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MA English Literature

The Course

From contemporary writing to literatures of the past, this Master's enables students to develop a deeper level of critical understanding, and the opportunity to enhance writing, communication, and research skills.

The programme examines the diversity and variety of the subject, and is designed to equip students with the high-level skills necessary for further research or career progression. Optional modules include period coverage from the Renaissance to the contemporary moment.

Students can develop their own areas of interest in a particular period, genre, or theme, and are able to gain experience of public speaking by presenting their own research at twice-yearly MA symposia.

Current research in the School of English and Journalism has particular strengths in 21st Century literature, 19th Century literature, women’s writing, Gothic literature, utopianism, American fiction, and drama.

Specialist areas of staff expertise include:

  • 21st Century literature
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Contemporary political theatre
  • Renaissance literature and drama
  • Utopian studies
  • Women’s writing (18th Century – present)
  • Life writing
  • American literature
  • Creative writing
  • 18th and 19th Century literature
Wednesday. Students on this course can expect to receive 140 hours of contact time over the duration of the programme. Postgraduate level study involves a significant proportion of independent study, exploring the material covered in lectures and seminars. As a general guide, for every hour in class students are expected to spend two - three hours in independent study.
Students on this programme are required to undertake the two core modules: English Now 1: Poetry and Drama; and English Now 2: Fiction, Form, Genre. Students are then able to tailor the course to their individual interests by choosing two of the optional modules.

The two core modules use 21st Century literature firstly as an opportunity to consider the relationship between literature and its context; secondly as a way of raising current theoretical issues and concerns; thirdly as material for exploring formal issues; and finally, as a focus for consideration of the 'singularity of literature' – that which makes literature a unique human activity. These modules are combined with a research skills provision which completes the PG Certificate level.

At the second (PG Diploma) level, the course turns from contemporary writing to the literature of the past, addressing either themes that run across time, or topics that are focused on specific periods. Students can choose two optional modules. Each of these leads to a small research project which is designed to prepare students for the final part of the programme, a 15,000 word dissertation on a subject chosen by the student with the support of a supervisor, and researched and written up in the final months of the programme.

The dissertation proposal is submitted towards the end of Term 2. The dissertation itself is submitted at the end of the academic year in September.

Part-time students take the PG Certificate level English Now modules in year one and the specialist options in year two (PG Diploma), followed by the Master’s dissertation in the summer of year two.

Teaching for each module takes place in two-hourly small-group seminars. There are additional twice-yearly MA symposia where students have the opportunity to present papers based on work undertaken in options. They are also encouraged to attend a fortnightly Humanities Research Seminar series, which involves lecturers and doctoral students.

Contemporary American Fiction (Option)
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Contemporary American Fiction (Option)

This module offers an opportunity to engage with American fiction and some of its socio-historical, political and ideological contexts from the late 1990s to the present day. An initial concern is to examine critical distinctions between ‘canonical/literary’ texts and so-called ‘popular’ genres. The module explores aspects of canon-formation in American fiction, and examines a selection of texts by both new and established writers, in some cases at the point where they are first published in paperback.

The module will be contextualised by an examination of the ‘Great American Novel’ in the run-up to the millennium, considering the importance of the short story in American fiction, and exploring the impact of recent key events. The module will take a thematic approach, locating American cultural production in regional, national and global contexts, with a particular emphasis on writing in the 21st Century. Authors studied include Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Anne Tyler, Lionel Shriver and Cormac McCarthy.

English Now 1: Poetry and Drama (Core)
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English Now 1: Poetry and Drama (Core)

The principal focus of the this module will be on poetry and drama written since 2000. The poetry section will aim to effectively be the introduction to the course. In each seminar the module will be reading two or three contemporary poems: over the six weeks a small sample of British and Irish poetry since 2000 will be covered, but it is not a survey.

The poems can be studied as examples of poetry as well as examples of contemporary writing, and a principal aim will be to revise and refresh literary skills, to think over assumptions about poetry (and literature) and to practice close and analytical reading. The module will also seek to deepen your understanding of how poetry works by introducing some theoretical concepts and perspectives, and will take an issue to do with contemporary poetry as a focus each week.

Amongst the poets studied will be Don Paterson, John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie, Alice Oswald, Moniza Alvi and Benjamin Zephaniah.

The drama block aims to show how contemporary drama can, as a public art form, respond with particular vitality to the cultural and political moment. Here again you will be asked to consider the relationship of contemporary drama texts to theory and to literary history, and you have the chance to develop an enhanced understanding of dramatic conventions and forms.

The plays currently studied include Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, Gillian Slovo’s The Riots, Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn, Mark Ravenhill’s Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat, Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman and Caryl Churchill’s Love & Information.

English Now 2: Fiction, Form, Genre (Core)
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English Now 2: Fiction, Form, Genre (Core)

‘English Now 2’ engages with fiction published since 2000. The focus of this module is to explore what is innovative and important about creative fiction in the 21st Century.

At first it addresses ‘mainstream’ literary fiction to ask whether it still deserves the immense cultural prestige and readerly attention that the literary novel continues to command. You will have the opportunity to study novels of the 21st Century that have been acclaimed by critics and read by the public in order to discuss what is the basis of their appeal as singular texts, as a genre and as a commodity in contemporary culture. Key themes will be the representation of subjectivity, modernism and postmodernism, 21st Century histories, posthumanism and ecological concerns, national identity and globalization.

The module then considers the question of genre in contemporary fiction. Each year, one genre will be selected for examination; for instance, the genre of romance. We will be asking what defines romance as a genre in 21st Century fiction and whether one can trace a cultural shift in this genre from 20th Century iterations. You can study a variety of romances, some of which could be thought of as challenging generic boundaries. Key themes will be capitalism, gender, cyberfeminism, and postfeminism.

The final part of the module, entitled ‘New Forms?’, will consider whether and to what extent 21st Century writing is formally innovative. By looking closely at the graphic novel, flash fiction, fan fiction, and ‘treated’ texts, you will have the opportunity to discuss notions of originality, literariness, duration, ‘textual poaching’, visuality, accessibility and the digital in the context of recent trends in fiction.

Gothic Spaces (Option)
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Gothic Spaces (Option)

This module explores the representation of haunted locations – of the human experience of environments which provoke, or symbolise, psychological and social disturbances.

Place has always had central significance in the Gothic genre, ‘the literature of nightmare’, which is dominated by desolate landscapes, and claustrophobic interiors. Gothic texts of all periods and cultural contexts use ‘place’ as a trope through which to focalise themes of alienation, repression, monstrosity and mental fragmentation. These locations work as spatial metaphors, giving form to the fear, violence and ideological contradictions which haunt the realms which we would prefer to regard as familiar and safe settings for our lives.

This module considers an exciting range of texts (including novels, short stories and films), from the Victorian era to the present day. We consider the way the Gothic genre dramatises anxieties that centre on the home, the city, the railway, the colony/ex-colony, and the frontier. Issues considered through study of these include childhood, gender relations, urbanisation, technology, mental illness, the sublime, constructions of ‘race’, imperialism, and the phenomenon of Gothic tourism with a focus on Lincoln itself.

Issues in Ecocriticism (Option)
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Issues in Ecocriticism (Option)

One of the subjects that literature documents is the relationship of humanity to its environment. This module looks at literary representations of that relationship from an ‘ecocritical’ perspective—that is to say from a criticism that is influenced by environmentalism and ecological thinking.

The first principle of ecological thinking is that there is more to life and the world than humanity, and that we are neither so separate from, nor so dominant over, the non-human as Christian and post-Christian Humanism has taught us to think. The module explores what difference it makes to read literature from this perspective. The course examines literature as part of our complex interaction with our environment, and in some ways and on some occasions, as a uniquely valuable one.

The module offers an introduction to the interaction between environmentalism and literary criticism in the last fifty years and aims to take you more deeply into the main currents of thought and areas of debate in contemporary ecocriticism. The module will look at texts ancient and contemporary, literary and popular, fictional and factual, including Paradise Lost and Middlemarch, work from the Roman Horace to the Victorian Gerard Manley Hopkins, and from romantics like Wordsworth, Clare and Thoreau, to contemporaries like Rick Bass, JM Coetzee and Iain Sinclair.

Amongst the thinkers and theorists the module examines are Heidegger, Kate Soper, Michel Serres, Peter Singer, Robert Pogue Harrison and John Gray.

Literary Theory in the 21st Century (Option)
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Literary Theory in the 21st Century (Option)

Over the last ten years, literary critics have repeatedly announced that theory is dead. Yet academic publishers continue to produce a substantial number of book-length works that offer original interventions into decades-old debates or establish new approaches to theoretical issues of growing interest. Literary theory is also firmly embedded within the study of English literature and will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future. Indeed, this embedded position and the sense that theory has become 'old news' seem to necessitate a re-evaluation of the field.

This module therefore explores issues in literary theory that have been of particular interest from approximately 2000 to the present. We read new work by old masters as well as the work of new stars on the rise. Seminars aim to explore current theoretical issues, the application of theory to texts, images and objects as well as the reasons behind the formation and proliferation of theoretical movements.

Literature in the Thatcher Years (Option)
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Literature in the Thatcher Years (Option)

This module seeks to explore the literature produced in Britain between 1979-1990, the period of Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher. It will specifically look at the ways in which a dominant political ideology can seep into and influence the cultural context which surrounds it.

The works of novelists, poets and dramatists can be studied as well as the film and television produced over the course of the 1980s. These will be explored against a social and political background of terrorist bombings, the Falklands war, the miners’ strike, poll tax riots, inner-city riots, increased Americanisation and multi-nationalism in corporate business, a royal wedding, England winning the Ashes, and a fatwa.

The huge upsurge of nostalgia against the radical changes occurring in capitalism and the media, the rise of the yuppies and a stress laid on the individual as opposed to a welfare state will also be explored in terms of their effects upon literature and the arts. How responsive literature might be to changes in the political and social environment, both in form and content, and what it might have to say about them, will constitute the focus of this unit.

Authors to be studied include Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Angela Carter, David Lodge, Ian McEwan, Caryl Churchill, Margaret Drabble, David Hare, Tony Harrison and Carol Ann Duffy.

Nineteenth-Century Lives: Texts, Histories, Portraits (Option)
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Nineteenth-Century Lives: Texts, Histories, Portraits (Option)

The nineteenth century witnessed a rapid expansion in the representation of lives, in personal narratives, historical accounts, and in portraiture that suggests a fascination with the private lives of public figures comparable to our own contemporary moment.

This module takes an interdisciplinary approach to life representation, discussing texts and paintings from the perspective of literary criticism, history, and art history. Students can examine a diverse range of life writing (including autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, diaries, letters, confessions, and collective biographies), consider life writing as a historical discourse, and address the self-fashioning of individuals through portraiture, while also exploring the connections and differences between these auto/biographical modes.

Poetry and Patronage 1557-1625 (Option)
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Poetry and Patronage 1557-1625 (Option)

Beginning with the publication of Tottel’s Miscellany and ending with the death of James I, this module explores the connection between poets and their patrons in late 16th and early 17th century England.

You will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of the need for, and mechanics of, the patronage system. You will then have the chance to pay close attention to the textual strategies used by early modern poets to account for their implication in that system. How do these writers express in their work the financial transaction that has enabled it? Does such a transaction inevitably corrupt poetry, or are poets able to transform their supposedly compromised positions into successful art?

You have the chance to read works by Shakespeare, Wyatt, Surrey, Spenser, Raleigh, Jonson, and Donne, as well as those produced by their patrons, especially Elizabeth I and Mary Sidney Herbert. Coterie networks of manuscript circulation will also be investigated and all material will be read in the context of the political and religious developments of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.

Print Culture and the Book in the Nineteenth Century (Option)
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Print Culture and the Book in the Nineteenth Century (Option)

This module is designed to examine the history of the book and print culture over the long nineteenth century, from social, cultural and economic standpoints.

Questions addressed include: How were Victorian texts written, revised, illustrated, published, printed, distributed and sold? How did copyright debates over the century affect literary productions? What was the impact of serialisation and the periodical press on both the publishing industry and the reader or consumer? What place did the book-as-object have within Victorian material culture? How do Victorian texts themselves depict reading, writing and the book? How does reading texts alongside images qualify reading and interpretation?

The module considers a range of printed materials, including but not limited to books, periodicals, newspapers, illustrations and printed ephemera. It provides opportunities to use the extensive and unique resources of the Tennyson Research Centre, conservation labs, and online resources such as Victorian periodical facsimiles. Students are also expected to read a novel in serialised form in a periodical, discussing one or two ‘numbers’ each week, to recapture and explore the experience of reading serially.

Robin Hood and the Outlaw Tradition (Option)
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Robin Hood and the Outlaw Tradition (Option)

This module examines what the figure of the outlaw meant to the people of Britain in the Middle Ages, especially in the post-Conquest period, as well as how he was, and still is, connected to history and myth in literature. Students will consider the glorification of crime associated with outlaw narratives and the resistance of primarily clerical and state authority, as well as the underlying issues of friendship and loyalty that these narratives evoke. They will also examine other themes prevalent in outlaw legends, such as nature, human and animal relations, gender, religion, tricksters and trickery, class, warfare and weaponry. Finally, it assesses how outlawry and outlaw figures (especially Robin Hood) have been transmitted, as a type of ‘medievalism,’ to later periods and what the outlaw figure means in contemporary society. Overall, students will examine representations of outlaws in a range of genres, from chronicles, ballads, and dramatic texts to children’s literature, film, and television.

Romantic Legacies (Option)
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Romantic Legacies (Option)

This module aims to explore some of the poetic and artistic riches of the era 1800 to 1870, in relation to political, social and artistic contexts. Romanticism established terms for exploring the self, representing nature, extolling feeling and imagination, and using poetry in the cause of social reform.

This legacy Victorian writers inherited, revised, and tested to its limits. Poets both withdrew from, and engaged with, society, offering new constructions of class relations, gender roles, and religious faith, and debated the role of the poet in a modern society. While the emphasis of the module is on literature, the module will also consider elements of art history which shared these preoccupations. Artists also reimagined the landscape, social relations, subjective/objective reality, and the role of the artist in the modern world.

Works of well-known poets such as William Wordsworth, Robert Browning, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are read alongside those with a less established critical tradition, such as John Clare, Ernest Jones and Augusta Webster. We also consider landscape artists such as Peter de Wint and John Constable, and the works of pre-Raphaelite artists responding to poetry by John Keats and Alfred Tennyson. Trips are offered to the Usher Gallery in Lincoln, the Clare Centre at Helpstone, and/or a relevant national exhibition.

The Nineteenth-Century Woman Writer (Option)
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The Nineteenth-Century Woman Writer (Option)

The woman writer achieved a new prominence during the nineteenth century and played a central role in the literary culture of the period. Across a diverse range of genres and forms, writers explored contemporary debates regarding conceptions of gender, women’s role in public life, and models of female authorship.

Beginning with the radical writers of the 1790s, this modules aims to consider women’s interventions in contemporary political argument, poetry and historical writing, and their exploitation of a language of feeling to claim a distinctive voice in the public sphere. As the novel became the dominant literary form in the Victorian era, you can study the works of some female novelists who respond to issues such as marriage, motherhood, education, employment and selfhood.

The module seeks to consider women’s achievements in several sub-genres of fiction, such as realism, Gothic, the sensation novel, and the ghost story, as well as some non-fictional engagements with varieties of nineteenth-century feminism.

A selection of Victorian women poets are explored, with a focus on their representation of the conflict between inner and outer life. Writers considered include Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, Anna Barbauld, George Eliot, Anne Bronte, Christina Rossetti, Josephine Butler and Charlotte Riddell.

Writing Utopia and Dystopia (Option)
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Writing Utopia and Dystopia (Option)

Dreaming of a better world has been part of the human condition for all of human history, but utopian fiction as a separate and identifiable genre began in 1516 with the publication of More’s Utopia, the foundational utopian text.

In this module you have the opportunity to identify key features and characteristics of the literary utopia and trace the development of the genre from More to the trio of late 19th Century classic utopias, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, William Morris’s News from Nowhere and HG Wells’s A Modern Utopia through to the 20th and 21st Centuries.

The module will then aim to consider the classic dystopias of the early 20th Century, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Although dystopia is the dominant form up to this point, a renewal of (feminist) interest in utopianism, both as aesthetic mode, and as political practice, arises in the 1960s and the utopian novel re-emerges in the form of the ‘critical utopia’ (such as Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and Moniq Wittig’s Les Guerilleres).

21st century utopias and dystopias (such as Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army, Will Self’s The Book of Dave and Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood) will then form a focus for thinking about the significance of utopia and utopian writing today.

Plays such as Howard Brenton’s Greenland and Sarah Kane’s Blasted will be considered as stage utopias/dystopias, and the question of utopia and form will be scrutinised.

† Some courses may offer optional modules. The availability of optional modules may vary from year to year and will be subject to minimum student numbers being achieved. This means that the availability of specific optional modules cannot be guaranteed. Optional module selection may also be affected by staff availability.

Assessment involves short essays of 2,500-3,000 words for the core English Now modules. Longer project work of 5,000 words is required for the optional modules, as are some assessed presentations. The programme culminates in a 15,000 word dissertation.

Assessment Feedback

The University of Lincoln's policy on assessment feedback aims to ensure that academics will return in-course assessments to students promptly – usually within 15 working days of the submission date.

We currently interview all applicants for this course.
MA Symposia

Students on this course have the opportunity to participate in twice-yearly symposia, where students present papers based on their research to current students and staff. You will have the opportunity to present 20-minute papers in panels in a conference-style setting. This aims to develop your research skills and is designed to prepare you for PhD study as well as other professional work.

 2020/21 Entry*
Home/EU £7,700
(including Alumni Scholarship 20% reduction)**
International £14,600
(Including International Alumni / Global Postgraduate Scholarship** £2,000 reduction)
Part-time Home/EU £43 per credit point
Part-time International £81 per credit point

* Academic year September- July
** Subject to eligibility


Postgraduate Master's Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study. Individuals** will be able to borrow up to £10,906 for the purpose of completing an eligible postgraduate Master's qualification. The amount available will depend on the start date of your course.


As a postgraduate student you may be eligible for scholarships in addition to those shown above.

Guidance for Part-time Postgraduate Fees

To complete a standard Master's Taught programme, you must complete 180 credit points.

Full time students will be invoiced for the programme in full upon initial enrolment.

For part-time students, tuition fees are payable each credit point enrolled. To calculate your part-time fees, multiply the part-time fee per credit point by the number of credits you intend to complete within that academic year. This is usually between 60 and 90 credit points per year.

For example, if the fee per credit point for your programme is £49, and you enrol on 60 credits, the tuition fee payable for that academic year will be £2,940.

Fees for enrolment on additional modules

Tuition fees for additional activity are payable by the student/sponsor and charged at the equivalent £ per credit point rate for each module. Additional activity includes:

- Enrolment on modules that are in addition to the validated programme curriculum

- Enrolment on modules that are over and above the full credit diet for the relevant academic year

- Retakes of modules as permitted by the Board of Examiners

Exceptionally tuition fees may not be payable where a student has been granted a retake with approved extenuating circumstances.

For further information and for details about funding your study, scholarships and bursaries, please see our Postgraduate Fees & Funding pages [].

Other Costs

For each course you may find that there are additional costs. These may be with regard to the specific clothing, materials or equipment required, depending on your course. Some courses provide opportunities for you to undertake field work or field trips. Where these are compulsory, the cost for the travel, accommodation and your meals may be covered by the University and so is included in your fee. Where these are optional you will normally (unless stated otherwise) be required to pay your own transportation, accommodation and meal costs.

With regards to text books, the University provides students who enrol with a comprehensive reading list and you will find that our extensive library holds either material or virtual versions of the core texts that you are required to read. However, you may prefer to purchase some of these for yourself and you will be responsible for this cost.

First or upper second class honours degree.

If you have studied outside of the UK, and are unsure whether your qualification meets the above requirements, please visit our country pages. for information on equivalent qualifications.

Overseas students will be required to demonstrate English language proficiency equivalent to IELTS 7.0 overall, with a minimum of 6.5 in each element. For information regarding other English language qualifications we accept, please visit the English Requirements page.

If you do not meet the above IELTS requirements, you may be able to take part in one of our Pre-session English and Academic Study Skills courses.

These specialist courses are designed to help students meet the English language requirements for their intended programme of study.

Learn from Experts

Throughout this degree, students may receive tuition from professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, researchers, practitioners, visiting experts or technicians, and they may also be supported in their learning by other students.

Your Future Career

Career and Personal Development

This course is designed to develop strong communication and critical-thinking skills which can be transferable to a diverse range of careers. The programme aims to provide training for roles in journalism, teaching, research, publishing, and media. Students are able to develop skills in research, communication, writing, presentation, and independent learning. Some graduates choose to continue their studies at doctoral level.

Careers Services

The University Careers and Employability Team offer qualified advisors who can work with you to provide tailored, individual support and careers advice during your time at the University. As a member of our alumni we also offer one-to-one support in the first year after completing your course, including access to events, vacancy information and website resources; with access to online vacancies and virtual and website resources for the following two years.

This service can include one-to-one coaching, CV advice and interview preparation to help you maximise your future opportunities.
The service works closely with local, national and international employers, acting as a gateway to the business world.

Visit our Careers Service pages here


At Lincoln, we constantly invest in our campus as we aim to provide the best learning environment for our students. Whatever the area of study, the University strives to ensure students have access to specialist equipment and resources, to develop the skills, which they may need in their future career.

Students can study and research in the University's Great Central Warehouse Library, which provides more than 250,000 printed books and approximately 400,000 electronic books and journals, as well as databases and specialist collections. The Library has a range of different spaces for shared and individual learning.

The Media, Humanities and Technology (MHT) building is equipped with industry standard media suites providing specialist broadcast television, radio and sound equipment. The building is also home to television studios, photography studios and radio editing suites. Siren FM, our on-campus community radio station, is also based here.

The University intends to provide its courses as outlined in these pages, although the University may make changes in accordance with the Student Admissions Terms and Conditions.