English - Texts & Contexts - Medieval to Renaissance

University College Cork

English - Texts & Contexts - Medieval to Renaissance

Course Outline
Our MA English – Texts & Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance offers students the opportunity to explore Old English, Middle English, and early modern literature in all its rich variety and contexts.

The MA examines canonical and lesser-known texts, forms, and authors from the islands of Britain and Ireland, ranging from the earliest works in English, such as riddles, elegies, and wisdom poetry, to the proliferation of texts and genres in Middle English writing of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including Chaucer, to the cheap print of the sixteenth century and the popular plays of Shakespeare. We take a particular interest in interrogating conventional boundaries between periods (including between Old and Middle English, and between medieval and Renaissance texts), between genres, and between media (from oral to written traditions, from page to stage, and from text to screen).

Under the guidance of the MA's expert scholars, who have published widely on many of the topics covered on the course, you will explore key conceptual and critical issues in Old, Middle, and Renaissance English literature; the historical, cultural, and material contexts of this literature; and the afterlives and legacies of this literature across time and media (transmission, reception, adaptation, appropriation).

On this MA programme we will introduce you to the discipline-specific skills that are required for postgraduate study of earlier English (palaeography, codicology, linguistic analysis, use of databases and bibliographies) and foster transferable skills that are invaluable in a range of careers. The MA programme is stimulated by exceptional medieval and early modern contexts and resources in the local area, such as the nearby Elizabeth Fort, Edmund Spenser's Kilcolman Castle in north Cork, and the early printed book collections of the Boole Library's Special Collections.

Course Practicalities
The MA English – Texts & Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance is taught through a combination of seminars (two 2-hour sessions per week), consultation, presentations, and self-directed study as well as associated reading. Students carry out independent research for their dissertation in close consultation with their supervisor.

The MA is assessed by a combination of continuous assessments (which may include essays, seminar participation, an e-Portfolio, research presentations, or other exercises) and concludes with the submission of a dissertation of 15-17,000-words.

Why Choose This Course?
Our MA is unique on the island of Ireland for its exploration of the three linguistic and cultural phases of earlier English writing: Old English to c.1100; Middle English (to c.1500); and early modern writing (c.1500-1700), which together provide a foundation for understanding the evolution of literature in English.

Within a supportive research-led teaching environment, our students engage in independent research, small-group discussion, and collaborative projects. You will develop the knowledge and transferable skills – such as writing, research, critical thinking, presentation, teamwork, and time management – that are essential in many professions and in further study.

In addition, you benefit from the thriving research community in the Department of English and have the opportunity to attend scholarly conferences, research seminar series, guest lectures, masterclasses, and reading groups (e.g. English Research Seminars, UCC's Seminar for Ancient and Medieval Studies, Dante Public Lecture Series). Our MA students have a long history of actively contributing to scholarship and Cork's literary and cultural life (e.g. via public talks and the English Society's Inkwell: Medieval to Renaissance symposium, run by students for students).

Subjects taught

The MA English – Texts & Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance consists of two parts, a taught course and a dissertation, totalling 90 credits.

Part I (50 credits)

Mandatory Modules

EN6052 New Histories of the Book: Theories and Practices of Earlier Writing (10 credits)
EN6009 Contemporary Research: Skills, Methods, and Strategies (10 credits)
Elective Modules

EN6051 Middle English Literature 1200-1550 (10 credits)
EN6053 Old English Literature to c.1200 (10 credits)
EN6054 Renaissance Literature c.1500-1700 (10 credits)
EN6063 Earlier Literature and its Modern Reception (10 credits)
Note: Subject to the approval of the MA Programme Directors, students may substitute one of these modules with a 10-credit module from the MA Modernities: Literature, Theory & Culture from the Romantics to the Present.

Part II

EN6017 Dissertation in English (40 credits)
See the Postgraduate College Calendar (MA English) for further course details.


Further details on the modules listed above can be found in our Book of Modules. Any modules listed above are indicative of the current set of modules for this course but are subject to change from year to year.

University Calendar

You can find the full academic content for the current year of any given course in our University Calendar.

Entry requirements

To be considered for admission to an MA programme within the School of English, an applicant will normally possess a honours primary degree result of Second Class Honours Grade 1 (2H1) level or higher or equivalent qualification in English or a cognate subject. All applicants must satisfy a Selection Committee who may request applicants to provide letters of reference.

For North American applicants a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 is expected.

The selection committee for the MA in the Department of English, University College Cork also attaches strong importance to the additional special supplementary online questions and the online 500-word personal statement for the MA in English (Medieval and Renaissance: Texts and Contexts).

International Master's Pathway – Higher Diploma in Academic Discourse and Skills

There is an alternative entry route for international applicants via the International Master's Pathway (IMP) – Higher Diploma in Academic Discourse and Skills (NFQ, Level 8). See the IMP page for more information.

English Language Requirements
Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Please visit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

For applicants with qualifications completed outside of Ireland
Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants
For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.

Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.

Application dates

The closing date for non-EU applications is 30 June 2023

How Do I Apply
1. Check Dates: Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

For Irish and EU applicants we operate a rounds system and you can check the rounds closing dates here.
Note that not all our programmes are subject to the rounds system so check the opening and closing dates for your specific programme in the fact file boxes above.

2. Gather Documents: Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC.
Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply Online: Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Any questions? Use our web enquiry form to contact us.
Additional Requirements (All applicants)
Please note you will be required to provide additional information as part of the online application process for this programme. This will include the following questions:

You may enter the details of professional or voluntary positions held. We strongly encourage you to complete this section with all relevant work experiences that will support your application.
Please describe your motivation and readiness for this programme.
Please detail your computing/technical/IT skills.
Please enter the name and email address for two academic referees who can provide references for previous relevant academic performance, qualifications, and aptitude.

Assessment Info

The course is assessed by a combination of essays / assignments, a research journal in ePortfolio format, an oral presentation of the proposed dissertation topic and a 15-17,000-word dissertation.


1 year full time.

Enrolment dates

Start Date 7 September 2020

Post Course Info

Skills and Careers Information
Our English MA graduates are linguistically and critically adept writers and researchers. On this programme they develop a broad skill set, knowledge, and experience in independent research, effective verbal and written communication, critical thinking, organisation, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management.

Equipped with this array of transferable skills, MA graduates progress to careers in areas such as publishing, second-level teaching, arts and heritage, journalism and broadcasting, civil service, technical writing, and policy research development. Having developed the discipline-specific skills for the study of earlier literatures, graduates have also advanced to doctoral study in the fields of Old, Medieval, and early modern English, and Digital Humanities, and to careers within and beyond academia.

More details
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  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Daytime

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