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English Literature BA(Hons)

Attendance UCAS code/apply Year of entry
3 years full time Q300 2017
6 years part time Apply direct to the University 2017
Joint honours: see course combinations for UCAS codes

Why choose this course?

This stimulating course provides the opportunity to study a range of English literature – from Chaucer, through Shakespeare and the Victorian novel, to contemporary British, American and global literatures. The cutting-edge curriculum focuses on questions of culture and identity, and provides the chance to pursue creative projects in art, film, creative writing and digital media.

You can also choose to study this course as a joint honours degree alongside another subject. See the course combinations section for more information.

Watch this video to find out what our students have to say about studying this course at Kingston University:

Why choose English Literature BA(Hons)?

What you will study

In Year 1, we will debate 'What is great literature?', and study classic texts (including Shakespeare, the Romantics and Victorian literature) alongside popular fictions (from genres including science fiction, fantasy, children's literature and gothic). All of this will be framed by challenging ideas from the worlds of philosophy and literary theory, examining subjects such as gender, sexuality, class, race, selfhood and history. You will finish the year with all the skills to write argumentative, analytical essays, and with broad understanding of literature in different genres and historical periods.

Year 2 will develop your critical voice through an independent research project closely supervised by an expert member of staff. A core module on place and self will continue the themes of the Year 1, featuring staff drawing from their own research and publications. There will be options to study specialist periods of literature in depth, including Chaucer to Shakespeare, Romantics and 18th-century literature, Victorians to Modernism, and 20th- and 21st-century literature.

Year 3 will include a module on global literatures, which may include Irish literature, Beat poetry, American ethnicities, African literature, south Asian writing and Caribbean literature. A module on literary theory will develop your critical perspective and support the special study modules: these will be comprised of small-group seminars led by staff research interests in which you will be able to complete an extended essay alongside a creative project of your choice. Past options have included: Monsters in Literature; Sex and Sensation in the Victorian Novel; Cultural Encounters between East and West: Islam and Literature; Contemporary Identities; Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama; Bruce Springsteen; The Literary and Cinematic Fairytale; Dwelling and Diaspora:Black British and British-Asian Fiction; America Dreaming: Suburbs, Literature and Culture; and Jane Austen. There will also be the option to complete a dissertation.

Module listing

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.

Year 1 (Level 4)

  • What does it mean to think critically about literature? What is literary theory, and why do we use it? Taking classic texts such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Othello this module looks at how we can produce dynamic readings of literature through the use of perspectives from the worlds of philosophy and psychoanalysis. In interactive lectures and small-group discussions, we will explore themes such as gender, sexuality, race, class, history and the uncanny. We will look at how language shapes literature, and how approaches to reading are both socially and historically formed.

    As part of this module, you will meet each week with your personal tutor, in a small group that as well as the core module content will also introduce advanced skills in writing and rhetoric suitable for study at undergraduate level. By the end of this module you will be able to write a theoretically informed and argumentative essay, and present your ideas in presentation form to an audience.

  • What is the canon? How does it shape our reading tastes, and our understanding of what makes a ‘great book’? This Level 4 module introduces a range of important and canonical texts from Beowulf to Brick Lane, and provides you with a comprehensive overview of the development and history of 'English' Literature. We will begin by discussing the concept of canonicity and how we might challenge traditional views of the canon. You will be asked to consider the reasons why a particular book should be studied, before embarking on a series of lectures that will introduce you to a different key text each week, chosen in order to highlight a particular moment or movement in literary history, but also reflecting the research interests of individual staff members.

  • What makes a book ‘popular’? How does this change how we read it? How do different genres of literature open up themes in new and innovative ways? This core level 4 module introduces you to popular genres of fiction writing. Students study four different genres over their year of study, such as children’s literature, Gothic fiction and horror, science fiction and fantasy, adventure stories, sensation novels, crime fiction, romance, and historical fiction. As well as exposing you to the diversity of popular writing from different periods, the module explores the emergence of distinct readerships and interrogates the very concept of the popular and the different ways genre has been theorised.

  • What is literature? Why is it worthy of our study? What are the distinctive characteristics of narrative forms, for example the realist novel, children’s literature, or science fiction? In poetry, what are the formal requirements of a sonnet, pastoral, or epic; or of tragedy, comedy, and realism in drama? To what extent are these categories useful ways of reading and thinking about literature and who decides anyway? Taking a broad range of examples from prose, poetry, and drama, and taught through interactive lectures and an in-depth two hour seminar, this module will answer such questions through close attention to the literary text and detailed discussion, exploring all aspects of form, genre, and convention.


Year 2 (Level 5)

  • This module, a core module for full-field and half-field English Literature students, is all about developing your own interests and research expertise. Every year, members of staff will offer a range of texts and you will select you own special subject from amongst these, working independently but with close supervision to produce your own set of resources and an extended original essay. In recent years, available texts have included The Lord of the Rings, Never Let Me Go, Great Expectations, and Hamlet. Encouraging independent learning and research, the module develops a range of transferable critical and communication skills that are central to the degree and useful in occupations and professional tasks beyond the university, while also allowing you to develop you own critical voice.

  • This module is centred upon two areas of research expertise within the department: the politics of location, and the place of selfhood and subjectivity. Looking at both canonical and uncanonical texts, we will engage deeply and across a range of historical periods with questions regarding local and national identities, cultural histories, character, authorship, and the idea of the individual. Situated in the context of the theoretical debates explored at Level 4, these themes raise questions of gender, race, class, and political identification. At the same time, we will consider what it means in a contemporary context to be a ‘speaking subject’; as such the module places special emphasis on the development of your verbal abilities in order to increase your confidence as speaking subjects within and beyond the classroom.

  • This module is an optional period module at Level 5 and explores the major authors and literary themes of the ‘long’ eighteenth century. Students will be required to think about literary production in relation to historical and cultural change and to explore the inter-connections of satire and sensibility, town and country, and polite and popular literature through its focus on major developments in the period such as the following: satire and society, the ‘rise of the novel’ debate, sensibility and the literature of feeling, and the growing participation of women in the literary marketplace. Key to this year-long study of eighteenth-century literature is the crucial context it provides for understanding the evolution of Romanticism towards the end of the century. The module aims to situate the poetry of the major Romantic poets between 1780-1830 in an historical context and explore the philosophical and theoretical concepts that underpin their work. It also seeks to scrutinise the formation of literary categories such as ‘Romanticism’ and encourage a critical scepticism about the usefulness or otherwise of such terms.

  • This module is an optional period module at Level 5. The year-long module provides an introduction to the literary culture of England during the years 1380-1650. This module considers medieval and early modern English texts in relation to influential works from the Continent (mostly from Italy, the ‘birthplace of the Renaissance’), and by situating canonical literature in relation to non-canonical writings of the medieval and early modern periods. You will begin by examining poetry and drama written in the late-Medieval period, including some of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The rest of Teaching Block One will focus on medieval drama – from mystery plays to morality plays – highlighting continuity and change with later, Renaissance drama. It will also study English literature and culture in the fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries in relation to Continental influences. Because Shakespeare’s Richard II is a Renaissance play whose action takes place in the medieval period, this play provides a pivotal middle point between Teaching Blocks One and Two, which resumes in the mid-sixteenth century and continues with plays, poetry, prose and cultural documents framed on one side by the Edwardian Reformation and on the other by the English Civil War. 

  • This module is an optional period module at Level 5. It will begin by exploring literature published from the 1930s through to the present day, and will examine the strategies writers have used in response to a changing Britain and wider world. We will consider how twentieth and twenty-first-century texts adapt realist, modernist and postmodern techniques to engage with issues such as the rise of mass culture, the threat of totalitarianism, the establishment of the Welfare State, post-war immigration, and sexual liberation. To enhance your perspective on these issues, you will be introduced to non-fiction material by other contemporary writers, such as J.B. Priestley, Erich Fromm, Iris Murdoch, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Richard Hoggart, and George Lamming, as well as more recent critical and theoretical material.  The module also examines the development and continuing popularity of realist drama in the twentieth century. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which realist drama is used as a tool of social and political examination in the various contexts of pre-Revolutionary Russia, Dublin in the aftermath of the First World War, and the establishment of the welfare state in Britain after 1945. Secondly, we will examine the developments in non-realist forms of drama and the experiments which gave rise to what is, somewhat controversially, called the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. The module culminates with the study of a selection of texts chosen to illustrate the great variety of genres and styles in contemporary British literature and to exemplify literature written by different nationalities and social groups. Underpinned by relevant theoretical perspectives, questions will be raised about the relation between literature and contemporary events, with relation to issues pertinent to literature, such as social mobility, hybridity, democracy and technology. In recent years, authors studied have included Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, Harold Pinter, Alan Hollinghurst, and Zadie Smith.

  • This module is an optional period module at Level 5. We will study key texts from the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries that register the ways in which Britain is transformed by the Industrial Revolution, and which give expression to fears about technology, social mobility and urban culture. We will consider literature of the period that questions and resists established theories of gendered identity, and which challenges the literary representation of sexuality, defying censorship in the process. We will be introduced to writers who engage with contemporary debates about science, religion, the empire, and racial and national identity. And we will encounter a range of consciously modern texts which dislocate and make new the reader’s experience by technical innovation and experiment. In recent years, writers studied have included Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf.


Year 3 (Level 6)

  • What happens if you turn the world map upside down? This module introduces literatures written in places other than Great Britain and considers the links between English writing and broader cultural and historical issues including concepts of colonialism, national identity, canonicity and translation. The module begins with a core lecture/workshop series discussing relevant conceptual frameworks; you will be asked to consider how texts function within discursive and ideological contexts, and how language and culture are related to social and political change. Following this introduction, you will have the opportunity to study two areas of geographical focus in detail, from a number of available options, for example nineteenth-century American literature, Latin American writing, Caribbean literature, contemporary American fiction, African writing - gaining specialist knowledge of two periods or thematic areas taught from staff research interests.

  • Theory is woven into the Kingston degree at all levels, and this module represents the culmination of such a focus, by enabling you to develop an advanced understanding of the relationship between conceptual and theoretical frameworks and literary criticism. Using a number of literary texts to guide the discussion, for example Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, we examine a range of philosophical texts from thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Ferdinand de Saussure, Edward Said, Judith Butler and Roland Barthes. This brings together the research expertise from across the department, via a range of approaches that touch on issues of social and cultural identity, linguistics, literary form, and critical practice. Here you will be encouraged to discover your own critical voice through essays writing, discussion, oral presentation and research, and the content is are designed to benefit your work on special studies and the dissertation, bringing your final year’s work together.

  • A traditional dissertation is an option available to all full and half-field students. Marking your development over the degree from consumers of knowledge to generators of knowledge, the dissertation is a 10,000 word piece of sustained argumentative writing. You may choose any literary subject of your choice, and will be guided by an allocated specialist member of staff, supported by introductory lectures on writing a dissertation proposal, research skills, and dissertation preparation. At the end of the module you will have produced a critically engaged and fully developed piece of independent research.

  • The explosion of suburban development is undoubtedly one of the greatest social changes to have taken place in twentieth-century America, to the extent that the USA today can with some justification be considered a suburban nation. Drawing on some of the recent pioneering work of Kingston University’s Centre for Suburban Studies, this Special Study module examines how the suburbs have been the object of endless fascination for American writers, from the Jazz Age to the recent financial crisis.

    The module explores how representations of suburban environments and lifestyles have captured central tensions within American society: about race relations and ethnic identity, gender roles and sexual deviance, the threat of nuclear war, and consumerism. At the same time, the module looks at how writers have sought to reimagine these seemingly banal environments as sites of wonder or as places with complex histories; close attention is paid to the formal innovations involved in telling new suburban stories. The module considers suburban fiction in relation to recent theoretical approaches to space, place and the everyday, and students will examine material drawn from a range of disciplines, including philosophy, geography and architectural studies.

    Students will read and discuss novels, plays and short stories from a variety of genres, for example, crime, science fiction, Gothic stories, and gay & lesbian narrative. Writers studied may include F. Scott Fitzgerald, James M. Cain, Lorraine Hansberry, Christopher Isherwood, Philip K. Dick, John Barth and Jhumpa Lahiri. Students will also consider examples of visual material depicting America’s suburbs, including clips from Hollywood films and sit-coms, public service announcements, cartoons strips, and documentary photography.

  • Not only a rock icon whose career has spanned over three decades, Bruce Springsteen has been the subject of study in college courses and academic symposia, and has received critical attention in collections of literary criticism, dissertations, and studies published by academic as well as trade presses. Moreover, his music and lyrics over the course of his career have responded to a variety of influences in 20th century literature, film, and culture, and have commented on many aspects of the political and social climates from which they emerged. This course will proceed through the Springsteen discography, treating his lyrics as poetry and reading his albums against a backdrop of his influences, on the one hand, and into critical responses to Springsteen’s work, on the other. Students will become familiar with the corpus of Springsteen’s recorded music and will be provided with the texts of his lyrics. The course will utilise a variety of media and documentary sources as well, in an effort to locate Springsteen’s work in relation to the major political, literary, and cultural trends and events in the US in the past thirty-five years.

  • The Jane Austen Special Study is a year-long optional module which allows an advanced, detailed, and extensive study of all the novels of Jane Austen. Austen's work is considered in relation to her own period and subsequent eras. What Austen has meant at different times is an important consideration, and therefore reception history and adaptations of every kind are included in the module; the emphasis, however, is on understanding the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century when Austen lived and wrote. 

  • This module will examine a range of familiar modern literary and cultural monsters, such as Frankenstein's creation, vampires, and zombies, from different theoretical perspectives and in historical, generic and medial contexts: it will explore the changing significance and function of monstrosity in relation to transformations in notions of humanity, otherness, the uncanny, horror and terror.

  • In this special study module, we examine the ways in which literary theory and philosophy has been shaped by musical influences. We will explore this music in recording, and supplement this with field trips to relevant music events, reading it alongside a range of theoretical essays, to ask questions about the dynamic ways in which music informs critical thinking. What, for example, is at the centre of Roland Barthes’ lyrical homage to the Romantic composer Robert Schumann? Why is it that Jean Luc-Nancy declares that ‘music accomplishes the philosophical erotic’? What was the special relationship between Edward Said and the conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim? What connects Rosi Braidotti's work on drugs, sexual transgression, and the posthuman to Bach's Coffee Cantata?  What did Deleuze have to say about Boulez?  What did Adorno write about jazz?  What is the relationship between political philosophy and punk?  What is black metal theory? 


    In your assessments, you will write a critical essay exploring one or more of these questions, or one of your own choice. You will also complete a creative project which may be musical, but can also take any other creative form you wish.

  • This special study is a year-long optional module that allows an advanced, detailed and extensive study of plays from the late Elizabethan period to the closing of the theatres in 1642, including the works of Shakespeare. The module immerses students in a range of early modern English dramatic texts by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, This special study would focus on select plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including Dekker, Middleton, Webster, Elizabeth Carey, and Marlowe, approaching these works through relevant secondary criticism and within the long history of critical approaches. We will consider these works in relation to early modern contexts such as carnival, travel, performance and the city, and through a lens provided by distinct critical approaches to early modern English drama, such as feminism, Marxism, new historicism, performance theory, and others. The Special Study will examine the major genres of early modern drama, from revenge tragedy to history to city comedy, and Shakespeare’s innovative treatment of contemporary genres in his ‘problem plays’ and late romances.  

  • This module will permit a detailed study of twentieth and twenty-first century British and American women writers working in a variety of genres.  Students will explore these texts thematically in relation to their specific and contrasting historical and social contexts, such as women’s suffrage, women and war, women and work, women and romance, the rise of feminism and women’s liberation, and second wave feminism. Students will also examine a wide range of pertinent theoretical and critical debates on gender and representation as well as specific preoccupations of selected writers.  Teaching of the module will take place in two hour seminars, complemented by extensive independent study on the part of the student.  The module will be assessed by a portfolio of work, comprising a long essay (5-6,000 words), a project, and an engagement exercise.


You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University on a not-for-credit basis as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Study abroad as part if your degreeMost of our undergraduate courses support studying or working abroad through the University's Study Abroad or Erasmus programme.

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The scrolling banner(s) below display some key factual data about this course (including different course combinations or delivery modes of this course where relevant).

We aim to ensure that all courses and modules advertised are delivered. However in some cases courses and modules may not be offered. For more information about why, and when you can expect to be notified, read our Changes to Academic Provision.

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