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Undergraduate Course

English Literature BA (Hons)

Books can change the world. Discover the power of the written word on our English Literature degree.

Two students reading through a book

Words matter. That’s our philosophy. We believe that reading literature from times, places and lives that are different from our own provides a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. On this degree you will delve deep into both literary texts themselves and their place in the societies and cultures surrounding them.

  • Available in Clearing

100% English Literature students responded with a 100% positivity score for how often the course is intellectually stimulating. (National Student Survey 2023)

100% English Literature students responded with a 100% positivity score for how good teaching staff are at explaining things. (National Student Survey 2023)

York campus

  • UCAS code – Q300
  • Duration – 3 years full time, 6 years part time
  • Start date – September 2024, September 2025
  • School – School of Humanities

Minimum entry requirements

104 UCAS Tariff points

3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Tuition fees

UK 2024 entry £9,250 per year full time

International 2024 entry £11,500 per year full time

Discover English Literature

Anne Marie Evans, Associate Head of English Literature, introduces us to English Literature at York St John University.

Course overview

Go beyond the traditional canon of English Literature literature to study texts from many different genres and contexts. On this course you will have opportunities to engage with classic texts by writers like Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen, but may also find yourself reading:

  • Native American writing
  • Radical poetry
  • Avant-garde writing
  • Speculative fiction
  • LGBTQ+ rights literature
  • Experimental writing
  • Literature of the Caribbean

There is flexibility to tailor the course to your interests, with lots of optional modules to choose from and opportunities to specialise in specific themes or eras.

You will have the opportunity to take part in sessions with prominent literary figures through the York Literature Festival. This event runs every year in partnership with the university. In recent years the Festival has attracted authors including Margaret Atwood, Natalie Haynes, Ian McMillan and Michel Faber. You can also join our field trips, which have previously taken us to to York's Bar Convent, The Castle Museum Whitby and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

As you progress through the degree you will become an increasingly skilled reader, writer and critic. A degree in English Literature will help you build personal and professional skills that can lead to many exciting careers. Throughout the course you will build your confidence in:

  • Analysing
  • Writing
  • Researching
  • Forming arguments
  • Working collaboratively
  • Communicating ideas

As part of our commitment to helping our students gain professional skills and experience, this course includes a dedicated employability module. This allows you to gain professional experience in a setting relevant to your career goals.

You can also choose to study English Literature alongside another subject:

Creative Writing and English Literature BA (Hons)

English Literature and Film Studies BA (Hons)

English Literature and History BA (Hons)

Media and English Literature BA (Hons)

English Literature and Religion BA (Hons)

Course structure

Year 1

Our academic year is split into 2 semesters. How many modules you take each semester will depend on whether you are st­udying full time or part time.

In your first year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 3 compulsory modules in semester 1
  • 3 compulsory modules in semester 2

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Modules

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module will help you to become more confident in studying literature at degree level. You will engage with a range of texts written before the 19th century, considering various different forms including prose, drama, poetry, and autobiographical writing. Through this you will start to think about how literature and history can be brought together, and why Literature remains a popular and important subject to study.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will learn the basics of academic writing and research at university level. Drawing on a range of classic and contemporary short stories and poems, you will develop skills such as:

  • Using the library catalogue
  • Choosing secondary sources
  • Planning essays
  • Developing arguments
  • Close reading texts

These will allow you to write about and discuss the works that inspire you with confidence and flair.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Good writers are good readers first and foremost. This module will introduce you to theories, debates and practices in narrative, enhancing your understanding of narrative as it functions both within literature and culture generally. You will examine some of the codes and conventions that govern the production, structure, reception and interpretation of narrative. To do this you will explore films, novels, poetry and plays, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  By engaging with these varied narrative forms you will consider the relationship between narrative and culture and think critically about the historical development of those forms.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

What sort of social, political, cultural, and historical values do we bring to the study of literature? And in what ways have literary texts addressed important issues, major events, and social changes? This module explores these questions and more, using a diverse range of texts from the turn of the 19th century to the present day. The selection includes canonical works, as well as works which have often been neglected or overlooked, including those by marginalised authors. Through close examination of texts including poetry, drama, short stories and novels, we will consider issues including:

  • Gender
  • Class
  • War
  • Empire
  • Racialisation
  • Form
  • Genre

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module we will consider representations of economic, social and cultural power, and the ways in which they connect with various forms of identity. We will discuss how identities are formed, and how they can shift and change. We will consider, for example how sex, gender, sexuality, disability, race and ethnicity relate to power. We will discuss the representation of both power and identity in a variety of texts, including novels, films, novellas, and graphic novels, helping you to develop the critical vocabulary needed to analyse and theorise those representations.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module we will introduce you to two key concepts that will recur throughout your academic study: the idea of literary value, and the concept of the canon. This will provide a context for you to reflect on what you study at university and why. We will question how assumptions about what is and isn't great literature can influence our reading and writing choices, potentially restricting us from exploring beyond the classics. 

Year 2

In your second year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 3 optional modules in semester 1
  • 1 compulsory module and 2 optional modules in semester 2

Some module options are available from the Creative Writing, Film and Media courses, but you may only choose one of these.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

Modules

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Employability is discussed a lot at universities, but where does this idea come from, and what can literature teach us about work? This module interrogates the purpose of Literature, as both a degree and subject matter. It shows the value of literary study to understanding and navigating issues around the gendered, classed, and racialised nature of work. The module also provides opportunities for external placements, career planning, and work-related learning. You will reflect on and learn to articulate your key skills and strengths, including in mock interviews. Guest speakers will share experiences and introduce you to career pathways such as publishing, teaching, journalism, and the civil service.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will consider whether we can meaningfully approach literary texts outside of their historical contexts. We will question whether a text can mean anything to anybody, or if are there more objective ways of understanding them. This module engages with some of the most fundamental questions in literary studies. It will equip you with the theoretical background and skills you need to offer insightful readings of any text, irrespective of when and where it was published.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module explores the ways new forms of news and entertainment in the eighteenth century revealed the unstable boundaries between truth and fiction. This led to the emergence of literary forms that came to typify the literature of later periods, such as the novel. Print provided a forum for writers to express concern over different forms of power, an issue debated in terms of empire, political and religious authority and personal identity, and responsibility. On this module you will consider how the literature of this period deals with questions of personal liberty, love, sexuality, and desire. 

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will consider the different ways books and films tell stories, and what happens to literature and literary characters when they are translated onto the screen. We will introduce you to the theory, methods and conventions behind the process of adaptation. In addition to examining specific examples of film adaptation, you can choose to experiment creatively on an adaptation project of your own, using what you have learnt.

Credits: 20

Optional module

Science fiction has a history of encouraging readers and viewers to reflect on their post industrial choices, and consider how they have affected the wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants. On this module we will draw on a range of critical perspectives around utopianism to approach landmark texts in the history of science fiction. You will also have the opportunity to get involved with our ongoing science fiction writing project, Terra Two: An Ark for Off-World Survival

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will consider the relationship between American literature and the physical and symbolic spaces of its settings. In American culture concepts of space and setting have a particular relevance that dates back to events such as the declaration of independence, the founding of civic spaces, and the Californian gold rush. You will be challenged to think creatively, critically, and innovatively about physical space and literature. In doing so we will explore the relationship between American socio-economic history and the development of a specifically American literary tradition.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will encounter varied and interesting texts produced within and written about major conflicts of the 20th and early 21st centuries. We will start with depictions of the mechanised horror of the Western Front and progress through representations of:

  • The Second World War
  • The Spanish Civil War
  • Vietnam
  • The Troubles in Northern Ireland
  • 9/11 and the War on Terror

We will read texts by writers as diverse as Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut, and examine the complex relationship between language, experience, trauma and memory.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module considers the sentimental turn literature took at the end of the eighteenth century, and explores its impact on what followed in both the Romantic movement and the Gothic revival. The writers we study on this module reckon with the power of the imagination, the limits of perception, the nature of human society, and the affective potential of literature itself, as well as processing the events of an age characterised by revolution. The literature of this period not only reflects the reader's world, but seeks to change it. 

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will consider how diseases and contagion are represented in narratives from the late Eighteenth century to the present day. We will trace connections, similarities and differences in the literary representation of the spread, symptoms, and management of disease, covering contagions from rabies to zombie viruses. The module considers how diseases in texts can reflect contemporary anxieties about society. As well as covering a broad range of historical periods, the module also draws on a number of genres from novels to films to TV series, and introduces texts such as medical handbooks and advertisements alongside literary works.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This is a dynamic module which explores Shakespeare’s works in their present day and early modern contexts through a range of perspectives. Considering their creative potential for performance, we will look at contemporary stagings of his plays, film and television adaptations. We will discuss Shakespeare's place in a national and global culture, and explore current discussions around colour/gender-conscious casting, considering the implications of casting on the way we understand the texts. Through this you will engage with a range of theoretical approaches, from new historicism, cultural materialism and postcolonialism, to feminist and queer readings.  

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will engage in debates about the production, reception and contexts of media and cultural products that have caused controversy. This includes debates about taste and the reception of text in different traditional, new and emergent media. We will introduce you to the terminology of aesthetic discussion and dispute, defining and discussing terms such as:

  • Propaganda
  • Artistic licence
  • Canonical status
  • Acceptability
  • Pornography
  • Censorship

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module is an opportunity to read and produce a range of fictional forms, from flash fictions to novellas, short stories to novels. You will develop an understanding of:

  • Characterisation
  • Voice
  • Plot
  • Narration
  • Dialogue
  • Point of view

By the end of the module, you will have written your own fiction portfolio.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module will give you the opportunity to explore a range of nonfiction texts including:

  • Journalism
  • Creative non-fiction
  • Fictocriticism
  • Manifestos
  • Blogs and online journals
  • Documentary, travel and life writing

You will develop your understanding of voice, structure and audience in relation to these forms and consider the blurred lines between fact and fiction in nonfiction writing. By viewing, reading and watching a range of nonfictional texts we will ask you to make the links between creative and critical writing, and to produce your own nonfictional texts.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will discuss independent cinema from historical, social, national and international perspectives. We approach independent cinema as an anti establishment voice that stands in opposition to mainstream studio productions. You will explore the wider cultural context of independent cinema, for example:

  • The festival circuit
  • Film preservation
  • Fandom
  • Web communities
  • Cult cinema

Credits: 20

Optional module

From the sonnet to the prose poem, on this module you will learn about the formal qualities of poetry and discover how to produce dazzling imagery and perfect rhythm; manipulating voice and pace. You will study a range of contemporary poets, supplemented by visits and readings from some of them. You will produce your own portfolio of work by the end of the module.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module addresses the essential elements of scriptwriting. This includes writing convincing dialogue, creating interesting characters and constructing coherent stories. We will also introduce you to the cultural, theoretical and industrial contexts of scriptwriting. You will develop your expressive and technical skills in writing scripts for 1 or more of the following disciplines:

  • Radio
  • Television
  • Stage and film

You will then create your own original script.

Year 3

In your third year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • A dissertation module studied across semesters 1 and 2
  • 2 optional modules in semester 1
  • 2 optional module in semester 2.

1 of your optional modules can be a Creative Writing or American Studies module.

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.

Optional modules will run if they receive enough interest. It is not guaranteed that all modules will run every year.

Modules

Credits: 40

Compulsory module

As you progress towards your final year you will become increasingly independent in your learning. Your  dissertation is an extended project which runs for the whole of the academic year, focusing on a topic of your choice, and with the support of an academic supervisor. For many students this is one of the most enjoyable parts of the degree, as it gives you the opportunity to specialise in something you are passionate about and explore it in great depth.

Credits: 20

Optional module

The Victorian poet Matthew Arnold said of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre that “the writer’s mind contains nothing but hunger, rebellion, and rage.” These are also themes that characterise much of the writing of the Victorian period. Whether the issues are societal or individual, many Victorian novels protest against the privations and injustices writers saw around them. At the same time, there were also funny, rude, and sensational texts, and texts which imagined a different kind of future in the emergent genre of science fiction. This module includes a variety of writing from across the Victorian era, and considers texts within the political, environmental, and social contexts in which they were produced.

Credits: 20

Optional module

Twentieth-century literature was formed in the crucible of revolutions, global conflicts, shifts in the planet’s ecology, and profound technological and social challenges to traditional patterns of life. This was an age of both genocide and Apartheid on the one hand, and an upsurge of claims for self-determination and human rights on the other. Literature developed in equally radical and often contradictory fashion, responding to political, social, and wider cultural shifts. On this module you will examine experimental and provocative texts across a range of forms, interrogating how modernity unfolded in the twentieth century, and asking questions about its continuing role in shaping the present.

Credits: 20

Optional module

This module takes literary trends, such as the vogue for young adult vampire fiction during the late 2000s, or the enthusiasm for fantasy fiction we’re experiencing in the 2020s, and situates them in a longer historical view. We will encourage you to consider broader narratives of subversion and experimentation, and confront questions about literary value, originality, and influence. We may look, for instance, at a recent work of Gothic fiction such as Colleen Hoover’s Verity (2018), alongside nineteenth-century sensationalist novels, eighteenth-century Gothic novels, the occult works of early modern figures, and even trace the novel’s influences all the way back to Dante’s thirteenth-century exploration of hell in Inferno. 

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will investigate the theatrical experimentation that took place over the last century, and consider its impact on the contemporary stage. You will consider the major movements and perspectives of the period against the background of wider intellectual, cultural and aesthetic debates. Through this we will explore the creative dynamics between:

  • Tradition and innovation
  • Word and image
  • Writing and performance
  • Reading and spectatorship

Credits: 20 each

Optional module

This is an opportunity to get involved with a current staff research project. The topics on offer in any particular year will reflect the research being carried out by your tutors. This is a great way to be part of the research culture within the department and add to the creation of new knowledge. You will build further on the research skills you have already developed, which will help you with your own independent dissertation.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will examine a selection of texts from 20th century American literature, and relate these works to their cultural, social and political backgrounds. We will focus on texts that demonstrate formal innovation and experimentation, and the module reading list will reflect the huge variety evident in twentieth century American narrative and representation. You will read Native American, African American and Chinese-American texts alongside literature produced in the wake of radical social change such as Beat writing, Vietnam narratives, and responses to queer San Francisco.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will examine texts from the English-speaking Caribbean, a region that has produced two Nobel Prize winners in Literature. We will introduce you to a range of writing from and about the Caribbean, so that you can appreciate the longstanding global impact of this writing, and consider how it is currently being marked and remembered. We will particularly focus on the close connections of the past and present between Britain and the Caribbean.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module you will examine texts from a variety of locations, including Europe, the USA, Africa and the Asian subcontinent. Using these texts we will debate some of the contradictions of contemporary global society. You will consider:

  • Whether local traditions or global culture has more impact in the modern world
  • What those in one part of the world do or do not owe to those living in another
  • Whether the popularity of literary texts which aim to represent and understand ‘the other’ is something to celebrate, or simply another form of exoticism.

Credits: 20

Optional module

On this module we will examine how different genders and sexualities are presented in film, literature, TV and a host of other media. We will investigate how different cultural groups use popular culture and literature to reinforce, challenge, transgress, or disrupt traditional gender expectations. This module challenges you to draw on all of the skills, theories and approaches encountered throughout your degree to interrogate the representation of gender roles and sexuality in popular culture.

Credits: 20

Optional module 

This module is an opportunity to explore and participate in contemporary literature. You will start to develop the relationship between your creative practice and the theory, philosophy, and politics that uniform and inspire contemporary work. You will engage with writing that challenges the traditional boundaries of literature and is fresh, exciting and innovative. You will also consider a broad range of materials and techniques that will help you to develop your own innovative creative practices.

Credits: 20

Optional module 

This is an opportunity to study a specialist area relating to American Studies, in this case focusing on detective fiction in literature and film. The topics are closely related to staff research interest, meaning your work will be aligned with current research. This will help you develop your skills in research and historical investigation.

Credits: 20

Optional module 

This is a second opportunity to get involved with a current staff research project. As with Research Now I, the topics on offer in any particular year will reflect the research being carried out by your tutors. It's a great way to be part of the research culture within the department, while building your own research skills further.

Credits: 20

Optional module 

On this module you will consider the historical, theoretical, cultural and political dimensions of genre, as well as exploring the conventions which are attributed to specific genres. You will also be given the opportunity to critically explore differentiations between high and low culture, and investigate genres such as tragedy, satire and the Gothic, romance, horror, and noir. The module will help you to develop an awareness of literary and generic concepts between and across different forms. Through this you will develop skills in original composition, drafting and editing. 

Teaching and assessment

Teaching and learning

Discussions and debate is central to your learning on this course. We expect you to be actively engaged in every aspect of your study. You will take part in:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops
  • Events
  • Field trips

You will typically study 3 modules each semester. Each module will normally have 3 hours of contact time each week, so you will have approximately 9 hours each week of teaching.

Alongside your timetabled contact time, you will need to study independently. This will involve spending time reading around the topics we cover and preparing for your taught sessions. This will ensure that you get the most out of your degree, as well as building valuable time management skills.

Our teaching draws on both our research and professional experience. This means your learning is informed by the most current thinking in the subject area. You can find out more about our research and backgrounds by visiting our staff pages.

Assessment

There are no exams on this course. The assessments you complete will be entirely made up of coursework. This includes essays, but also other forms of assessment which will help you develop new skills and prepare for your career. This includes portfolios, close reading exercises and reflective writing.

You will receive feedback on your work throughout each module. This will help you to improve your work for your graded assessments.

Career outcomes

Your future with a degree in English Literature

English Literature is a versatile subject that can lead to a variety of exciting career paths. This is a great choice if you want to keep your options open. You will gain valuable skills in writing, analytical thinking, time management, problem solving, public speaking and more.

This degree could be the first step toward your career in:

  • Publishing
  • Teaching
  • Public services
  • Editing and copywriting
  • Journalism
  • Marketing or PR

Discover more career options on Prospects careers advice pages.

You could also progress onto a postgraduate degree and take your learning even further.

Postgraduate degrees at York St John University

Contemporary Literature MA

Publishing MA

Creative Writing MA

PGCE at York St John University

Further your education and work towards a rewarding career in teaching by studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) after you graduate. For over 180 years, we have worked with enthusiastic individuals who want to shape the future of young people across both primary and secondary school settings. You'll spend a lot of time in schools, developing your practice by teaching. You will graduate with Qualified Teacher Status and become part of the well respected alumni of York St John educators.

Discover more about PGCE

Whatever your ambitions, we can help you get there.

Our careers service, LaunchPad provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice

This support doesn't end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain experience and confidence to succeed.

Entry requirements

Qualifications

Minimum entry requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Calculate your UCAS Tariff points

International students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements.

Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our International pages.

If English is not your first language you will need to show that you have English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

This course is available with a foundation year

If you do not yet meet the minimum requirements for entry straight onto this degree course, or feel you are not quite ready for the transition to Higher Education, this is a great option for you. Passing a foundation year guarantees you a place on this degree course the following academic year.

Liberal Arts foundation year

Mature Learners Entry Scheme

If you have been out of education for 3 years or more and have a grade C GCSE in English Language or equivalent, you are eligible for our entry scheme for mature learners. It's a scheme that recognises non-traditional entry qualifications and experience for entry onto this course. Information on how to apply can be found on our dedicated page.

Mature entry offer scheme

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. You can read them on our Admissions page.

Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK, or internationally (outside the UK). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK 2024 entry

The tuition fee for 2024 entry onto this course is:

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time

These prices apply to all UK, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page:

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

Tuition fees

    UK 2024 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2024 entry £11,500 per year full time

International 2024 entry

The tuition fee for 2024 entry to this course is £11,500 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a Student Visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree:

International fees and funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

For detailed information on accommodation and living costs, visit our Accommodation pages.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

For advice on everything from applying for scholarships to finding additional financial support email fundingadvice@yorksj.ac.uk.

Course highlights

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