MSt in Literature and Arts (MLA)

Course details

This two-year part-time Masters Degree in Literature and Arts course offers the opportunity to study the literature and arts of three different periods of British history (ranging from the c16th to the c19th) in an interdisciplinary manner over four five day residences and two online modules. The course offers full access to the library and electronic resources of the university, a team of expert tutors, and a high level of personal and academic support.

Coronavirus update

The admissions cycle for this programme is progressing as planned, and the University is committed to ensuring that offer holders can take up their place as expected. Information will be made available as the situation develops. Find out more here.

Online open event

An online open event was held on Thursday 11 November 2021. If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please get in touch by emailing:

Watch a recording of the 2020 open event:

Quick links

Programme overview

This literature and arts course brings together the creative, intellectual and manufactured output of people in the past. It has a twofold aim – to explore the past through the lens of human creativity, and to inform our understanding of that creativity by studying the context within which it emerged. It is therefore an interdisciplinary programme which encompasses literature, art and architectural history, history, philosophy/history of ideas.

Based in Oxford, and taking full advantage of the remarkable human and cultural resources which this university has at its disposal, the literature and arts course is designed around three sequential periods of British history, from Early Modern (c.1450) to the early twentieth century (c.1914). By studying each period through a range of disciplines, students will acquire a broad and multi-faceted picture of the past. In this framework giant achievements such as Milton’s poetry or Wren’s architecture can be understood not only as products of their times but also in so far as they stand as uniquely inspired statements, or as harbingers of future developments.

Interdisciplinary study raises challenges for a student in terms of methodologies. How do I analyse and interpret a picture when I have only ever worked with text? A poem when I have only worked with documentary sources? A building when I have only ever studied abstract ideas? How do I make viable connections between these different areas of study? An online element offered towards the beginning of the course will provide the opportunity to discover, practise and develop these skills, and to engage with current theoretical discourses concerning the way scholars relate with their source material. Similarly a more advanced on-line component in the second year will focus on interdisciplinary research skills, including trying out those skills by contributing to a small volume of papers on a subject related to the chosen dissertation topic.

Whilst focusing on British history and culture, the course will begin with an introductory unit which sets Britain in a world context and explores her cultural relationship with the rest of the world since the sixteenth century. Using the layout of the Ashmolean museum’s international collections with its emphasis on global interaction, this unit will principally be concerned with the formation of British culture through the stimuli of influences beyond Europe.

The course aims to enable students to specialise in certain disciplines and ultimately in a particular historical period, whilst structuring their learning within a strong contextual and critical framework. It aims to enable students to make the most of the university’s resources (e.g. its libraries, computer facilities, museums and historic monuments), to provide a high quality of academic and pastoral support, and to maximise the potential for learning within a peer group. It sets out to encourage a richly democratic view of cultural history in which all men’s and women’s lives play their part.

Who is this course for?

The design of the Masters Degree in Literature and Arts is part-time over two years, and as such it is intended for gifted students who, due to their obligations to professional work or caring duties, would otherwise be unable to pursue higher degrees. The course is taught in the format of regular short residences in Oxford, together with an element of closely-monitored distance-learning.

The course is ideal for the following:

  • Graduates in Humanities disciplines who have entered employment, but who wish to maintain their momentum of study progressing to a postgraduate qualification. This group will include teachers, librarians, and archivists, and others involved in humanities-related professions.
  • Humanities graduates who would like to study part-time because of other responsibilities (including caring roles).

While the Masters Degree in Literature and Arts can be seen as a stand-alone qualification, it will also prepare students for doctoral work.

Programme details

Programme structure

Year One:

Two core courses in year one will introduce students to post-graduate research skills and methodologies and use a series of case studies to explore some of the challenges inherent in the practice of interdisciplinary study.

After taking a broad view of British culture in a global context at the first residence (Core Course 1), the three subsequent residences enable you to choose from a range of subjects, from different humanities disciplines, which relate to the historical period assigned to the unit/residence. The options are taught in the mornings and afternoons, and represent a range of disciplines, specifically literature, history, visual culture and political thought/theology. There are two further residences during Year 1.

Year Two:

At the start of year two students attend the fourth residence. A final core course in cultural theory will prepare the student for the writing of the dissertation. This involves writing an article for and contributing to the production process of the course's online journal, Vides. The dissertation occupies the final two terms of year two.

Core courses

Core courses will be both residential and delivered through online distance learning modules.


Students will attend tutorials, seminars and lectures during five-day residences in October, February and late June/July in year one and in October of year two, plus an initial residential induction weekend, prior to the first core course. Residences will account for eighty face to face teaching hours over the two years (structured around intensive discussion in seminars).


These modules are fully supported by a dedicated Virtual Learning Environment. Students will engage in on-line group discussions using the course website and email. Students will also have access to the electronic on-line resources of Oxford University's Library Services, including the Bodleian Library, and all other University libraries, including the English Faculty Library, the History Faculty Library, the Philosophy Faculty Library and the Theology Faculty Library. These modules are designed such that students need not have a sophisticated understanding of IT; materials may be provided in a variety of ways to suit the student's preference and situation.

In keeping with the Oxford ethos of tutorial instruction, individual tutorials and supervisions will be an integral part of the programme, most notably with regard to the dissertation. Individual supervision will be undertaken both face-to-face and by e-mail.


Each of the options residences is structured in the same way, beginning with an historical introduction to the period and ending with a plenary discussing where connections can be made between the subjects studied through the week. The options are taught in the mornings and afternoons and represent a range of disciplines, specifically Literature, History, Visual Culture and Philosophy/History of Ideas. Each student chooses two options out of four offered. Please note that due to timetabling constrictions it is not always possible to allocate each student to their preferred options. The following list indicates the subjects which are available in 2021/22, there may be some changes for following years.

Early Modern:

  • Shakespeare in History - Dr Lynn Robson
  • Tudor Monarchy – Dr Janet Dickinson
  • The Elizabethan Country House - Dr Gillian White
  • Five Steps to Francis Bacon - knowledge and power in Early Modern England - Dr Peter Langman

The ‘Long Eighteenth Century’:

  • Green Retreats: Nature and Landscape in Eighteenth Century Literature - Dr Carly Watson
  • The Rise of Landscape in British Painting - Dr Kathy McLauchlan
  • Introducing the Experimental Method into Moral Subjects (Hume): British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century – Dr Peter Wyss
  • Overseas Trade and the Rise of Britain as a Superpower - Dr Mike Wagner

The ‘Long Nineteenth Century’:

  • Fiction ca 1800-1820 - Dr Sandie Byrne
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Late Nineteenth Century British Culture – Professor Barrie Bullen
  • The British Empire and the Country House – Dr Yasmin Khan
  • History, Historiography and Medievalism: The Victorians and the The Crusades - Dr Mike Horswell


A dissertation of 11,000 words will be the focus of the final two terms of the second year.

The final core course, delivered in Hilary term of the second year, is envisaged both as a graduate-level survey of relevant cultural theory, which will provide the necessary intellectual contexts for the students' chosen dissertation topics, and as an opportunity to fine-tune the students' research and writing skills in preparation for the dissertation. After completing Vides, students will decide on their dissertation subject in consultation with the Course Director. They will be advised on reading lists and a timetable of work by their dissertation supervisor.

The dissertation is intended to demonstrate the student's knowledge and awareness of more than one subject discipline in this final piece of assessment.


Year one

Michaelmas 2021 (October)
Induction and Matriculation
Module 1: 5 days residential
Core course number 1

Michaelmas 2021/Hilary 2022 (November/May)
Module 2: Online unit 1
Core course number 2

Hilary 2022
Module 3: 5 days residential in February
Option number 1

Trinity 2022
Module 4: 5 days residential in late June/early July
Option number 2

Year two

Michaelmas 2022
Module 5: 5 days residential mid October
Option number 3

Hilary 2023
Module 6: distance taught
Core course number 3

Trinity 2023
Individual consultations on dissertation topic and dissertation writing

Trinity 2023
Dissertation: 11,000 word essay

VIDES (volume of interdisciplinary essays)

In the second year, as part of the preparation for the dissertation, each student writes a short essay around two documents or artefacts which they have chosen which comment on a particular topic but from contrasting viewpoints. The student group is divided up into a number of small committees responsible for peer reviewing and editing the journal, deciding on its house-style and designing it.

VIDES 2021 - Volume 9 (pdf) features 17 short essays across a very wide range of topics and disciplines. Explore cacao and colonialism, British culture in Porfirian Mexico, covetousness and commodification, Christ in the everyday nineteenth-century experience and more.

Earlier volumes of Vides are also available to read online here. 

Core academic staff

Dr Sandie Byrne

Associate Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing, OUDCE, and fellow of Kellogg College

Dr Carly Watson

Dr Carly Watson is a Departmental Lecturer.  With Dr Sandie Byrne, she directs the MSt in Literature and Arts (MLA). She is also the director of the DPhil in Literature and Arts (DLA).

Dr Yasmin Khan

Associate Professor of British History, OUDCE, member of the History Faculty and a fellow of Kellogg College 

Dr Lynn Robson

Associate Professor in English Literature and fellow of Regent's College

Dr Antony Buxton

Lecturer on material culture and its social, economic and ideological implications, OUDCE, and visiting fellow of Kellogg College

Professor Barrie Bullen

Professor Emeritus at the University of Reading, Honorary Research Fellow, Royal Holloway, University of London; visiting fellow of Kellogg College

Dr Janet Dickinson

Senior Associate Tutor in History, OUDCE, Research Member of Common Room, Kellogg College and Lecturer at New York University in London

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. In order to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.

Fees and funding


Please visit the MSt in Literature and Arts page on the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for details of course fees and costs.


ClarendonThe Clarendon Fund's purpose is to assist academically outstanding graduate students through their studies at Oxford. If you apply by the January deadline you will be automatically considered for a Clarendon scholarship.

Kellogg College offer scholarships to part-time graduate students, please visit the Kellogg College website for more details. 

Please visit our 'sources of funding' page for information on student loans, bursaries and Professional and Career Development Loans as well as details of external sources of funding. For further information on funding, see the Oxford Funding Search

Application details

For information about entry requirements, fees, selection criteria and how to apply, please visit the course page on the Graduate Admissions website.

If you have any questions about this course, please email: