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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 this module before A816.  


A815 is a compulsory module in our:

A815 is an optional module in our:

Postgraduate Loans 

If you study this module as part of an eligible qualification, you may be eligible for a Postgraduate Loan. For more information, see Fees and funding.


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

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.

OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
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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 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 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 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 a blend of face-to-face and online tutorials. We may also be able to offer day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend.

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 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2020.


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 MA 

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    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 England fee Register
    29 Sep 2018 Jan 2020 £4080.00

    Registration closes 20/09/18 (places subject to availability)

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

    Future availability

    MA English part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2020.

    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.

    Ways to pay

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options. To find out more see Fees and funding.

    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

    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
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

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

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    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

    • 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 Wiley-Blackwell £29.99 - ISBN 9781405192781
    • Franklin, D. & Harrison, J. (eds) Sophocles: Antigone Cambridge University Press £8.95 - ISBN 9780521010733
    • Milton, J.: Leonard, J. (ed.) Paradise Lost Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780140424393
    • Da Sousa Correa, D. & Owens, W.R. (eds) The Handbook to Literary Research (2nd edn) Routledge £25.99 - ISBN 9780415485005
    • Defoe, D.: Keymer, T. (ed.) Robinson Crusoe Oxford World's Classics £6.99 - ISBN 9780199553976
    • Coetzee, J.M. Foe Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780241950111
    • Blake, W. The Complete Poems Penguin £16.99 - ISBN 9780140422153
    • Rhys, J. Wide Sargasso Sea Penguin £7.99 - ISBN 9780141182858
    • Anouilh, J.: Freeman, D. (ed.) Bray, B. (trans.) Antigone Methuen £8.99 - ISBN 9780413695406
    • Shakespeare, W.: Bliss, L. (ed) Coriolanus (The New Cambridge Shakespeare) Cambridge University Press £8.99 - ISBN 9780521728744
    • Coetzee, J.M. Dusklands Vintage £8.99 - ISBN 9780099268338
    • Bronte, C. Jane Eyre Oxford World's Classics £6.99 - ISBN 9780199535590
    • Kipling, R.: Sullivan, Z.T. (ed) Kim (Norton Critical Editions) Norton £8.95 - ISBN 9780393966503

    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.