2021 start

English Literature

School of English, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Our most flexible MA programme. Choose to focus your studies on a particular specialism or to create your own pathway by choosing from our extensive range of optional modules.
Student reading a book

Course description

This is our most flexible course. It’s designed to let you explore modules from across our degree programmes to create your own pathway.

You can choose to focus your studies in a particular specialism through our pathways in American Literature, Film, Gothic Studies and Literary Linguistics among others, or choose from any of the modules to create the degree that best suits your interests.

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You may choose modules from any of the School of English MAs or pathways.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.


American Literature pathway

Develop your knowledge across a range of fields including urban studies, gender studies, race studies, travel writing, postcolonial writing, autobiographical and epistolary studies. You’ll cover contemporary and recent American fiction and the way ‘real history’ appears in the texts. You may be able to take selected modules in history offered by the History Department.

In addition to those who have a general fascination with America, this pathway may be of particular interest to students considering a PhD in American literature or culture. A previous background in American literature is not required.

Optional modules may include:

  • Memory and Narrative in Contemporary Literature
  • Topics in American Postmodernism
  • Tales of the City
  • Contemporary Cinemas
  • Exchanging Letters: Art and Correspondence in Twentieth-Century American Culture
Medieval and Early Modern pathway

You’ll examine early modern texts, language and culture. Staff expertise includes palaeography, rhetoric, news writing, the sermon, drama, and issues of political, sectarian and national identity between 1400 and 1700.

Modules (including modules from History) can be tailored to suit your interests.

You’ll complete one core module, optional modules and a dissertation.

Core module

Renaissance Transformations

Optional modules may include:

  • Early Modern Paleography (ie training in reading sixteenth and seventeenth-century manuscripts)
  • The Country House
  • Directed Reading
  • Early Modern Books
  • Pastoral Literature (online module)
  • Shakespeare and Early Women Dramatists (online module)
Modern and Contemporary pathway

You’ll study modern and contemporary fiction and poetry, with a focus on literature since 1900. Topics include: memory studies, contemporary poetry, urban and postmodern literature, the Cold War, life writing, race, gender and animal studies.

Optional modules may include:

  • Tales of the City: the Living Space in Contemporary American Fiction
  • Exchanging Letters: Art and Correspondence in Twentieth-Century American Culture
  • Memory and Narrative
  • Rocket State Cosmology
  • Animal Writes
  • Topics in American Postmodernism
  • Midcentury Modernism
Film pathway

You’ll develop skills in textual and theoretical interrogation of narrative film, in both popular and art cinema. Close textual analysis of the moving image is supplemented by a range of optional national cinema studies, including Australian cinema and British visual culture.

You’ll complete one core module, optional modules and a dissertation.

Optional modules may include:

  • Contemporary Cinemas
  • Postwar British Drama
  • Film and Television
Literary-Linguistics pathway

This pathway brings literature and linguistics together. Through a series of interdisciplinary modules, you’ll explore the language of literature. Subjects include: stylistics, narrative and contemporary fiction, cognitive poetics, the language and literature of the city.

The University of Sheffield has one of the largest concentrations of researchers in literary linguistics in the world, with expertise ranging from cognitive poetics to the history of literary and linguistic thought, and from dialect representation to empirical stylistics.

Depending on your individual interests and needs, you can pursue a Literary Linguistics pathway through either the MA in English Literature or the MA in English Language and Linguistics. The Literary Linguistics pathway through the MA in English Literature includes two modules dedicated to the interface of literary study and linguistics, taught by our team of interdisciplinary researchers.

You can choose two additional modules from other areas of the School of English and across the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. You will also pursue a dissertation in literary linguistics, working closely with one of our expert supervisors.

This pathway is particularly suitable for students who wish to continue studying a specific aspect of English literature alongside their literary-linguistic interests.

Optional modules may include:

  • Romantic Gothic
  • Contemporary Cinemas
  • Literary Language
  • Work Placement with Research Essay
  • Language, Literature and the City
  • Literature and the Mind
Gothic Studies pathway

Develop your knowledge by following a range of modules on the Gothic from the eighteenth century onwards. This pathway enables you to consider how images of ‘evil’ and otherness are used in the Gothic as a way of asking difficult questions about social convention and identity formation. 

You will have access to the resources that only a Russell Group university can provide, including important archival material such as the Corvey collection (which includes some rare gothic novels published between 1790 and 1840) and the opportunity to attend guest lectures delivered by the world’s leading academics.

In addition to those who have a general fascination with the Gothic, this pathway may be of particular interest to students considering a PhD in Gothic studies.

With a focus on literature from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, optional modules may include:

  • Romantic Gothic
  • Murderers and Degenerates
  • Victorian Bodies
  • Humans, Animals, Monsters and Machines

You can also take modules from Literature, Culture and Society 1700–1900 and other pathways, and relevant modules from History and the School of Languages and Cultures.


Teaching is by seminars.


You’ll be assessed on your essays, coursework and a 15,000-word dissertation.


  • 1 year full-time
  • 2 years part-time

Student profile

Profile picture of MA student Elizabeth Gass.

The University of Sheffield stood out for me because of its wonderful English programme and facilities for students. Being a postgraduate in the department has been a challenging and fantastic learning experience

Elizabeth Gass
MA English student

Entry requirements

At least a 2:1 honours degree in English literature, language, linguistics, or a related discipline (e.g. history, philosophy, modern languages) is usually required.

Overall IELTS score of 7.5 with a minimum of 7.0 in each component, or equivalent.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Fees and funding


There are a number of studentships and fee bursaries available, funded by the University. Deadlines for funding applications are usually in winter/early spring.


You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now


+44 (0)114 222 8473

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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