School of English

English

What does it mean to study English? How has the role of literature in society changed over time? What is the relationship between literature and other cultural forms, including film, photography and the visual arts?

The quality of our English degrees and our teaching has been recognised both nationally and internationally.

We feature in the UK's top 15 institutions for English across all major league tables:

  • 11th (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017)
  • 13th (Guardian University Guide 2018)
  • 12th (Independent Complete University Guide 2018).

Our courses

Explore our courses:

Your learning experience

Our students at Sussex are introduced to a range of recent – and often provocative– critical approaches, alongside the opportunity to study the entire range of the discipline, from Anglo-Saxon epic to avant-garde poetry and creative writing; taking in the work of everyone from Jane Austen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. From our inception, the School of English has been at the forefront of literary studies and our degrees fuse a continuing commitment to innovation with the best of our radical history. 

By creatively engaging with these and many other topics you will acquire a thorough grounding in the field of literary studies and valuable skills for life beyond university. Studying English at Sussex encourages you to become an independent thinker, able to articulate your ideas with intellectual rigour and clarity. Our flexible degrees reflect these aims, offering core modules alongside a wide spectrum of specialised options taught by research-active faculty at the cutting edge of their subject.

'The School of English is made up of a truly inspiring academic faculty. Sussex has provided me with numerous opportunities to broaden my interest in literature – lectures, seminars, the frequent talks by visiting academics – and meet with others that seek to do the same. Ultimately, this has made for a profoundly enriching learning experience.'

Georgina Clutterbuck
English BA

Our teaching

The study of English at Sussex will help you to develop the intellectual and practical skills to explore literature confidently, to write expressively and clearly, and to communicate your ideas effectively. You gain these skills through various methods of teaching, including small group seminars and practical workshops as well as more formal lectures, and through different types of assessment including essays, portfolios, dissertations and unseen exams. A degree in English prepares you for a wide range of possible career paths including journalism, teaching, publishing, media and creative industries.

'Studying English at the University of Sussex has engaged me in fresh discourse and ideas surrounding literature, that I had not considered prior. There are a variety of ways something can be analysed, and here at Sussex all of these discourses are available for you to interact with. There is always something to get involved in, from talks hosted by the School of English to poetry nights, there are many ways you can enhance your learning and understanding of literature at the University of Sussex.'

Sofia Carter-Sohlen
English BA

Careers

We are 1st in the UK for career prospects (The Guardian University Guide 2018, The Complete University Guide 2018 and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017).

'I am going to be the festival Intern for the Charleston literary festival 2016, which is quite prestigious. The role is primarily events management so I will be helping with all parts of organising and running the festival including social media presence, advertising, ticketing, control of stock for things being sold, liaising with speakers and guests - all sorts really! I thought the role would be a perfect fit for me because I am obviously passionate about literature and I have experience in event management.The Bloomsbury group and literature of that period was something I had looked at in my time at Sussex so I knew a fair amount about Charleston.  The whole thing sounds great fun really - hopefully will get to meet some big names!

'I think it will provide really useful experience and contacts for things in the future and events management is certainly something I'd consider pursuing long term.'

Rachael Sparkes
English BA

Junior Research Associates

The University of Sussex Junior Research Associate (JRA) and Sussex Undergraduate Research Associate (SURA) are pioneering programmes which aim to develop future research leaders. They reward academic excellence by supporting high-achieving undergraduates to work alongside Sussex's top research faculty during the summer holiday. To find out more about these programmes, please visit our research pages.

In 2016-2017, ten English students were awarded these paid, eight-week long fellowships.

Read some past case studies below:

Jamila Prowse - The Right Stuff: Female Astronauts in Science Fiction T

Of the 535 astronauts who have entered into space, only 58 have been women; those women who have been involved in space travel have received little or no recognition for their contributions. Over the summer of 2015 Jamila proposed to analyse how the representation of female astronauts changed during the Cold War period, a time when space exploration was at the forefront of political discourse. Jamila will argue that the depictions of female astronauts in science fiction don't simply acknowledge the presence of women involved with space travel, they imagine an ideal in which they are undoubtedly active participants in the field of scientific discovery. Extending the work of Joanna Russ, who explored feminism in science fiction, Jamila will detail how a recent revival of interest towards women in space may have been established by such literature.

Jamila’s research will focus on depictions of female astronauts in two works of literature from the Cold War era. A comparative study of Solaris by Lem Stanislaw (1961) and Amanda and the Eleven Million Mile High Dancer by Carol Hill (1993) will allow for an analysis that focuses on a distinct period in history for space travel. Building on Naomi Oreskes' analysis of heroism in scientific thought, Jamila will analyse the gender politics of narratives of space travel and their attendant displays of nationalism. If eighteenth-century portrayals of prostitutes served to demand a place for women in the public sphere, fictions of space flight go further by portraying women as historical actors. The representation of female astronauts in science fiction is an example of a utopian narrative, with "utopia" referring to the imagining of a better world. The image has the potential to incite political change, not in reflecting social disparity, but in producing alternate realities.

The outcome of Jamila’s JRA work in Summer 2015 will be an academic article to be submitted for publication. A First Generation Scholar,  Jamila will begin her final year of undergraduate studies in Autumn 2015 and is planning to continue with postgraduate research, both at Masters and PhD level.

Matthew Rosen - Humphrey Jennings: Cinema and Surrealism, 1934-1950

Humphrey Jennings was a figure of considerable local and national significance.  Humphrey Jennings has been described as 'the only real poet' of British cinema. The films that he made for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War contain some of the most enduring images of British wartime resilience, and include Fires Were StartedLondon Can Take It, and Listen to Britain.   Though Jennings is best known for the films he produced during WWII on behalf of the Ministry of Information, he was also a member of the short-lived English Surrealist Group and the founder of Mass Observation.  Matthew’s project over the summer of 2015 will explore the marriage of two traditions in the work of Humphrey Jennings (1907-1950):  early British documentary filmmaking and French Surrealism, two practices widely assumed to be Incompatible.

Matthew will undertake archival research to consider the formative effect that Jennings's engagement  with Surrealism between 1934-37 had on the realistic documentary style for which he is known. With so much of Jennings and other English Surrealists' work archived locally, his project will also emphasise Sussex's contribution to early twentieth centurymodernism, and the University's unique position in relation to that history.  How did Jennings consolidate quintessentially British experiences of everyday life with the fantasies of Continental Surrealism? What drew so many Surrealists to the South East?

There are three local archives of importance: Farley Farm House, 'the home of English Surrealism', near Lewes; the collection of early British documentary films at Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton; and the Mass Observation archives at the Keep. As well as offering a timely reassessment of Jennings's work, this interdisciplinary project will make an important contribution to the University of Sussex's distinct engagement with the local history of modernism.

Matthew plans for a multimedial result for his Jenning research project:

To produce an ambitious and engaging assessment of Jennings in the form of a poster, with a complementary essay;

To exhibit a poster at The Keep, West Dean, and/or Farley Farm House;

To present his findings at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR);

To submit his research for publication in an open-access undergraduate journal associated with the BCUR (Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research).

Matthew plans to continue with postgraduate research following his undergraduate degree.

Claudia Cockrell - Edward James

Claudia CockrellThe Sussex surrealist Edward James worked with the likes of Salvador Dalí to produce some of the movement’s most iconic works – and his story comes under the spotlight in English student Claudia Cockrell’s JRA project.

Claudia developed a taste for the surreal while studying English modernism on her undergraduate degree course. Discussions with her tutors led her to the Edwardian aesthete and eccentric Edward James and a place on the JRA programme.

During the summer, Claudia carried out research at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (custodians of the famous Mae West Lips sofa by Dalí) and West Dean in Sussex, the former home of James.

Claudia says: “Edward James is more well-known as an art collector and patron to surrealists Dalí and Magritte than as a writer. He was the model for Magritte's Not to be Reproduced and The Pleasure Principle and collaborated with Dalí to produce The Lobster Telephone and Mae West's Lips, which are all famous surrealist art works.

“However, further reading of Edward James's poetry reveals that, while much of it has content that is surreal, it tends to be presented in traditional ways. One might assume that form would follow content, but as we see in the case of Edward James, this is not always the case. What I hope to explore through the works of Edward James, in comparison to other surrealist works, is the disparity between content and form in his work, with a view to ascertaining the significance of Edward James as a surreal poet.

“I read about the JRA scheme and it sounded fascinating so I decided to apply. The opportunity to gain experience working in a research-intensive atmosphere and building on my academic portfolio was something not to be missed. To also have it funded was the icing on the cake.

“Finding the sources for an unknown figure like Edward James has proved a great challenge but I have enjoyed it. I attended a JRA meet up earlier in the summer, where I heard that one of the psychology JRAs from a few years ago is now leader in her field, as a result of her JRA research. I really do recommend this opportunity to everyone who has an ambition to become an academic.

“Working as a JRA teaches you how to work independently-- a valuable lesson for anyone who wants to work in academia as it will help you with experiencing how research works, step by step; right from conceiving a proposal to researching it to presenting it.

Nick Skidmore - Rudyard Kipling

Nick SkidmoreUniversity-funded research by a Sussex undergraduate into Rudyard Kipling's correspondence is to go on display at Bateman’s, the author’s Sussex home.

Final-year English literature student Nick Skidmore undertook the research, supervised by Senior Lecturer in English Dr Alastair Davies, as part of the Junior Research Associate bursary scheme.

Now Nick’s research, which was presented at a special exhibition for JRA bursary-holders’ work, will go on display at Bateman’s, the Kipling family home near Burwash in East Sussex, which is now in the care of the National Trust.

Nick visited Bateman’s, a splendid Jacobean house, and spent time in Kipling’s study, which remains as a shrine to the great writer of Kim,  The Jungle Book and poems such as If.

Nick says: “Bateman’s gives the public a wonderful opportunity to explore Kipling’s home and delve into the heavily guarded private life of one of our great  writers, a man whose work brought so much joy, yet whose life was tinged with sadness. It’s a considerable honour to have the opportunity to display my research there.”

Nick chose to study the writer Rudyard Kipling and his complex relationship with the British. Empire and the First World War, making use of the University archive of Kipling papers, housed in the Library’s Special Collections division.

Aside from his moral and political convictions, Kipling also had to come to terms with the death of his only son John, who was killed in action in the Battle of Loos in 1915.

The collection includes Kipling’s correspondence with his son, including John’s last letter from the Front. The grief-stricken Kiplings spent the rest of the war trying to find out what had happened to their son who, like millions of others, disappeared on the battlefields of France and Belgium.

Nick says: “It is Kipling’s poem The Children that is, perhaps, the most haunting of Kipling’s verses about the Great War. It does not linger on politics, or vendetta but rather demonstrates the tortuous workings of the imagination amongst the echoes of the refrain ’But who shall return us our children?” It is here we find Kipling at his most honest.”

Elaine Francis-Truett, Property Manager for Bateman's, says: “It is a pleasure to support Nick in his research by displaying the culmination of his study here at Bateman’s. I have every confidence the hard work undertaken by Nick will help our visitors discover even more about the private life of the Kipling family, the hardships they endured along with all families involved in the Great War and hope that this will reveal even more of Kipling the family man, alongside that of Kipling the great author.”

To learn more about the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex, see the Sussex Special Collections.

Contact us

For enquiries about undergraduate admissions:

Email: ug.enquiries@sussex.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)1273 876787

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