyond as we consider the continuing influence medieval texts have on contemporary literature, television and film.

You will have the opportunity to work closely with tutors who have strong reputations as established researchers in a wide range of areas, including manuscript studies and book history, romance, prophecy, the reception of medieval literature, regionality and epigraphy, as well as literature from Wales and Scotland.

This programme is currently under review and applications are closed. Please see How to apply for further details.

Dr Emily Wingfield

Dr Emily Wingfield

“At Birmingham we aim to show that medieval literature and medieval lives are as relevant today as they were in the past.”

As part of the MRes Medieval Literature you are required to take the following modules:

  • Medieval Biographical Studies
  • Meeting Medieval Manuscripts
  • Understanding Medieval Literature

These modules then provide the framework for a 20,000-word thesis to complete the programme.

Why study this course

  • The University of Birmingham was ranked 39th in the World for English Language & Literature by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018. These rankings are compiled annually to help prospective students identify the leading universities worldwide in a particular subject.
  • The department celebrated excellent results in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF): 34% of research at the University of Birmingham for English Language and Literature was top 4* rated ‘world-leading’. A further 53% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • You will have the opportunity to develop your research skills with the supervision of leading researchers and gain a qualification for entry onto a PhD programme or into a wide range of employment.
  • You will take your existing interest in medieval literature to the next level and do a serious piece of research in an area that really engages you. As well as becoming a member of a dynamic community of staff and postgraduate medievalists.
  • We pride ourselves on the interdisciplinary approach we take, bringing together literature, history and the visual arts to shape a fuller understanding of the medieval world.
  • A large body of medieval literature was also composed and copied in the Midlands, and we are lucky to have some exquisite manuscript and early printed material within easy reach both here at the Cadbury Research Library and Barber Institute of Fine Arts, and in libraries at Cathedrals such as Lichfield and Worcester. We are also a short hop on the train away from the Staffordshire Hoard. 


Medieval Biographical Studies

This module consists of individual supervisions, guided reading, and the auditing of relevant classes on the MA Literature and Culture (Research Skills) and MA Medieval Studies (Approaches to Medieval Studies, Research Skills for Medieval Studies). It aims to equip you with the research skills and familiarity with your chosen field that will assist you in producing strong assessed work and a final dissertation. 
Assessment: 3,000 word essay and a 1,000 word research proposal

Meeting Medieval Manuscripts

From the sole-surviving manuscript of Beowulf to William Caxton’s introduction of the printing press to England, this module is designed to open up the fascinating world of medieval manuscript studies and book history. Throughout the semester we’ll use new online and digital resources to explore a series of key manuscripts and printed books from the eleventh century through to the early sixteenth century. Each week we’ll teach you how to read and transcribe different types of medieval handwriting (a skill known as palaeography) and introduce you to some of the central features of manuscript production (codicology) and early printing. We’ll focus week-by-week on a specific manuscript or type of manuscript (e.g. chronicles, book of hours, copies of The Canterbury Tales) and also discuss themes related to the study of the material text, including illumination and decoration, dialect, the production of miscellanies/anthologies, and digitisation. Above all else, you’ll have the chance to turn the pages of some very special old books for yourself, beginning with an introductory session in the Cadbury Research Library here at Birmingham and ending with a trip to one of the UK’s major research libraries (e.g. Bodleian Library, Oxford). 
Assessment: Transcription assessment and a 3,000 word essay

Understanding Medieval Literature

This module offers the opportunity to explore a diverse range of medieval literary texts from the pre-conquest period through to the early Tudor period. Its aim is to facilitate confident engagement with the texts in their original language, awareness of the range and variety of English literature in the period, and understanding of the cultural contexts in which that literature was originally produced, ‘published’ and read. Guided by a team of specialist staff you will read a number of texts that rank among the greatest achievements across all English literature and will acquire a solid appreciation of some of the major trends and debates in current scholarship. Texts studied may vary from year to year but will include some of the following: the Old English epic Beowulf (taught by means of en face edition); early Middle English romance and devotional literature; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the finest Arthurian romance of the period; Troilus and Criseyde, arguably Chaucer’s greatest work; late medieval and Tudor drama. There will also be plenty of room for you to explore and to develop your own reading programme in relation to the key texts. 
Assessment: A textual analysis exercise and a 3,000 word essay


Carrying out research for and writing the 20,000-word thesis gives you the opportunity to develop and put into practice what you have learned on the taught modules. The thesis is due at the end of the programme and may form the foundation for a doctoral project, or it may serve as a free-standing piece of work. You work under the guidance of a supervisor or joint supervisors (for example, for an interdisciplinary project).

Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

  • UK/EU: £5,850 full-time; £2,925 part-time
  • International: £16,320 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for for UK/EU or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in the 2018-19 academic year will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2018-19 academic year will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • Applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification at Merit level or above (or its international equivalent).

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

This programme is currently under review and applications are closed.  For further advice, please contact

The following programmes also offer the opportunity to pursue postgraduate study in Medieval Literature:

The MRes Medieval Literature is homed in the Department of English.

Within the Department there is a Medieval English research cluster which offers support to students working in the area, as well as undertaking exciting projects investigating the cultural and material contexts of texts and thus providing a dynamic environment in which research can flourish. 

You’ll also benefit from the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA) which facilitates academic research into the Middle Ages, from c.300 to c.1500 AD. CeSMA cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries and unites historians, archaeologists, literary scholars, linguists and students who study medieval societies and cultures, meaning that as well as the support you’ll get from the English Department, you’ll be able to gain insight from a whole host of academics from across the university and have the opportunity to discuss research into medieval studies in the regular conferences held by the Centre.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the lively international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Assessment methods

Assessment on this course is by coursework and written assessment. It is completed with a 20,000 word thesis.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: English Literature

Birmingham's English Literature postgraduates develop a range of skills including presentation, communication and analytical skills, as well as the ability to work independently, think critically and develop opinions.

Over the past three years, over 94% of English Literature postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many of our graduates go on to further study or academia, while others use their transferable skills in a wide variety of occupations including copywriting, PR, marketing, publishing and teaching.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

Support in your studies

We offer an Academic Writing Advisory Service, which aims to help your transition to postgraduate research. The service offers guidance on organising your ideas and structuring an argument, referencing and avoiding plagiarism, being clear and coherent and editing your work for academic style and linguistic accuracy. Individual support is provided by a professional academic writing advisor via tutorials or email, as well as through the provision of online materials.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.