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BA Literature and Modern Languages

Why we're great

  • Great flexibility and choice: You can study up to four languages choosing between French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese from beginner or post-A level standard. Mandarin Chinese is available at beginner’s level.
  • Our literature and creative writing courses are taught by leading academics and writers.
  • Our study abroad opportunities include studying at a partner university, combining study and work experience, or taking up a British council assistantship.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: QRF9
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Language and Linguistics
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666
Email admit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

How has literature changed between the time of Shakespeare and today? What happens when you approach English literature from a European perspective? What kind of language do we use in order to understand and analyse literary texts?

Beginning with an overview of literary works in your first year, from the Bard to the present day, the literature component of this course offers a great deal of flexibility for you to concentrate on the areas of the subject that interest you. You are able to explore topics such as:

  • Modernist cityscapes in literature
  • Translating novels for the screen
  • Writing of the U.S. South
  • Victorian literary realism

You also study up to two of French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese, completing at least one language to Mastery level. Each of these languages is widely used in the business world, and can take you to a level of near-fluency, and so many of our graduates go on to develop successful global careers with international firms looking for language specialists.

We also offer a month-long summer course with fees paid for by us if you start a language from scratch via the intensive route.

We are one of the largest and most prestigious language and linguistics departments in the world, a place where talented students become part of an academic community in which the majority of research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, placing us firmly within the top 10 departments in the UK (REF 2014).

Meanwhile, our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies is ranked Top 20 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015).

Our Department of Language and Linguistics is ranked among the top 150 departments on the planet and our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies is ranked among the top 200 departments on the planet, according to the QS World [University] Rankings [2016].

“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 that I have been encouraged.”

Claire Tye, BA English Literature, 2011

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. On this course you spend the third of your four years abroad, experiencing, engaging with, and integrating into another culture.

Our course offers three possibilities for your year abroad. The first allows you to work as a language assistant, thereby acquiring valuable professional experience in an international context in addition to earning money.

Alternatively, you can study at one of the prestigious universities with which we have exchange links. These include universities in:

  • France (Lyon 3, Montpellier and Nice)
  • Germany (Berlin FUB, Trier and Konstanz)
  • Italy (Bologna, Trento and Urbino)
  • Portugal (Coimbra)
  • Brazil (Florianopolis and Salvador)
  • Spain (Murcia, Madrid, Cadiz and Granada)
  • Chile (Santiago)
  • Colombia (Bogota)
  • Mexico (Mérida and Monterrey)

You continue to study modules relevant to your course, learning your chosen languages within a country that speaks them, and you pay no tuition fees for your time overseas.

You may also undertake a period of study at a university abroad for one term in your third year, after which you work with an organisation in the same country. This unique experience helps you stand out when applying for jobs. Find out more.

Whichever option you choose, 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.

Our expert staff

Our English Language staff are internationally renowned. Their books dominate the reading lists at other universities. We maintain excellent student-staff ratios, and we integrate language learning with linguistics wherever there is synergy.

At Essex, we also have an impressive literary legacy. Our history comprises staff (and students) who have been Nobel Prize winners, Booker Prize winners, and Pulitzer Prize winners. Our academic 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, U.S. and Caribbean literature, and the history of reading.

Specialist facilities

  • Access to two multimedia language teaching labs which are equipped with state-of-the-art Melissi Digital Classroom software, and fitted with computers integrating audio-visual projectors and large screens
  • A new 20-position Interpreting Lab
  • Meet other linguists and practice your language skills at our Language Cafés
  • Experience world cinema at our Modern Languages film club
  • Our Languages for All programme offers you the opportunity to study an additional language alongside your course at no extra cost
  • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at the department’s Myth Reading Group
  • 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
  • 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

Your future

Companies and organisations in the UK and abroad are struggling to find university graduates who are fluent in at least one other language, apart from English.

Being an Essex modern languages graduate places you in a very advantageous position. You will be able to speak and write fluently, or to a very competent standard, in up to four languages. Language skills are in scarce supply and can be used in almost any job.

Our graduates become teachers, translators, administrators and journalists. Their valued language skills have enabled them to work in diverse fields including banking, entertainment, media, education and tourism, as well as for a host of UK and international companies. In particular, a degree in modern languages lends itself to a career in education, translation, interpretation, trade, PR, communications, immigration or diplomacy.

For example, one of our recent graduates is now a newspaper editor in Spain, while another teaches modern languages in Southampton.

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.

The language module that you will study will depend upon your level when you arrive in the department. We are happy to accept students with no previous knowledge of the language (except for French where an A level is required if you wish to major in this language). Please refer to the progression pathway table to find out which modules are suitable for your linguistic profile.

In your first, second and fourth year you can choose optional modules from other subject areas if you wish.

Our courses allow you to study up to two, three or four modern languages. The below example structure shows a student studying French and Spanish.

Please note that in your second year you choose between Early Modern Literature and United States Literature Since 1850. You don't take both modules.

Year 1

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.

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 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.

Want to learn Spanish from scratch? And spend four weeks abroad during the summer? Build your language abilities, so you can read short stories or novels in Spanish, as well as articulate your ideas verbally or in writing. Undertake a research project, in Spanish, on a topic of your choosing.

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

Year 2

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.

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.

Want to build your confidence when both speaking and writing in Spanish? Develop your language abilities, expanding your vocabulary and improving your listening and oral skills. Expand your understanding of Spanish and Latin American culture and history through the use of texts, films and conversations with native speakers.

What are your skills? And how do they fit in with your career plans? Build your employability skills through this non-credit bearing but obligatory module. Attend workshops and events, engage in activities to raise your employability and build your knowledge of the graduate job market.

Final year

Want to improve your Spanish? Study topics related to social and historical events in Spanish-speaking societies to build your vocabulary and knowledge. Learn to interact in everyday situations, as well as in discussions on more specialised topics. Become familiar with more complex grammar, while developing your oral and written skills.

Want near-native level competence in Spanish? Wish to deal quickly and precisely with written or spoken documents? Refine your knowledge of Spanish grammar and vocabulary by studying different texts. Practice your writing with essays and reports, and learn to express yourself clearly in complex situations.

Investigate the myths surrounding the founding of the United States. Crossing disciplines of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and cinematic and theatrical texts, you compare the classic Western against a range of counter-narratives from black, Hispanic, latino, and aboriginal storytellers. This module interrogates the concept of a 'national literature', explores the relationship between folklore and contemporary society, and investigates the relationship between the Western as a narrative form, and the history of colonialism in the U.S.A.

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.

What are the important theories about Wordsworth’s poetry? And Coleridge? How do you analyse the imagination of Shelley? Or Keats? Explore key aspects of Romantic writing, deepening your knowledge of this vibrant and diverse literature. Study works of poetry, fiction and essays, building understanding of relevant critical approaches and theories.

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

  • Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes
  • Innovative ways of engaging with texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research
  • State-of-the-art technologies and materials create an ideal learning environment
  • Activities designed to develop your practical language skills, such as role-play and class presentations
  • Cultural and social themes are explored through film, music, the internet, theatre and literature

Assessment

  • Languages assessed through role-plays and translations
  • Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year
  • Weighted 50% coursework and 50% exams
  • For Literature courses, a mark for class participation is included in your coursework mark

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

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 admit@essex.ac.uk 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 do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

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 Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

Applying

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.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email visit@essex.ac.uk so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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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.