About the course
Explore the urge to create and build new worlds, to share language and stories with others. On our course you work on the craft of writing through a multi-genre approach, through and across a variety of writings from fiction and poetry, to non-fiction, psychogeography, performance writing and beyond.
At Essex we offer an unusual approach to the practice of writing, combing innovative and traditional methods in order to develop your writing skills and abilities to judge your work critically, while expanding your knowledge across different modes and genres. In the Centre for Creative Writing we encourage a culture of experiment and creativity, enabling you to feel part of a community of writers.
Uncover the history and theories of writing practices through studying familiar as well as unfamiliar writings from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Wordsworth, and Kate Tempest, as well as writers taking alternative approaches to text production, from contemporary revisionings of fairytales, to new nature writing, science fiction, and the experimental language play of the French Oulipo group.
You will enhance your skills by engaging with a range of techniques, practical exercises and creative approaches and opportunities, including:
- Discover how words and ideas move across the world and are transformed through translation
- Write an independent creative project developed over eight months in your final year
- Explore the psychological foundations of creativity in relation to myth
- Surrealism and Defamiliarisation
- Writing for radio and playwriting
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.
Our course offers a varied, flexible and distinctive curriculum, focused on developing your abilities as a writer, while allowing you to take options from the other courses within our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies including literature, filmmaking, journalism and drama.
We are ranked top 20 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015), and our students are some of the happiest in the country; we are consistently ranked among the top in the UK for student satisfaction.
“After graduating from Essex I began writing novels and my debut, The Beauty That Flows Past, won a literary prize in Norway, which was a massive achievement for me and a great honour. Studying BA Creative Writing definitely helped develop my writing. I had the privilege of being taught by talented and inspiring professors, and I am grateful for all their encouragement and guidance during my three years at Essex.”
Ida Løkås, BA Creative Writing, 2009
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 from another perspective, which can have a real impact on your writing.
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.
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.
Our expert staff
Our teaching staff are experienced and established writers who have a breadth of experience across literary genres, from novels, prose and plays, to poetry and song.
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.
The Centre for Creative Writing currently hosts two Royal Literary Fund Fellows, professional writers who are on-hand to help students develop their writing on a one-to-one basis.
- 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 Albert or host a Red Radio show
- View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
- Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading literature specialists at regular talks and readings
- 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
- Improve your playwriting skills at our Lakeside Theatre Writers workshops
- Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work which is being tried and tested
Many of our students have gone on to successfully publish their work, notable recent alumni including:
Our graduates are also ideally prepared for careers in the media, education, publishing, and the film and theatre industries. 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.
Other 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 our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
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.
How do you get started as a writer? How do you practise your writing? And how can you make improvements? Using exercises and texts, focus on your basic skills and essay writing. Cover topics like characterisation, dialogue, point of view, plotting, suspense, and metaphor and imagery.
What is the purpose of rhetorical speech-making? What influence does rhetoric have on dramatic writing? Or poetic writing? Understand how rhetoric can develop your writing skills, creatively and in essays. Analyse imagery, style, point of view and structure to see how rhetoric can enhance your reading and study of literature.
What possibilities does radio offer a writer? What techniques are required? How can the main tools of dramatic construction be exploited for radio? Focusing on drama, study work currently being broadcast plus classic pieces. Make use of the University’s studio to record extracts of your own radio scripts.
Want a thorough grounding in creative practice? Keen to engage creatively with texts from your other modules? Explore creative writing practice in seminars, workshops and writing exercises. Use literary themes as a springboard for writing, studying the forms and traditions but exploring ways of adapting approaches for a contemporary audience.
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 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.
How can texts be read and interpreted using the thinking of Marx? What about Freud or de Saussure? Or Derrida and Said? Study literature, theatre, and film using these key thinkers. Analyse their approaches both historically and institutionally, and understand the importance of theoretical and methodological material to your studies.
What are the key theories for creative writing? And how do writers (such as Wordsworth or Pound) theorise their own work and that of others? Study a range of genres, from poetry and fiction to autobiography, with practical writing exercises. Explore “making the familiar unfamiliar” (defamiliarisation), and focus on narrative.
What is creative non-fiction? How does it engage and experiment with the world around us? Explore the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, from Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year to today’s “misery memoir”. Understand the creative aspect of others kinds of writing, widening your own scope and sense of possibility.
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.
How is myth used by writers? How is the creative process of writing linked to myth? Study collaborative and creative processes of writing through group work and seminars. Explore the term myth in relation to elements such as fairy tale, tradition, locality, folklore, and divination.
Are you an experienced writer or beginner? Interested in writing stories or poetry? Science fiction or detective fiction? We offer something for all! Explore the theory and practice of creative writing through the unique work of the Oulipo Workshop of Potential Literature, founded by Raymond Queneau in 1960.
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.
All second year students have the opportunity to apply to undertake an Independent Study Project in their final year in the following fields: Literature, Creative Writing, Film, Film Studies and Theatre. Independent Study gives you an opportunity to pursue a particular enthusiasm that might not be covered in our taught modules. You will focus your chosen subject in depth for six months, eventually producing a 10,000 word argument or creative piece.
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
- 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