About the course
Our undergraduate course, BA Literature and Art History, offers students flexible pathways of study throughout their three year degree, as well as the option of an additional year studying abroad. Our distinctive curriculum allows you to take advantage of the most up-to-date developments in the field, and to understand the interactions and differences between literature and the visual arts in history. Students on our literature and art courses are offered the opportunity to study the relationship between text and image and the relationships that exist between the two. Our students have the opportunity to develop their interests and explore a variety of interpretative methods which are appropriate to both the text and to the visual artefact. Literature is introduced in the first year through a series of seminal works in drama, poetry and narrative which have helped to articulate the literature of England and Europe both past and present. By adopting and practising close reading skills our students develop their abilities in analysis and interpretation and grow in confidence from the beginning of their undergraduate study. Similarly in art history modules students cover a broad based history from their first year of study and can and choose from a variety of specialist options to suit their own interests. Students will be able to engage with art works that range from Old Master paintings, through the Pre-Raphaelites and Surrealists, to the most up-to-date contemporary art and visual culture. Modules explore a wide variety of media, including architecture, urbanism, photography and video, as well as painting, drawing, printmaking, performance art and sculpture. This understanding of visual history allows our students to complement and enhance their exploration of different textual sources, from the earliest modern works to the literature and theory of the present day, in a variety of contexts.
The study of literature and art history as a combined honours subject is one of our most popular courses. Our students are trained in the reading writing and visual communication skills which enrich their own work and which make them highly desirable to employers.
Why study BA Literature and Art History at Essex?
Our degree in literature and art history depends upon the combined expertise of the two areas; and together they will offer a strong and supportive environment for your studies. Our way of integrating these specialist areas allows are students to discover their own areas of interest and tailor make their degree course as best suits their individual requirements. Literature was one of the founding subjects at Essex and the Department has built its reputation on the scholarly and critical achievements of its teaching staff whose expertise in English, comparative and world literature are well-established. Likewise, our Art History staff body boasts published world experts on topics as diverse as representations of ruins, nineteenth century medical photography, images of Hell, the art of Latin America, urbanism, and the history of tattooing, and we are proud of the underpinnings our research lends to our teaching. As we are a small department, you will encounter even our senior expert staff in the very first year. As a student in these combined disciplines you will be afforded multiple opportunities for creative dialogues with art historians, writers, dramatists and poets. Moreover, our BA Literature and Art History is the only programme in the UK to offer students the choice from a variety of study trips abroad, as well as Travel Scholarships of up to £500 to those students applying for joint honours courses and selecting us as their firm choice before May.
The University of Essex also boasts ESCALA, the largest and most important collection of Latin American art outside of the Americas. Should they wish to develop their art history portfolio, students on our combined courses which include art history are able to work directly and closely with the objects and their associated archives over the course of their studies and their own research even at undergraduate level; this is a unique opportunity for object-based learning which is rare in other universities. Our library has one of the finest specialist collections of Latin American material in Europe, comprising over 85,000 books and pamphlets, 1,700 periodical titles (of which approximately 100 are current), as well as collections of Brazilian chap-books and Mexican codices in superb facsimile editions.
Why study this subject?
Our course will greatly increase your understanding of visual arts, literature and broader culture thus making you more employable. In a world increasingly shaped, directed and communicated by visual media, we believe that studying the history and theory of images and objects as a part of their degree course is one of the most crucial sets of skills young people can develop. The visual is central to our experience of the modern world. The ability to read and interpret the images and stories that surround us as both word and image is crucial to our understanding of contemporary life. Our course in literature and art history is shaped by the need for our students to engage consciously with the narratives of both the past and present. This is reflected in the commitment that each discipline demonstrates to juxtaposing the contemporary, the traditional and the classical. We do not situate our works in a vacuum but we embrace the opportunities for context that combined honours provision is able to offer.
Students on our joint undergraduate programmes acquire skills which employers value. By combining your fields of study you will increase your transferable skills, such as the ability to analyse the images around us and to prepare and deliver illustrated presentations. Our students understand interpretative methods, develop contextual conceptual and comparative frameworks for study and understand critical enquiry and argument and imaginative understanding both in terms of the literary and the visual. Most fundamentally, our combined honours students in literature and art history gain (though careful, rigorous and passionate study), deep insights into the communications skills required for the world of work and equip themselves with an extensive set of intellectual tools to navigate their futures.
By studying at Essex, you will have access to our outstanding facilities to aid your learning and research. We offer a well-organised student support system which will direct you to the best source of advice and support in the case of personal or academic difficulties. You are taught by open-minded and enthusiastic staff, who are experts in their field, and are committed to excellence in education. Together we will develop your full academic and personal potential.
Our combined honours students have access to all learning facilities at our Colchester Campus. As a student of literature and art history you will have access to a range of exceptional facilities to support and enhance your learning and research including the excellent common room facilities in both the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, and also in the School of Philosophy and Art History, where we have our own photocopying facilities, film collection, IT facilities and an independent departmental library. We also have a highly flexible gallery space on campus, which hosts regular exhibitions as well as the shows curated by our postgraduate students.
We encourage interdisciplinarity within the field of humanities subjects, and we offer regular staff and student research seminars and a number of our teaching staff hold teaching awards and fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.
Study abroad/placement opportunities
Here at Essex we recognise the importance of studying and living abroad, so offer many opportunities for you to spend a term or a full year studying in another country and have exchange partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan. We are committed to an ongoing programme of establishing and coordinating a variety of placements and internships, both within and beyond our University.
Hear what our students have to say
Claire Tye, BA English Literature ’11, United Kingdom
“Upon arriving at Essex I quickly discovered what a great department I was part of. There’s lots of support available for students and the Department has multiple disciplines which allows you to study a wide range of modules and delve into new areas you might not otherwise have considered. I particularly enjoyed the module Transformation of Fairytale, taught by Professor Marina Warner, which was something I was looking forward to doing even before I started at Essex!
“I am now a primary school teacher. Studying literature at Essex has been very helpful to me and should definitely aid me in my future career teaching in a primary school. My passion for reading and literature has been taken new heights at Essex, and I hope to share the same passion for literature with children and encourage reading in the way I have been encouraged.”
The special characteristics of our courses are flexibility and choice. In your first year, you usually take four or five modules that include pre-requisite(s) for your course but, in many cases, mean you can try subjects you have not come across before. If you are taking a humanities or social science, then you have the greatest choice, as most of our first-year modules do not assume any specialist knowledge.
Year 1 core and optional modules
Introduction to Literature;
Art, Sex and Death in the Eighteenth Century or Greatest Hits: Case Studies in the History of Art; and
Year 2 core and optional modules
Early Modern Literature;
Versions of Modernity;
The Renaissance in Tuscany; and
Arts and Ideas
Year 3 core and optional modules
Two history of art options; and
two literature, film, and theatre studies options
As a new undergraduate, you may find university-level learning, assessment and studying differs to school or college. Here at Essex, we understand and recognise this by having support in place, particularly during your first year when you may notice the change more.
If you are studying a non-science subject, then your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes, the latter involving about 20 students. A typical timetable includes a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your four modules every week. Any language classes involve language laboratory sessions.
First-year assessment is a combination of written coursework, end-of-term tests, practical and laboratory work (where appropriate) and end-of-year exams.
Teaching methods and styles
Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes. For combined courses in literature and art history, we teach the art historical element by looking at and talking about works of art with our students. We also spend a lot of time in class on the close examination of texts written by artists, critics, art historians and philosophers. We make the most of our close proximity to London and Europe by offering subsidised gallery visits and visits to works ‘in situ’ for each combined course that we teach. As a combined honours student you are also given opportunities to develop research, presentation, networking and communication skills from the beginning of your undergraduate degree in group and individual project work.
Methods of assessment
Assessment takes a variety of forms, depending on the course you are studying. Methods include coursework, for example essays, analysis of source material, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, oral presentations (both individual and in groups) book and film reviews, viva voce examinations and an independent research project – a dissertation. Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year. Your degree is awarded on the basis of coursework completed throughout your second and third years, and examinations taken at the end of each of these years. If you are spending part or all of your third year abroad, you will be assessed by your host institution.
Our courses help you develop the graduate capabilities that employers value. Your visual and communication skills will be honed. Our combined honours graduates learn to how to analyse visual imagery closely. They are aware of the interactions and differences between literature and the visual throughout history and in the context of the present day, thereby they acquire key skills in writing, close analysis, critical thinking, contextual research and time management. You will be able to speak and write fluently, or to a very competent standard, as well as having skills in research; critical analysis; interpreting and evaluating material; constructing and communicating ideas and arguments and working in groups.
All of the skills developed on our BA Literature and Art History course are highly transferable to the world of work. The skills learned over three years of dedicated study are widely transferable, and highly valued by employers across all business sectors – we live in a visual world, and the ability to process, analyse and conceptualise complex primary and secondary sources into coherent narratives; to confidently and clearly synthesise and re-present ideas; to assess the quality and reliability of information; and to have a grasp of several centuries of human success and failure through the media of their literary history and their artistic and cultural endeavours are increasingly invaluable. If you’re not yet focused on a very specific vocation, and if you’re interested in literature, communication, language, art, culture and the histories and theories of human endeavour, then a combined degree is an extraordinarily sensible option, as well as being an intellectually fulfilling and inordinately enjoyable one.
Graduates from our departments have varied careers. You can enter curating, visual merchandising, TV, journalism, publishing and teaching professions, to name just a few. Employers will value your key and transferable skills as evidenced by your study in independent learning, effective time management and clear and concise communication.
Your employability and Essex
At Essex we take your employability seriously, helping you become a rounded individual with the ability to succeed, whatever your plans. You will take a Career Development Module as part of your undergraduate degree with us and you’ll find us working with our Employability and Careers Centre to inform you about options to study or work overseas. Our Faculty Employability Coordinator finds degree-related work placements, and our Students’ Unions ensures that, annually, over 700 students volunteer and more than 4,000 get involved in sports, clubs and societies.
At Essex you can gain new skills that look good on your CV, like paid placements through our frontrunners scheme, graduate-level paid internships, and opportunities to develop discipline-specific skills as part of your studies.
We help you understand your skills, and how to demonstrate these to an employer. You can get our extra-curricular employability award – the Big Essex Award – recorded on your transcript, receive one-to-one advice on careers, use our Essex CV guides on applying for work, learn from famous entrepreneurs and take part in workshops, and meet employers through on-campus events.
We develop your employability through fantastic opportunities, and give you the tools to explore the meaning of your unique experiences, so you are ready for your future.
Here at Essex, our students can undertake period of study or work abroad specifically tailored to his/her academic interests and future career plans. You are taught and assessed by your host university, so assessment may be in the form of written papers, oral or written exams, lab or project work, research, or work-based learning. All successfully completed pre-approved modules will be credited towards your Essex degree.
Study abroad is an excellent opportunity for personal development. It affords you the chance to become immersed in another culture over a sustained period, coming to know a country and its people in a way that you could not hope to as a tourist. It is also an opportunity to experience a different educational system and develop different skills. You learn to view the world (and your academic discipline) from another perspective, becoming more independent and confident.
Study abroad also enhances your employability. It helps your CV stand out from other candidates and signals to an employer that you have maturity, adaptability and organisational skills. As the world of business is becoming increasingly international, the experience of living abroad is, in itself, attractive to many employers. Depending upon your study abroad destination, you may also gain fluency in another language, which is a highly attractive skill to have as you enter the employment market.
If you are interested in learning a language then our Languages for All programme enables you to study a language, alongside your course, at no extra cost. You can study Arabic, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Russian or Spanish. Languages for All provides two options: Language Express which allows you to study a language module taught in the evening, and Language Portfolio which allows you to study flexibly through web-based learning and optional extra activities. As employers can struggle to find graduates able to speak more than one language, Languages for All places Essex graduates in a very advantageous position.
Within our respective fields of literature and art history, we offer taught Masters courses and research supervision for PhD, MPhil and MA by dissertation. Our MA courses provide a thorough and up-to-date training in the theory, methods and latest advances in each discipline, while our range of modules allows you to specialise in the fields of your choice. Each of our taught courses has a set of core components that can be combined with optional modules to enable you to gain either in-depth specialisation or a breadth of understanding across several topics.
We welcome students whose intellectual outlook and interests cut across conventional academic boundaries. Our aim is to provide a supportive and stimulating intellectual environment for our postgraduates, which helps you to meet the various challenges involved in further studies.
GCSE English: C
BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM in Fine Art
IB: 32-30 points (we consider IB certificates at the Higher Level on a case-by-case basis)
Achievement of the Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 6 level three credits at distinction and the remainder at merit (or above) or achievement of the Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 45 level three credits at merit (or above).
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall with minimum 5.5 in each component (or equivalent). Different requirements apply for second year entry.
We accept a wide range of other qualifications from applicants studying in the UK, EU and other countries. For further details about the qualifications that we accept, please e-mail us with information about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
We welcome applications from mature students, students interested in direct entry to the second year and students wishing to defer entry.
Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.
Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.
The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.