Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies

4 students standing outside on the grass with 2 reading notes from books while a third writes

Specialists across literature, screen and stage

We are an interdisciplinary department with expertise in English literature, drama, creative writing, journalism, film and screen media. Our courses are taught by leading academics, writers, film makers and journalists, and allow you to follow specialised pathways or to combine your interests across our subject areas.

Literature was one of the founding subjects at the University of Essex and since our department's inception in the 1960s under the poet Donald Davie, we have nurtured a tradition of distinguished writers, who have shaped literature as we know it.

Although our department built its reputation on scholarly and critical achievements across English, comparative and world literature, the addition of centres for creative writing, theatre studies, and film and screen media further expanded our range, and combined with journalism, a new subject area, give our department its uniquely diverse and interdisciplinary character.

Our teaching draws on our internationally recognised expertise across a range of research specialisms. Our drama academics are all professional theatre practitioners; working in the theatre world as writers, directors, actors and theatre-makers. Our film specialists and professional filmmakers have extensive industry experience, and our journalists have held senior editorial and correspondent roles with national and international media organisations.

Explore our courses


Our teaching and learning in light of COVID-19 pandemic

Will COVID-19 change the way my course is taught?

If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the academic year, all teaching will be available virtually. This means that you can start, or continue, your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transfer to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to.

Across all our five subject areas (Journalism, Literature, Creative Writing, Film and Drama) we will be programming in our normal varied blend of lectures, seminars, news-days, and workshops (as appropriate to the subject you will be studying). Most of our teaching will be online this autumn term, although we will be teaching a few modules and classes (in Journalism, drama and practical film, with one or two selected literature classes or tutorials) on-campus with appropriate physical distancing and other measures in place such as mask-wearing and increased cleaning to keep you safe. We are planning and aiming to deliver on-campus, face-to-face teaching later in the year, in the spring and summer terms, where we possibly can, especially in practical drama and film.

What will this mean for my learning experience?

For the 2020 academic year, we are focusing on ensuring that we are able to deliver a quality education and that your teaching and learning can continue if there is further disruption. That’s why we’ve been working hard to ensure that our students are able to start with us in October – in whatever way possible. The changes we have made to support you and protect your health and wellbeing mean that, for most of our courses in the autumn term we are teaching online; however some modules in journalism, documentary film-making and drama are planned for delivery face-to-face this autumn term.

Teaching online will be offered “live” but will also be available “asynchronously” to access at times that suit you.

We know that your learning experience is about more than just attending classes, and our campuses can provide you with all you need to make the most of your studies. This includes private space to study, in your on-campus study bedrooms as well as in PC labs and other spaces on our three campuses for self-study. We can also offer you access to laptops on loan and access to our library services; as well as enhanced wifi provision across our campuses.

Your learning experience will also include:

  • Personalised one-to-one consultations with academic staff
    In the autumn term, these will be online, so you will be able to ‘drop in’ and discuss your academic progress one-to-one with your tutors during virtual office hours, or at an arranged time to suit you.
  • Flexible learning
    If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the year, we can offer you the alternative of starting your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transition to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to.
  • Synchronous and asynchronous learning
    This means that everyone in your online group or class will be learning together at the same time, by attending a live lecture, workshop or seminar. Other learning will be ‘asynchronous’ – that is, accessed by you at a time that suits you. This might be reading an article, watching a film or broadcast, listening to a podcast, posting a blog or a creative or critical response to something you have encountered in your course.
  • No changes to module content
    Module content will not be reduced.
  • Academic support hours
    Weekly academic support hours with all tutors will be available, offering you one-to-one consultation and support. In the autumn term, these will be mainly online via Zoom.
  • No formal written exams in the Summer term of 2020-21 for Literature, Film, Creative Writing and Drama
    Instead the summer term will be used to complete assignments that will allow you to make the most of your literary, critical, creative and research skills, in a flexible way. 
  • Timetabling practical Film and Drama teaching and learning into the Summer and late Spring term
    to maximise our chances of uninterrupted-by-the-pandemic learning in our theatres, film and drama studios and media suites. Some of these are designed as intensive periods of working together as a group, nine-to-five, every day, Monday to Friday, on creative projects, such as films or theatre productions.
  • Continuous and carefully curated assessments through a variety of formats
    This includes essays, presentations, research articles, and critical, creative, or practical assignments as appropriate to your degree subject. For example, some modules will invite you to create an ‘online portfolio’ of materials, which may include writing a blog, a review, completing a quiz, or posting a contribution several times per term to an online Moodle discussion forum.
  • Encouraging creativity in your assignments
    We are also making use of digital, audio and online means so that you can be as creative as possible in your assignments.

What happens if the situation changes before I start or during my time at Essex?

We recognise that some students may have difficulty travelling to campus in time to start the academic year. If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the academic year, all teaching will be available virtually. This means that you can start, or continue, your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transfer to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to. All of our modules are designed to support you to continue learning and still be able to access one-to-one consultation and guidance that you would normally get from the lecturers on your course, if further outbreaks of infection occur during the year. This means you can join us in full confidence that you can continue and complete your programme of study.

There is lots of helpful information about starting at Essex in our guide for applicants should you have any questions, feel uncertain about something in particular, or, would like up to date information on specific topics if your situation changes. If you are an overseas student and you aren't able to join us on Campus in the autumn, then you will need to be aware of some immigration changes taking place in January 2021.

What will my broader student experience in the Department and on campus be like?

In the Department

We are planning an exciting programme of events to enable us to spend time together – including outside walks or teaching events where this is possible, coffee and group conversation in a virtual café and opportunities to meet visiting speakers or poets – online or in person, as the case may be.

We will use all our ingenuity to bring students together into social situations outside of class-time, as we have always done. In the past we have run competitions, parties, picnics, pizza nights, quizzes and talent shows, and, we are adding to our extra-curricular repertoire with online poetry and play readings, conferences, and film screenings.

You will be joining a dynamic research community from day one of your studies in LiFTS. We will be continuing to schedule our regular programmes of visiting speakers from across all areas of film, journalism, drama, literature and creative writing; these will include leading industry professionals, as well as the best international academics.

You will continue to have the opportunity to take up work placements, internships and work-based learning, online or in-person depending on what conditions allow, and as appropriate to your degree course.

On Campus

We have been working in partnership with our Students’ Union to ensure that you can enjoy our clubs, societies, activities and services. We have built in flexibility to enable you to access support and activities, and to shape your experience around your life.

To learn more about the range of events Essex will be hosting, please visit our events calendar. To stay up to date with the very latest guidance on how to visit your campus, view our coming onto campus guide.

How will the University support me during this time?

The health and wellbeing of our students is our priority, and this has been one of the focuses to ensure students can start on campus – safely – in October.

This means we are constantly monitoring advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the World Health Organisation.

To protect our community on campus once the academic year starts again in October, we will be looking to introduce the following measures:

  • Enhanced cleaning and sterilising regimes
  • Social distancing in line with international guidance
  • Signage and floor markings in key locations to help you move around our campuses safely

We’re asking you to wear face coverings in all public campus areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain or in specifically designated locations. We’ll be supporting you by giving two washable face coverings to all students.

There is a number of support systems available to you whilst you are at Essex, for whenever you need them and for however long you wish to use them.

These include:

  • Medical support and healthcare (and our online mental health programme SilverCloud)
  • Mental and emotional health support
  • Personalised advice and support from the Student Services Hub

The University also runs a variety of online events throughout the year including at-home yoga and mindfulness sessions.

To find out more about the network of support you will benefit from during your time at Essex, please visit the Student Directory.

choose us?

90% of our LiFTS students are in employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes 2020)
Top 15 for creative writing (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020)
Top 5 for dance, drama and cinematics (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020)
Drama at Essex is ranked 17th in the UK for overall student satisfaction (NSS 2020)
Ranked 1st in the UK for drama (Guardian University Guide 2020)
University of the Year (Times Higher Education Awards 2018)
Three-quarters of our research is rated 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' (REF 2014)
Essex graduation ceremony
three creative writing students making notes in the field
Two men filming a sceen
Drama students rehearsing with script
two students acting in a studio
UoTY winners 2018
A row of old looking library books
Dr Elizabeth Kuti
"Our students and staff share a love of creativity, critical enquiry, and story. Follow your passion – and discover new ones – as you learn from leading academics, writers, film-makers and journalists."
Dr Elizabeth Kuti Head of Department Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Female student jumping on the back of male student in a drama class
Our drama students are the most satisfied in the UK

In the latest National Student Survey (NSS), Essex has been rated top in the UK for student satisfaction in drama, with 100% of students expressing overall satisfaction with their course.

Read more
A row of old looking library books
Our research

The Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies has internationally recognised expertise in the literatures of the British Isles, the Americas, and Europe, combined with strengths in world cinema, film theory and practice, contemporary theatre and poetry, as well as adaptation and translation studies. Three-quarters of our research was rated 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' in the REF 2014.

Find out more
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Contact the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Contact the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: +44 (0)1206 872626