Creative Writing & English Literature BA (hons)
Good writing is not possible without reading. It exposes you to new styles, genres and voices. Develop your writing on a course that combines the two.
Creative Writing & English Literature work in dialogue with one another; creative writing’s practice-based focus complements and supports English Literature’s critical and analytical approach and vice-versa. Good writing comes from attentive and sophisticated reading, and writers develop these skills in their English Literature modules whilst Creative writing is beneficial as a mode of engagement and inquiry in relation to literary texts.
96% of Creative Writing & English Literature students were satisfied with their course. (National Student Survey 2018)
- UCAS Code – WQ8H
- Location – York campus
- Duration – 3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
- Start date – September 2020
- School – Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
Minimum Entry Requirements
96 UCAS Tariff points
3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language
UK and EU 2020-21 £9,250 per year
International 2020-21 £12,750 per year
The York St John Experience
English Literature is a rich and vibrant area of study. At YSJU, we are a dynamic, engaged, and research-active team who are committed to providing our students with a cutting-edge education. By studying English Literature, you will have the opportunity to learn about a range of different genres, historical periods, and literary forms. In English Literature, our philosophy is simple: words matter. Words shape the world we live in (books can and have changed the world) and the connections between the written page and the concerns of the ‘real’ world are a crucial part of the programme. Overall, the degree will enable you to develop your expertise as a reader and critic of a range of literary materials, whilst also supporting you in the development of a portfolio of professional skills which will aid you in the wider job market. As you become adept at independent learning, you will become a more sophisticated reader of texts, and you will find that your confidence as a writer and as a critic will increase as your degree progresses.
The Creative Writing side of your degree will enable you to develop work in a variety of forms and genres, from penning your own poetry, fiction and scripts, to exploring creative non-fiction and other experimental modes of writing. You will be taught by our team of award-winning, published writers and academics, and you’ll have the opportunity to attend workshops and readings from a range of internationally-acclaimed visiting writers. You’ll learn to read and analyse texts in order to help you develop your own work, and you’ll also have the chance to get involved in events, performances and publications. This is a dynamic, challenging and creative course, which will provide you with a range of transferable skills.
Creative Writing emphasises the importance of engaging with the wider world of literature in order to develop your own writing. You’ll have the opportunity to study brilliant writing from the past, as well as learning from contemporary creative practitioners. Our course is led by a team of exciting, award-winning writers, and we also have a lively programme of visiting writers and guest speakers. As a student here, you’ll be part of the York Centre for Writing, a hub for innovative new creative work with strong links to the wider literary community and to the publishing industry. Through events such as the York Literature Festival, our students benefit from studying and learning directly from internationally-acclaimed writers. Recent Festival and University guest writers have included Margaret Atwood; award-winning poets Simon Armitage and Daljit Nagra; Booker-nominated York novelist Fiona Mozley; innovative graphic novelist and illustrator Graham Rawle; and Bradford noir-writer A.A. Dhand. We also have regular visits from industry professionals and innovators, including agents, publishers and literary activists.
The programme is specifically designed so that you will have a foundational Level 1 year that introduces you to the skills required for University-level Literature and Creative Writing studies. All our introductory Literature modules seek to equip students with an understanding of historical developments in the form of the written word. These modules provide you with a basic grounding in key texts, major historical moments, and important critical terms that will be applicable across the rest of your Degree.
Introduction to Literary Studies I (20 credits)
In this module you will have the chance to build your confidence in working with literature at degree level. You will engage with a range of texts written prior to the nineteenth century that includes prose, drama, poetry, speeches, letters and articles. Together, we will start to think about some of the ways that literature and history can be brought together and why the study of English Literature remains a popular and important discipline.
Writing, Research and Literature (20 credits)
On this module you will learn the basics of academic writing and research at University level. Drawing upon a range of classic and contemporary short stories and poems as your starting point, you will develop a range of skills such as, using the library catalogue, choosing secondary sources, planning essays, developing arguments, and close reading texts, so that you can write and discuss the works that inspire you with confidence and flair.
Introduction to Literary Studies II (20 credits)
On this module we’ll examine some well-known classics alongside more unusual selections that help us to question the social, political, cultural and historical values by which we approach literature. This includes an exciting range of texts across different media and forms, from nineteenth century poetry to early cinema and 1930s nonfiction. Along the way we’ll be thinking about gender, class, war, empire, form, genre, and much more besides.
Theorising Literature: Power and Identity (20 credits)
The critic Michel Foucault once wrote that ‘power is everywhere’; on this module we seek to uncover the ways that economic, social, and cultural power is portrayed and exerted through the written word. Who has the power in a literary text? And how do we as readers discern this? We will discuss these issues as they relate to identity politics and the intersections between class, gender, race, sexuality, ability, nation, and age in selected literary works.
Canonicity (20 credits)
This module prepares students to reflect on the study of Literature at Undergraduate level by introducing them to two key, overarching concepts: the idea of literary value and the canon. The module is designed to complement semester 1 modules in which issues of literary value and the canon are raised, albeit in less detail, and to provide a meta-context for students to learn and reflect on why they study what they study at university as well as, more precisely, how canonical assumptions can influence their reading and writing.
Introduction to Creative Writing (20 credits)
This module is designed to introduce you to good writing practices and to familiarise you with sharing your work in progress in a workshop environment – which will be a major part of your degree programme. You will be introduced to a variety of strategies and techniques for starting to write.
Forms of Narrative (20 credits)
Good writers are good readers first and foremost. This module aims to introduce you to theories, debates, and practices in narrative, in order to enhance your understanding of narrative as it functions within literature and culture generally. You’ll explore films, novels, poetry, plays, graphic novels, and other experimental forms of narrative. There is a choice of creative or critical assessments.
Writing to Order (20 credits)
This module is intended to introduce you to a range of professional contexts and practices for creative writing. Previous guest speakers have included successful novelists, poets, scriptwriters and researchers, who have shared their professional experiences with students. The module gives you the opportunity to experiment with a range of written forms, as well as sharing your work in progress and learning more about how professional writers work.
Creative Research for Creative Writing (20 credits)
This module introduces you to important approaches for researching and inspiring your creative work. You’ll explore different research methods, from using archives to working with real-life experiences and collaborating with experts and artists in different media.
At Level 2 you have the chance to follow your own writing and research interests, and select the modules that most appeal to you. As a joint honours student, you will take an employability module with either English Literature or Creative Writing. Both of these modules encourage students to consider their professional and transferable skills, and how they might utilise them in the working world, as well as allowing students to undertake work-related projects and have the opportunity to meet professionals from industries including publishing, journalism, and teaching. This innovative approach to employability has been extremely popular with our students over the past few years.
Is it proper to remove literary texts from their historical contexts, or is historical awareness essential to any understanding of the text? Is it really the case that a text can mean anything to anybody, or are there more objective ways of understanding what texts are and how they work? What is actually happening when we read literature? And what is ‘literature’ anyway? This module will engage with the fundamental questions lying behind the discipline of literary studies. Through a direct discussion of theoretical texts, it will examine concepts such as beauty, culture and language from a range of perspectives.
This module introduces students to the relationship between American literature and physical and mythical/symbolic spaces, and explores the ways in which this space is imagined and represented in a range of texts. The rationale behind this module is to ask students to think creatively, critically, and innovatively about physical space and literature, and explore the relationship between American socio-economic history, and the development of a specifically American literary tradition.
Science Fiction for Survival
Drawing on a range of theoretical and critical concepts around utopianism, the module will consider landmarks in the history of Science Fiction in order to develop students’ understanding of key concerns relevant to the genre. The title ‘Science Fiction for Survival’ aims to highlight the way in which science fiction, through its attention to both technology and ideology, encourages readers/viewers to consider the way in which humanity’s post-industrial choices have impacted directly on the well-being of the planet and its diverse human and non-human inhabitants. Students on the module will have the opportunity to get involved with the project Terra Two: An Ark for Off-World Survival, and to develop content for the site.
This module provides an opportunity to read texts produced by and written about major conflicts of the twentieth and early twenty first centuries. We will start with the mechanised horror of the Western Front and work our way through the Second World War, the Spanish Civil War, Vietnam, the Troubles, 9/11 and the War on Terror. We read texts by writers as diverse as Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut and examine the complex relationship between language, experience and memory.
Sick Novels: Literature and Disease
On this module we’ll be looking at the ways in which diseases are represented in novels from several different periods. What sorts of things can disease suggest in the literary text, and what kinds of associations come with different diseases? Why do some diseases seem to appear in many novels (tuberculosis and cancer, for example) and why are some less often written about? What kinds of anxieties about society do diseases embody or allow the author to explore?
This is an exciting module which will explore Shakespeare’s plays in their early modern contexts but also understand them as written for performance. We will also explore them as modern/post-modern texts in reception. The module engages with a range of theoretical approaches, from new historicist to feminist and queer readings.
From Harlem to Hip-Hop: African American Literature and Culture
Obama...Beyoncé...the 'Black Lives Matter' movement. Without doubt, the African American experience is a major influence on our contemporary political, cultural, and social landscape. Starting with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s and continuing through to the present day, we will discuss key African American novels, plays, and poems alongside music (including jazz, soul, blues, and hip-hop), film, art, and political writings in order to better understand the ways that black writers respond to and shape American culture and history.
Civil War to Civil Society: British Literature, 1640-1740
The English Civil War and execution of Charles I, the Commonwealth, the ‘Glorious Revolution’, and the Restoration of the Crown led to a period of great literary production – as well as suspicion from those in power towards writers and publishers. This module will engage with the ways in which literature challenged and negotiated what it meant to be ‘civil’ in the 17th and 18th centuries. How did writers explain seismic changes to a growing readership? How did new voices (the working class, women, writers of colour, dissenting writers) enter the conversation? What new kinds of literature emerged to make sense of events and what kind of community was created through reading?
We look at the different ways books and films tell stories, and what happens to literature and literary characters when they get ‘translated’ onto the screen. In addition to examining specific examples of film adaptation, students can choose to experiment creatively on a project of their own.
Literature at Work
This module will enable English Literature students to engage in discussions about a range of career trajectories relevant to their degree on both a practical and ideological level. Crucially, the module will facilitate reflective thinking about skillsets and their relationship to students’ career aims. Team work and project management are integral features, with students working in groups to develop, plan, and execute a project or alternatively, to engage in work-place learning through an external placement. Guest speakers will introduce a variety of graduate career pathways, potentially including publishing, research, teaching, marketing, and journalism.
Revolution and Response: British Literature, 1740-1840
Beginning with the ‘rise of sensibility’, this module will explore the idea of ‘revolution’ and the myriad ways in which the literature published in these decades agitated for and responded to political upheavals and changes as well as ‘revolutions’ in literary tastes and production, gender roles and expectations, the role of literature, and the relationship between individuals and society.
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; plotting; narration; dialogue and point of view. By the end of the course, you’ll have written your own fiction portfolio.
Writing Reality: Creative Non-Fiction
You will have the opportunity to explore examples of non-fiction such as journalism, creative non-fiction, fictocriticism, manifestos, political tracts, graffiti, non-fiction graphic novels, blogs, online journals, live-tweeting and new media, travel writing, documentary and life writing. By viewing, reading and watching a range of non-fictional texts, you will develop your own original non-fictional texts.
From the sonnet to the prose poem, learn about the formal qualities of poetry, how to produce dazzling imagery and perfect rhythm; manipulate 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 pieces by the end of the course.
This module addresses the essential elements of scriptwriting – writing convincing dialogue, creating interesting characters, and constructing coherent stories – within a creative and supportive atmosphere. You will develop your expressive and technical skills in writing scripts for one or more of the following disciplines: radio, television, stage and film, culminating in the creation of your own original script.
Working with Words: Publishing and Performance
The aim of this work-related module is to develop your understanding of the relationship between creative writing practices and employability in the creative industries, by offering you the opportunity to explore and engage with methods and means of literary publishing, production, and performance.
In your final year you will be ready to take on a bigger role in the management of your learning. You might find yourself leading a class discussion, or doing a non-assessed presentation in a seminar. You will write a dissertation (an extended project that runs for the whole academic year) on the subject of your choice, and with the support of an academic supervisor. In many ways, this is in the intellectual culmination of your degree, as you become an independent researcher and are required to manage your own academic project. Many of our students note that this is one of the most enjoyable sections of their degree, as they are specialising in a literary topic that they are passionate about, and are putting into practice the skills they have accrued during their time at York St John University.
English Literature Dissertation
In your final year, you will be ready to take on a bigger role in the management of your learning. Students write a dissertation (an extended project that runs for the whole academic year) on the subject of their choice, and with the support of an academic supervisor. In many ways, this is in the intellectual culmination of the degree, as students become independent researchers and are required to manage their own academic project. Many of our students note that this is one of the most enjoyable sections of their degree, as they are specialising in a literary topic that they are passionate about, and are putting into practice the skills they have accrued during their time at York St John.
Creative Writing Dissertation
In your final year, you have the opportunity to devise your own original creative writing project. You’ll write a dissertation (an extended piece of writing), in a form of your own choosing with the support of an individual supervisor. This is the creative and intellectual culmination of your degree, and provides the opportunity to focus on researching and developing a piece of work that particularly excites you. Many students find this to be one of the most rewarding experiences of their degree.
The Victorian Novel: Realism, Sensation, Naturalism
On this module we’ll focus on the ways in which the novel as a form was developed, challenged, and experimented with in the Victorian period. We’ll consider how the novel engages with and represents social issues in the period, but we’ll also look at the ways in which the novel form itself adapted and transformed as a vehicle of expression: from realist texts which set out to depict believable and probable events and characters, to science fiction, the sensation novel, romance, mystery, and adventure.
The Experimental Century
By the beginning of the twentieth century, many of the religious, philosophical and cultural assumptions of the Western hemisphere had been smashed into pieces. In this pessimistic moment flourished a range of aesthetic movements whose radical call was to ‘make it new’. This module will introduce students to these restless modernists, and explore the consequences of their work in twentieth century culture. Along the way it will examine how the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, and queer subcultures turned experimental aesthetics to new, politically radical ends.
‘The Gothic’, according to David Punter, ‘arises on the sites of vanished cultural territories’ (2000). The point of ‘vanishing’ conceals and reveals the origin of this ‘contested, maligned, and misunderstood’ (Carol M. Davison, 2009) mode of writing. This module will provide an opportunity for students to engage with the ‘origins’ of Gothic literature and conventions, exploring the ways in which the Gothic persists and adapts to different historical and cultural contexts. We will be reading poetry and prose, drama and non-fiction throughout the module, as well as considering other media (art, film, sound) and critical theories of the Gothic.
The Making of Modern Drama
This module examines aspects of theatrical experimentation over the last century, and its impact on the contemporary stage. In addition to comparing the aims and achievements of different theatrical movements, students may undertake a creative project (e.g. writing a script or designing a stage-production) in response to what they have learned.
Research Now I and II
This module recognizes the interest students have in the research culture and open environment that we have cultivated at YSJU. This allows final year students to respond to current and ongoing research projects within the lecturing team, building on their research skills and supporting the specific skills demanded of final-year work and dissertation modules.
American Radicals: Outside the Canon
This module will examine a selection of texts from twentieth century American literature and relate the works to their cultural, social and political backgrounds. The module will focus on texts that demonstrate formal innovation and experimentation, and will reflect the plurality of twentieth century American experience. Students might read Native American, African American, Chicana, Chinese-American texts alongside literature produced in the wake of radical social change such as Beat writing, Vietnam narratives, and responses to 9/11.
Writing the Caribbean
This module will examine a range of texts from the Anglophone and Anglocreole Caribbean, a region that has produced two Nobel Prize winners in Literature (Derek Walcott & V.S. Naipaul). The aim is to introduce students to a range of writing from and about the Caribbean which reveal the longstanding global dimensions of this writing and the ways in which this is currently being marked and remembered. The close connections between Britain and the Caribbean will be a particular focus, both in a historical and contemporary context.
Gender and Sexualities
When it comes to issues of gender and sexuality, what is natural and what is cultural? How have gender debates informed popular culture and critical theory? How are different genders and sexualities presented in film and literature? And how do different cultural groups use popular culture and literature to reinforce, challenge, transgress or disrupt traditional gender expectations? Coming in the final semester of third year, this module challenges students to draw on all of the skills, theories and approaches they have rehearsed throughout the degree to confront, explore and interrogate the representation of gender roles and sexuality in popular culture.
You will be encouraged to consider the historical, theoretical, cultural and political dimensions of genre, alongside developing knowledge of the conventions of specific genres. You will also be given the opportunity to critically explore differentiations between “high” and “low” culture. You will develop your understanding of the emergence of genres such as tragedy, satire and gothic, and the conventions of contemporary genres such as romance, horror, and noir.
Contemporary Writing 1: Innovation and Experimentation
This module provides the opportunity to study and develop creative work at the cutting-edge. You’ll look at writing that challenges the traditional boundaries of literature and is fresh, exciting and innovative. You’ll consider a broad range of materials and techniques that will help you to develop your own innovative creative practices.
Contemporary Writing 2: Literary and Publishing Culture Now
This module introduces a range of very contemporary publishing and literary cultures, with a view to helping you position your own work in the contemporary literary landscape. It also has a practical focus, and will help you to develop a professional portfolio that can be sued as a springboard after your degree course.
Teaching & Assessment
The aims of all our teaching is to help you to become a better writer and literary critic, to challenge you to consider new ideas and concepts, and to support you in understanding the complex connections between literature and contemporary society. Literature is a dialogic discipline: that is, informed discussions and debates are a crucial part of the learning process. We do not want students to be passive learners, but instead expect you all to be actively engaged and involved with your degree subject.
The minimum entry requirements for this course are:
96 UCAS Tariff points
3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language
As well as a strong standard of written English, we look for a demonstration of knowledge and commitment to the subject. This can be shown in a variety of ways – for example, through previous study (including English language, theatre, film studies, media, history), wider reading and creative writing. Tell us why you want to study Creative Writing, and how you think you would benefit from the course.
Candidates can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the subject that goes beyond achieving good grades in exams. You might mention any of the following:
- Your writing experience in a range of different genres and forms.
- The impact of reading on your writing.
- Transferrable skills (e.g. research and planning skills, collaboration, having an open mind, being pro-active).
- Lectures, readings, or performances you’ve attended.
- Societies you belong to (e.g. writers groups, book clubs).
- Literary journals and magazines you read.
- Further study you’ve taken (e.g. in modern languages).
- Future career plans and ambitions for your writing.
Terms and conditions
Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.
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 will depend on whether you're a UK and EU student or an international (non-EU) student. Tuition fees are charged for each year of your course.
UK and EU 2020 entry
The tuition fee for 2020 entry to our Foundation, BA and BSc, PGCE Primary and Secondary and undergraduate Health degrees is £9,250 per year for full time UK, EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.
For UK, EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students studying part time, the tuition fee for 2020 entry to the above courses is £4,265 per year.
Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.
Find out more about funding for Foundation or Placement Year by visiting the Funding Advice pages of our website.
International (non-EU) 2020 entry
The tuition fee for 2020 entry to our Foundation, BA and BSc, PGCE Primary and Secondary and undergraduate Health degrees is £12,750 per year for international (non-EU) students.
Due to immigration laws, international students on a Tier 4 visa must be studying full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.
More information about funding your studies is available on our International Fees and Funding page.
Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.
Additional costs and financial support
There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.
Whilst 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.
For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.