Philosophy and English Literature BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)




Take on the biggest questions facing humanity and explore how different societies have shaped, and been shaped by, English literature on our full-time Philosophy and English Literature degree in Cambridge. Become a self-reliant researcher with critical and analytical skills suited to many careers, from journalism to local government.

Full description


We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need: they help us review what we teach and how we teach it. 

The problem-solving, critical and creative skills you’ll develop on this course will be particularly useful for a range of careers in areas such as teaching, journalism, local government, publishing, charity administration and management, librarianship, and digital and media roles.

They are also transferrable to others, including business-based areas such as project management, PR and marketing, start-ups and online companies.

When you graduate, you might also decide to move onto our PhD / MPhil Philosophy research degree or one of our related Masters courses:

Modules & assessment

Level 3 (foundation year)

  • Foundation in Humanities, English, Media, Social Sciences and Education
    This module will provide students with the necessary skills to begin studying at level 4 in courses related to the humanities, social sciences, English, media and education. Students will be introduced to the core skills necessary to succeed in higher education, including thinking critically, researching, and referencing appropriately, demonstrating appropriate numeracy and ICT skills, and communicating effectively verbally and in writing. In addition to these fundamental study skills, Students will be given an introduction to a broad range of disciplines whose skills and theories are widely applicable. Students will study a variety of writing styles in order to recognise, deconstruct and replicate various forms of persuasive, analytical, and informative writing. Students will learn the basics of intercultural studies and how these theories can be applied to real-world problems. Students will consider social perceptions held across western cultures, and the difference between social and self-perception, participating in structured discussion and argument. Students will be introduced to the core principles of psychology and will explore various current applications of psychological theory. Students will also be introduced to ethics and will learn about some of the key theories and thinkers in the development of current ethical considerations in a range of scenarios. This module is made up of the following eight constituent elements: Interactive Learning Skills and Communication (ILSC); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Critical Thinking; Intercultural Studies; Psychology; Composition and Style; Ethics; Social Perceptions.

Year one, core modules

  • A History of English Literature, from the present to 1789
    This chronological approach to a history of English Literature reverses the usual format of starting with Beowulf and ending up at the present and instead starts with the familiar and ends with the earliest literature. Starting with texts from the period with which you are familiar, you will gradually work back through literary history to a time when no one alive today existed. Mainly using volume 2 of 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature', this module precedes the companion semester 2 module: 'A History of English Literature from Equiano to Chaucer', which works with volume one of 'The Norton Anthology of English Literature'. On this module you will study period, genre and form through a range of texts to include: the novel; the short story; the essay; poetry; drama; as well as other forms of texts including letters and graphic art. Authors will mainly be chosen from the Norton, however there will also be a few texts such as novels that you will need to buy. You will be given details of the texts well in advance of starting the course. You will be taught through a weekly one-hour lecture, followed by a two-hour seminar. Your assessment will consist of a presentation and a written essay.
  • A History of Ideas in 8 Objects
    In this module you will look at a history of ideas in historical context, introduced through 8 objects that have arguably changed the world, and the way we think about our place in the world. You will be introduced to key philosophical writings linked to the objects in question, and examine the specific arguments, and historical changes and transformations that took place, in careful detail. The module will give you the chance to undertake structured skill development in identifying and creating an argument, offering evidence for a specific point of view, preparing a persuasive presentation and writing a researched project to deadline. These skills are important not only for your future employability skills but also because they will give you a foundation for academic development throughout the rest of the degree. You will be taught through lectures and seminars and a visit to the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge (no charge). You will be assessed by a structured portfolio comprising a series of tasks to complete, with a final research project. The module will include opportunities for formative feedback.
  • Reading Literature and Theory
    This foundational module will introduce you to an exciting range of social, cultural and political theories that can be used to further your analysis of literary texts. Selected theories might include psychoanalysis, Marxism, structuralism, feminism, postcolonialism, postmodernism or queer theory. In seminars, you will apply these theories to a variety of fiction (including extracts from plays, novels, short stories and poems). This process will enable you to develop your own reading skills in more challenging directions, as well as helping you assess the benefits of differing kinds of ‘reading’. You will attend a one-hour lecture each week, and a two-hour seminar. Part-way through the semester, you will give an individual presentation, allowing you to develop both your presentation and IT skills. At the end of the semester, will be an essay, where you demonstrate your critical, literary and essay-writing skills.
  • Ancient Philosophy
    You’ll get an accessible introduction to ancient philosophy. You’ll examine key ideas from texts which contribute to the early formation of the philosophical tradition, including pre-Socratics such as Heraclitus and Parmenides and extracts from dialogues by Plato, as well as key extracts from Aristotle. You’ll explore the main issues in metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of art, and political philosophy. You’ll look at concepts such as being and becoming, appearance and reality, substance and categories, and issues such as the good life, the nature of the state, citizenship and government, education and character, censorship and art. Your assessment will take the form of two 1,500 word essays.
  • A History of English Literature from Equiano to Chaucer
    This module gives you an outline of the history of English Literature from the end of the eighteenth century to the Anglo-Saxon period. It uses a selection of texts taken from volume 1 of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, supplemented by handouts, to give you examples of different literary forms belonging to every period of English literary history prior to the Romantic movement. The juxtaposition of pieces by well-known authors such as Chaucer, Marlowe, and Milton with less familiar texts is intended to encourage reflection upon what constitutes the 'canon'. You are expected to acquire a basic knowledge of the terms used in English literary history ('Medieval', 'Tudor', 'Renaissance', 'Reformation', 'Early Modern', 'Restoration', 'Augustan', ‘NeoClassical', 'Enlightenment', 'Sensibility') and are encouraged to think critically about these terms. Your first assessment will be a close-reading exercise on a passage from Milton’s Paradise Lost, taken in class during week 7 of the semester. This will develop your close-reading skills and written communication. Your second assessment will be an open exam (90mins), demonstrating your ability to read texts from the course within their historical and cultural contexts. The assessment questions will be available to you 48 hours in advance of the exam.
  • Words and Language
    In this module we will examine some of the key philosophical debates about language, meaning and usage. How does meaning work? How do we seem to make sense and communicate using language? Does language really describe or represent the world? How do we use language and what are the implications of such usage? This module will also offer you the opportunity to undertake structured skill development in identifying and creating an argument, offering evidence for a specific point of view, preparing a persuasive presentation and writing a researched project to a deadline. These skills are important not only for future employability skills but offer a foundation for academic development through the rest of the degree. The module will be taught through a lecture-seminar format. You will be assessed by a structured portfolio comprising a series of tasks to complete, with a final research project. The module will include opportunities for formative feedback.
  • Poetry and Plays
    This module will introduce you to techniques involved in writing poetry and writing for the stage. You will ‘read as a writer’, reading a selection of poetry or scenes from a play each week in order to understand the decisions that established writers use in the course of writing, and to examine their creative processes. You will also work with these texts to understand principles such as poetic form and the practicalities of writing for the stage, in order to improve your understanding of the craft of writing. The module will provide you with an environment for sustained creative writing, and a peer group with which you can work to improve your writing. In weekly practical workshops, you will receive critique of your own writing, and learn how to apply this to improve your work. You will also learn to read and respond to other people’s writing, applying the lessons learned from critiquing their work to your own writing. You will learn how to edit your work and present it to a professional standard. The skills developed during this module will relate directly to the advanced modules you will undertake at Level 5 and Level 6. For assessment you will present a portfolio (a collection of poetry and a scene for the stage), and an essay that shows how reading has informed your creative practice, and how you have reflected upon the creative process involved in producing your submitted work.

Year one, optional modules

  • Issues in Contemporary Philosophy: Knowledge, Reality and Value
    On this module you will address a number of contemporary debates in one or more of: epistemology, philosophy of science, metaphysics and/or moral philosophy. Questions that you will address include a number of the following: What are the sources of knowledge? What is the value of knowledge? Does science tell us about the nature of reality? How should we understand so-called “paradigm-shifts” in science? How can we acquire moral knowledge? What makes life go well? Teaching is by weekly lectures and seminars. The employee attributes you will develop on this module include cognitive skills such as the ability to identify and solve complex problems, attention to detail and planning and organisation. Generic competences that you will develop during seminar debates include skills in relation to influencing others, being sensitive to the opinions of others and the lucid communication of ideas.

Year two, core modules

  • Modernism and the City
    In this module you will examine literary Modernism as an artistic response to the social conditions and technological advances of modernity. You will explore the ways in which the distinctive features of Modernist writing - subjectivity, the psychological, innovations in form, style and genre - are produced by urban experience. You will study a range of canonical and non-canonical texts that 'write' the city in order to explore the centrality or urban culture to modernity and to consider the connections between cultural geography, historical context and narrative form. You will study poems, novels and manifestos dating from 1900-1940 in the contexts of some of the following: the influence of the First World War; suffrage; changes in visual art (primitivism, post-modernism); cinema and photography; the movements of Imagism, Futurism and Surrealism. Ideas of exile and expatriation underlie discussion of the cultural exchanges occurring in London, Paris and New York. The texts studied provide differing reactions to the early twentieth-century city, in relation to ethnicity, sexuality, gender, nationality and class. You will be assessed by a portfolio consisting of a 1,000-word critical review of an essay from either Modernism/Modernity or Modernist Cultures (to be approved by the Module Leader) and a 2,000-word critical essay.
  • Ethics
    This module will introduce you to the basic issues in moral philosophy: What makes an action right or wrong? Do the consequences or the intention count more when evaluating an action as good or bad? What about the character of the moral agent? Does being virtuous matter? You'll explore and debate these questions by closely studying texts from the history of moral philosophy, also considering the possible application of moral theory to a host of contemporary ethical problems, such as international justice, animal welfare and euthanasia. You'll be assessed through two essays of 1,500 words each.
  • Philosophy of Art
    What does it mean to think philosophically about art? In this module you'll do precisely that, by discussing the kinds of judgements that we make about art and whether these judgements have any objective validity or express merely subjective opinion. In the course of the module, you'll also critically examine a number of different art forms, such as conceptual art, film, music and painting, and ask questions such as 'Does music express emotion?', 'Does the authenticity of an artwork matter?' and 'Is conceptual art genuinely art?'.
  • Existence and Authenticity
    On this module, you'll trace the development of existentialism from its roots in the Christian philosophy of Kierkegaard, through the radically anti-Christian individualism of Nietzsche, to one of the most famous philosophers of the twentieth century: Jean-Paul Sartre. You'll look at how existentialist movement has been challenged as excessively humanist, and criticised either as implying nihilism or paying insufficient attention to the social and historical conditions of human existence. Embracing both literary and philosophical concerns, this module will cultivate your skills of interpretation, comparative analysis, and identification of thematic continuities in a diverse range of texts. You'll be assessed through two 1,500 word essays.
  • The European Novel: Desire and Transgression
    This module will introduce you to a representative selection of some of the most memorable and significant European novels, ranging from ancient Greek prose narratives and Renaissance romances to contemporary fiction. You will compare the ways in which different writers have handled elements of the novel such as characterisation, dialogue and narrative voice, as well as consider different sub-genres of the novel, for example magic realism and the epistolary novel. Texts will be selected to complement the novels you have studied on other modules, giving you a fuller understanding of the origins of the genre, and of its wider European context. Desire was a key focus of the very first European proto-novels, and continues to be a preoccupation today. You will engage with some of the changes and continuities in fictional depictions of romantic and sexual relationships, examining the ways in which topics such as same-sex desire, elopement and adultery have been depicted. The first assessment element, a 1000 word critical analysis, will test both your close reading skills and your understanding of the contexts and conventions of the early novel. The second assessment element, a 2,000-word essay, will require you to demonstrate an understanding both of your knowledge of set texts and your grasp of key ideas that have informed the course.

Year two, optional modules

  • Writing Short Fiction
    On this module, you'll learn the techniques of effective short fiction writing, beginning with the literary short story and moving on to explore short fiction for younger readers and some areas of genre fiction. You'll be introduced to the scope and the conventions of short fiction in English through an analysis of a diverse range of classic and contemporary examples, examining the creative process from the collection of ideas at notebook stage to the production and editing of a finished narrative. Authors studied on the module may include Anton Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield and Edgar Allen Poe. Your writing exercises will focus on practical writing techniques for effective work, with key elements such as characterisation, setting, structure, movement in time and space, observation, point of view, opening and closing, voice, dialogue, cliché, description and dialogue. For assessment, you'll submit the best work you produce during the module, along with a critical commentary that'll include a contribution to your Personal Development Planning file.
  • The History of the Book
    In this module you will explore the cultural and technological contexts of the publishing of literary works, and the history of the book in Britain, and the effects of globalization on that market. You will examine its styles, types and trajectories, and consider that history in light of the market for books, pamphlets and periodicals, and the issues (such as new technology, new infrastructure, copyright and censorship) that have affected them. You will look at the way authors and editors have exchanged their works with readers and audiences around the world. You will be able to examine and analyse trends and approaches throughout the history of British publishing, and explore the results. Assessment for this module will consist of a short essay and an independently researched portfolio to include a critical assessment of an issue identified in the seminars, accompanied by supporting evidence presented as a blog, a series of slides, an electronic scrap book, or in an alternative electronic format of the student’s own choice.
  • Dialogue and Debate: More to Milton
    On this module you will study a range of key poetic and prose texts produced by canonical and non-canonical early modern authors. One of the characteristics of the literature of this period is its dialogic nature. The writers on this course lived in an age in which the religion of their immediate forebears was seen as heresy and, in many cases, they went through a school system in which students were trained to speak for and against the same proposition. It is not surprising that they were adept at seeing issues from more than one angle. Many texts offer the reader two or more perspectives on an issue, asking questions which often remain unanswered. In addition to these internal debates, texts (translations, adaptations, parodies, flytings, prequels and sequels) were also often in dialogue with each other. You will explore these issues in lectures and seminars, investigating the relationship between the set texts and their literary, cultural and historical contexts. These contexts include politics, religion, mythography, rhetoric, gender and sexuality. Upon successful completion of the module, you will have a greater understanding of Renaissance poetry and prose, as well as appropriate cultural, historical and theoretical contexts. You will be assessed through one 3000-word essay.
  • News and Feature Writing
    This intensive reading and writing module will introduce you to the techniques of print journalism, focusing on news reports and feature articles. The skills required for effective news and feature writing are a key component of writing craft in any genre of fiction or non-fiction. It's a discipline that improves the imaginative work and communicative power of those who practice it. You'll explore the significance of journalistic writing in contemporary life using examples from a range of British tabloid, broadsheet and local publications. You'll practise sourcing news reports, developing feature articles and sub-editing for style and content. In seminar workshops, you'll combine analysis of journalistic techniques with practical writing exercises, covering topics that include: researching and pitching a story; interviewing; puns and rhythm; and economical use of language. Early on, you'll produce a set of briefs that must be approved by the seminar leader, then produce copy for these briefs and, in editorial teams, giving and receiving constructive criticism.
  • Black British Writing
    This module will introduce you to a diverse range of post-war black British writing. Covering poetry, drama, performance, novels and film, it will offer a sense of the key authors and debates within this growing field. You will consider what constitutes a black British canon, and the critical and creative tensions between the deceptively straightforward terms ‘black’ and ‘British’. You will discuss issues such as the colonial legacy, migration, the burden of representation, mixed-race identities and diversity, along with the intersecting concerns of gender, sexuality and class. The module will draw on writing by activists, postcolonial theorists and thinkers from the field of cultural studies, including figures such as Claudia Jones, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. A 600-word discussion board contribution will give you the opportunity to test out ideas and develop skills in writing for digital formats. A 2,400 word final essay will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the module’s central concerns and your knowledge of the primary fictional texts.
  • Kant and the Empiricists
    The British Empiricists of the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as Kant, set the modern philosophical agenda by asking fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality and of knowledge, both theoretical and moral. On this module, you'll examine in detail the British Empiricists and Kant. In addition to preparing you for more advanced study of the key issues at Level 6, this module will give you a broad conceptual and historical framework from within which to evaluate the thematic problems in metaphysics and epistemology encountered in level 4. You will be taught through lectures and seminars, with lectures introducing topics that are discussed and debated in seminars, and assessed by means of one 3000-word essay.
  • Mind and World
    On this module, you'll explore the nature of the mind and examine the different philosophical approaches that have been employed in the study of the mind. You'll be introduced to the historical context of debates about the topic, and encouraged to make comparisons and connections between different traditions in philosophy concerning problems of mind, mental content, consciousness, the body and the external world.
  • Victorian Literature and Culture
    This module is structured around three main themes: ‘The Impersonating I’, ‘Victorians and Globalization’ and ‘Sensation, Scandal and Serialization’. These themes are central to the current re-formulation of Victorian studies and, as we work through them, you will be asked to engage with new critical developments in the field. In considering ‘The Impersonating I’, you will be asked to examine uses of first-person narratives in ‘autobiographical’ bildungsroman, the incorporation of multiple first-person perspectives in fiction and the impersonation of an individual in the dramatic monologue. The second strand of the module, ‘Victorians and globalization’, will involve how different forms imagine ‘the globe’, how the practice of imperialism both shaped, and was shaped by, the works that described it. The final theme of the course will involve a careful engagement with print culture and the development of sensation fiction. Through the course of the semester, you will experience something of the practices and rhythms of serial reading as we discuss the weekly instalments of a selected novel. From the outset of the module, textual study will be embedded in an examination of key historical developments and the issues - political, social, cultural and intellectual - to which these developments gave rise and currency. Formative and summative assessments will give you the opportunity to investigate particular historical and contextual phenomenon and will stretch your abilities of close analysis.
  • Working with Philosophy
    Philosophy fosters many skills and aptitudes that have relevance to the world of work. Studying Philosophy also encourages a reflective approach to many aspects of human organisation and practice, including those of the workplace. This module will encourage you to develop awareness of your own strengths and skills, apply theoretical knowledge and insights gained through your studies on your degree, and investigate possible careers for which a degree in Philosophy would be relevant. The module may help you to obtain credit for work that you already do, or help you to think about the work you might do after graduation, or to offer reflections on theoretical issues in practice or the relationship between theory and practice itself. The module requires that you undertake 35 hours of work in any field, full or part-time, paid or unpaid. You will arrange this work yourself, with help and support from the Employability Service and/or the SU Volunteering programme. ARU is one of the biggest employers in the region, so the work may also consist of employment within ARU. Alternatively you may chose to undertake a research project about philosophy in practice, exploring the practical features or implications of philosophy in an area of work or policy in the real world. In this case the 35 hours would be embedded in a research project relevant to the objectives of this module. Examples of workplaces might include charities, eg Mind, Headway, Age Concern, Citizen’s Advice Bureau etc, a school, a small business, an art gallery or museum, a local government organisation or political group, or a university (such as ARU). You might reflect on the sorts of activities that are typical of such organisations or types of work, and how your skills are relevant to work in such organisations. If you choose to undertake a research project, this might consist of, for example: an analysis of certain features of Philosophy degrees in the UK, an analysis of an aspect of philosophy in the media, a report on specific areas of policy and practice in HE, or a review of policy relevant to philosophy in areas such as medical ethics or political decision-making. There will be a series of workshops to support the module and students will also receive supervision from the Module Leader or Tutor. The assessment will consist of a self-reflective report or work journal. The report will record hours, activities and tasks, responsibilities and achievements relevant to the objectives of this module. It will contain a short reflective account of the relationship of these activities to key skills identified as essential to the Philosophy degree.
  • Aspects of Artificial Intelligence
    Machine technology has fundamentally changed our lives over recent decades. There is no reason to think that this rate of change will slow down, and every reason to think it will continue, perhaps at an exponential rate. We are reaching a point where machine intelligence is becoming a part of our everyday lives, from search engines to personal assistants (like Alexa), from driverless cars to health care. How will this impact our lives in the short, medium and long term? What will the nature of AI be? Will it become autonomous? Will it be truly ‘intelligent’? Should we think of it as having a ‘mind’? What ethical principles will, or should, it run on? What epistemic principles will, or should, it run on? What ethical rights should AI have? How will AI affect law, social relations, work, the economy, education, health-care, sex, war and our understanding of ourselves? On this module you will examine all of these future-directed questions, and look at the philosophical implications of AI within relevant areas, from our understanding of what it is to think, to our understanding of the rights and responsibilities of AI, to the impacts that it will have on our work, social and home lives. You will be assessed through a portfolio containing a report and essay, and taught through a weekly lecture/seminar.
  • Postcolonial Writing
    Much of the most exciting and provocative writing of the last century has emerged from regions of the world that were formerly colonised. This module offers you a selective survey of postcolonial writing and theory, using an expansive conception of what might constitute the ‘postcolonial’. It considers the socio-historical contexts behind the emergence of postcolonial studies and asks you to think critically about the institutionalisation, and challenges, of the field. You will consider issues of colonialism, decolonisation, nationalism, neo-colonialism and globalisation, along with the accompanying themes of migration, gendered/sexual politics and the role of history. A 3000-word final essay will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the module’s central concerns and your knowledge of the primary fictional texts.
  • Romantic Conflicts
    Conflict can be found in all literature. However, in the Romantic period it seems to have been the essence of the spirit of the age. Percy Shelley called the French Revolution of 1789 ‘the master theme of the epoch in which we live’, and indeed many critics and historians date the beginning of the Romantic period from then. In fact Britain was at war with France for most of this period (from 1793 to 1815) trying to undo the revolution, restore a king, and with him, the old aristocratic ruling class. Class conflict was in the air well before 1789 as William Hazlitt notes: ‘the French revolution might be described as a remote but inevitable result of the invention of the art of printing.’ What he means here is that an overwhelming public consensus had to be achieved before a revolution could occur and the only way to achieve this is through the mass dissemination of ideas – through literature. Conflict can occur in any arena: class, race, debates over animal welfare, the lecture theatre (for example the debates between Hazlitt and Coleridge) and of course in personal relationships. Therefore, the scope of this module is a large one. You will be invited to read as widely as possible in this period and not merely stick to the set texts or the subjects of lectures and seminars.
  • Myth and Medievalism
    On this module you will examine a range of medieval English literature, focusing on the late 14th century, and exploring the links between literature and a changing society. You will consider, through careful close reading, the complex relationship between text and context, considering greater realism in the representation of the Judaeo-Christian myth in the context of threats to the feudal system. You will study mystery plays, romances and religious literature alongside selected Tales by Chaucer, and the re-appropriations of myth in a case study that suggests the wider links between myth and ideology. You will examine extracts from each text in the original Middle English, though good recent translations by modern poets will also be available, allowing you to pursue the question of the inevitable re-inflection of myth in changing cultural contexts.
  • Applied Ethics
    At the heart of this module, you'll discover a number of moral dilemmas that remain both perplexing and largely unresolved. You'll focus mainly on three themes: taking life, giving life, and equality. In the first of these you'll consider issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights, and in the second, health care matters including IVF and the rationing of health care services. In the third, you'll consider global poverty, punishment, and sexuality. You'll uncover the differing opinions and the complexity of debates surrounding such issues as a woman's right to have a termination or the right of a terminally ill patient to die sooner rather than later. You’ll evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of arguments from politicians, interest groups, and other significant actors in contemporary moral debates, approaching these issues from both sociological and philosophical perspectives. Your assessment will consist of a 3000-word essay.
  • Writing World War One: Trauma, Memory, Resistance
    As WWI is commemorated at its centenary, this module examines a range of texts to consider current understandings of WWI and its representations. You will begin the module by looking at the poems that have famously memorialised the experience of soldiers on the Western Front before widening your outlook to explore different forms of texts (including novels, autobiography, short stories and graphic novels) that present a more diverse range of wartime experiences on the ‘home front’ and ‘forbidden zone’. This will include experiences by ‘enemy’ authors, racial minority groups, the ‘insane’, women in war zones, and animals. Each two-hour seminar will have a (mini) lecture with a thematic focus. The (mini) lecture will be followed by close reading and discussion of related texts in the seminar group. These seminar discussions and close-reading exercises will help you to explore key ideas and concepts, such as the role of propaganda and the rise of anti-war writing (literatures of resistance); changing definition and realities of war through developing technologies; the politics of remembering and forgetting WWI; new understandings of WWI derived from global history, race and gender theories; the relationship of war to literary and visual modernism; the psychological realities of WWI on combatants and civilians. You will be assessed by a final 3000-word essay, giving you the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of what has been covered on the module including your knowledge of set texts and your grasp of key theories and ideas that have informed the course.
  • The Rationalists: Early Modern Philosophy
    The Rationalist Philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries set the modern philosophical agenda by asking fundamental questions about the nature of reality and knowledge, as well as the relationship between freedom and determinism in human life. On this module, you'll be introduced to the work Rationalists like Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz.

Year three, core modules

  • Spectacle and Representation in Renaissance Drama
    You will consider a range of plays from the period 1580 to 1642 in the light of issues of stage spectacle and representation in a variety of forms, including identity, sexuality, violence, and death. You will experience one of the greatest periods of dramatic writing that English literature has known, which has subsequently continued on the English stage under the UK’s great acting companies, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. Primary texts will be taken from Shakespeare and his chief contemporaries, including a changing range of authors chosen from Thomas Kyd, George Chapman, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Marston, Thomas Middleton, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, John Webster, John Ford, Richard Brome, and James Shirley. You should check the reading list each year to determine specific plays. You will become familiar with relevant theory and criticism of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. In seminars you will be attentive to issues of performance, which can include active learning through play-reading and walking through a scene, or in independent learning through attending relevant performances or viewing film adaptations.
  • Concepts of Good and Evil
    What role, if any, does the concept of evil play in our moral vocabulary? Is it a narrowly theological notion or does it usefully describe certain kinds of act and/or character? On this module, you'll examine contemporary accounts of evil, as well as looking at the concept of evil in the history of philosophy from Leibniz to the present. In addition to considering theoretical discussions of evil, you'll also consider phenomena such as war and terrorism and ask whether the concept of evil helps us to understand them.
  • Undergraduate Major Project
    The individual final Major Project module allows you to engage in a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific discipline. Normally the topic will be agreed in consultation with academic staff and an appropriate supervisor will be appointed to supervise you in your chosen topic. The topic may also be drawn from a variety of sources including: Anglia Ruskin research groups, previous or current work experience, the company in which you are currently employed, or a professional subject of specific interest (if suitable supervision is available). The project topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The chosen topic will require you to identify and formulate problems and issues, conduct literature reviews, evaluate information, investigate and adopt suitable development methodologies, determine solutions, develop software and/or media artefacts as appropriate, process data, critically appraise and present your findings. Regular meetings with the project supervisor and or/group workshops should take place, so that the project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction. The assessment will normally include a substantial written report, including a bibliography.

Year three, optional modules

  • Modern Science Fiction
    In this module you will study the development of modern science fiction, concentrating on major texts from the postwar period. You are expected to acquire a detailed knowledge of the history of science fiction and a critical understanding of the problems of defining it in relation to other forms of literature. You are also expected to gain an understanding of the distinctive pleasures which science fiction offers its readers. The emphasis is on science fiction as a literature of ideas. In this module you will be concerned primarily with science fiction as a literary form rather than with its manifestations in other media, but the demands of adapting science fiction to other media will be considered. You will read short stories, novels, and critical essays enabling you to develop a detailed knowledge of science fiction from the 1930s to the present day, and gain an understanding of some key science fiction tropes and sub-genres.
  • Elizabeth Gaskell and the Brontës
    This module will introduce you to the work of Elizabeth Gaskell and the Brontë sisters and to literary and cinematic adaptations of their fiction. You will begin by reading Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë alongside Lucasta Miller’s The Brontë Myth and by assessing the way in which the ‘Brontë myth’ has been sustained by different generations of readers. The second part of the module will include a detailed survey of the diverse literary outputs of Gaskell and the Brontës. Through this, there will be a focus on the ways in which the four writers engage with their cultural contexts. In addition to thinking about the issues involved in debates about religion, education, social change, gender and familial and romantic relationships, you will be asked to consider the novels through the lens of disability theory and to assess their treatment of Imperialism and Empire. The final part of the module will involve an introduction to theories of adaptation and to rewritings and cinematic adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.
  • World Literature
    Advances in technology, powerful media conglomerates, wealthy international corporations and the extension of a neo-liberal agenda, mean that we are living in an increasingly globalised world. When a story can go ‘viral’ in a matter of minutes and popular franchises inspire devotion from fans worldwide, we are forced to ask what the role of literature is in the contemporary moment. This module therefore asks you to consider how we might understand the term ‘world literature’. It combines short theoretical readings with a select body of fiction from regions as diverse as Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, South Asia and America. This writing addresses both local conditions and global concerns, encouraging you to think about the interconnectedness, but also the inequalities of modernity. Broader debates in the arena of world literature will be addressed, along with the related fields of postcolonialism, development studies, eco-criticism and transnational feminism. The module asks: what does it mean to read texts in the ‘world-language’ of English?; how do literary forms and strategies ‘travel’?; what are the potentials and limitations of comparison across borders?; how might you think of fiction not only in relation to national traditions but also in the context of the world system?; and how can socially committed fictions challenge the overlapping oppressions of globalisation? Your assessment will consist of a 3,000-word final essay, allowing you to demonstrate your understanding of the module’s central concerns, including your knowledge of primary fictional texts and your grasp of key ideas and ideologies informing the discussion.
  • Renaissance Magic
    This module will give you the opportunity to specialise in an exciting period of literary history – the English Renaissance – and to pursue a thematic interest: the early modern literary fascination with magic. ‘Renaissance Magic’ explores the intersections between imaginative literature, science, religion and the occult, through the close study of various literary forms (from journal entries and essays, to epic poetry and drama) both canonical (including the works of Shakespeare, Jonson and Spenser) and more marginal (including seventeenth-century women’s writing, and anonymous alchemical poetry.) You will be introduced to various aspects of magic/occult culture of the early modern period: attitudes toward angelology and demonology; the learned figure of the ‘Renaissance magus’; alchemy; the fascination with and persecution of witches; and early science fiction. The variety of different texts is designed to challenge perceptions of the ‘canon’, and to broaden views of what constituted ‘literature’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. You will find all texts either in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, widely available for inexpensive purchase, or shared as documents on the VLE. You will be assessed through: an in-class (written) close reading exercise, worth 20% of the final mark; involving responding critically and applying some contextual knowledge to a short, unseen text; a 2000-word essay worth 80% of the mark at the end of the semester, showing your ability to read two or three texts from the course within their historical and cultural context. The choice of questions for this assessment will be available to you from the beginning of the module.
  • Writing Poetry
    Through critical examination of modern and contemporary poems, you'll learn to explore important developments in technique and appreciate the benefits of close reading to open up possibilities for language use. You’ll develop sophisticated approaches to the relationship between form and content. You'll engage in advanced workshop treatment of your poems, moving beyond explanation of sources and meanings to explore process, form and audience. The seminar topics may include modelling, seeds and sources, working with journals, presentation of poetry on and off the page, working with sound and visual material, and redrafting. Your assessment will be a selection of poems accompanied by reflective writing that explores key issues of process.
  • Experiencing God
    On this module you'll examine a number of issues in the philosophy of religion, including the forms of religious diversity, arguments for and against the existence of God, the phenomenon of religious experience, the nature of faith and the relation between religion and science in the contemporary age. You will become familiar with a wide range of perspectives and arguments, traditional and modern, and contribute to the critical evaluation of particular positions. You will be assessed by one 3,000-word essay.
  • Enlightenment and Modernity: The Philosophical Legacy
    On this module, you'll consider the key philosophical debates about the legacy of the Enlightenment in the context of modernity. You'll be introduced to key ideas from readings of primary texts that have contributed to debates about history, truth, morality and political power, the nature of interpretation and the role and status of reason and knowledge in the post-Enlightenment era. Your assessment is 1,000 word analysis of a specific topic or passage and a 2,000 word essay debating the wider issues discussed throughout the module.
  • Philosophies of Language and the Body
    In this module you will focus on language as a symbolic system and practice where meaning is produced and reproduced under specific cultural conditions and is characterised by fragmentation and conflict as much as by cohesion and consensus. You will relate the study of language to issues concerning, for example, identity, cultural power and domination, representation, and real life. You will explore post-structuralist critiques of linguistics, which may include theories of language as a means by which identity is produced through the interconnectedness of language and ideology. In addition, you will encounter the physical body not as ‘natural’ but as a linguistic phenomenon: where the body is a text to be read. Challenging binaries such as mind/body and biological/textual, you will query the role of language in creating bodies and the ways in which the flesh has been historically created through discourse. You will also look at the ways the body has transgressed these discourses. In examining the relationships between language, power and bodies, you will explore the links between language, power, knowledge, ‘truth’ and identity, and extend these links to ecological concerns and the connectedness of the human to the nonhuman and nature. You will learn to question how truth and knowledge are challenged in post-structuralist/ deconstructionist projects, and how this challenge can lead to what is known as posthuman ethics and the ecological revolution: currently known in linguistic philosophy as ‘ecosophy’. You will be expected to give short presentations in class, based on your preparatory reading. Your assessment will consist of a 2500 word essay, requiring you to make connections between different ideas explored in the module, and a supporting task.
  • Varieties of Scepticism
    This module will introduce you to the relationship between the desire to understand and the ever-present possibility that such understanding is not possible. Beginning with an account of scepticism in the Ancient world, you'll proceed to the rediscovery of sceptical problems in the early modern period before considering contemporary approaches to philosophical scepticism. You'll focus in particular on the question of whether the traditional sceptical problem of the external world is one that arises naturally wherever there are reflective human beings, or whether it is tied to a particular conception of the nature of human knowledge.
  • Theorising Children's Literature
    You will take as a starting point the need to be critical about literature written for young audiences, including early years and YA fiction. You will read children’s literature primarily as literature, instead of as a contributing factor towards childhood development. This process will demand that you engage with the primary texts through literary theory, including wider theory that is not typically applied to children’s texts, such as the work of Lacan, Bakhtin, Said, Foucault, Derrida, and others. You will consider eco-criticism, animal studies, disability, race, sexuality, and gender. You will also engage with changing historical constructs of childhood and the generic fluidity of children’s and fantasy literature. Reading will be set each for you to discuss in two-hour seminars.
  • Publishing in Practice
    On this module you will explore the practical aspects of creating content and compiling content into a published product—and anthology of student work—with a theme to be determined by the module leader. You will learn practical skills such as the basics of desk editing, web editing, and using publishing software such as InDesign. You will also learn about legal issues related to sourcing content, the theory behind text and paratext, and the basics behind cover design and typography. As a student you will be responsible for creating a written and visual component of a larger anthology; as a class you will design and create the anthology of student work which can be printed in book form. The class will consist of seminars in a computer-lab setting, allowing the group to work together toward a common goal. Final assessment includes a creative publishing project and a critical commentary analysing your work on the creative publishing project.
  • Romantic Idealism
    The Romantic period heralded not only the beginnings of the Modern world, but it also looked towards futures and ideals that humans have not yet obtained: slavery still exists, and yet it was banned in this period; Britain passed the first animal rights legislation in Law, but species are still disappearing and the human relationship with other animals remains uneasy. This was a period in which old ways were sometimes driven out and everything seemed up for grabs. Even time was altered. In revolutionary France the old 24-hour clock disappeared, making way for a new decimal clock with 100 minutes in the hour, 10 hours in the day, 10 days in the week and three weeks in the month. This module will help you to engage in fresh critical thinking about ideas that you might never have imagined.
  • Employability for English Literature
    This is potentially the most useful module that you will ever do as it will help you earn money and understand what you might be usefully employed doing after university. You should take it if you have had employment, want employment, need a CV, or have ever wondered how to connect what you do at university with what happens in the workplace. If you have been on an International exchange, you can use that experience as the basis of this module too. English literature connects with every aspect of human activity including the workplace. This module helps you to examine those links as well as to gain credit for work that you do. The CV and covering letter you will create can be used and reused after your degree, adapting to the needs of the jobs you apply for. This module requires you to complete 35 hours of work in any field, full or part time, by the end of your degree. It is envisaged that most students will carry out their work experience in the summer vacation between years two and three (levels 5 and 6). The 35 hours do not have to be consecutive and instead might be excerpts from periods with various employers. If you have a more limited CVs, you will be encouraged to aim for work experience at prominent companies or in areas that will aid disenfranchised groups of people. Your assessment will comprise a reflective work journal and covering letter directed towards a much-wanted job, along with a full CV. Guidance on how to fulfil these written parts of the course will be provided by the module leader, the work supervisor, and other appropriate advisors identified by the University.
  • Philosophy Special Subject
    This module offers you the opportunity to study in-depth one or more of the classic texts in the history of philosophy, ranging from the ancient to the modern period. Through studying aspects of the history of the subject, and some of the fundamental problems philosophers have raised, you’ll develop your problem-solving skills, with application both inside and outside academia. The module is also designed to prepare you for the possibility of more advanced philosophical research.
  • Contemporary Fiction
    In this module you will look at a range of fiction written in the last 10 years, examining formal and thematic issues and the relationships between them. You will consider narrative experimentation (the recycling of old stories and forms), the representation of history, posthumanism, globalization, technology. Since there is inevitably an absence of established critical texts on the contemporary works studied, you will consider alternative sources of critical opinion (academic journals, the internet, broadsheet and broadcast journalism); and the ways in which new novels demand and shape new criticism. Your assessment will consist of a 3000-word essay at the end of the semester.

Optional modules available all years

  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme module will allow you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You may choose to take two language modules in place of options on your course from the second semester of your first year, or in the second or third year. You can choose from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, or Spanish. In order to experience the learning of a new language, you must select one that you have not learned before.


For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure.

Modules are subject to change and availability.

You’ll show your progress through a combination of exams, essays, portfolios, presentations, reviews and reports, as well as your final-year Major Project.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

At the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, we believe in thinking critically about the past, present and future to challenge perceptions and better understand communities and people.

With expertise from gender issues to literary analysis to exploring how the past has shaped our modern world, all our staff members are active researchers. This is reflected in our teaching, allowing us to support our students with the latest theories and practices, as well as essential employability advice.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Additional study information

Activities and events

You can take part in our many extra-curricular activities, our poetry and writing evenings, research symposia and conferences, as well as many student societies including the Creative Writing Society, the Philosophy Society, the Poetry Society and the Harry Potter Society.

Study abroad opportunities

You can study abroad for one semester, and apply for funding to help cover the cost


All your classes will take place in our modern and well-equipped classrooms. You’ll also have full access to our well-stocked campus library, with computer rooms and quiet zones, as well as many online resources.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2019/20 or 2020/21 (per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (per year)


Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

You can take out a tuition fee loan, which you won’t need to start repaying until after your graduate. Or alternatively, there's the option to pay your fees upfront.

Loans and fee payments


We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Some of these cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Explore ARU scholarships

International students

You must pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit or sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
Funding for international students

We offer a number of scholarships, as well as an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Funding for international students

We offer a number of scholarships, as well as an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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UCAScode: VQ53

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