About the course
Our course enables you to study topics from both literature and philosophy, and to explore issues at the cross-sections of these two exciting disciplines. We provide a wide-ranging and flexible curriculum, embracing different traditions of philosophical thought, and English literature of several genres and periods. We also focus on the interrelations between the disciplines of philosophy and literature.
You study topics including:
- Philosophy of religion
- European philosophy (including critical theory, phenomenology, and existentialism)
- Modernist cityscapes in literature
- Victorian literary realism
Our School of Philosophy and Art History is widely regarded as among the very best in the UK, having been recognised as one of the Top 10 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014), and being placed in the Top 10 in The Guardian University Guide in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
We are ranked Top 20 in the UK for literature (Guardian University Guide 2015).
Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you extending your education by offering you an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend your third year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad can allow 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.
We have exchange partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan.
Our expert staff
Our courses are taught by world-class academics, and over three quarters of our philosophy research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014), which puts us fifth in the UK for research outputs.
Our open-minded and enthusiastic philosophy staff have an exceptionally broad range of research interests, so whatever questions in philosophy catch hold of your imagination, there is certain to be someone you can approach to find out more.
Our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies is committed to unlocking creative personal responses to literature. Our distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning novelists, poets and playwrights, as well as leading literature specialists.
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.
Take advantage of our extensive learning resources to assist you in your studies:
- An exciting programme of research seminars, reading groups and mini-courses that help you expand your philosophical knowledge beyond what you learn on your course
- A comprehensive student support system which will direct you to the best source of advice and support in the case of personal or academic difficulties
- Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at the department’s Myth Reading Group
- Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
- 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
Many employers want graduates with critical thinking skills who can think logically and creatively about practical problems.
Our students are in demand from a wide range of employers in a host of occupations, including law, PR, project management, journalism and the media, teaching, librarianship, the Civil Service, banking, the police and fashion design.
Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies.
Philosophy develops your transferable skills, providing you with:
- The ability to understand all sides of a dispute objectively and without forming a premature opinion
- The ability to work in a team, taking a collaborative approach to problems
- The ability to interpret dense text and to communicate effectively
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
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.
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.
Please note that in your second year you choose two of these four modules: Early Modern Literature, Versions of Modernity, United States Literature Since 1850, Approaches to Text. You do not choose all four.
Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of scepticism and matters of life and death. Do we truly know anything? Might, for all we know, our brains be under the control of evil scientists? Is torture ever justified? How demanding is morality and how much of our lives should it cover?
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.
Ask life’s big questions: What, if anything, is the meaning of our lives? How can we become wise? Can we make sense of human suffering? How should we think about our own deaths? You take up these questions, first, by examining a series of ancient narratives, including The Myth of Sisyphus and Eden and the Fall; and then through the study of key works of modern philosophers including Nietzsche, Weber and Freud.
Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.
Are you ready for graduate employment? Like to improve your core skills? Wish you had some relevant work or volunteering experience? Attend workshops, events and activities at the University and elsewhere to build your knowledge, abilities and experience. Polish your CV, while developing your employability, citizenship and life skills.
Discover the relations between philosophy and literature. You study Iris Murdoch’s account of life as a ‘pilgrimage’ from appearance to reality, which she claims is the concern of great art, and Martha Nussbaum’s rejection of this in her discussion of Greek tragedy. You then explore Richard Rorty’s account of Nineteen Eighty Four as demonstrating that no ‘truth’ is written into the human condition, before finally looking at Stanley Cavell’s comparison of philosophical scepticism and Shakespearean tragedy.
What is the nature and limit of human knowledge? What are the relations between faith and reason? What is the relation between the body and the mind? Study the philosophical texts of the modern era that helped lay the conceptual foundations for these questions and others. You explore the work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume.
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.
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.
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.
Many of Freud`s ideas have become integral to the ways in which we think about ourselves and about our mental life. At the same, Freud`s claims about the nature and functioning of the human mind raise many intriguing and unresolved philosophical questions. You study Freud’s method of interpreting the unconscious meaning of dreams, conceptions of gender and sexuality, and the nature of the unconscious, before considering philosophers who have criticised Freud, including Sartre, Wittgenstein, Ricoeur, and Habermas.
Can we say that our moral judgements are capable of being true or false? If they are, does their truth depend on certain moral facts? Can we describe these facts as natural? In this module you explore ethical theory, considering the challenges to morality which seem to make it impossible, or to undermine our commitment to it.
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.
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.
How did literature respond to scientific and technological developments during the Victorian period? What about urbanisation and the growth of industrial cities? What impact did the British Empire expansion have? Explore a range of poetry and prose to understand how writing evolved during sixty-four years of unprecedented vitality and change.
Devote yourself to a close study of Nietzsche`s 1887 On the Genealogy of Morality. You explore Nietzsche’s early reflections on the parallels between modern and ancient Athenian decadence, and also address many of the most significant themes in Nietzsche`s later work, including the opposition between master and slave moralities, ressentiment, and nihilism.
Develop your research and written skills through writing a dissertation on a philosophical topic studied in either your second year or the autumn term of your final year.
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 takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes
- Seminars allow your lecturer to explain new arguments and ideas, while giving sufficient time for questions and collective discussion and debate
- We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose
- Innovative ways of engaging with literary texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research
- Usually assessed by 2,000-3,000 word essays
- Most modules weighted 50% coursework and 50% exams
- In your second- and third-years of philosophy modules, you may write an optional essay if you wish, in order to improve your coursework mark
- First year marks do not count towards your degree class
- Final-year students may carry out an optional dissertation
If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form
and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring
to discuss your grades.
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.