UCL English


BA English


This programme aims to provide a historically-based overview of the literature of all periods, together with opportunities to specialise in particular periods of literature, in modern English language, and in non-period courses. Students are encouraged to develop their own interests and may choose from a wide variety of specialisms.

Why study English at UCL?

UCL was the first university in England to teach English at undergraduate level, and since then the English Department's courses have evolved to reflect the twin virtues of breadth (students are encouraged to take a range of papers, and to graduate with a broad understanding of the development of English literature over time) and depth (students have a wide choice of optional papers, which can be taken in any combination, and the provision of different 'sign-up' seminars in many optional courses further encourages students to tailor courses around their own interests, whilst not losing the sense of a wider context).

The Tutorial System

This ability to tailor the syllabus around a student's academic interests is most apparent in our tutorial system. UCL English is the only university that teaches English undergraduates one-to-one: something which our students regularly say is the single most important factor in their academic development across their degree, as well as the most enjoyable.

All students are given a tutor in first year, a different one in second year, and another in third year. You will write essays in preparation for fortnightly meetings with your tutor, in which your work will be discussed and your ideas challenged: this is designed partly to improve your writing and prepare you for exams, but also to enable students to research topics for their essays which are of particular interest to them (as long as these fall broadly within the confines of the papers a student is taking that year). The tutorial is thus not only an unrivalled opportunity for one-to-one supervision of your work, but a chance for individuals to pursue personal research ideas, guided by their tutor.  

Course Structure

The first year of the English BA acts as a foundation for the two following years, covering major narrative texts from the Renaissance to the present, background texts from Homer to Freud and Barthes, Anglo-Saxon and medieval writings and the study of critical method.

In the second and third years you will study compulsory courses on Chaucer and Shakespeare, and will choose six further courses from a wide range of options. American Literature and literature in English from other countries outside Europe feature strongly on several courses and attention is paid to the study of film.

First Year

The first-year course consists of four components which taken together constitute a foundation for the further study of English Literature: 

Narrative Texts
Introduction to Medieval Language and Literature
Intellectual and Cultural Sources
Criticism and Theory

Single honours students follow all these courses, while Modern Language Plus students follow the Narrative Texts course and either Criticism and Theory or Introduction to Medieval Language and Literature.

You can read the 2016/17 First Year Reading List here.

Second and Third Years

The following courses run yearly:

Chaucer and his Literary Background
Commentary and Analysis

Chaucer is compulsory in the second year, and Shakespeare in the third.

Students should also take Critical Commentary and Analysis unless they are sitting three or more medieval options: in these cases, Critical Commentary is an optional paper.

Students then select five (or six, if they have not taken Critical Commentary and Analysis) further courses across the two years of study, from the following options.

Many of the larger courses also have different seminar options within them, which students can choose between based on their particular interests ('sign up seminars'). Examples of sign-up seminars for 2016-17 are included below whee relevant.

Old English I: Stories from the Heroic Age
Old English II: Books from the Era of Invasion and Reform
Middle English I
Middle English II
Renaissance Literature
The Seventeenth Century
The Eighteenth Century
The Romantic Period
The Victorian Period
American Literature to 1890
Modern Literature I
Modern Literature II
London in Literature
Modern English Language
Literary Linguistics
History of the English Language
Old Icelandic
Literary Representation and the History of Homosexuality

There are also opportunities to take the following papers from outside the Department: Medieval French, Early Italian, Medieval German (all SELCS) and Early Medieval Archaeology of Britain (Archaeology).

Further Information

For further information about the UCL BA in English, including questions about the application process, please email the Admissions Officer, James Phillips, at james.phillips@ucl.ac.uk