Durham University English Literature

By | 22nd May 2017

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Durham University English Literature

English Literature BA Undergraduate  2018
UCAS code Q300
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A-Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications www.durham.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/entry-reqs
Department(s) Website www.durham.ac.uk/english.studies
Email english.admissions@durham.ac.uk
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 2576
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Single Honours in English Studies offers a comprehensive syllabus, which combines traditional areas of literary study with new and developing areas of the discipline. It aims to develop your conceptual abilities and analytical skills by exposing you to a variety of literary critical approaches, to promote and develop clarity and persuasiveness in argument and expression, and to enable you to develop, to a high degree of competence, a range of skills which are at once subject-specific and transferable. A Degree in English Studies will equip you for a wide variety of professions and employment, as well as for advanced postgraduate study of English and related disciplines.

Year 1

There are three compulsory modules in Year 1 – Introduction to Drama, Introduction to the Novel, and Introduction to Poetry – each of which introduces you to representative works in the major literary genres. There are also four optional modules, from which Single Honours students may select one, two or three. Previously these have offered the possibility to study important influences on English literature (Classical and Biblical Backgrounds to English Literature), early literature (Romance and the Literature of Chivalry and Myth and Epic of the North) and the history of the English language (English: Language, Use,Theory).

This year will focus on advancing skills of critical analysis and argument you have already acquired at A-level, critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts, such as the awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and of the affective power of language, and on the introduction of more advanced concepts and theories relating to literature.

Compulsory modules:

  • Introduction to Drama
  • Introduction to the Novel
  • Introduction to Poetry.

Optional modules:

Up to three of the following selected from a range which has previously included (or up to two open modules offered by other departments):

  • Romance and the Literature of Chivalry
  • Myth and Epic of the North
  • Classical and Biblical Backgrounds to English Literature
  • English: Language, Use, Theory.

Year 2

Year 2 builds on the knowledge and skills developed in first year by broadening the range of literary texts and periods with which you will engage. You will study a substantial number of authors, topics and texts and gain awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study. The second year also develops your ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literature, as well as your powers of critical argument and command of written English. You will develop your capacity for autonomous learning and independence of thought by, for example, exploring, selecting from, and drawing together in an appropriate way specific texts and topics chosen from a wide syllabus.

Students must take the modules Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism and Shakespeare in Year 2 and choose up to three lecture modules and a seminar module. Some lecture modules cover historical periods, such as Renaissance Literature and Victorian Literature, while others focus on key literary figures, themes or language, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, American Poetry, Old English, Old Norse, and Old French.

Compulsory modules:

  • Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism

Optional lecture modules (taught by weekly lectures and four one-hour tutorials) have previously included:

  • Chaucer
  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Old French
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Victorian Literature
  • Literature of the Modern Period
  • American Poetry.

Optional seminar modules (taught by fortnightly two-hour seminars) have previously included:

  • Modern Poetry
  • Literature in England and Wales, 1066-1300
  • Germanic Myth and Legend
  • The Australian Legend
  • Toni Morrison: Texts and Contexts
  • John Milton
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • Shakespeare’s History Plays
  • The Brontes.

Year 3

In the final year you will be able to demonstrate a comprehensive and detailed knowledge of the subject, together with mature awareness of the variety of ideas relating to it. You will be able to demonstrate an ability to make connections and comparisons within your extensive range of reading. You will have developed the ability to interpret different ideas and values represented in literature, to test the ideas of others and to pursue ideas of your own. You will have acquired mature critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts, confident powers of critical argument and a developed command of written English. You will appreciate the importance of scholarly standards of presentation and of writing accurately, clearly and effectively.

The final year includes a compulsory 12,000-word Dissertation on a subject of your choice related to English literature. The Dissertation involves guided research on a self-formulated question, the gathering and processing of relevant information and materials, and results in work of sustained argumentative and analytic power.

In addition to the Dissertation, students may choose up to three lecture modules and up to two ‘Special Topics’, which develop the skills introduced in seminar modules at Level 2.

Compulsory modules:

  • Dissertation (40 credits).

Optional lecture modules (taught by weekly lectures and four one-hour tutorials) have previously included:

  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Old French
  • Restoration and 18th Century Literature
  • Literature of the Romantic Period
  • Post-War Fiction and Poetry
  • American Fiction
  • Medieval Literature.

Optional Special Topics (taught by fortnightly two-hour seminars) have previously included:

  • Literature, Cinema and Neuroscience
  • Shakespeare on Film
  • US Cold War Literature and Culture
  • Writing Prose Fiction
  • Fictions of Terrorism
  • B. Yeats
  • Keats and Shelley
  • Elizabeth Bishop and Twentieth Century Verse
  • A Society of Equals? Literature, Culture and Equality
  • Creative Writing Poetry
  • Writing Mountains in the Early Twentieth Century
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Jewish American Fiction
  • Ballads and Popular Romance.

Study Abroad

Students may apply to study abroad for an additional year between Levels 2 and 3 (transferring from BA Hons in English Literature to BA Hons English Literature with a Year Abroad). Supported by the International Office and the Department’s International Co-ordinator, students can put themselves forward for the following study abroad options:


(i) The Overseas Exchange programme (university-wide links with institutions in North America, the Far East, Australasia, and so on). A list of the University’s current partners is available here:



(ii) The Erasmus programme (Departmental link maintained with universities in EU countries). At present, English has exchanges with the following institutions (subject to change/renewal):

Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

Phillipps Universität, Marburg, Germany.

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, Heidelberg, Germany.

University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland.

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland.

Jagiellonian University, Kraków , Poland.


The year abroad is designed to promote and develop the knowledge and understanding of other cultures and languages via an approved placement. It also helps to promote and develop an advanced knowledge of the national, regional and/or international frameworks in which literature is produced and categorised.


Successful year abroad applicants will take a course of study chosen in consultation with the International Co-ordinator and the host institution.  Modules relating to literary study should normally comprise a minimum of 50% of those taken. There should not be significant overlap between modules taken on the Year Abroad and modules taken in Durham.