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Taught Postgraduate Programmes: the MLitt (Master of Letters)

The School of English offers a broad range of taught postgraduate courses leading to the award of the Masters level MLitt, following successful completion of both a taught element and a supervised research dissertation of 15,000 words submitted in August. (Note that at St Andrews, as at Oxford, Cambridge and the other three ‘ancient’ Scottish universities -- i.e. those founded before 1600 -- the MA is an undergraduate award.)

The School’s MLitt programmes offer rigorous core disciplinary study combined with the option of choosing a Special Topic or a module from another MLitt, or even from another School altogether. Named MLitts consist of a Research Skills module, a solid core of integrated specialist modules, and, for all programmes except creative writing and playwriting, 20-40 credits left ‘free’ for Optional modules.

Specialist MLitt (Masters) Programmes Available


The School of English offers a small number of scholarships for applicants to the MLitt programme.

Funding information can be found at:

Degree Structure

Students must successfully complete 180 credits, of which 120 are earned in taught 5000-level modules and 60 in the dissertation. Students not completing the dissertation element may be eligible for the PGDip award, but must pass 120 credits’ worth of 5000-level taught modules.

  1. Research Skills
    All MLitt students must take EN5100 Research Skills and Resources (20 credits) or EN5101 Research Skills for Creative Writers (20 credits)
  2. Core Disciplinary Study
    On named MLitts, a further 60-100 credits will be taken up by specialist core modules for that programme.
  3. Flexibility
    All School of English MLitt programmes, with the exception of Creative Writing and Playwriting & Screenwriting, leave a final 20-40 credits free for students to ‘spend’ in one of three ways:
    • a core module from another named English MLitt
    • EN5401 or EN5402 Special Topic in English Studies 1 or 2
    • a 20-credit module from another School (where approved)

Optional Modules for MLitt Programmes

The default is for MLitt Directors to advise students into EN5402 Special Topic in English 2 unless a student knows already that s/he wants to spend the optional 20cr on a module running in Semester I or on a specific alternative module running in Semester II. Students should complete and return an Optional Module Permission Form (PDF, 52 KB)  to ensure that they are correctly registered for their chosen module.

a) EN5402: Special Topic in English Studies (Semester II)

This module allows members of staff to offer a choice of Special Topics which are available based on staff rotation and current research interests. Individual topics may be taken by up to 4 students and are taught in small discussion groups over the course of six hour-long meetings to ensure parity in close teaching, and the module will then be assessed by a single essay of c. 4,500 words. The Special Topic may be particularly attractive to students wishing to explore a potential PhD topic with a prospective supervisor. It is designed to function as a kind of half-way house between regular postgraduate teaching and dissertation supervisions.

Special Topics may be taught by individual members of staff or be team- or relay-taught, depending on the expertise required.

Meetings for Semester II special topics may begin anytime so long as they have been completed by Week 10 of Semester II at the latest, in order to leave sufficient time for the written assessment.

Sample Topics (intended as suggestions only)
Literary theory Gender and war in the twentieth century
Literature and trauma Feminist crime fiction
Myth and fairy tale Victorian aestheticism
Romantic-period writing for women Jacobin writing for children
Usury Satan
Controversial Milton ‘The new poetry’: Sidney and Spenser
Older Scots literature Chaucer
The ‘matter of England’ romances Middle English spiritual literature
Anglo-Saxonism Poetic language
Sex and Scandal at the fin de siècle Maria Edgeworth
Literature and environment Arthurian romance in Middle English
W.B. Yeats The short list: World lit and international prestige
British Cinema in the 1940s Imagining the Nation in Contemporary Irish Literature
Ezra Pound Medievalism

b) Core Modules from another English MLitt

Students wishing to take a core module from another English MLitt as their option should discuss this with the Director of the MLitt to which the core module belongs.

Table of English 5000-level Core Modules

Note that availability may change in some years to accommodate staff leave: check with the relevant Director for further information.

MLitt Semester I Semester II
Medieval English
EN5015 Reading the Medieval Text
EN5017 Old English
20 cr
EN5018 Middle English Literature in Context

Modern and Contemporary Literature
and Culture

EN5501 Contextualising the Modern
EN5511 Theorising the Contemporary
EN5502 Reading the Modern

EN5512 Contemporary Literature and Culture

Postcolonial and World Literatures

EN5601 Approaches, Theories, Contexts 1
EN5602 Approaches, Theories, Contexts 2
EN5603 Literature & Culture from the Colonial to the Postcolonial

EN5604 Postcolonial and World Literatures

Romantic/Victorian Studies

EN5200 Life, Text, Afterlife

EN5204 Literary History, Politics, Culture
Shakespeare and Renaissance
Literary Culture

EN5302 Shakespeare and Textual Culture

EN5301 The Continental Renaissance
EN5304 Learned Culture: Rhetoric, Politics and Identity
EN5303 Renaissance Popular Culture
Women, Writing and Gender

EN5115 Women’s Writing 1: Renaissance to Romanticism

EN5116 Women’s Writing 2: Victorian to Contemporary

EN5112 Theories and Contexts

c) Optional modules outwith English

Some MLitt students may wish to extend their studies beyond English Studies altogether, and the Faculty of Arts at St Andrews is keen to facilitate such cross-disciplinarity.

The Director of the relevant English MLitt will have the final say as to whether an optional module from outwith English is appropriate for the programme. Note, however, that School of English can take no responsibility for providing information on, or arranging admission to, modules outwith the School.

Students interested in taking an optional module outwith English should check the relevant school’s website for information on modules and contact that school about criteria for admission.

Modules taken in other Schools are timetabled, taught, marked and examined entirely by that School: any queries or appeals relating to such matters are entirely between the student and the school providing the module.

If you wish to take a module from another School you should:

  1. Identify the 20cr module you wish to take (N.B. some schools with 30cr modules are willing to offer a 20cr version for those who need it: consult the relevant school);
  2. Check with your own MLitt director that the module is appropriate for your English MLitt programme should the other school be willing to admit you for it. Check with school providing the module whether they would be willing to admit you.
  3. You must inform your English MLitt director and submit a completed Optional Module Permission Form (PDF, 52 KB)  to the English Postgraduate Administrator when/if you are successful in gaining admission to an external module. Otherwise you will remain enrolled for the default option of EN5402 Special Topic in English Studies 2.