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Studying English at St Mary’s gives students a comprehensive overview of the English literary tradition. Beginning with that tradition’s roots in ancient Greek culture and moving through the Middle Ages and Modern periods, the curriculum familiarises students with the history of great ideas, literary styles and themes as well as the politics of literary studies.

First Year students generally begin with authors like Sophocles and Plato, move on to Chaucer and Shakespeare and finish by looking at Milton and an often-neglected author like Aphra Behn.  In doing so, students come to understand the history and development of literary genres and forms.

In second year, attention is focused largely on 19th century authors such as the Romantic poets and Victorian novelists.

In the third year, two complementary modules are available, one that looks at twentieth-century Anglo-Irish authors such as Joyce and Years and another that examines other twentieth- and twenty-first century authors in the English and American traditions.

Throughout the English programme attention is paid to questions of literary analysis, the demands of argumentative and discursive writing, regular opportunities to write creatively so as to gain an understanding of the challenges authors face and issues surrounding the modern age of digital literacy and digital communication.

The English department also supports students in maintaining an English Society which organizes student outings to cultural events, poetry readings, films and plays, as well as an annual Christmas dinner.

English Studies students using one of the study areas in the Cardinal Newman library

Students take the equivalent of six modules per year. Modules in Human Development Studies and International Studies are core modules taken by all Liberal Arts students. Students also take modules in their chosen subject area.

Year 1

The Year 1 core modules introduce the student to the key areas of Human Development Studies and International Studies. They make use of a range of disciplinary approaches to address foundational questions:

What are we and how have we come to this human condition we experience today?
How can we think about human living and working in contemporary society and employment?
What are the various concepts that shape our understanding of our place in the world?
How are we to live in the many contexts which ‘Europe’ represents?


Students are offered the opportunity to enhance key skills in communication and study for both academic and professional life, and to explore the various environments for future employment.

Year 2

The Year 2 modules continue to explore Human Development by focusing on issues of Global Justice, with the aim of enhancing the students’ civic awareness and commitment to ethical practice. In International Studies, students make use of a range of disciplines to explore the rich cultural heritage and current diversity which characterises the European experiences. They also become more knowledgeable and proficient in the political and economic development of contemporary Europe.

Students are offered further opportunity to expand their key skills for both academic and professional life. They undertake a short work placement of six weeks in the second semester. The aim of such a placement is twofold: to enable the student to develop in practice the skills, attributes and values for professional life, and to develop the self-reflective skills that mark the ‘reflective practitioner’ who is able to self-evaluate and critically review the work context.

Year 3

All students take a core module of 40 credits (Liberal Arts: Work related learning) that continues their exploration of key themes of Human Development Studies, and includes a final year work placement of six weeks in the second semester. The module explores topical issues from both an ethical and a professional dimension in lectures while the placement allows students opportunity to engage with such issues in the workplace setting. During the six-week placement, the student continues to extend skills development as in the second year.

Students are able to choose modules amounting to 40 credits from a range of offerings in Human Development Studies, International Studies and their subject area. They also continue advanced studies in their subject area with modules worth a further 40 credits


Topics covered in English include:

a study of the main literary genres in a historical and thematic context
developing different ways of reading and interpreting literature, with an introduction to a range of critical approaches
studying the relationship between the writer and wider social/cultural contexts


Topics covered in English include:

various critical and interpretative approaches to selected 19th century texts
an examination of the forms and conventions of English literary genres


Topics covered in English include:

modern Irish literature from the late 19th century to today, exploring the major genres of drama, poetry and fiction
survey of the main cultural issues linked with late 19th and 20th century Anglo-Irish literature
survey of modernist English and American literature of the 20th century

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