All writers are first of all readers and all readers are writers, for without the active participation of readers a book is never fully realised. Our BA Literature and Creative Writing offers a unique approach to the practice of reading and writing, combining more familiar British and American perspectives and readings with other influential schools of writing, from the study of tradition and myth to the innovative practice of the Workshop of Potential Literature or Oulipo in France.
You deepen your knowledge of literary tradition across a variety of genres in order to develop your practical skills of understanding, expression and invention. Pursue your love of reading and explore some of the most important novels, poems, and plays from the United States, the Caribbean and Europe while developing your own writing through a variety of planned readings and writing exercises. We’ll teach you to be your own editor; critically judging your own and others’ work is invaluable in transforming your work from something good to something great.
At the beginning of your course, you receive a highly focused introduction to the study of literature alongside intensive modules in creative writing, covering myth, innovation and tradition, prose, and poetry. A module on writing for radio allows you to go into a studio and record a radio play. You then progress to look at a range of specialist topics such as:
- experimental writing and surrealism
- myth and fairytale
- translating novels for the screen
- American literature
- science fiction
Our course develops your abilities as a reader and writer while allowing you to take options from the other courses within our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies including filmmaking, journalism and drama.
Essex has nurtured a long tradition of distinguished writers whose work has shaped literature as we know it today, from past giants such as the American poets Robert Lowell and Ted Berrigan, to contemporary writers such as mythographer and novelist Dame Marina Warner, and Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri.
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 the placements team.
.If you complete a placement year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
Our creative writing and literature teaching staff are experienced and established writers who have a breadth of experience in the literature of different cultures and forms, including novels, short stories, poetry and song, sound poetry, translation and versioning, theatre writing, nature writing and science fiction.
The Centre for Creative Writing is part of a unique literary conservatoire that offers students the skills, support and confidence to respond artistically and critically to the study of writing with the guidance of experts.
We also currently host two Royal Literary Fund Fellows, professional writers who are on-hand to help students develop their writing on a one-to-one basis.
- Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading literature specialists at the Essex Book Festival – the festival director is based in our department, and loads of events take place on campus
- At Essex, we give you the opportunity to learn a language for free alongside your course – a great opportunity when you are studying literature from around the world
- Your Writing for Radio module will involve use of the University’s Media Centre, equipped with state-of-the-art studios, audio equipment, and an industry-standard editing suite
- Write for our student paper Rebel or host a Red Radio show
- Handle unique, fascinating items including manuscripts, letters, early drafts, and recordings of unpublished interviews in our library archives
- Get involved onstage or behind the scenes at our on-campus Lakeside Theatre
- View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
Many of our creative writing students have gone on to successfully publish their work, notable recent alumni including:
- Ida Løkås, who won a major literary prize in Norway for The Beauty That Flows Past, securing a book deal
- Alexia Casale, whose novel Bone Dragon was published by Faber & Faber and subsequently featured on both the Young Adult Books of the Year 2013 list for The Financial Times, and The Independent’s Books of the year 2013: Children
- Elaine Ewert, recent graduate from our MA Wild Writing, placed second in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2015
- Patricia Borlenghi, the founder of Patrician Press, which has published works by a number of our alumni
- Petra Mcqueen, who has written for The Guardian and runs creative writing courses
Our graduates are also ideally prepared for careers in the media, education, publishing, advertising, and the film and theatre industries. Two particular areas in which our recent 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.
We also work with the university’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Why we’re great
- Push your writing further by experimenting with a range of unusual techniques across a variety of forms, from nature writing to the novel
- Immerse yourself in the local literary scene – get involved with the Essex Book Festival where you can hear authors talk about their work
- You don’t have to limit yourself to just English literature – we specialise in literature from around the world
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.
- Guided creative writing exercises
- Workshopping your writing
- Critical analysis of how a novel is built
- Literature modules will involve lectures and seminars to discuss texts
- Innovative ways of engaging with texts include editing 16th century sonnets and conducting archival research
- Assessment may take the form of essays, presentations, or creative writing accompanied by a critical commentary