MA in European Literatures

The MA aims to allow you to develop your passion for, and knowledge and understanding of, European literature and the modern European literary tradition. It will acquaint you with key texts and developments across several major European literatures, with particular reference to the period from the age of Romanticism to the present day. The main emphasis will be on identification and textually based analysis of common and contrasting national and international literary trends.

You will acquire a thorough grounding in critical and narrative theory, and will take core units to immerse yourself in the rise of the novel in nineteenth-century Europe, and the diversification and fragmentation of major narrative forms over the next 100 years. You will also study British literature. If you wish, you may extend their knowledge to earlier periods, to cognate fields (film, theatre and music), to a study of particular authors or groups of authors, or to areas of specific national literatures. Through the dissertation, you will further develop an ability to elaborate a sophisticated comparativist approach to the study of literature.


The taught element of the programme comprises six units, directed by specialists in each research area and delivered through a series of ten weekly seminars of two hours each. These seminars form part of the research process, you and your tutors will be exploring new ideas, formulating new research. You will take three mandatory units, and choose three further optional units.


The dissertation is probably the single most demanding part of the course. In a sense all the units taken during the year lead up to it. It presents many new challenges, in terms of the volume of material to read and use, both primary and secondary, and in terms of the depth of analysis required.

You will also be offered many opportunities to develop more broadly, as a researcher. You will be part of a thriving research culture, there are regular staff-postgraduate research seminars, and many events organised by research centres, including the Centre for the Study of Literary and Visual Culture in France. Academics and postgraduates from the School of Modern Languages play a full part in Faculty Research Centres, including the Centre for Romantic Studies.

For further information on the academic content of this course, please contact the Programme Director, Dr Claire Shaw

Structure overview

The MA starts in September each year, and runs for 12 months. The taught component comprises three core units and three optional units which are taught over two Teaching Blocks. The research component, the Dissertation, is written over the Summer and submitted in September.

Teaching Block 1 (Autumn)Teaching Block 2 (Spring)Summer
Research Skills 1 Research Skills 2 Dissertation
Rise of the Novel in 19C Europe Tradition and Experimentation in 20C Fiction  
Option 1 Option 3  
Option 2    

Part-time students will normally study the core units in their first year and stagger their optional units across the two years. They write the dissertation over their final summer.

Core units

Optional units

The remainder of the taught programme will comprise three further optional units, drawn from any relevant programme within the Faculty of Arts. The list of units available will vary from year to year, but the following is a brief indication of the wider range.


Towards the end of Teaching Block 2, you will start to discuss possible topics for your dissertation with your tutors. You are encouraged to devise your topic as a research question, or series of questions, you would like to investigate, rather than as a descriptive narrative. After the Easter vacation you will submit a written proposal, and once your topic, and your chosen adviser, have been agreed and approved, you will start to drive the process yourself. You will be able to meet with your adviser over the summer months, for supervision, but the dissertation is an original piece of research, and will reflect your own skills and interests.

The dissertation is submitted in the middle of September.

Further details, key facts and application information is available on our online prospectus pages for this course.

Course prospectus

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Postgraduate study

The MA study skills options prepare you really well for postgraduate research

Claire Thomas, PG Italian