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MA Renaissance Literature 1500-1700

Explore one of the most exciting periods of English literature and history

2018/19 entry


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

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30, 31 January and 1 February

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The MA in Renaissance Literature 1500-1700 is an intensive and exciting survey of the literary culture of the 16th and 17th centuries. The transformations in religion, politics, the technologies of writing and publication, science and global exploration, which continue to resonate today, prompted some of the most vibrant, difficult, and rewarding writing ever produced.

You’ll be introduced to key authors, texts, and ideas from the period, and will construct a distinct, individually chosen programme of study from a wide range of options. You’ll develop your research skills and apply these to a substantial piece of independent research, taught and supervised by world-leading scholars in one of the UK’s most prestigious centres for early modern studies.​

You’ll gain a foundation for doctoral research in early modern literature and culture, as well as transferable skills for related careers in teaching, publishing, arts management and journalism. You’ll engage with the research culture of the Department of English and the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, with a diverse schedule of seminars, conferences and reading groups for you to attend. You’ll be part of the Humanities Research Centre, a vibrant interdisciplinary hub which enables you to form close social and intellectual bonds over the course of your study.


Field trips

Join us for regional trips – destinations have included the magnificent Fountains Abbey, Castle Howard, Burton Agnes Hall, Hardwick Hall and the Castle Museum.

Research strengths

These include the history of the book, the Reformation and the history of religious change, the early modern reception of classical texts, and the playhouses of early modern London.

Course content

Watch our video.

Join a team of world-leading scholars, working at the cutting edge of our discipline to explore an extraordinary world of literature, and illuminate some of its local, European, and global contexts. In our core seminars, research events, trips, and collaborations you'll build up a comprehensive set of research skills. Ambitious and imaginative option modules will extend your current interests, and open up a novel set of perspectives on well-known texts and more obscure works.

You'll study one core module (20 credits) and choose three modules (20 credits each) from a range of options from the Department of English and Related Literature and other arts and humanities departments. You'll study a research skills training module (10 credits), and complete a research dissertation (90 credits). The total number of credits for the course is 180.​

Historic map of York


Core module (20 credits)

In this module, taught by a team of specialists, you'll engage with modern and early modern theories of the text. It will equip you with a rich critical vocabulary, skill-set, and analytical approach.

Postgraduate Life in Practice (10 credits)

You'll learn valuable research, writing and presentation skills. Topics may include using library and online research resources, use of archives, academic writing and how to get work published.

Option modules (20 credits each)

  • Theatres of Revenge ‎
  • Early Modern Theories of Everything 
  • Religion and the Book
  • Objects and the Early Modern

There are also a wide range of further option modules offered across all the Department's MA programmes.

You may also choose available modules from other arts and humanities departments. You'll have the opportunity to work with distinguished scholars across a variety of fields. In particular, we offer specialist guidance in:

  • History of the book and textual cultures
  • Religion, literature, and politics
  • The reception and transformation of the Classics
  • The poetics and pragmatics of translation
  • Shakespeare, Heywood, and the drama of the English Renaissance
  • The history and literature of science and medicine
  • Material culture
  • Women and literary production
  • The history of emotions

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


Your dissertation offers you the chance to examine a topic in depth and to develop your research skills.

In Summer Term and over the vacation you'll work on a 14,000-16,000-word dissertation worth 90 credits with regular supervision from a member of staff.

You'll submit your dissertation in September. Recent dissertation topics have included:

  • Sweating in the Renaissance
  • Darkness Visible: Milton’s Moon in Paradise Lost
  • Play Frameworks and the Construction of Childhood on the Early Modern Stage
  • Londinopolis and the Making of Early Modern London
The teaching staff in the Department encourage us to follow our passions and provide the space to do so.
Inderjit, MA in Renaissance Literature, 1500-1700

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2018/19

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year)£7,580£16,780
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee

Additional costs

You'll need copies of the texts set for each module. Where possible, we will provide digital access. We'll let you know which texts and editions you'll need to buy (whether new or second-hand) before the start of each term.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Home/EU students

International students

Department scholarship information

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers accommodation costs and estimated social costs.

World-leading research

Ranked first in the UK for world-leading research and second overall (REF 2014).

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Teaching format

You'll normally attend two 2-hour seminars each week during the Autumn and Spring Terms. If you are a part-time student you'll attend one 2-hour seminar a week during the Autumn and Spring Terms of Year 1 and Year 2.

Seminar groups consist of fewer that 15 students in most modules, though some core modules may be taught in larger groups. You'll complete essential reading for each seminar, and we encourage you to read more widely around the topic.

You'll attend a series of training lectures and workshops, designed to address presenting your work, writing at MA level, transferable skills, and career development.

Over the course of the year, you'll give regular seminar presentations and attend research seminars and day conferences hosted by the Department. Many of these events will be organised through the Humanities Research Centre, a state-of-the-art facility unique to York.


The University Library has extensive resources, and you can study the exciting collections of early modern books in the Minster Library (the largest cathedral library in the UK)

York's long history and prime location makes it an excellent place to study this period. You can choose to take classes in the beautiful Minster Library, learn palaeography in one of the biggest archive repositories outside London, and study Latin or a range of other languages. There are frequent field trips – destinations have included a behind-the-scenes look at the Castle Museum, the magnificent Fountains Abbey, Castle Howard, Burton Agnes Hall, and Hardwick Hall.

​​Writers at York is a lively programme of readings and workshops, and aims to celebrate and explore the work of emerging and established contemporary writers. Writers at York is supported by the University of York's External Engagement Awards and the Festival of Ideas.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of English and Related Literature on Campus West. Most of your contact hours will be in the Berrick Saul Building and additional locations nearby on Campus West.

Course location

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You'll submit an essay for each module of approximately 4,500 words. The Postgraduate Life in Practice module will be assessed on the completion of a series of tasks connected to your core work for the MA. Your final assessment is a dissertation of 14,000-16,000 words.

Elizabeth I
Historic library collection

Careers and skills

Our postgraduates go into academia and teaching, arts administration, journalism, broadcasting, public relations, social work, politics, the civil service, and management consultancy. Many alumni have also gone on to become successful novelists, poets and playwrights.

Career opportunities

  • Academia
  • Advertising, marketing, and public relations
  • Arts administration
  • Civil and diplomatic services
  • Government and law
  • Heritage and conservation
  • Journalism and broadcasting
  • Publishing
  • Teaching

Transferable skills

You'll develop a range of transferable skills including:

  • Developing your creativity
  • Improving your ability to filter and analyse complex information
  • Intellectual independence and independent working
  • Time management and people skills
  • Communicating your research
  • Methodological skills

Entry requirements

Qualification Grade

You should have, or be about to complete, a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification.

We will consider applications from students with lower qualifications, particularly if you have high marks in relevant modules or appropriate professional experience.

If you are unsure about your eligibility, or want an informal chat about whether this course would be suitable for you, please contact us.

The international equivalents of UK qualifications are shown on our country-specific pages. You can also contact the international team for guidance.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability.

Pre-sessional courses in English Language skills, to be taken before the commencement of the degree courses, may be recommended or required.

  • IELTS: 7.0, no less than 6.0 in Listening and Speaking, a minimum of 6.5 in Reading, and of 7.0 in Writing
  • PTE: 67, with no less than 55 in Listening and Speaking, a minimum of 61 in Reading and of 67 in Writing
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with a minimum of 169 in Listening and Speaking, a minimum of 176 in Reading, and of 185 in Writing
  • TOEFL: 96, with a minimum of 21 in Listening and Speaking, a minimum of 23 in Reading, and of 24 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all components


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Next steps

Contact us

Contact our admissions team if you have any questions

Dr Richard Rowland

Learn more

Department of English and Related Literature

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