English - Texts & Contexts - Medieval to Renaissance

This MA, offering Old English, Middle English, and Renaissance modules, explores the full variety and contexts of writing from the islands of Britain and Ireland across the period circa 700 to circa 1700. We concentrate on interactions between texts in English from these islands, examining the beginnings of Anglo-Irish writing, as well as the cultural transmissions and transformations between classical, European, and insular intellectual and literary traditions before 1700. We also have a particular interest in interrogating traditional period boundaries, such as medieval and Renaissance. Our work is stimulated by exceptional contexts and resources from medieval and early modern sites such as Spenser's Kilcolman Castle to the substantial early printed book collections of the Boole Library's Special Collections and other accessible early collections.

This one-year, intensive taught graduate course is designed to provide you with a greater awareness of the conceptual and critical issues involved in the study of Old, Middle and Renaissance English; some of the historical and cultural contexts that the study of this period involves, and also some sense of how early writing has been received, transmitted, and transformed in modern texts and media. Modern writers and filmmakers have a fascination with the medieval and early modern that goes far beyond rewritings of Shakespeare, or star-studded movie versions of his plays, and this course also aims to alert you to some of these recent cultural approaches.

The course lays the foundation of study at higher degree level. It introduces the subject-specific skills that are required for the primary study of earlier English (palaeography, codicology, analysis of the physical composition of printed texts together with use of databases and bibliographies), as well as developing generic skills (writing, referencing, presentation skills) that will be useful as you embark on a scholarly project or career.

Taught Element
The subject modules and the Literary Research Skills module comprise the taught element of the MA and run from October to March. The subject modules introduce students to the specific thematic area of their choice. The Literary Research Skills module aims to equip MA students for the development and implementation of their research strategy through the acquisition of a range of research skills.

Research Element
Dissertation: the dissertation will be written between March and the end of September, and will be submitted in October. It will be supervised by a member(s) of staff, after consultation and agreement, and will be 15,000 to 17,000 words. Supervision will take place between March and the end of September.

Why Choose This Course
This course is unique in these islands in offering a specialist graduate course which covers the full range of the three linguistic and cultural phases of earlier English writing: Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) to c. 1100; Middle English (or later Medieval writing) to c. 1500; and Early-Modern (or Renaissance) writing (c. 1500-1700). Study in UCC also affords graduate students the opportunity (subject to approval) to enrol in courses in other languages and literatures of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance such as Latin, Irish, Italian, and the languages of the Iberian peninsula.

Entry requirements

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

For North American students 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): CKE31AdditionalQuestions(108kB)

If you are applying with Qualifications obtained outside Ireland and you wish to verify if you meet the minimum academic and English language requirements for this programme please click here to view the grades comparison table by country and for details of recognised English language tests.

Non-EU Candidates

Non-EU candidates are expected to have educational qualifications of a standard equivalent to Irish university primary degree level. In addition, where such candidates are non-native speakers of the English language they must satisfy the university of their competency in the English language. To verify if you meet the minimum academic requirements for this programme please visit our qualification comparison pages.

For more detailed entry requirement information please refer to the International website.


1 year, full time (12 months)

Careers or further progression

Skills and Careers Information

Graduates of the course will be linguistically and critically-adept writers and researchers, capable of advanced scholarly research. With extensive knowledge of the physical, social, formal, and linguistic contexts of ideas and writing over time, the MA in 'Med & Ren' will equip you with the skills required for careers in teaching, journalism and broadcasting, new media, publishing, librarianship, administration, and policy research and formation.

Further enquiries

Contact details for this course
Dr. Tom Birkett
+ 353 21 4902668

Subjects taught

Part 1
EN6009 Contemporary Literary Research: Skills, Methods and Strategies (10 credits)
EN6051Middle English Literature, 1200-1550 (10 credits)
EN6052 New Histories of the Book: theories and practices of earlier writing (10 credits)
EN6054 Renaissance Literature, c. 1500-1700 (10 credits)
EN6053 Old English Literature, to c. 1200 (10 credits) or
EN 6055 Texts and Transformations: Medieval to Renaissance (10 credits)

Note: Module details are subject to change

Note: Subject to the approval of the MA programme co-ordinators, students may substitute one 10-credit module with a 10-credit module from one of the other three MA programmes: Irish Writing and Film; American Literature and Film; Modernities: Romanticism, Modernism, Post-Modernism.

Part 2
EN6017 Dissertation (40 credits)

Details of the programme content and modules are in the Postgraduate College Calendar.


Course Practicalities.
The seminars for the taught core course in Texts and Contexts consist of two two-hour sessions per week. Each meeting will concentrate both on close reading of primary texts and on the contextual element of the course, considering authors and texts along with key secondary criticism concerning matters of genre, history, book-history, politics, culture, and art. We will examine some of the major literary influences on medieval and Renaissance texts, and take account of medieval and Renaissance theories of authorship and translation, as well as modern theoretical approaches to pre-modern texts. Field trips to sites of particular importance to the production and dissemination of Anglophone writing in Ireland are undertaken each year (such as Spenser's Kilcolman Castle, Co. Cork, and Archbishop Marsh's Library, Dublin).

All MA students in English must also take EN6009 Contemporary Literary Research, which requires a 2 hour per week attendance.

Assessment method

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.

Application date

Applications for 2019 start dates will open on November 1st 2018.

EU Applicants: UCC operates a rounds closing date system for the majority of postgraduate taught courses, which means we offer places four times a year on a rolling basis. Some courses have one specific closing date, please check your course prospectus page for this information.

The UCC rounds EU application system closing dates for postgraduate taught courses are below. We advise applicants to apply as soon as possible.

Deadline for receipt of Applications:

For all completed applications received by January 11th 2019
Offers will be made:Offers will be made by January 25th 2019

For all completed applications received by March 1st 2019
Offers will be made: Offers will be made by March 15th 2019

For all completed applications received by May 1st 2019
Offers will be made: Offers will be made by May 15th 2019

For all completed applications received by July 1st 2019
Offers will be made: Offer will be made by July 15th 2019

Late applications may be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for any courses that have remaining capacity for places.

While there is no official closing date for Research courses applicants are advised to submit their application at least two months ahead of their proposed start date. There are four official Research start dates – September/October, January, April and July.

Non-EU Applicants:

Please visit the following page for further information for Non EU applicants

The closing date for non-EU applications is 15th June

Enrolment and start dates

Start Date 9 September 2019

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