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School of English and Drama

Studying English

What is an English Degree?

A degree in English begins with reading – reading the oldest and the newest, the most passionate and the most profound writing that has ever been produced in the language.

But an English degree encourages you to read in different ways than you’ve read before. Studying English at university is about becoming a thoughtful, thorough, and active reader who thinks intelligently both about what people have written (and are still writing), and about what it means for us to read and interpret their work.

And as you read and interpret, you will also become a writer, someone who can find new insights into familiar texts, challenge your own and other people’s preconceptions, and articulate your ideas clearly and forcefully.

As an English student you will put all your analytical, critical, and creative skills to use in order to think about questions such as:

  • How have people sought to imagine and explain their worlds through writing?
  • What is literature, and how does it relate to other strands of our history and culture?
  • How can literature offer us a sense of identity – and how might this be good or bad?

English is not just about your favourite novels, plays, and poems (although you will get to think about these). It involves tackling a wide range of literatures in English – from the time-honoured works of Shakespeare and Austen, to the writings of obscure medieval mystics, and of contemporary poets from Brixton to Bangladesh. 

In addition to developing a wide range of transferrable skills, an English degree will allow you to explore how writers question and represent their experiences of life, imagination, and society.

To learn more about how we teach English at Queen Mary, please see our page on Teaching and Learning methods.

For more on English as a degree, see Why Study English? hosted by the English Association.


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