English - Texts & Contexts - Medieval to Renaissance

Course Outline
This MA offers students the opportunity to explore the full variety and contexts of Old English, Middle English, and Renaissance literature from the islands of Britain and Ireland, as well the afterlives and legacies of these literary traditions in the modern era.

The MA examines interactions between texts in English from these islands, tracing the beginnings of Anglo-Irish writing, as well as the cultural transmissions and transformations between classical, European, and insular intellectual and literary traditions circa 700 to circa 1700. The programme takes a particular interest in interrogating conventional boundaries between periods (such as medieval and Renaissance), genres, and media (drama, prose, poetry, oral traditions, film etc.). Modern writers and filmmakers have a fascination with the Medieval and Early Modern that goes far beyond rewritings of ancient myths, or star-studded movie versions of Shakespeare's plays, and this programme aims to alert students to some of these recent cultural approaches. The MA programme is also stimulated by exceptional contexts and resources from medieval and early modern sites, such as Spenser's Kilcolman Castle in north Cork, to the early printed book collections of the Boole Library's Special Collections.

Thus, the MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance programme is designed to provide students with the ability to analyse, understand, and communicate:
- the conceptual and critical issues involved in the study of Old, Middle, and Renaissance English;

- the historical and cultural contexts that the study of these periods involves;

- the issues surrounding the reception, transmission, appropriation, and transformation of early writing across time and especially in modern texts and media.

Moreover, this intensive taught MA provides the foundations for 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, use of databases and bibliographies) and seeks to develop essential transferable skills (writing, research, analysis, referencing, presentation, teamwork, time-management) that are invaluable as students 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
The MA: Texts and Contexts offers a unique graduate programme covering 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). Through each of its modules, the MA provides an exciting and challenging course of study in a supportive research-led teaching environment. Students engage in independent research, small group discussion, and collaborative projects to develop and acquire knowledge and transferable skills essential to further study and a range of careers. The programme will appeal to students interested in Old, Medieval, and Renaissance literature, and the afterlives of these traditions, and to those who wish to develop their knowledge and skills in critical and creative thinking, communication, organisation, and problem-solving.

MA students benefit from the School's thriving research community and have the opportunity to attend scholarly conferences, research seminar series, masterclasses, reading groups, and public outreach events. Past MA students also have a long history of actively contributing to Cork's literary and cultural life and to UCC's vibrant research community (e.g. through events such as Inkwell, the UCC English Society Medieval and Renaissance symposium, and Bookends, the annual UCC English postgraduate conference).

Study in UCC also affords graduate students the opportunity (subject to approval) to enrol in modules 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 honours 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): CKE31 Additional Questions

English Language Requirements
Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university approved English language requirements available here.

For applicants with qualifications completed outside of Ireland

Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements.

International/non-EU applicants
For full details of the non-EU application procedure please 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.

Not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above.

For more information please contact the International Office.


1 year, full time

Careers or further progression

Skills and Careers Information
Graduates of the MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance will be linguistically and critically-adept writers and researchers, capable of advanced scholarly research. Our graduates have the skills and abilities in independent research, effective verbal and written communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, organisation, teamwork, problem-solving, and time-management.

With extensive knowledge of the physical, socio-historic, formal, and linguistic contexts of ideas and writing over time, some graduates on the MA Texts and Contexts advance to doctoral study. Equipped with an array of transferable skills, students also progress to careers in areas such as teaching, journalism and broadcasting, publishing, the arts and heritage industries, librarianship and curation, the civil service, policy research and formation.

Further enquiries

Subjects taught

Part 1: Taught modules
EN6052 New Histories of the Book: theories and practices of earlier writing (10 credits)
EN6009 Contemporary Literary Research: Skills, Methods and Strategies (10 credits)

Elective Modules
EN6053 Old English Literature, to c. 1200 (10 credits)
EN6051 Middle English Literature, 1200-1550 (10 credits)
EN6054 Renaissance Literature, c. 1500-1700 (10 credits)
EN6063 The Road Goes Ever On: The Reception of Old, Medieval, and Renaissance Literatures (10 credits)

Note: Module details are subject to change for 2019/2020

Note: Subject to the approval of the MA programme coordinators, students may substitute one 10-credit module with a 10-credit module from one of the other MA programmes: MA Modernities: American and British Literature and Film, or, the MA in Irish Writing and Film. Modules from the MA in Creative Writing cannot be chosen. Students may not replace EN6052 New Histories of the Book with another MA module.

Part 2
EN6017 Dissertation (40 credits)

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

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.


Course Practicalities
The seminars for the taught core programme of the MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance consist of two two-hour sessions per week. Each seminar will concentrate on the close reading of primary texts and on contextual issues, considering authors and texts along with key criticism concerning matters such as genre, history, book history, politics, culture, and art. In the past, students have participated in once-off masterclasses from visiting experts (e.g. on Shakespeare's Globe theatre) and field trips to local sites of Medieval and Renaissance interest and sites of importance to the production and dissemination of Anglophone writing in Ireland (such as Spenser's Kilcolman Castle, Co. Cork, and Marsh's Library, Dublin).

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

The MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance is assessed by a combination of continuous assessments (which may include essays, a research journal in ePortfolio format, oral presentations, or other exercises) and concludes with the submission of a 15-17,000-word dissertation.

Who Teaches on this Course
Dr Andrew King
Dr Kenneth Rooney
Dr Edel Semple
Dr Thomas Birkett

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 academic year 2020/2021 are open.

EU Applicants: UCC operates a rounds closing date system for the majority of postgraduate taught courses, which means offers are made 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 closing dates for postgraduate taught courses are below. Applicants are advised to apply as soon as possible.

Deadline for receipt of full applications:
For all completed applications received by January 10th 2020
Offers will be made by January 24th 2020

For all completed applications received by March 2nd 2020
Offers will be made by March 16th 2020

For all completed applications received by May 1st 2020
Offers will be made by May 15th 2020

For all completed applications received by July 1st 2020
Offer will be made by July 15th 2020

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

Non-EU Closing Date: 15 June
Non-EU Applicants: Information for Non-EU applicants may be found on the International Office Website

Enrolment and start dates

Start Date 7 September 2020

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