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MA English part 1

In this masters-level module you'll explore a rich and varied range of literary texts from ancient times to the present. Building on your previous study of literature, you'll be equipped with key research methods in literary study and introduced to the use of extensive electronic resources available via the OU library. The module is designed to give plenty of scope for the development of individual research projects. This will prepare you for the dissertation module MA English part 2 (A816) where you'll have the opportunity to plan, research and write up an extended piece of work based on your own interests. You are therefore expected to study this module before A816.  


A815 is a compulsory module in our:

A815 is an optional module in our:



Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This masters-level module is divided into two broad sections. In the first and longer section you'll be exploring five clusters of major literary texts, from the ancient past right up to the present. These clusters have been chosen to exemplify some of the complex and fascinating ways in which certain literary themes, personae or narratives have circulated within and across widely differing contexts and periods. You'll be considering, for example, the phenomenon of rewrites and adaptations of literary texts in different genres, languages and media. This will include study not only of their critical reception, but of their material production, distribution and dissemination. You'll be encouraged to bring a range of relevant theoretical approaches to literary texts and become aware of the ways in which these approaches themselves have histories, and are practised within institutional frameworks.

The second and shorter section of the module continues the exploration of literary circulations across boundaries, and the adaptation and recreation of texts in a range of different media. Its main focus, however, is on issues of literary history and book history, with reference to two very different literary texts: Byron’s satirical poem Don Juan and Kipling’s novel Kim. These will be used to open up discussion of the ways in which our understanding of literary texts can be deepened by reference to the specific historical frameworks and contexts within which they are produced and consumed, and to explore the concepts, methodologies and practices of book history, and how this relates to our study of literature.

The overall aims of the module are to provide you with a rich and exciting experience of higher level literary study while at the same time developing your independent skills in literary research. The study materials provide guided reading to a wide range of critical approaches. Assignments also cover a wide range of topics and allow you to focus on and develop particular critical and theoretical interests, (for example in post-colonial theory, feminist theory, literary and book history, or interdisciplinary research).

The module as a whole will provide you with opportunities to develop the analytical and research skills required for study at this level, with an increasing emphasis on your individual research as the module progresses. You'll need to have successfully completed this module as it prepares you to undertake the dissertation module, MA English part 2 (A816) for which you'll choose, in consultation with your tutor, a topic of your own devising, so as to pursue your own particular critical and theoretical interests, building on the study areas and approaches that you explored.

The module structure, with the texts to be studied, is as follows:

Block 1
Sophocles, Antigone
Jean Anouilh, Antigone

Block 2
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Block 3
William Shakespeare, Coriolanus
Bertholt Brecht, Coriolan

Block 4
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
J.M. Coetzee, Foe and Dusklands

Block 5
Genesis Chapters 1–3
John Milton, Paradise Lost
William Blake, Milton

Block 6
Lord Byron, Don Juan

Block 7
Rudyard Kipling, Kim

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will help you with the study material, mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. There will be a blend of face-to-face and online tutorials that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend.

We aim to provide face-to-face tutorials in a range of locations students can travel to, though we cannot guarantee availability close to where you live, in specific locations, or locations that have been used previously. Student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect the locations of where tutorials are held, and what online alternatives are provided. Recordings will typically be made available to students.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Course work includes

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

Future availability

MA English part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2020 when we expect it to start for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    To undertake this postgraduate study successfully, you will need to have an undergraduate honours degree, ideally in English or a closely related subject. Although your degree need not be in English, you must show some knowledge of the subject, together with the study skills expected of a graduate in this field. You should be aware that a degree of at least 2.1 or equivalent will greatly increase your chances of successfully completing the module.

    It is expected that your spoken and written English will also be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum score of 7 under the International English Language testing system (IELTS). Please see their website for details.

    MA English part 1 assumes that a candidate for a master’s degree already has the knowledge and skills usually acquired by pursuing the subject at undergraduate level. The qualification will not offer remedial undergraduate training for those who have an inappropriate undergraduate degree or inadequate experience. Any student beginning the module without an undergraduate degree or equivalent experience in English should do so at their own risk. If you would like further advice regarding this, please speak to an adviser.

    Before you begin the module you must be able to:

    • write clear, concise, accurate prose
    • read large quantities of text quickly, accurately and critically
    • classify evidence precisely and assess its value and reliability
    • argue logically, consistently and sceptically
    • marshal various sorts of evidence to support a logical argument.

    To get an idea of whether the level of work involved and the approach taken on this module is appropriate for you, you are advised to read some sections of material from the set books list. In particular, we would suggest that you read the introduction to The Handbook to Literary Research. Chapter 2 also provides you with an indication of the skills you will need to be ready to develop in order to complete the module. Other chapters will give you an idea of some of the approaches to literary research with which you will have opportunities to engage with. If you would like help to assess your preparedness you can contact us for advice.

    Preparatory work

    You are encouraged to read as many of the set books as possible before beginning the MA and to locate any potentially useful research libraries in your local area.


    Start End Fee Register
    03 Oct 2020 Jan 2022 Not yet available

    Registration closes 17/09/20 (places subject to availability)

    October 2020 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Future availability

    MA English part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2020 when we expect it to start for the last time.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    Study materials

    What's included

     You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a module guide
    • an interactive week-by-week study planner
    • reading guides to introduce you to the essential resources and important issues relevant to each block of study
    • readings comprising key critical and theoretical extracts related to each block of study
    • assessment guide
    • the MHRA Style Guide, with information on the use of scholarly conventions in literary study
    • electronic resources for the study of literature, including journals, and training in their use, via our OU library
    • online tutorials and forums.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Milton, J.: Leonard, J. (ed.) Paradise Lost Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780140424393
    • Kipling, R.: Sullivan, Z.T. (ed) Kim (Norton Critical Editions) Norton £8.95 - ISBN 9780393966503
    • Franklin, D. & Harrison, J. (eds) Sophocles: Antigone Cambridge University Press £9.50 - ISBN 9780521010733
    • Lord Byron: McGann, J. (ed.) The Major Works Oxford World's Classics £12.99 - ISBN 9780199537334
    • Da Sousa Correa, D. & Owens, W.R. (eds) The Handbook to Literary Research (2nd edn) Routledge £27.99 - ISBN 9780415485005
    • Coetzee, J.M. Dusklands Vintage £8.99 - ISBN 9780099268338
    • Coetzee, J.M. Foe Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780241950111
    • Eliot, S. & Rose, J. (eds) A Companion to the History of the Book Wiley-Blackwell £29.99 - ISBN 9781405192781
    • Blake, W. The Complete Poems Penguin £16.99 - ISBN 9780140422153
    • Rhys, J. Wide Sargasso Sea Penguin £7.99 - ISBN 9780141182858
    • Shakespeare, W.: Bliss, L. (ed) Coriolanus (The New Cambridge Shakespeare) Cambridge University Press £8.99 - ISBN 9780521728744
    • Bronte, C. Jane Eyre Oxford World's Classics £6.99 - ISBN 9780199535590
    • Anouilh, J.: Freeman, D. (ed.) Bray, B. (trans.) Antigone Methuen £8.99 - ISBN 9780413695406
    • Defoe, D.: Keymer, T. (ed.) Robinson Crusoe Oxford World's Classics £6.99 - ISBN 9780199553976

    If you have a disability

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.