BA (Hons) English Literature - University of Portsmouth
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BA (Hons)

English Literature

UCAS codeQ301

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

Traditional and modern literature

Course Overview

Why take this course?

This course offers the opportunity to explore an exciting range of different literary periods and topics. You will study literature in context from the time of Shakespeare to the present day, literary genres from crime writing to magical realism, and a wide choice of more specialist options. Your teaching staff are all drawn from the thriving literary research culture at Portsmouth, and our record in the National Student Survey is outstanding, with a 100% satisfaction rating in the National Student Surveys for 2014 and 2015

Students also offered unanimous praise for the support they were given by staff, the written feedback they received, and the intellectual stimulation the course provided.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Engage with and evaluate current critical debates in literature
  • Expect at least 6 one-to-one seminar sessions in your first year, and a high level of personal tuition throughout your degree
  • Create a programme in line with your interests through a wide range of options
  • Undertake work or research placements, volunteer roles and internships alongside your study
  • Take up the option of some foreign language study, or of spending a term or year abroad.

What opportunities might it lead to?

You will be well positioned to find employment in a variety of fields including teaching, publishing, journalism and media. While studying English literature is a great foundation for a career in the arts, the sophisticated analytical and presentational skills you will gain are also highly valued by a range of non degree-specific graduate employers.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

  • Television script writing
  • Journalism
  • Public relations
  • Web design
  • Publishing
  • Teaching (primary, secondary and further education)
  • Further academic study


Shikha Sharma, BA (Hons) English Literature student 2016

Studying English Literature at University of Portsmouth has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. The lecturers have been incredibly supportive, I have enjoyed a variety of texts, and had the opportunity for personal research and development.

Shikha Sharma, BA (Hons) English Literature student 2016


English and Journalism

BA (Hons) English Literature is part of the suite of courses in English and Journalism at Portsmouth. Find out what our students say about studying with us, including:

  • Getting the chance to develop practical skills alongside learning the theory
  • The high-quality teaching and flexibility of options that enables you to tailor your course to your own interests
  • The passion and knowledge of the lecturers that makes studying so enjoyable

Browse all courses in English and Journalism

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

Core units will introduce you to key concepts in literary study and enable you to begin to hone the analytical skills that will carry you through the next few years.

  • Unpacking Texts: Introducing Critical Theory
  • Literary Powers: Renaissance to Romanticism
  • Global Identities
  • Body Politics
  • The Short Story: Murder, Madness, and Experimentation
  • Popular Culture

Year two

In the second year you can begin to make real choices in the balance of your studies and design your own programme of study to suit your personal areas of interest with a wide range of optional units on offer.

Core units in this year include:

  • Literary Prizes 
  • Current Approaches to Literature

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Dystopian and Apocalyptic Environments: Ecocrisis in the Literary Imagination
  • Mortals and Immortals: Man, God and the Devil in Early Modern Literature
  • Crime Writing
  • Puritans to Postmodernists: American Literature
  • Space, Place and Being
  • Bloody Shakespeare
  • Neo-Historical Fiction
  • Literary Heritage
  • Women's Writing in the Americas
  • Learning from Experience

Year three*

In the third year you can engage in the close study of Renaissance, Romanticist, fin-de-siecle, modernist or postmodernist fiction. You’ll select from units with a conceptual focus, for example in psychoanalytic, feminist or postcolonial criticism, or with a regional-cultural basis, such as post-war American fiction, travel writing and European literature.

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Magical Realism
  • Enlightenment: Literature, Culture and Modernity
  • US Masculinities
  • Consuming Fictions: Food and Appetite in Victorian Culture
  • Dangerous Desires: Renaissance Revenge Drama
  • Holocaust Literatures
  • Time, Temporality and Contemporary Fiction
  • Introduction to Teaching
  • Learning from Experience

*Please note that not all options or special subjects will be available at any given time.

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.


Our teaching approach involves lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops. We aim to provide a stimulating and supportive learning environment that encourages participation in group discussions and projects, alongside individual study.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 20% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 80% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 12% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 88% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 10% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 90% studying independently and 0% on work placement


The majority of the course (62%) is assessed through coursework including:

  • essays
  • close textual analysis
  • presentations
  • a 10,000-word dissertation

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 17% by written exams, 17% by practical exams and 66% by coursework
  • Year two students: 8% by written exams, 8% by practical exams and 84% by coursework
  • Year three students: 0% by written exams, 0% by practical exams and 100% by coursework

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Facilities & Features

Research-Active Staff

You will be taught by specialist staff who are actively undertaking research in this field, ensuring you are kept abreast of the latest developments. Staff are members of the Centre for Literary Studies (CSL) and the Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR).

Work and study abroad opportunities

As part of your English degree you have the option to develop your life skills and enhance your future employability by studying or working abroad. We currently have exchange agreements with academic institutions in Belgium, Germany, Poland and Spain.

The Study Centre

A suite of rooms with a comfy seating area, desks where you can work, printers, Mac workstations and access to the wireless network so you can log in using your own laptop. There are also several study rooms where you can work on group projects, alongside access to the University 3rd Space.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider

There may be travel costs for placements undertaken during your course. This will be in the region of £500.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

Studying English literature is a great preparation for a career in publishing, the media, teaching or research. The transferable skills you’ll gain will also set you up to take on a wide range of roles such as marketing, PR and recruitment. In addition, a number of our graduates go on to postgraduate study.
Roles our graduates have taken on include:

  • Television script writing
  • Journalism
  • Public relations
  • Web design
  • Publishing
  • Teaching (primary, secondary and further education)
  • Further academic study

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

Our degree fosters a positive attitude to career planning and the Learning From Experience (LiFE) option allows you to earn credits toward your degree for work/research placements, volunteer roles or internships undertaken alongside your studies. This gives you the opportunity to enhance your employability skills, reflect on the ways in which you've done so and learn to express this to potential employers.

We can offer you a number of work experience opportunities in a range of local organisations during your degree course. Currently these include projects at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the New Theatre Royal, with local government departments and political groups, and a number of our students have worked on small research projects for the local community.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

University of Portsmouth
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Portsmouth PO1 2UP

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