English Literature

Find a programme
Run by Faculty of Arts
Awards available PhD, MPhil
Programme length MPhil: one year full-time;
two years part-time
PhD: three years full-time;
six years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Start date January 2020
September 2020
January 2021

This research degree is also available via distance learning.

Programme overview

MPhil: a standalone, one-year (full-time) research degree.  Students will undertake their own research project, concluding in the submission of a 25,000 word dissertation. Students may have the option to audit units from our taught Masters courses if they are relevant to their research.

PhD: a research project undertaken across three years (full-time, plus a writing up period), culminating in an 80,000 word thesis. As well as having the option to audit taught units, there may be the potential for PhD students to teach units themselves from their second year of study onwards.

Research in the Department of English brings the core values of our discipline - textual scholarship, critical and theoretical analysis, and contextual knowledge - to the dynamic and changing field of English literary studies. We cover the full chronological range, from the medieval to the contemporary period, with many colleagues engaged in interdisciplinary research.

We are proud of our expertise in medieval and early-modern literature, in Romantic and Victorian literature, in modernism, and in contemporary writing in English. The department is notable for its breadth of research in English poetry across the periods, and our range of specialist interests includes literary theory, the history of book, literature and science, literature and medicine, literature and the environment, digital humanities, women’s writing and gender studies, queer writing, postcolonial literature, Black British writing, 20th-century American literature, the Gothic tradition, and Welsh and Anglo-Welsh writing.

In these and other areas we foster doctoral research both within the department and in collaboration with other departments at Bristol and beyond, including in art history, medical sciences, philosophy, history, politics, drama, classics, theology and modern languages.

Fees for 2020/21

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2020/21 are as follows:

UK/EU: full-time
UK/EU: part-time
Overseas: full-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2020/21

The University of Bristol is part of the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW DTP), which will be offering studentships for September 2020. For information on other funding opportunities, please see the Faculty of Arts funding pages.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Entry requirements

MPhil: An upper second-class degree or international equivalent. Please note, acceptance will also depend on evidence of your readiness to pursue a research degree.

PhD: A master's qualification, or be working towards a master's qualification, or international equivalent. Applicants without a master's qualification may be considered on an exceptional basis, provided they hold a first-class undergraduate degree (or international equivalent). Applicants with a non-traditional background may be considered provided they can demonstrate substantial equivalent and relevant experience that has prepared them to undertake their proposed course of study.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile A
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

We see postgraduate study as a vital component of our research culture, with students bringing their own ideas and initiatives to fruition and engaging in research conversations with their fellow students and academic staff.

Postgraduates take part in organising conferences and study days, play leading roles in the faculty-based online journal Harts and Minds, and are active in research clusters and reading groups.

The successful completion of an innovative research project, with the guidance of demanding and stimulating supervisors, remains at the heart of postgraduate study. We aim to deliver that outcome, but we also want your experience to be enriched by wider academic contacts and by focused, helpful professional development.

All of the department’s researchers have interests that coincide with (but are not limited to) the following areas:

  • Medieval
  • Early Modern to 1780
  • Romantic and Victorian Literature
  • Modernism
  • Contemporary Literature
  • American Literature
  • Global Literatures
  • Literature, Science and Medicine
  • Poetry and Poetics
  • Creative Writing

The department leads the Bristol Poetry Institute, which draws on the department's established strength in this field, and members of the department are active in the faculty's interdisciplinary research centres, including Health, Humanities and Science, Environmental Humanities, Material Texts, Black Humanities and Medieval Studies. The centres bring together scholars from different disciplines to share their research, devise innovative research projects and give interdisciplinarity a real basis in academic practice.

The departmental research seminar, which meets throughout the academic session, is the principal forum for academic staff and graduate students to present and discuss their recent research. At each session there is a mix of speakers from outside Bristol, graduate students and members of staff. Two annual lectures - the Churchill Lecture and the Tucker-Cruse Lecture - also bring distinguished scholars from outside the University; many other events are organised within the Faculty of Arts and across the University by the Institute for Advanced Studies, a major forum for interdisciplinary research.


A large number of graduates from this programme develop careers in higher education or work on high-level research projects in the field of English literature; some graduates take up careers in freelance writing and editing.

Staff profiles

Matthew Steggle, (Professor of Early Modern English Literature), Digital humanities ; Early modern literature and drama ; Historicized performance studies ; Scholarly editing of early modern drama ; Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe and other Renaissance drama, including lost plays

Billy Kahora, (Lecturer), creative non-fiction; creative writing; fiction; narrative voice

Mimi Thebo, (Reader in Creative Writing), Children' s Literature ; Creative writing and issues of representation, including postcolonial theory ; Creative Writing; Creative writing and eco-criticism

Dr Tamsin Badcoe, (Lecturer), Early modern book trade; early modern prose fiction, especially the writings of Thomas Nashe; Edmund Spenser and representations of ' space' (actual and metaphorical) in The Faerie Queene.

Dr Jennifer Batt, (Lecturer), 18th-century poetry, particularly writing by women; book history; digital humanities; labouring-class writing; periodicals, newspapers and magazines

Professor Andrew Bennett, (Professor), British and US literature from 1900 to the present; British Romantic poetry, especially William Wordsworth and John Keats; Literary theory; Literature and exemplarity; Literature and Suicide; Romantic poetry and poetics

Dr Andrew Blades, (Lecturer), 20th century American literature; literature and anxiety; medical humanities; queer writing; the literature of HIV/AIDS

Dr Stephen Cheeke, (Senior Lecturer), Aestheticism; early modernism; Literature and Art (painting, sculpture and photography); Literature, Art and Christianity; Nineteenth-century literature, Shelley, Byron, Keats, Coleridge and De Quincey; Robert Browning, John Ruskin, D.G, Rossetti and Walter Pater; Theological Aesthetics; word and image relations

Dr Emily Coit, (Lecturer), 19th- and early 20th-century British and American literature; Edith Wharton; Henry James ; prose fiction, especially the novel; transatlantic approaches to literature

Dr Sarah Daw, (Vice Chancellor's Fellow), Literature and science; Ecology in British and American poetry from 1945; Environmental Humanities

Dr Lesel Dawson, (Senior Lecturer), Early modern drama and its intellectual and cultural context; gender; John Ford; medical history; revenge tragedy; Shakespeare; the history of psychology; the history of the emotions; the representation of love, lovesickness, and melancholy in early modern literature; Thomas Middleton

Dr Erin Forbes, (Lecturer in African American Literature), African American and U.S. literature of the long 19th century; Atlantic slave trade ; Black motherhood; Environmental humanities ; Popular crime writing

Professor Helen Fulton, (Professor), Arthurian literature; medieval literature and politics; medieval urban culture; medieval Welsh and Irish literatures; Welsh writing in English

Dr Josie Gill, (Lecturer), Black British writing; contemporary fiction; literature and science.

Dr Edward Holberton, (Lecturer), Early American literature and writing connected with early modern colonisation and the Atlantic world; early modern literature and diplomacy; writing of the Civil War period and Restoration (especially Andrew Marvell and John Milton).

Dr Cathy Hume, (Lecturer), ethics in literature; Middle English literature and its social and cultural contexts, including Chaucer and biblical literature; reading and manuscript cultures

Dr Stephen James, (Senior Lecturer), Charles Dickens; issues of authority and witness in modern poetry; modern and contemporary poetry, especially Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Robert Lowell, Stevie Smith, Robert Frost; poetry and landscape; refrains and repetitions.

Dr Hester Jones, (Senior Lecturer), 20th-century poetry; Anglo-Welsh literature; early modern writing by women; friendship; gender and identity in 19th- and 20th-century writing; literature and theology.

Professor Daniel Karlin, (Professor), 19th- and 20th-century British, Irish, and American literature, especially Romantic and Victorian poetry and poetics; Anglo-American and Anglo-French literary relations; Bob Dylan; Henry James; Marcel Proust; Robert Browning; Rudyard Kipling; textual criticism and editorial method.

Dr Rowena Kennedy-Epstein, (Lecturer), 20th and 21st-century women writers; American literature; experimental forms and the avant-garde; modernism, especially from a transnational perspective; political commitment; the archive; theories of feminism, gender, and sexuality; visual culture; writing on war.

Dr Madhu Krishnan, (Lecturer), Affect; African literature in French; ethics and literature; global literary systems; literary value; literature and politics; postcolonial literature of the 20th and 21st centuries; prize culture; space and place.

Dr John Lee, (Senior Lecturer), digital archives; English Renaissance drama; Greek tragedy; Kipling; Shakespeare; some constructivist theories of language, personality and literature; Spenser.

Dr Michael Malay, (Lecturer in English Literature and Environmental Humanities), Animals in twentieth-century Anglophone poetry ; Environmental humanities

Dr Samantha Matthews, (Senior Lecturer), 19th-century book and manuscript history, especially albums; Charles Lamb; children' s literature; literary tourism; Romantic and Victorian literature and culture, particularly non-canonical poetry; Victorian afterlives.

Dr Ulrika Maude, (Reader), literary phenomenology; literature and medicine/medical humanities; literature and technology; Modernism; perception and philosophies of embodiment; post-war English and American fiction; Samuel Beckett.

Dr Kate McClune, (Lecturer), 15th- and 16th-century Scottish and English manuscript culture; Arthurian literature; older Scots literature.

Dr John McTague, (Lecturer), history of the book and analytical bibliography; hoaxes and conspiracies; partisan historiography; propaganda and blame; Restoration and eighteenth-century literature, particularly Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope; satire; seditious libel and forms of censorship; the history of historiography, particularly forms of historical writing outside of the neo-classical mode (i.e. pamphlets, broadsides, periodicals); the representation of British politics 1660-1740.

Professor Ralph Pite, (Professor), Contemporary poetry; Romantic literature, especially Coleridge, Keats and contemporary responses to Dante; Thomas Hardy; Victorian fiction; writing and the environment.

Dr Rosalind Powell, (Lecturer), 18th-century and Romantic poetry and poetics; imitation, translation and translation theory; literature and science; physico-theology and religious poetry; psalmody and hymnody

Dr Laurence Publicover, (Lecturer), Early modern drama (especially Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Middleton); literary and dramatic geography; the sea in literature and culture.

Dr Tara Puri, (Lecturer), art and politics; late 19th and early 20th century Indian literature; periodicals and print culture; representations of empire; Victorian literature; women' s writing and history

Professor Ad Putter, (Professor), Alliterative tradition; Arthurian romance; comparative medieval literature (French, Dutch, Latin, English); The Gawain-poet; the popular romance and the popular ballad.

Dr Theo Savvas, (Lecturer), 20th and 21st century American literature, particularly postmodernist fiction, and contemporary multi-ethnic writing; literary representations of vegetarianism

Dr Kirk Sides, (Lecturer in World Literatures in English), 20th and 21st Century African literatures, especially southern Africa ; Afro-futurism and African science fiction; Apartheid, segregation and discourses on race and antiracialism ; Environmental writing and eco-criticism ; Histories of empire ; Postcolonial literatures and theory

Dr Leah Tether, (Senior Lecturer), Arthurian literature (French and English); digital humanities; history of the book; medieval and digital reading cultures; medieval French literature 1200-1400; publishing studies.

Dr Maria Vaccarella, (Lecturer), Contemporary literature; critical disability studies; graphic storytelling; literature and medicine; medical humanities; narrative medicine.

Dr Sebastiaan Verweij, (Lecturer), book history and bibliography; editing practice and theory; Later medieval and early modern literature, especially poetry; Scottish literature; works of John Donne (and related authors).

Dr William Wootten, (Lecturer), Bristol (modern & contemporary poetry); creative writing; history of Penguin publishing.; poetry.

Dr Jane Wright, (Senior Lecturer), 19th-century literature, particularly Victorian poetry and literary criticism (and especially Tennyson, Clough, Arnold, Hopkins).

How to apply
Application deadline:

January 2020 start: 1 December 2019
September 2020 start: 2 August 2020
January 2021 start: 2 December 2020

Open days and visits

Find out how to attend one of our upcoming online events.

Get in touch

Postgraduate Admissions Phone: +44 (0) 117 42 82296 and +44 (0)117 42 82297 Email: artf-pgadmissions@bristol.ac.uk

Faculty of Arts
University of Bristol
3-5 Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 1TB
School website: School of Humanities
Department website: Department of English

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, applying for a visa and the support we offer to international students.

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

REF 2014 results

  • English Language and Literature:
  • 11% of research is world-leading (4*)
  • 57% of research is internationally excellent (3*)
  • 25% of research is recognised internationally (2*)
  • 7% of research is recognised nationally (1*)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.


Important disclaimer information about our programmes.

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