What will I study?

Our English degree offers exceptional flexibility and choice, providing a comprehensive overview of literary history and criticism.

It encourages you to explore the subjects that interest you most by offering you space to shape your degree from your first year. We offer a breathtaking choice of modules with an unsurpassed geographical and linguistic range. With core and optional modules covering literature from classical antiquity to the 21st century, there is something for everyone, including creative writing, drama, fiction, film, and poetry.

Through small-group teaching, we will support you in becoming an original researcher right from the start, meaning that you will develop independent critical thinking skills invaluable for the workplace and for postgraduate study. Our unique writing provision, designed and taught by specialist tutors, forms a practical spine for the degree, preparing you to communicate clearly and confidently on a rich variety of topics to any audience.


Year 1: You will acquire a broad understanding of literary history through co-ordinated modules that introduce a range of texts and a variety of critical approaches: Approaches to Literature I: Writing Modernity (Autumn) & Approaches to Literature II: Other Worlds (Spring) and A World of Literature I: Classics and Cultural Translations (Autumn) & A World of Literature II: Empire and Aftermaths (Spring).You will also begin to develop research and writing skills appropriate to the study of literature at university in Key Concepts: An Introduction to Genre, Theory, and Writing. In your final term, you will choose from our exciting Topic Modules, working collaboratively to explore a text or idea.

Year 2: You will further your understanding of literature’s rich heritage, choosing from our comprehensive period-specific Intermediate Option Modules: The Shock of the New: Medieval LiteratureThe RenaissanceInventing Britain, 1700-1830Victorians: British Literature, 1832-1901Age of Extremes: Twentieth-Century British and Irish Literature; and American Literature: From the First World War to the End of Empire. You will have the opportunity to engage with a literary tradition from outside English in our World Literature options (either in translation or with some language study, if you prefer) and will also continue to develop your critical inquiry and writing skills in our innovative Critical Practice module. In your final term, you will choose again from our exciting Topic Modules, working collaboratively to explore a text or idea.

Year 3: Building on the skills and interests you have developed throughout your degree, you will choose from an exciting, wide-ranging list of experimental Advanced Option Modules on a diverse set of topics, allowing you to tailor the final year entirely to your own interests and passions. You will also undertake independent research, supported by an expert supervisor, towards a dissertation on a topic of your choosing. This capstone project is a wonderful opportunity to display your skills in detailed research, elegant writing, and rigorous argument.

Topic Modules

Topic Modules are a set of exciting, hands-on, and tightly focused modules that run in the Summer Term of your first and second year.

They act as an important pivot point between the research skills developed throughout the year and practical skills that will make you more employable after your degree. Topic modules veer from the beaten path into innovative and specialised areas of research, while also helping you to connect your academic skills with the tools you will use in any career.

First Year 

Arthurian Literature: Medieval to Modern
Excalibur, Camelot, Tintagel… Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot… What is it about the world of King Arthur and his knights that has continued to capture the imagination of authors and readers for centuries – and still does today?

The Big Book
This module gives an opportunity to examine a major literary work of substantial size, with as full as sense as possible of its literary qualities and historical contexts.

Classical Hollywood in Focus
This module focuses on particular films and stars drawn from each of the Hollywood ‘Big Five’ studios and will discuss the critical questions about cinema as both art and entertainment that arise from its particular styles.

Fictions of Human Rights
This module explores the way in which human rights – and violations of human rights – have been imagined and represented in literary texts from a range of periods and regions, inviting questions about how literary texts advocate claims to particular rights.

Five Things about Poetry
Dickinson on Death, Chaucer on love, Milton on God, Pope on haircuts, Shelley on birds, Heaney on the motor car, Shakespeare on everything: this module explores what poems are, what they do, and what they mean.

The Global Eighteenth Century
This module focuses on the assumption that eighteenth-century Britons understood themselves as above all a commercial people, at the centre of world trade.

Literature and the City
This module focuses on a broad range of texts across periods which have contributed to the rich literary history of urbanisation. The city may change from year to year.

Mythos originally meant ‘speech’ or ‘word’ in Greek; in time, it came to signify the language of story-telling, as opposed to the language of reason. The myths we will think about may include a range from Scottish folktales to the myth of Oedipus and from the Bible to the Eiffel Tower.

Second Year

Adventures in the Archive
This module introduces you to the mutual relevance of literary and archival work, and more broadly to expose you to the possibilities and implications – aesthetic, literary-historical and practical – of the archive as an institution, a collection, a moral choice, and a prompt to creativity. The module will be run in partnership with, and at the premises of, local organizations (such as the Borthwick Institute, the National Railway Museum, York Explore).

The Business of Books
This module is designed and taught in collaboration with New Writing North, the region’s literary development agency, introducing essential concepts and practices in contemporary publishing. Discussions will be centred around a practical examination of a living and breathing industry: what it is, what it does, and where it is headed. The content will be especially useful for students with an interest in working in literature, publishing, or the arts, and will include visiting speakers, such as writers and publishing professionals.

Imagining Woodlands
This module, which arose out of the collaboration between artist Jo Dacombe, palaeo-archaeologist Suzi Richer, and literary specialist Freya Sierhuis, explores woodlands from a variety of literary, historical, scientific and artistic perspectives, using a conceptual approach focused on notions such as ‘place’ to generate an interdisciplinary dialogue.

Love and Desire in the Middle Ages
This module looks beyond the secular, monogamous, heterosexual stereotype of medieval desire. It draws its texts from an eclectic array of romance and fabliau, love lyrics, devotional poetry and prose, penitential manuals and medical handbooks as well as documentary sources, like cases from the church courts (before which matters relating to sex and marriage were brought) and letter collections.

Shakespeare in Depth
This course will give students the opportunity to study a single Shakespeare play in depth, allowing for a variety of historical and critical approaches to be presented in tandem.

Slavery in the Transatlantic
This module highlights the historical and geographic sweep of nineteenth-century slavery while attending closely to some of the culturally specific responses to the issue in literary and musical traditions of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

William Blake: Image, Text, Web
This module offers a unique opportunity to engage with Blake’s illuminated books and to think about ways the works have been appropriated and redeployed across other media.

World Literature Modules

World Literature Modules, which run in the Spring and Summer Terms of your second year, form a crucial part of our commitment to an international curriculum.

Some are taught entirely in translation; others partly in the original language. The choice is yours, and will be governed by your experience and interests.

The Anglo-Saxon World Image

An Introduction to Greek and Latin Literatures



Eros: the Literature and Philosophy of Love

European New Cinema

García Lorca

The Golden Age of Latin Literature

Medieval Arabic and Persian 'Global' Literature

Muslim Translations of Britain

Old Norse Literature

Post-War French Culture


Note: This information reflects our current course structure. We, and the departments we share courses with, keep our courses under review and we may make changes in the future.