Students may complete a major (16 units) or extended major (24 units) in English Literature, requiring the completion of a single compulsory course at each level of study in compliance with the standardised sequence of gateway-cornerstone-capstone courses, along with a further (10 or 12 units) of elective courses.

At 1000 level, Literature students are introduced to historical, contemporary, and Australian literature, and they begin training in foundational disciplinary practices—close reading, interpretation, and critical argumentation. In first semester, the compulsory gateway course Literary Classics: Texts and Traditions introduces students to key literary concepts and themes through the study of a selection of prose, poetry and drama from the Renaissance to the present. In second semester, students build upon their gateway study with further optional first-year courses: Introduction to Australian Literature opens a dedicated pathway of specialisation in Australian literature; Reading and Writing Contemporary Literature introduces students to the dynamic intersection of literary studies and creative writing practice.

Study at 2000 level is designed to deepen and broaden students’ understanding of literature as a discipline. The compulsory cornerstone course Thinking about Literature consolidates and extends students’ foundational skills and knowledge by exploring methods of criticism that underpin the contemporary academic understanding of literature. Concentrating on close reading and interpretative practice, it teaches students about key theoretical and interpretative approaches by applying them in relation to selected texts. This practical approach allows students to transfer the skills they learn to the major’s wider offerings.

To further help students gain a broad understanding of the development of literature and literary criticism in the modern period and of literature’s significant cultural role over time, the cornerstone course is supplemented by optional courses on each of the modern period’s two major genres—the novel and poetry—and a variety of specialised courses. The genre courses introduce students to literature’s central movements and lineages. Each focuses on key texts and topics from a variety of historical contexts. They are designed to stimulate students’ curiosity and responsiveness while providing a scaffold for the knowledge and skills that will enable them to enjoy and learn from the specialised and advanced courses in the program.

Poetry: In Defence of Imagination covers work from around 1600 to today. By taking a long historical perspective, it elicits from students an understanding of how poetic techniques and readerships, and the understanding, defence and aims of poetry and poets, have undergone constant transformation since the early modern period while also maintaining force across major social and cultural changes. 

The Novel: Realism, History, Fiction tells the story of how the novel became the modern period’s dominant genre. It does so by examining the development of the realist tradition from the eighteenth century to the present day, focusing both on narrative technique and on the novel’s increased cultural authority. Like the poetry course, it pays special attention to major texts and authors.

In addition to the cornerstone and genre courses, students have the opportunity to explore a range of specialised topics at 2000-level. Elective courses introduce students to specific counter-traditions and national literatures (e.g. women’s writing, the gothic, Australian literature); to important periods and formations (e.g. early modern literature, modernism, contemporary global Anglophone writing); and to celebrated authors who have shaped the literary field most widely (e.g. Shakespeare and Austen).

By combining courses on theory and major genres with specialised courses on key aspects of literary studies, the 2000-level offerings consolidate 1000-level learning and open pathways into 3000-level courses and specialised honours study. 

The Literature major’s final year, or 3000-level, courses offer advanced study in the three core pathways of literary studies established at first-year or foundation level: historical, contemporary, and Australian literature. The compulsory capstone course Major Texts: Current Issues requires students to revisit and actively deploy skills gained at foundation level and developed through cornerstone and elective study through the lens of literary history and in particular its relation to major works of non-fictional prose and literatures in English. Similarly, two further 3000-level courses extend and complete the major’s sequenced offerings in contemporary literary studies (Critical Issues in Literature) and Australian literature (Current Issues in Australian Literature).