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MA English part 1

In this masters-level module you will explore a rich and varied range of literary texts from ancient times to the present. Building on your previous study of literature, you will 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 will have the opportunity to plan, research and write up an extended piece of work based on your own interests. Students are therefore expected to study ths module before A816.  


Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jan 2016 £3525.00

Registration closes 11/09/14 (places subject to availability)

Click to register
This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2020.

What you will study

This masters-level module is divided into two broad sections. In the first and longer section you will 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 will 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 will 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 MA 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 will 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 have explored in the course.

The module structure, with brief details of 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

J.M. Coetzee, 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


You should have a UK honours degree (or equivalent). Ideally, you should have an English degree or one that contains substantial study of literature. If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

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.


A815 is a compulsory module in our:

A815 is an optional module in our:

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.


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

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. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

  • A Module Guide, which will include a detailed description of the module.
  • An interactive Study Calendar, available through the dedicated website.
  • Study Guides to introduce you to the essential resources and important issues relevant to each block of study.
  • A Reader of key critical and theoretical extracts related to each block of study.
  • An Assignment Booklet, giving details of assignment topics.
  • An electronic copy of The MHRA Style Guide, which provides information on the use of scholarly conventions in literary study.
  • Electronic resources for the study of literature, including a wide range of journals, and training in the use of these, via our OU library.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Lord Byron: McGann, J (ed.) The Major Works Oxford World's Classics £12.99 - ISBN 9780199537334
  • Eliot, S & Rose, J (eds) A Companion to the History of the Book Blackwell £26.99 - ISBN 9781405192781
  • Rhys, Jean Wide Sargasso Sea Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780141182858
  • Milton, J: Leonard, J (ed.) Paradise Lost Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780140424393
  • Franklin, D & Harrison, J (eds) Sophocles: Antigone Cambridge University Press £7.50 - ISBN 9780521010733
  • Kipling, R: Sullivan, Z T (ed) Kim Norton £6.99 - ISBN 9780393966503
  • Defoe, D: Keymer, T (ed.) Robinson Crusoe Oxford World's Classics £6.99 - ISBN 9780199553976
  • Coetzee, J M Foe Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780241950111
  • Anouilh, J: Freeman, D (ed.) Bray, B (tr) Antigone Methuen £8.99 - ISBN 9780413695406
  • Bronte, C Jane Eyre Oxford University Press £6.99 - ISBN 9780199535590
  • Da Sousa Correa, D & Owens, W R (eds) The Handbook to Literary Research (2nd edn) Routledge £22.99 - ISBN 9780415485005
  • Coetzee, J M Dusklands Vintage £7.99 - ISBN 9780099268338
  • Blake, William The Complete Poems Penguin £16.99 - ISBN 9780140422153
  • Shakespeare, W: Bliss, Lee (ed) Coriolanus (The New Cambridge Shakespeare) Cambridge University Press £8.99 - ISBN 9780521728744

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will 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 real time online tutorials. We may also be able to offer day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service 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.

Students also studied

Students who studied this course also studied at some time:

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code A815
Credits 120
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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