“Narrative is present in every age, in every place, in every society; it begins with the very history of mankind and there nowhere is nor has been a people without narrative”
—Roland Barthes

In the English Literature major students enter a world of narrative. UQ is the only university in Queensland to offer breadth and depth in a range of courses examining the richness of literatures in English. Students who choose a major in English Literature learn to develop their enjoyment of reading and analytical skills through analysing the major narratives that have shaped societies across time and place.

The English Literature major begins with a choice of three gateway courses in the areas of Australian literature, contemporary fiction, and literary traditions. Students then choose from a wide variety of advanced level courses, including literary criticism and critical theory, Australian literature, women’s writing, the novel, poetry, Shakespeare and early modern literature, literary modernism and 21st-century literature.

Learning Pathways through the English Literature major

The English literature major includes at its heart a suite of required, core courses for you to take that provide a solid structure for your major. These courses start with the first-year gateway course, ENGL1800: Literary Classics: Texts and Traditions, which is designed to introduce students to the discipline of literary studies and which will take you through texts ranging from early modern drama to Romantic poetry to the 19th and 20th century realist novel to show how all these texts and genres engage with the issue of subjectivity. Then comes the cornerstone course ENGL2405: Thinking about Literature: Criticism and Theory, which is organized around a number of questions concerning literature (e.g. what is a good novel?), and a range of theorists’ answers to these questions. The core courses conclude with a capstone course in Australian literature, ENGL3100, which will look at the place of Australian literature in the world.

In addition, the major includes a range of courses that will build on the knowledge and skills you develop in the three core courses. If you’re interested primarily in literary history and analysis, the first year also offers a course new in 2018, ENGL1900: The Birth of the Modern, which will introduce you to modern literature and its roots in 19th century philosophy and literary criticism. In second year, which offers the most electives, you will be able to choose between a number of courses including ENGL2040: Gothic Literature and Culture; ENGL2060: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries; ENGL2065: Jane Austen and Her Influence; ENGL2070: 21st Century World Literatures; ENGL2440: The Novel: Realism, History, Fiction; and ENGL2460: Poetry: In Defense of Imagination

If you are interested in combining an interest in creative writing with a solid knowledge of literary history, naturally you may wish to take any of the above as well. However, you might want to start with the first year course ENGL1500: Contemporary Literature: Reading and Writing, which is co-taught between Literature and Creative Writing areas and which focuses strongly on the links between reading and writing. You may also find useful ENGL2440: The Novel, and ENGL2460: Poetry, with their strong focus on two genres that are central to the workings of literature in any language. 

At third year level, you’ll be able to take electives in ENGL3630: Postmodern Literature: Fiction and Theory; and ENGL3500: Gender and Textuality; both of them courses with a strong theoretical focus that will build your ability to read and write about literature through key critical approaches and theories. In this level, too, the major includes an internship course, ENGL3020. This course is offered in both semesters and gives you the opportunity to tie what you learn in your courses to work-related practice in a range of workplaces including the UQ Library and the University of Queensland Press (depending on availability).

In summary:

A Literature Major = 8 courses

Core Courses:


  • 1 elective at level 1
  • 2-3 electives at level 2, and
  • 1-2 electives at level 3  

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Study Options