What is US literature? What makes writing in the US different from other writing in the English language? We begin to answer these questions through exploring the classic texts which established US literature as a distinct tradition, uncovering the issues which are associated with doing so; nowhere is the complex society and culture of the United States better reflected than in its novels, poetry and drama.
Essex has always been a major centre for American Studies, and our expertise across literature, film, art, history and politics allows you to unravel and understand the complexities of US society and the American dream. You explore nationalism and regionalism, as well as conflicts of race, gender and religion at the heart of US history and culture. Through this you uncover the deep interconnections in the evolution of US writing and American identities.
Discover the literature of the USA from the early realism of Mark Twain and the slave narrative of Frederick Douglass, through the experimental work of Hemingway and Faulkner, to contemporary authors such as Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison. You also cover the English literary canon from Shakespeare and his contemporaries through to twentieth-century literature.
Your reading can take you beyond the US and Britain to the rest of the Americas and Europe; at Essex you don’t just study English Literature, you study world literature in English. This means that you can study a truly diverse range of topics, including:
- Caribbean writing in relation to European and US texts
- Early modern European literature
- Translating novels for the screen
- Creative use of social media
- Modernist cityscapes
Our course offers a varied, flexible and distinctive curriculum, focused on the study of US and English literature, but also enabling you to take options from the other courses within our Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies including creative writing, filmmaking, journalism and drama.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university
When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.
If you complete a placement year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
At Essex, we have an impressive literary legacy. Our history comprises staff (and students) who have shaped writing as we know it and has included Nobel Prize winners, Booker Prize winners, and Pulitzer Prize winners.
Our Department is a vibrant conservatoire of scholars and practitioners who are committed to unlocking creative personal responses to literature, offering talented students the support and confidence to respond both critically and artistically to academic study. This distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning novelists, poets and playwrights, as well as leading literature specialists.
Our academic staff specialise in a range of areas English and world literature, including modernism, U.S. and Caribbean Literature, Shakespeare, the Renaissance, travel writing, nature writing, translated literature, cultural geography, Irish and Scottish writing, and the history of reading.
- Access the University’s Media Centre, equipped with state-of-the-art studios, cameras, audio and lighting equipment, and an industry-standard editing suite
- Write for our student magazine Rebel or host a Red Radio show
- View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
- Hear from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
- Our on-Campus, 200-seat Lakeside Theatre has been established as a major venue for good drama, staging both productions by professional touring companies and a wealth of new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students
- Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work which is being tried and tested
A good literature degree opens many doors.
The number of careers that lead from courses in literature is almost as large as the number of graduates, but two particular areas in which our graduates have had recent success are publishing and the theatre. One of our former students is now in charge of editorial at a large publishing house, and another has just taken over running one of the country’s major theatres.
Our recent graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of desirable roles including:
- The Civil Service
- Journalism and broadcasting
- Museum and library work
- Commerce and finance
We also work with the university’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Teaching will mainly take the form of lectures and classes of about 20 students
- Innovative ways of engaging with texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research
- A typical timetable involves a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your modules every week
- Your final mark for each module is determined half by coursework and half by examination
- A mark for class participation is included in your coursework mark