Accessibility statement

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.

Overview

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, analysis, and writing skills appropriate to the study of literature at university on Reading Now, and a foundation in critical and philosophical approaches to literature on Theory Now.

Year 2: You will further your understanding of literature’s rich heritage, choosing from our comprehensive period-specific Intermediate Option Modules. You will also 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). Our innovative Writing Now and Research Now modules will help you to continue to develop your critical inquiry and writing skills. 

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 the Dissertation, which will focus on a topic of your choosing.

Now Modules

The English degree at York is underpinned by a series of modules that highlight the challenges and benefits of studying literature now, with a focus on key debates and approaches in the discipline.

Year 1 Now Modules

Reading Now 

Reading Now prepares you for the study of literature at university level, introducing essential skills for reading, analysing, and writing about literature in English and related languages. At the same time, the module provides tools for understanding what it means to study literature now.

The first half of the semester provides you with a 'literary toolkit', honing the essential skills for literary research: interpreting texts, defining an essay topic, developing a thesis statement, discovering and evaluating sources, close reading, finding your voice, referencing effectively, and editing your writing.

The second half of the semester considers the wider challenges and opportunities in studying specific types of literature, with a focus on how to read and write about different genres and forms, including drama, fiction, film, and poetry in English and in translation. Your tutors will guide you through the various stages of critical thinking, close reading, and research so that you may approach advanced literary study with a sense of assurance.

Theory Now

Theory Now offers a foundation in the critical and philosophical approaches we might use to analyse literary texts. It explores a range of theoretical concepts, positions and frameworks, and shows how we can use them to interpret literary texts with close attention to their historicity and form. Topics covered might include: Postcolonialism, Critical Race Theory, Feminism, Queer Theory, Disability Studies, Affect Theory, the Environmental Humanities, and Marxist Literary Theory.

The lectures and workshops give you an entry point into exciting and complex areas of literary analysis and theory, which will be of use throughout your degree programme. The lectures draw on key texts, both historical and current. The workshops focus on clarifying the theory and how, in practice, they help you to understand and explicate the dynamics of texts.

Year 2 Now Modules

Writing Now

Writing Now explores the possibilities of literary criticism in different forms, drawing upon a wide range of examples from a span of historical periods and global contexts. It introduces various written forms and other media that emphasises a more fluid relationship between critical and creative practices. In collaborative, interactive workshops, you will analyse reviews, personal essays, translation projects, hybrid creative-critical writing, film, audio, and other multimedia work to discover engaging and challenging instances of criticality in a range of cultural modes.

In the first half of the semester, you will encounter various forms of critical writing that move beyond the academic essay. Lectures and workshops will explore the ways criticism can reach different audiences through writing and translation practices, the relationship between critical thinking and activism, and the intersections of creative and critical practice.

The second half of the semester focuses on the relationship between literature, criticism, and a variety of multimedia forms, including audio, film, and other artistic modes. Lectures will equip you with the skills and language to engage critically with work in these other forms. The interactive workshops provide space for you to collaborate on developing critical writing skills and multimedia strategies for effective communication of complex critical ideas to new audiences.

Research Now

Reading Now gives you the chance to explore a cutting-edge specialist research area, while developing advanced skills for your own independent, extended research in the final stages of your degree.

In the first half, you will choose a ‘deep dive’ research area from a list of options, taking you across periods, disciplines, and/or geographies — whether exploring ecocritical approaches to medieval literature, discovering intersectional feminisms of the contemporary world, or adventuring in archives. With all options, you’ll hear from a range of lecturers, while collaborating in team-based workshops, in order to develop a team research project and presentation on the topic’s material.

The second half focuses on skills to take your research further: formulating comprehensive research proposals and questions; developing a clear methodology or research practice; working interdisciplinarily, across languages, and periods; and improving ways of presenting research both orally and in writing. Each week will introduce a new tool for developing your research, and will contribute to a portfolio that will also look ahead to your final-year dissertation project.

As a whole, the module gives you the chance to develop key employability strengths, including teamwork, creative and critical thinking, and problem-solving, while also developing the skills needed to embark on a longer research project by putting together an individual dissertation proposal.

Note: the ‘deep dive’ research area you choose for this module does not have to correspond with the subject area of your final year dissertation — you have the freedom here to explore new, innovative terrain.

Intermediate Options

Intermediate Option Modules cover key topics, texts, and genres of a given literary period.

Building on the introduction to different literary periods offered in the first year, Intermediate Option Modules allow you to deepen your understanding of the relationship between literary works and the cultural, historical, and political contexts in which they were produced.  Across Autumn and Spring semesters Single subject English students are required to take at least two asterisked modules.

Autumn Semester Intermediate Option modules

*The Shock of the New: Medieval Literature

*The Renaissance

Victorians: British Literature 1832 - 1901

Age of Extremes: Twentieth Century British and Irish Literature 

Spring Semester Intermediate Option modules

*Inventing Britain, 1700-1830

American Literature: From the First World War to the End of Empire

World Literature Options

World Literature Modules form a crucial part of our commitment to an international curriculum. They run in the Spring semester of your second year.

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.

Against the Grain: European New Cinema

Alternative Queer Histories

An Introduction to Greek and Latin Literatures

Dante

Eros: the Literature and Philosophy of Love

The European Avant-Garde

French Poetry 1844-1898

The Golden Age of Latin Literature

Modern Latin American Literature

Medieval Arabic and Persian Global Literature

Muslim Translations of Britain

Old Norse Literature

The World of Beowulf

Advanced Options

Advanced Option Modules are innovative modules that reflect the wide-ranging and cutting-edge research expertise of the Department. 

You can shape your final year based on your own interests, whether honing in on the work of a single writer or exploring a new field of study.  You can typically expect to choose from around 30 options.  Recent offerings have included:

American Independent Film

Art in the Present

Beckett's World

The Bible and Literature

Black Writers of the Global Nineteenth Century

Bodies on the Renaissance Stage

The Body in Modern American Literature and Culture

British Science Fiction and Fantasy

Charles Dickens

Contemporary African American and Black British Writing

Creative Writing - Contemporary Practice

Decoronial Writing:Pandemics, Public Health, Prose

Defining Nature in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Fashion in the 18th Century

Feeling the 18th Century

Found in Translation

From Tennyson to Tolkien: The Middle Ages & Modern Literature from 1843 - 1940

Green Romanticism: Nature, Ecology, Calamity

Henry James

Homer

Jane Austen

The Life and Afterlife of Boccaccio's Decameron: Text Image Film

Literature and Ecology

Literature and Extinction

Lost in a Book: Travel and Narrative in the Renaissance

Make Grammar Do: American Literature and the Politics of Language

Milton and Radical England

Modern Irish Poetry

Modernism and Technology

Modernism's Queer Spaces

Performing the Georgian World: 18th Century Drama and Theatre

Poetry Boot Camp

Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Romance and Popular Fiction

Researching the Renaissance

The Sense of Stories

Smash the Screen: Cinemas of Protest

So Funny it Hurts: Irish Comic Fiction

Songwriting: Lyrics as Literature

Spices and Spies: Renaissance Global Travel

Stories with Pictures: Narrative in Visual Media

The Stuff of Poetry: 1900-Present

Villains of the Romantic Gothic

The Writer's Notebook: A Prose Fiction Workshop

Thinking Forms in Early Modern Texts: Abstraction, Particularity, Race-Making

21st-Century American Fiction

Writing Eighteenth-Century London

Writing in the Marketplace

Writing Revolution

World-Literary Energetics:Exertion, Extraction & Exhaustion

Dissertation

The dissertation is your opportunity to write a sustained critical account (7000-8000 words) 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.

You are encouraged to extend and develop ideas which have fascinated you within previous modules or to undertake literary research in an area that you have not previously studied.  You can also choose to undertake a Dissertation with Creative Practice, which might involve producing a portfolio of creative writing; a translation project; a critical edition of a text; a print publication in collaboration with Thin Ice Press; or an external engagement project. 

You will be allocated a dissertation supervisor, and will attend lectures that guide you through the challenges of identifying a topic, structuring your research, and writing an extended piece of critical prose.

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.