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Postgraduate Taught

MA English Literary Studies

UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
2 years part time
Entry year September 2024
Campus Streatham Campus
Discipline English

Programme Director: Dr Chris Campbell
Web: Enquire online 
0300 555 6060 (UK)  
+44 (0)1392 723044 (non-UK)

Typical offer

View full entry requirements

2:2 Honours degree

Contextual offers


  • Opportunity to develop specialist research interests via nine flexible ‘pathways’
  • Develop an enhanced understanding of literature and media in their historical and cultural contexts, and foster your communication and analytical skills
  • Ideal for students wishing to extend and enhance their studies before starting their career and work with the department’s internationally recognised Research Centres and Groups
  • Specifically designed for those seeking high level training prior to embarking on doctoral research
  • Excellent facilities on campus include our Special Collections featuring the papers of internationally important writers, The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum which is a unique film and popular culture resource and our Digital Humanities Lab. Exeter has also recently been awarded UNESCO City of Literature status

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Fast Track (current Exeter students)

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Programme Director: Dr Chris Campbell

Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

Discover MA English Literary Studies at the University of Exeter.

Our English research environment is 100% world leading

Based on 4* research environment submitted to REF 2021

Top 100 in the world for English Language and Literature

61st in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023

A thriving and supportive writing community - our team of prize-winning and best-selling authors will help you develop your creative writing skills.

Unique on-site resources: Exeter’s Special Collections archive and The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

Entry requirements

We are looking for graduates with a 2:2 Honours degree with 53% or above in their first degree in a relevant subject area. While we normally only accept applicants who meet this criteria, if you are coming from a different academic background which is equivalent to degree level, or have relevant work experience, we would welcome your application.

Applicants will be asked to submit a sample of academic work. We require roughly 2000 - 3000 words of prose (this could be in the form of a critical essay or part of a critical essay that you have already produced for an undergraduate degree).

Entry requirements for international students

English language requirements

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile E. Please visit our English language requirements page to view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

Course content

The programme is divided into units of study called modules which are assigned 'credits'. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload, with 1 credit being nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work.

Our flexible programme enables you to choose either a specific pathway or a selection of modules, which might be at a much later date than date of entry to the MA in English Literary Studies. 

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

All students graduate with an MA English Literary Studies, but if you elect to specialise, you will have one of the following pathways named in your degree title:

American and Atlantic Studies

This pathway deploys some of the most important turns in American Studies, using a transnational lens to focus on the literature and culture of the United States. Students will explore the institutional contexts out of which US literature is produced, circulated, and consumed, and reflecting staff research interests, substantial space is dedicated to American modernism, African American literature, and the culture of the Cold War. Using archival resources unique to Exeter and online archives, the American and Atlantis Studies Pathway develops the key skills required for researchers working on the United States.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of American and Atlantic Studies:

Code Modules Credits
EASM100 The Cultures of American Modernism 30
EASM157 The Literature of Cold War America 30

Criticism and Theory

The Criticism and Theory Pathway takes seriously the definition of Critical Theory as “the self-clarification of the wishes and struggles of the age.” It aims to train you in critical methodologies and to clarify and refine your individual position as a critic and theorist. It immerses you in recent and current debates and helps you understand what is at stake in each. The modules prepare students, especially those going on to the Ph.D. or into employment in the culture industries, with critical self-consciousness, sophistication, and confidence, whatever your specialist medium, period, or genre. Recent syllabi include the History of Sexuality and Digital Desire; Biosocial Identities; Neoliberalism; Surveillance Capitalism; Ecocriticism; Capitalist Realism; Gender Recognition Act and Queer Theory; Globalization and World Literatures; Future of Humanities and Universities; Auto-Theory.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of Criticism and Theory:

Code Modules Credits
EASM106 Criticism and Theory: Current Debates 30
EASM152 Criticism and Theory: Critical and Literary Theory in a Global Context 30
EASM171 Expanding Queerness: Critical Debates in Theory, Literature, Film and Television 30

Enlightenment to Romanticism

This pathway allows you to explore the literature and culture of Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It investigates the Augustan, Romantic, and early Victorian eras, with a particular emphasis on the Enlightenment and its long-term cultural and historical consequences. Compulsory modules focus on two key strands within the culture of this period - its understanding of the body, and its relationship with the past - while the dissertation can deal with any aspect of English literature from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of Enlightenment to Romanticism:

Code Modules Credits
EASM142 Revival and Return: Using the Past from Pope to Keats 30
EASM154 The Body and Identity 30
EASM181 Romanticism and the Politics of Exclusion 30

Film Studies

The Film Studies Pathway will allow you to specialise in key areas of film and television studies, and to explore a wide range of intersections with different forms of cultural production. The pathway offers the exciting opportunity to study film in dialogue with literature, art history, and critical theory. You have the option to study dedicated modules on film sound, the screenplay, consider the relationships between moving pictures, perception, and the human body as they have been addressed by cinema and theorists, and engage with critical conceptual intersections of World Cinema. You will be taught by experts in American, East Asian, European, South Asian, and other world cinemas, film history and archives, and film theory. You will also have unique access to the archival collection of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum and a rich research culture.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of Film Studies:

Code Modules Credits
EAFM081 Hearing Film: Film Sound and Music 30
EAFM088 Sense, Sensation, and Cinema 30
EAFM089 Archival Encounters: Material Film Histories 30
EASM167 World Cinema/World Literature 30

Medieval Studies

The Medieval Studies Pathway will allows you to specialise in key aspects and genres of medieval literature from Old English to the early sixteenth century. The pathway offers the exciting opportunity to study literature in dialogue with art history, material culture and critical theory. You will study literature written by, for, and about medieval women, explore how medieval texts crossed boundaries of culture, period, and genre, and engage with new approaches to the Global Middle Ages. You will also have unique access to the rich manuscript holdings of Exeter University Special Collections and the Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of Medieval Studies:

Code Modules Credits
EASM174 Writing Women in the English Middle Ages 30
EASM180 Crossing Medieval Boundaries 30

Modern and Contemporary Studies

The Modern and Contemporary Pathway allows you to specialise in a range of modules focussed on key developments in literature, film, television, and visual cultures of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Modules focus on key trends and issues, and, through a wide range of methodologies, enable you to develop new analytical skills to engage with texts in the contexts of their cultural moment of production. Pathway modules are particularly invested in explorations of material cultures, critical theory, and the intersections of disciplines, such as the medical and environmental humanities.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of Modern and Contemporary Studies:

Code Modules Credits
EASM151 Modernism and Material Culture 30
EASM171 Expanding Queerness: Critical Debates in Theory, Literature, Film and Television 30
EASM100 Cultures of American Modernism 30
EASM167 World Cinema/World Literature 30

Renaissance Studies

The Renaissance Studies Pathway draws upon the department’s world-leading research in the early modern period, offering expertise in many aspects of literature and culture, such as contexts of dramatic performance, global perspectives, landscape and ecology, and political and religious poetry. Modules attached to this pathway will deepen your understanding of the literary theories and texts at the heart of the most vibrant debates in early modern studies today: global encounters; environmental studies; the body and identity. You will receive specialist guidance in developing a distinctive independent research project for the dissertation, and will have unique access to the rich manuscript and print holdings of Exeter University Special Collections and the Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of Renaissance Studies:

Code Modules Credits
EASM109 Bodies Politic: Cultural and Sexual Politics in England, 1603-85 30
EASM191 Environments of Early Modern Drama 30
EASM192 Global Voices: Shakespeare and the Early Modern World 30

Victorian Studies

The Victorian Studies Pathway is constituted by two modules covering the period 1830-1910 and, together with two additional modules covering nineteenth-century culture, students on the pathway benefit from Exeter’s rich archives: the Chris Brooks collection of Victorian books and periodicals, the popular optical entertainments housed in the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, and the papers of relevant authors contained in the University’s Special Collections. The department is at the leading edge of Victorian Studies in the world and students on the pathway will be exposed to the latest discoveries, theories, and methodologies in the field.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of Victorian Studies:

Code Modules Credits
EASM150 Empire, Decadence and Modernity: Literature 1870-1910 30
EASM099 Making Progress? Literature in a Changing Environment 1830-1870 30

You may want to consider the two specialist modules below should you wish to complete 120 credits in Victorian Studies. These two modules are not pathway bearing:

Code Modules Credits
EASM154 The Body and Identity 30
EASM168 Victorian Things: Nineteenth-Century Material Culture 30

World and Postcolonial Cultures

The World and Postcolonial Cultures pathway gives you the opportunity to specialise in film, literature, and critical theoretical concepts. You will be taught by scholars with expertise in archival studies and material cultures, critical theory, ecocriticism, commodity fictions, film studies, print cultures, and the creative industries. This pathway allows you to explore issues such as anti-colonial nationalism, neo-colonialism, writing Black Britain, trans-nationalism, resource conflicts, Black Power, partition and border conflicts, and world revolutions in film and fiction. This pathway highlights the transformation of research in World and Postcolonial film and literatures in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and encourages you to think in an interdisciplinary way. It will enable you to question the range of stylistic, artistic, and theoretical responses to the dynamic cultural and socio-political changes directly linked to the colonial experience, decolonisation, neo-colonialism, and globalisation across regions as diverse as, but not limited to, Africa, Britain, the Caribbean, and East and South Asia.

The programme comprises modules of at least 60 credits from these specialist modules and the EASM023: Dissertation module must be relevant to the field of World and Postcolonial Cultures:

Code Modules Credits
EASM184 Postcolonial Studies: Literature, Theory, Practice 30
EASM167 World Cinema/World Literature 30
EASM169 Black and Asian British Publishing 30


2024/25 entry

UK fees per year:

£12,000 full-time; £6,000 part-time

International fees per year:

£24,300 full-time; £12,150 part-time


We invest heavily in scholarships for talented prospective Masters students and have Global Excellence Scholarships available for international fee paying students applying for January 2024 entry and September 2024 entry.* For more information on scholarships, please visit our scholarships and bursaries page.

*Please see the Terms and Conditions for each scheme for further details of eligible programmes and candidates. Awards may vary from year to year.

Having studied BA English Literature at Exeter, I knew I had to stay for my MA. The lecturers are always passionate about what they are teaching, but most importantly to me, they are always genuinely keen to discuss my own work.

I did my BA dissertation on post-feminism within Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s music videos. This year I’ve taken my work on music video even further and have also written on films ranging from Hitchcock to La La Land thanks to the flexible Film Pathway.

In allowing me to pursue my interests, Exeter has helped me reach my full potential. I want to work in the music industry, so it is really useful that my course has not only given me skills to take into working life, but has also provided me with the opportunity to craft essays which I can talk about in job interviews.

Read more from Ellie


MA English Literary Studies

Teaching and research

Learning and teaching

We believe in collaborative, small group learning and teaching for your modules will be delivered through seminar groups. Each module has one two-hour seminar per week, with independent work set that involves intensive, self-motivated research and writing.

You will be encouraged to discuss your ideas and interact with your fellow students and academic staff through visiting speaker seminar series, postgraduate conferences and Research Centre activities. You will be expected to play an active role in debating and presenting your work. Throughout your programme you will develop and enhance your communication, analytical, and critical thinking skills.


On your modules you will be assisted by the coursework you produce such as critical essays. The final assessment piece will be your dissertation, the culmination of your programme of study. You will conceive, plan, research and write an independent 15,000 word piece that will display your subject knowledge and methodological skills. The dissertation is your opportunity to explore a topic that interests you in greater detail, something which may form the basis of further research or other portfolio.

Research areas

When you study on the MA in English Literary Studies, you will join a world-leading English and Creative Writing Department that regularly hosts talks, workshops, and conferences spotlighting prestigious visiting speakers and the Department’s own experts. As members of our learning community, postgraduate students are warmly included in such events. These activities are coordinated by the Department’s many research groups and centres, including the Centre for Victorian Studies, the Centre for Intermedia and Creative Technology, and the Centre for Literature and Archives. You will benefit from staff at the forefront of their fields, stretching from medieval literature all the way up to contemporary culture.

Research Centres

Dedicated research centres and groupings within our department include:

Research Groups


All our staff belong to one or more research group which plan and develop research initiatives across the humanities. Research activity is carried out collaboratively by staff at our Exeter and Cornwall Campuses.

MA Pathways speak directly to the way that we organise our scholarly activity into research groups and centres, and postgraduate students – including MA students – are a crucial part of the conferences and symposia we organise. At Exeter, research is at the heart of what we do, and we hope you will become an active member of our research community.

To find out more about our staff research interests have a look at our staff profile pages.

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You will be able to use the whole range of Library services during your time at Exeter. We have modern study spaces, an extensive Academic Library, inter-Library loan system, and an extensive Digital Library to all of which you will have full access.

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, housed within the University’s Old Library, holds a unique archival collection with particular strength in the area of British Film.

The University also houses its own Special Collections which includes original papers relating to important South West literary figures such as Ted Hughes, Daphne Du Maurier, John Fowles, John Betjeman, Agatha Christie, Henry Williamson and William Golding.

The University has invested £1.2 million into Digital Humanities to create a state-of-the-art lab and research space for the examination and preservation of important historical, literary and visual artefacts. The lab will allow you to use high-tech equipment to find out more about our cultural heritage, examine items in greater detail and share discoveries with the public. For more information view our Digital Humanities Lab page.


An English degree is a uniquely versatile qualification valued by employers for the combination of communication and analytical skills as well as combining an understanding of literature and media in a historical and cultural context. For some of our students the MA is a step on the path to doctoral study, for others it opens a range of career paths in areas such as teaching, publishing, media, journalism, advertising and communications.

In recent years the positions some of our graduates have gone on to include:

  • Copywriter
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Assistant Editor
  • Publishing Assistant
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Freelance Journalist
  • Writer

Careers and employment support

While studying at Exeter you can also access a range of activities, advice and practical help to give you the best chance of following your chosen career path. For more information visit our Careers pages.

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