English Literature is a versatile academic discipline characterised by the rigorous and critical study of the production, reception and interpretation of written texts, both literary and non-literary; and with the nature, history and potential of the English language. The study of English and Scottish Literature develops a flexible and responsive openness of mind, conceptual sophistication in argument, and the ability to engage in dialogue with past and present cultures and values.
The University of Edinburgh is proud to house the oldest Department of English Literature in the world, having offered courses on ‘rhetoric and belles lettres’ for over 200 years. The Department’s position as one of the premier departments in the country was confirmed in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise when it was placed amongst the top three in the United Kingdom Located at the heart of the city, itself UNESCO's first World City of Literature, the Department offers a rich array of unique resources which facilitate scholarship and learning.
Outstanding libraries are among the many factors that make the city an ideal place for the study of literature. As well as the wealth of resources in the main University Library, the National Library of Scotland, one of the finest bibliographical collections in Europe, is only five minutes walk from the Department.
With its annual International Festival the attraction of the city for those with an interest in the performing arts is obvious: students enjoy attending productions in the city's many theatres, or working with the University's lively drama society.
Extending its rich scholarly tradition, the department is committed to updating courses and teaching methods in line with the latest advances in the field. For those interested in creative writing, courses are available at undergraduate and postgraduate level and the University Writer in Residence is housed in the Department and is available for consultation. The department is also the home of the James Tait Black Prizes for fiction and biography, Britain's oldest and most prestigious literary awards.
The English and Scottish Literature programme is designed to
Develop the independent critical, analytic and communicative skills which will fit students for a wide range of employment, further training and life-long learning.
- Develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the history of literary development in English and Scottish from the fourteenth century to the present, by ensuring that all students study a range of texts from the following periods: renaissance; romantic; modern; medieval; eighteenth-century; Victorian; contemporary (post-1945).
- Recognise and understand the significance of literary form, both specific (e.g. comedy, tragedy) and general (e.g. conceptions of narrative, poetic structure).
- Enable students to recognise and evaluate the social, historical and intellectual contexts by which literary texts are shaped.
- Engage students in the theoretical debates about literature in order that they can reflect critically on the processes of reading.
- Understand developments at the forefront of the subject and to participate in research-led study.