MA Literature and Culture

Studying English Literature at postgraduate level opens up a whole host of vibrant and intellectually stimulating avenues to explore.

Our innovative programme draws on the wide-ranging research expertise of our staff in order to develop your critical and analytical skills in the field of literary and cultural studies.  English literary texts from the medieval period to present day are studied in and alongside their many different contexts – historical, social, political and/or material – and approached from a multitude of theoretical and methodological perspectives, enabling you to develop new and highly skilled ways of reading and interpreting a wide variety of cultural documents.

Please note: We offer an additional opportunity to specialise in medieval literature via the MA Medieval Studies.

Shantel Edwards

Shantel Edwards

“The aspect that I enjoyed most about the MA at Birmingham was the variety of literature you get to study. The course, and the lecturers that taught on it, introduced me to authors that I would never have found on my own, and opened my eyes to research areas that I would never have noticed before.”

This programme will provide a solid grounding in the key intellectual debates within the scholarship surrounding a range of period and context specialisms, introduce you to the latest research in the field, and support your development of the skills required for writing a dissertation.

Alongside the programme you will also have the chance to participate in a bespoke MA conference and become part of the department’s thriving academic research community.

The programme is made up of three sets of modules:

  • Core modules: two modules in Research Skills and Dissertation Preparation will equip you with the skills necessary for your written assessments.
  • Foundation modules: a choice of two options from a range of modules which provide a comprehensive introduction to a variety of literary periods and themes.
  • Specialist modules: a choice of two options from a range of modules which explore specific topics within the range of literary periods and themes we offer.

You have complete flexibility to choose your foundation and specialist modules from across literary periods and themes, but it is also possible to follow an informal pathway through the programme by choosing a set of complementary modules.

Full details of available modules and routes through the programme can be found in our ‘modules’ section, below.

The final component of the programme is a written dissertation.


Most modules are assessed by written assignment although some also require a presentation.

Over the course of the year you will also complete a supervised 15,000-word dissertation, with support from a supervisor. In order to complete your dissertation you will undertake independent research which may be based on (but will certainly extend) work undertaken for previous modules in the programme. There should be some element of originality to the research and staff will support your research in this regard; work should also aim towards making some contribution toward the field of study.

Why study this course

  • Flexibility – the variety of modules on offer will allow you to study areas of the discipline which interest you the most.
  • Experience – you will have a unique opportunity to undertake hands-on independent archival research and direct experience of relevant non-academic careers. You will also be fully supported in your discovery of your own academic voice and research practices.
  • Excellent reputation – as one of the leading Departments for the postgraduate study of English Literature and Culture in the UK, you will receive expert teaching and research supervision across a wide range of time periods, genres, media and methods. The University has also been ranked as one of the world's top 50 institutions to study English Language and Literature in the 2019 QS World University Rankings.
  • Foundation for future careers or further study – the programme is ideal for those students looking to develop specific research interests and/or prepare for study at PhD level, but it is also an excellent way of gaining a broader overview of the subject and allowing you to explore a career in sectors such as charity, teaching, local government, law, publishing, and media.
  • Active postgraduate community – with conferences, reading groups and events run by the postgraduate students as well as academic staff there is always something happening in the Department.


Core modules

All students will take the following modules:

Research Skills

This module will prepare you for your MA dissertation and assist those of you planning to continue to doctoral study in your application for internal and/or external funding. The module will run in Semester 1 and consists of a combination of generic research skills classes and individual supervisions. It aims to equip you with the research skills and familiarity with your chosen field that will assist you in producing strong assessed work at MA level. Topics may include: use of the library and e-resources; planning a research project; referencing methods; book history and textual criticism; and working in archives. The modules also includes sessions in the Cadbury Research Library.

Assessment: 1,000-word research proposal and 3,000-word literature review

Dissertation Preparation

This module builds on the skills developed in the Research Skills module. It is designed to support you in developing your dissertation research topic, and to equip you with the skills and experience that you need to present and communicate your research to an academic audience. The module will develop your ability to structure and present research effectively in different formats, and your confidence in speaking to an audience and responding to questions. You will be supported by individual supervisory tutorials with your project advisor, lectures in poster and oral presentation techniques, and weekly group writing sessions. The mid-module poster presentation and end of module MA conference will give you the opportunity to participate in different modes of research presentation, to discuss your work with academics and fellow MA students, and to demonstrate presentational skills demanded by employers as well as by a career in academic research.
Assessment: Research poster and 15-minute conference presentation

Foundation modules

You will choose two modules from a range which typically includes:

  • Meeting Medieval Manuscripts
  • Understanding Middle English
  • Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Studies
  • Nineteenth-Century Voices
  • Contemporary Literature
  • Modernism
  • Cultures of Popular Literature
  • Evolutions of Popular Literature
  • Living in Code: Understanding Digital Cultures

For full module descriptions, see our Literature and Culture MA modules page.

Specialist modules

You also have a choice of two options from a range of modules which explore specific topics within the range of literary periods and themes we offer. Options vary from year to year, but those available typically include:

  • After the Deluge: Writing and Recovery after the First World War
  • Alternative Facts: Genre, Historicism, and the Fantasy of Other Pasts
  • Byron and Keats
  • Fantasy and Fandom: Writing Back to the Medieval in Modern Fantasy
  • Flourish for the Players (Shakespeare’s Contemporaries)
  • From Cover to Cover: Histories of the Book
  • From Plato to the Postmodern: Theories of Literature and Art
  • Guilty Pleasures: Reading the Historical Romance
  • John Donne and the Metaphysical Poets
  • Modernism in the Magazines
  • Muslim Women’s Popular Fiction
  • Neo-Victorianism
  • Nineteenth-Century Detective Fiction
  • Nineteenth-Century Senses
  • PoMo Historical Fictions
  • The Art of Translation
  • The End of Life As We Know It: The Implications of Digital Technology
  • The Pre-Raphaelite Circle
  • Theories of the Modern

For full module descriptions, see our Literature and Culture MA modules page.

Routes through the programme

You have complete flexibility to choose your foundation and specialist modules from across literary periods and themes, but it is also possible to follow an informal pathway through the programme by choosing a set of complementary modules, for example:

  • Nineteenth-Century Studies - Foundation modules in Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Studies and Nineteenth Century Voices, plus specialist modules such as: Alternative Facts: Genre, Historicism, and the Fantasy of Other Pasts; or Nineteenth-Century Detective Fiction; Nineteenth-Century Senses
  • Modernism and Contemporary Literature - Foundation modules in Modernism and Contemporary Literature, plus specialist modules such as: Modernism in the Magazines; The End of Life As We Know It: The Implications of Digital Technology; and Theories of the Modern.
  • Popular Fiction - Foundation modules in Cultures of Popular Literature and Evolutions of Popular Literature, plus specialist modules such as: Fantasy and Fandom: Writing Back to the Medieval in Modern Fantasy; Guilty Pleasures: Reading the Historical Romance; and Muslim Women’s Popular Fiction.


In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.

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 2019/20 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £17,910 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 UK/EU or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the website.

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

You should already have completed an honours degree in English Literature or in a cognate subject with a heavy literary element, with at least a high upper-second-class (65 or above) result, or a 3.5/4.0 GPA; candidates with joint honours in English Literature and another cognate subject, or single honours in a cognate subject that includes substantial work in English Literature, are also encouraged to apply. All successful candidates must have a very high competence in written English, and are assumed to have extensive undergraduate exposure to literary studies in English across a broad historical range.

All prospective students must also submit a sample of written work as part of the online application process. You can do this before you submit your form, or return to the application to upload your sample at a later date; however, we will need to see an example of your work before an offer is made. This should be a piece of academic writing from your first degree, on English (or Anglophone) literature, that demonstrates your ability as a critic and scholar of literature (please note that journalism and creative writing - including poems, stories, or memoirs - are not acceptable). We cannot read more than about 1,500 words of submitted written work, so please either send something of that length, or indicate within a longer work what you would like us to read.

You must also submit a personal statement. This should be an account of your current, developed literary interests arising from your undergraduate or other literary studies and should indicate your plans to extend these as a postgraduate student of English literature.

Learn more about entry requirements.

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: for this course, we ask for IELTS 7.0 with no less than 6.5 in any band, or PTE with 67 in all four skills. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional course – if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

Learn more about international entry requirements.

How to apply

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

Application deadlines

International students requiring visas

Monday 1 July 2019 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date - a new application should be made for September 2020. Applications will reopen for 2020 entry in early October 2019.

UK/EU students

Please apply by Thursday 12 September 2019*. However, we would encourage you to apply at the earliest opportunity, to allow adequate time to prepare for starting your studies once receiving a decision on your application.

* Students applying on 12 September must submit their full application with all necessary documents in order to be considered for September 2019 entry. Late applicants are encouraged to contact the Admissions Tutor for advice.

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

You will be supported by literature staff in the department who research, publish, and teach across the full chronological range of English Literature from Old English to the present day, helping you to explore your specific interests.

Course delivery

We have two teaching terms per year, the autumn term and spring term. Term dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each term, followed by your dissertation. Depending on the modules you take, you can typically expect six-nine hours of classroom time per week, two or three per module. If you are a part-time student, you will typically take three modules across each year, followed by your dissertation.

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

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 five years, over 97% 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, 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

The Guild of Students hosts over 250 student groups and societies to suit a wide range of interests. These include the Postgraduate and Mature Students Association which runs a regular and varied programme of events specifically tailored to postgraduate students.

In addition, you will find that each Department runs its own social activities, research fora and student groups.


We offer accommodation for postgraduates on or near to campus, although many of our students also choose to live privately in student accommodation, shared houses or flats. If you do choose to live in private accommodation, the University has dedicated support services to help you to find properties from accredited landlords.

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.