English Literature BA (Hons)

English Literature is a rich and vibrant area of study. At York St John, 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.


UCAS course code
York St John University
Course fees
2019 - 2020: Home & EU students: £9,250 per annum, International (non EU) students: £12,750 per annum
3 years full-time | Part-time options available on request
Study Abroad
Yes - see our study abroad web pages for more information
Start date
September 2019
Study options
Available with integrated Foundation Year
Humanities, Religion & Philosophy

Course overview

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. 

York is a fantastic place to be if you love books and reading. There is a rich literary history in the city, and you will have the chance to explore and learn more during your degree. W.H. Auden was born in York, as was contemporary novelist Kate Atkinson. Dickens and the Bronte sisters all knew York well, and Laurence Sterne’s classic Tristram Shady was published in York in 1760. Each year, the city celebrates its literary heritage with the York Literature Festival, for which our department organises several events. In recent years, our students have had the chance to attend talks and readings by Margaret Atwood, Germaine Greer, Will Self, Carol Ann Duffy, Mark Gatiss, Polly Toynbee, Roger McGough, Ian McMillan, and Michel Faber. As part of the York St John University Literature department, you will have the chance to get involved in a wide range of similar activities, as well as the opportunity to attend free workshops, writing sessions, and readings as part of your degree experience.

If you want to get to know our department, have a look at our @YSJLit Twitter feed, or visit our very popular Words Matter blog, run by a team of staff and students. You could also watch York St John Literature alumni Claire Fenby (also known as YouTube vlogger Reading Bukowski) speak about her time at York St John. Several of our recent graduates also tell their stories on the Graduate Success Stories  page.

Dr Anne-Marie Evans - Subject Director, English Literature

97% of 2017 English Literature graduates are now in employment or further study, with 85% of these in professional or managerial roles.

(Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2017)

Course structure


Through the course of a wide-ranging suite of modules, you will develop an extensive knowledge of both classic and contemporary texts, and will have the opportunity to gain some professional experience on our dedicated employability module, ‘Literature at Work’. The choice of modules on offer will help you to develop your own interests and allow you to shape your degree accordingly. For example, students can choose to follow an historical pathway that might include modules such as ‘Revolution and Response’, which examines writing from the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, or ‘The Victorian Novel’, which focuses on nineteenth-century fiction. In addition, students can focus on other specialised areas represented by modules including ‘Mapping America’, ‘Sick Novels: Literature and Disease’, ‘Science Fiction for Survival’, and ‘Gothic Origins’.

We pride ourselves on a diverse and stimulating syllabus, and you might find yourself studying Native American writing, prison narratives, radical poetry, avant-garde writing, political polemics, Civil Rights literature, speculative fiction, LGBT rights literature, experimental writing, and literature of the Caribbean, as well as canonical writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen, all as part of your English Literature degree.

A team of research-active academics who are all recognised in their respective specialisms will facilitate and guide your learning. We use a variety of assessment methods to help you develop different types of learning. You will not sit any traditional exams as part of your degree in English Literature, and instead you will be encouraged to try new forms of writing. In addition to more traditional assessments such as the essay, you might be asked to write a blog post, to compile a research portfolio, or even to curate an online exhibition. Field trips are an integral part of the programme, and students in recent years have had the opportunity to visit London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Whitby, as well as local sites including Castle Howard and York Theatre Royal. 


Level 1

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 studies. All our introductory 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.

Modules include:

  • Introduction to Literary Studies I
  • Writing, Research and Literature
  • Forms of Narrative
  • Introduction to Literary Studies II
  • Theorising Literature: Power and Identity
  • Canonicity

Level 2

In Level 2 you are able to follow a historical strand throughout your degree, focusing on literature from specific periods, as well as taking modules in more specialist areas such as science-fiction, American Literature, and war narratives. You will be able to ‘shape’ your degree pathway according to your own interests. Our  employability module ‘Literature at Work’ encourages 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.

Second year students on the Literature employability module ‘Literature at Work’ have the opportunity to engage in either an external work placement or an in-house project, and last year a group of students who completed the ‘Marketing Literature’ in-house project planned and produced a 75 page booklet entitled ‘Literature@YSJ - The Student View (PDF, 18MB)’, which showcases what it is like to be a student studying English Literature in York.  They gained skills in writing marketing copy, interviewing, editing, reviewing, teamwork, and publishing.  Additionally, their tutors were extremely pleased with the work they produced, and they now have a great product to share with prospective employers.

Modules include:

  • Literary Theory
  • Mapping America
  • Science Fiction for Survival
  • Conflicting Words
  • Sick Novels: Literature and Disease
  • Shakespeare: Perspectives
  • From Harlem to Hip-Hop: African American Literature and Culture
  • Civil War to Civil Society: British Literature, 1640-1740
  • Adaptations
  • Literature at Work
  • Revolution and Response: British Literature, 1740-1840

Level 3

In your final year of study, you will again be able to choose a selection of modules from the historical strand, or modules in specialised areas of study. By this stage of your degree, you will be ready to take on a bigger role in the management of your learning and the development of your skills as a reader, writer, and literary critic. 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.

Modules include:

  • Dissertation
  • Gothic Origins
  • American Radicals: Outside the Canon
  • The Victorian Novel: Realism, Sensation, Naturalism
  • The Experimental Century: Cultural Change in the Twentieth Century
  • The Making of Modern Drama
  • Writing the Caribbean
  • Cultures of the Now: Contemporary Writing
  • Gender and Sexualities
  • Special Topics in English Literature I and II

Teaching, Learning & 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.

There are no exams, and your English Literature degree will be assessed through coursework. As well as writing essays, however, there are other assessment opportunities designed to help you develop new skills and prepare for graduate employment. You will encounter a wide range of assessment, including portfolios, close-reading exercises, and opportunities for reflective writing. Some modules are assessed by one piece of coursework (usually a portfolio) and you will have the chance to work on this throughout the semester. The feedback you will receive focuses on how you can improve your work for future assessment, and we encourage all students to keep a feedback folder to help keep track of their academic development. You will have the chance to work with published and professional writers, as our resident Royal Literary Fellow is available for additional tutorials and writing support.

We use a range of teaching styles and settings to help support you during your time at University. You will attend lectures, seminars (groups of students with a tutor), tutorials (one-to-one meetings with a tutor), workshops, and experience collaborative learning (working with your fellow students), events, field trips, as well as independent study sessions, and times when you will need to use a variety of online resources.

During your degree, you will develop a range of subject-specific and transferable skills. As well as having the opportunity to become an adept reader, critic, writer, writer and researcher, you will also become highly skilled in critical thinking, problem solving, constructing and developing an argument, time-management, public speaking, and project management.  These skills are all valued highly by employers, and you have the chance to develop more professional skills on our bespoke employability module ‘Literature at Work’. On this module, you will be able to experience an external work placement, or choose to work on a team project (such as designing a publication or curating a small exhibition). Students regularly contribute to our popular Literature blog, Words Matter, which is an excellent way to gain relevant professional experience and exposure for your critical and creative perspectives.

A degree in English Literature will open diverse and exciting opportunities when you enter the job market, and a degree in Literature is one of the most valued degree subjects by employers. This is because Literature graduates are able to think independently, write and present their ideas fluently and persuasively, and are skilled researchers and critical thinkers.

Programme specification

Further information on this course is available in the programme specification. Please note that the programme specification relates to course content that is currently being studied by students at the University. For new programmes, the programme specification will be made available online prior to the start of the course.

Disability Advice

York St John University works hard to create an inclusive environment for all our students. We offer a range of disability advice services to assist students throughout their studies.

Entry requirements


The minimum entry requirements for this course are:

96 - 112 UCAS Tariff points

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

Calculate your tariff points here.

Personal statement

Essential criteria

As well as a strong standard of written English, we also look for the ability to demonstrate knowledge and commitment to the subject. This can be done in a variety of ways, for example, through previous study (including English language, theatre, film studies, media, history), wider reading and creative writing.

Valued criteria

  • Candidates can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the subject that goes beyond achieving good grades in exams. Examples of this could include:
  • Demonstrating the ability to think critically by discussing a range of literature genres and/or your own writing
  • Attending lectures/readings/performances outside of your school/college
  • Being a member of appropriate societies (e.g. writer’s forum)
  • Subscribing/reading relevant journals and magazines
  • Demonstrating transferrable skills e.g. creativity, initiative, having an open mind, being pro-active
  • Taking further study e.g. in modern languages
  • Discussing future career plans

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.

Visit York St John.

Discover life as a York St John student by visiting us. You’ll be able to explore our beautiful city-centre campus, meet our friendly staff and find out more about your chosen course.

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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 & EU student or an international (non-EU) student. Tuition fees are charged for each year of your course.

Find out more about funding for Foundation Year and/or Placement Year by visiting the Funding Advice pages of our website.

York St John offer special reductions to students graduating from York St John University Undergraduate degrees in 2019 and continuing directly onto Postgraduate study. Find out more about discounts and scholarships.

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


Tuition fees

UK & EU 2019 / 20

The York St John University tuition fee for the 2019 entry to Foundation Degree, BA and BSc, PGCE Primary and Secondary and UG Health Programme degrees is £9,250 per year for UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

Fees & Funding

Overseas 2019 / 20

The York St John University tuition fee for the 2019 entry to Foundation Degree, BA and BSc, PGCE degrees is £12,750 per year for international students.

Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

International Fees & Funding

Additional costs and financial support

Course-related costs

  • There are no compulsory trips on this programme
  • We have several optional trips, for which students are asked to pay a subsidised contribution. This is usually in the range of £5, but could be as much as £30 for an overnight trip.
  • Students are required to read texts for their modules but they are not required to buy these texts
  • There are multiple copies of all primary reading on our modules available in the Library, and this is kept up to date
  • Students are rarely required to purchase a specific edition of a text; this means that they are often able to buy second-hand books. Some students choose to invest in an e-reader, which means that much of their reading can be accessed freely or at a considerable reduction.

Study abroad

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

Financial help and support

Help and advice on funding your studies at York St John is available through our Money Advice service.

Accommodation and living costs

View our for accommodation webpages detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

International students

We welcome international students from all over the world at York St John University and have a vibrant international community. You can find out more on our International Pages about how you can study with us and what it’s like to live and learn in York, one of the UK’s most historic cities.

Unistats data for this course

Ask a question

Do you have a question about this course? Fill out our form to send a question to our Admissions team. Alternatively, you can call us on 01904 876922.

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