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BA Drama and Literature

Why we're great

  • Our students are extremely happy - we are top 10 in the UK for student satisfaction.
  • Many of our lecturers come from the theatre profession and continue to have active careers.
  • We have a thriving Theatre Arts Society and student company - you can put theory into practice.

Course options

UCAS code: QW24
Duration: 3 years
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Fee (Home/EU): £9,000
Fee (International): £12,950

UCAS code: WQ42
Duration: 4 years
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Fee (Home/EU): £9,000
Fee (International): £12,950

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

Study a wide range of dramatic texts, from Ancient Greek times to the present day, and develop an understanding of the principal developments in European Theatre.

You benefit from our Lakeside Theatre, which has been established as a major venue for excellent drama, known for a commitment to new writing for the stage. Not only do many professional touring companies bring their productions of new plays to our Lakeside Theatre but there has been a wealth of new work produced by our own staff and students. An essential element of our Lakeside Theatre’s programme has been the opportunity it gives you to write or direct new plays, as well as re-define classics and re-discover neglected masterpieces.

Topics covered in our modules include:

  • Transforming dramatic texts into dramatic performance
  • Comedy, tragedy and the development of genre, both in theory and practice
  • Gender and sexual politics on stage
  • Writing for theatre
  • Translating novels for the screen
  • Writing of the US South

We are ranked Top 10 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015).

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you extending your education by providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad or employed on a placement, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Our Department has an exchange scheme with universities in Denmark, France, Finland, Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy through the ERASMUS programme. This provides our students with the opportunity to view the world, and theatre, from another perspective.

Studying abroad also 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.

Our expert staff

Our academic literature staff specialise in a range of areas including modernism, comparative and world literature, Shakespeare, the Renaissance, travel writing, nature writing, translated literature, cultural geography, Irish and Scottish writing, US and Caribbean literature, and the history of reading.

The Centre for Theatre Studies at Essex is part of the multi-disciplinary Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, offering talented students the support and confidence to engage both critically and artistically in the study of drama. This distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning playwrights, actors and directors, as well as leading literature specialists.

Specialist facilities

  • Our on-Campus, 200-seat Lakeside Theatre is a major venue for drama, staging productions by professional touring companies and new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students
  • Participate in regular workshops at the Lakeside Theatre which help you to improve your performance skills
  • Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work as it develops
  • View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
  • Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading specialists at weekly research seminars
  • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at the department’s Myth Reading Group

Your future

A degree in drama enables you to develop the graduate capabilities that employers value. You learn how to communicate with confidence, both orally and in writing. Our strong practical component equips you with the subject-related skills for degree-level employment.

Our graduates go on to become highly-regarded professionals in the cultural industries. Many now teach, while other progress to further research in drama and related subjects. Several graduates have become stage managers at venues across the UK, while others find work in varied areas including journalism, press relations, television production, magazine editing, copywriting, industry, commerce and law.

Recent graduates have been employed as:

  • A freelance theatre practitioner
  • A writer
  • A digital journalist and sub-editor
  • A business development officer
  • A journalist

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

How are dramatic texts staged? How do different texts require different approaches? Investigate dramatic methods - both recent and historic - in relation to a number of plays. Explore methods to approach a script during rehearsals, including the vocabulary used by practitioners. Undertake close textual analysis of a play-script during practical workshops.

Which writers re-worked Homer’s Odyssey? Or borrowed ideas from Dante’s Inferno? Examine how key literary texts and genres have been used by successive generations of writers up until the present day. Shift from classical text to a more modern example, studying the long cultural traditions that exist.

What do you know about the major theatre theorists – Aristotle, Brecht, Artaud and Stanislavski? How do their theories relate to plays from the European tradition? Attend practical and theoretical classes to build your knowledge. Examine plays from Ancient Greece to today, discussing issues like genre representation, gender, modernism and postmodernism.

What is contemporary writing? And how is it characterised? Don’t just study known “traditional” genres of literature, what about the emerging new genres of writing that are challenging readers? Analyse contemporary English writing, published within the last ten years, looking at themes, forms, issues and language.

What is US literature? What makes it different from other writing in the English language, particularly work from the UK? Study classic texts that have established US literature as a distinct tradition in itself and gain an understanding of the issues surrounding this.

How do you read a text closely? What is involved in close reading? With emphasis on you to active do the close reading, learn how this approach can contribute to your appreciation of meaning and significance in a diverse range of texts.

What techniques are required for critical writing? How is “the essay” a specific form of writing? Improve your essay-writing by preparing short assignments on a single literary text. Practise the skills needed (planning, use of terminology, constructing an argument, presenting evidence, secondary reading, footnotes and bibliography etc) for academic writing.

Year 2

What are the links and connections between texts? Do these exist even if the plays seem diverse? Explore a range of texts from the medieval period to the 1980s, analysing genre, dramatic form, language, narrative and dramatic debate. Through practical sessions, consider approaches like staging, verse-speaking, montage and character development.

How useful is the term “early modern”? What about “medieval” or “Renaissance”? Study literature from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Glimpse cultural structures and behaviour that prefigures our own, as well as an exciting “otherness” of the many worlds represented in the variety of texts chosen.

What is modernity? How did it change our perception of the world? What impact did it have on literary culture? Study major pieces of poetry, drama and fiction from the 1790s to the 1970s that engage with challenges and inventions of modern life, negotiating transitions between old and new.

What are the major US texts since 1850? And what problems are connected to them? Study a varied spectrum of US literature, looking at issues such as the relationship between American writing and history, American “difference” and differences within American society, nationalism and regionalism, and conflicts of race and gender.

Final year

How has the American identity and purpose changed since World War Two? And how is this reflected in literature? Gain answers to these questions via a range of American texts. Analyse these works using a variety of critical approaches, considering social, political and cultural contexts since the Second World War.

Want to acquire advanced practical skills in filmmaking? And get hands-on experience of producing a short film? Focus on the art of filmmaking by exploring technical approaches in practice. Work collaboratively and creatively to devise and realise two short films, investigating narrative, cinematography, music, sound, art design, and lighting.

How powerful is Hollywood? How do directors construct an image of the USA? Examine how directors have created America in the popular imagination. Study Hollywood auteurs (such as Chaplin, Hawks, Hitchcock, Welles and Ford) alongside others (such as Scorsese, Allen and Lee) while covering the breadth of US film history.

How did science fiction develop as a genre? What are the key themes? How do you write your own science fiction story? Explore key science fiction works, alongside texts from film, TV and the internet. Write your own science fiction short stories and complete world-building exercises in group workshops.

Year abroad

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
  • Practical drama workshops
  • Emphasis on practical exercises and creative approaches
  • 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

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: ABB-BBB, including one essay-based subject

IB: 32-30 points, including a Higher Level essay-based subject grade 5

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold several Open Days throughout the year so that you can visit our Colchester Campus and find out more about Essex. You’ll be able to tour our campus and accommodation, meet our academics, sample the course you’re interested in and get answers to all the questions you have about becoming a member of the University of Essex.

You can find out more and book your place online. If our dates don’t work for you then don’t worry, you can always book a campus and accommodation tour on a weekday to suit you. Just email to get booked in.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Southend Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. We have a comprehensive list online so take a look and see if we’ll be near you in the future.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: 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.

Interview and tests

If you’re resident in the UK and apply before the UCAS deadline in January, you might be shortlisted for a workshop based on your application. During this workshop you’ll work in groups, responding to a stimulus to create a piece of theatre. It’s an ideal opportunity to experience how our courses are taught and also great fun. Offers for this course will only be made after attendance at a workshop. This will form part of your visit day where you’ll be able to explore the campus, meet our students and get a feel for life at Essex.

If you live outside the UK, we won’t invite you to a workshop, but you can still arrange a trip to see us. Feel free to email and we’ll help you arrange a suitable time for you to come and visit.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.