MSt in Literature and Arts (MLA)

Course details

This two-year part-time Master's in Literature and Arts offers the opportunity to study the literature and arts of three different periods of British history - ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries - in an interdisciplinary manner. It is a part-time course designed so that sudents can combine study with work or caring responsibilities. The MSt in Literature and Arts (MLA) is a stand-alone qualification, but it is also an excellent preparation for doctorial work.

The course involves four residences in Oxford of five days each, and two distance learning modules studied online. During the second year students develop their research skills by contributing a paper to an online journal, before completing a final dissertation on a chosen topic. Students are supported by individual tutorials and supervisions.

Core subjects provide a strong contextual and critical framework for interdisciplinary study, while a wide range of options allows students to specialise in particular disciplines or periods.

The course offers full access to the library and electronic resources of the University, a team of expert tutors, and a high level of personal and academic support.

Online open event

An online open event was held on Thursday 26 January 2023, from 6.30-7.30pm (UK time). If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please email:

You may also find the below recording of our November 2020 open event useful, in which Course Co-Director Dr Carly Watson outlines the programme and its structure. 

Quick links

Programme overview

This literature and arts course brings together the creative, intellectual and manufactured output of people in the past. It has a twofold aim – to explore the past through the lens of human creativity, and to inform our understanding of that creativity by studying the context within which it emerged. It is therefore an interdisciplinary programme which encompasses literature, art and architectural history, history, philosophy/history of ideas.

Based in Oxford, and taking full advantage of the remarkable human and cultural resources that this university has at its disposal, the literature and arts course is designed around three sequential periods of British history, from early modern (c. 1450-1688) to the 'long' nineteenth century (c. 1800-1914). By studying each period through a range of disciplines, students will acquire a broad and multi-faceted picture of the past. In this framework, giant achievements such as Milton’s poetry or Wren’s architecture can be understood not only as products of their times but also in so far as they stand as uniquely inspired statements, or as harbingers of future developments.

Interdisciplinary study raises challenges for a student in terms of methodologies. How do I analyse and interpret a picture when I have only ever worked with text? A poem when I have only worked with documentary sources? A building when I have only ever studied abstract ideas? How do I make viable connections between these different areas of study? An online element offered towards the beginning of the course will provide the opportunity to discover, practise and develop these skills, and to engage with current theoretical discourses concerning the way scholars relate with their source material. Similarly, a more advanced online component in the second year will focus on interdisciplinary research skills, including trying out those skills by contributing to a small volume of papers on a subject related to the chosen dissertation topic.

Whilst focusing on British history and culture, the course will begin with an introductory unit which sets Britain in a world context and explores her cultural relationship with the rest of the world since the sixteenth century. Using the layout of the Ashmolean museum’s international collections with its emphasis on global interaction, this unit will principally be concerned with the formation of British culture through the stimuli of influences beyond Europe.

The course aims to enable students to specialise in certain disciplines and ultimately in a particular historical period, whilst structuring their learning within a strong contextual and critical framework. It aims to enable students to make the most of the university’s resources (e.g. its libraries, computer facilities, museums and historic monuments), to provide a high quality of academic and pastoral support, and to maximise the potential for learning within a peer group. It sets out to encourage a richly democratic view of cultural history in which all men’s and women’s lives play their part.

Who is this course for?

The Master's in Literature and Arts has been designed to enable students to combine study with their obligations to professional work or caring duties.

The course is ideal for the following:

  • Graduates in Humanities disciplines who have entered employment, but who wish to maintain their momentum of study progressing to a postgraduate qualification. This group will include teachers, librarians, and archivists, and others involved in humanities-related professions.
  • Humanities graduates who would like to study part-time because of other responsibilities (including caring roles).

While the Masters Degree in Literature and Arts can be seen as a stand-alone qualification, it will also prepare students for doctoral work.

Programme details

Programme structure

Year One:

Two core courses in year one will introduce students to post-graduate research skills and methodologies and use a series of case studies to explore some of the challenges inherent in the practice of interdisciplinary study.

After taking a broad view of British culture in a global context at the first residence (Core Course 1), the three subsequent residences enable you to choose from a range of subjects, from different humanities disciplines, which relate to the historical period assigned to the unit/residence. The options are taught in the mornings and afternoons, and represent a range of disciplines, specifically literature, history, visual culture and political thought/theology. There are two further residences during Year 1.

Year Two:

At the start of year two students attend the fourth residence. A final core course in cultural theory will prepare the student for the writing of the dissertation. This involves writing an article for and contributing to the production process of the course's online journal, Vides. The dissertation occupies the final two terms of year two.

Core courses

Core courses will be both residential and delivered through online distance learning modules.


Students will attend tutorials, seminars and lectures during five-day residences in October, February and late June/July in year one and in October of year two, plus an initial induction day, prior to the first core course. Residences will account for eighty face to face teaching hours over the two years (structured around intensive discussion in seminars).


These modules are fully supported by a dedicated Virtual Learning Environment. Students will engage in on-line group discussions using the course website and email. Students will also have access to the electronic on-line resources of Oxford University's Library Services, including the Bodleian Library, and all other University libraries, including the English Faculty Library, the History Faculty Library, the Philosophy Faculty Library and the Theology Faculty Library. These modules are designed such that students need not have a sophisticated understanding of IT; materials may be provided in a variety of ways to suit the student's preference and situation.

In keeping with the Oxford ethos of tutorial instruction, individual tutorials and supervisions will be an integral part of the programme, most notably with regard to the dissertation. Individual supervision will be undertaken both face-to-face and by e-mail.


Each of the options residences is structured in the same way, beginning with an historical introduction to the period and ending with a plenary discussing where connections can be made between the subjects studied through the week. The options represent a range of disciplines: literature, hisotry, art and material culture, philosophy and the history of ideas.  Each student chooses two options out of four offered. 

The following list indicates the subjects which are available in 2022/23, there may be some changes in subsequent years.

Early Modern:

  • Shakespeare in History - Dr Lynn Robson
  • Tudor Monarchy – Dr Janet Dickinson
  • The Elizabethan Country House - Dr Gillian White
  • Five Steps to Francis Bacon - Knowledge and Power in Early Modern England - Dr Peter Langman

The ‘Long Eighteenth Century’:

  • Green Retreats: Nature and Landscape in Eighteenth-Century Literature - Dr Carly Watson
  • The Rise of Landscape in British Painting - Dr Kathy McLauchlan
  • Bentham, Hume and Eighteenth-Century British Philosophy – Dr Magnus Moar
  • Overseas Trade and the Rise of Britain as a Superpower - Dr Mike Wagner

The ‘Long Nineteenth Century’:

  • Fiction ca 1800-1820 - Dr Sandie Byrne
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Late Nineteenth-Century British Culture – Professor Barrie Bullen
  • The British Empire and the Country House – Dr Yasmin Khan
  • History, Historiography and Medievalism: The Victorians and the Crusades - Dr Mike Horswell

Please note that due to timetabling constrictions it is not always possible to allocate each student to their preferred options. 


A dissertation of 11,000 words will be the focus of the final two terms of the second year. It should demonstrate the student’s knowledge and awareness of more than one subject discipline.

After the final residential module, students will decide on their dissertation subject in consultation with the Course Director. They will be advised on reading lists and a timetable of work by their dissertation supervisor.

Course structure

Year 1:

October 2023 (Michaelmas 2023)
Induction and Matriculation – two days in Oxford
Residential module 1 – five days in Oxford

November 2023–May 2024 (Michaelmas 2023/Hilary 2024)
Distance learning module 1 – online

February 2024 (Hilary 2024)
Residential module 2 – five days in Oxford

Late June 2024/early July 2024 (Trinity 2024)
Residential module 3 – five days in Oxford

Year 2:

Michaelmas 2024
Residential module 4 – five days in Oxford

Hilary 2025
Distance learning module 2 – online

Trinity 2025
Individual consultations on dissertation topic and dissertation writing

Distance learning modules

The first distance learning module is undertaken in Year 1. It is designed to enable students to develop their skills in analysing and interpreting various kinds of textual and visual sources. Students examine six primary sources connected with nineteenth-century Oxford, including William Holman Hunt’s painting The Light of the World, Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, and Edward Onslow Ford’s memorial sculpture of Percy Bysshe Shelley at University College. Students contribute to online discussions of these sources and receive feedback on their contributions from the Course Director.

The second distance learning module is undertaken in Year 2. This module is designed to prepare students for the writing of the dissertation. It surveys relevant cultural theory to provide further intellectual contexts for the dissertation. It also provides students with an opportunity to fine-tune their research and writing skills by contributing an article to an online journal created by the student group. For previous issues of the journal, see Vides (Volume of Interdisciplinary Essays).


Assessment is through four assignments of 4,000 to 5,000 words, each assignment following a residential module, and an 11,000-word dissertation. The four assignments contribute 40% of the final mark and the dissertation contributes 60%.

VIDES (volume of interdisciplinary essays)

In the second year, as part of the preparation for the dissertation, each student writes a short essay around two documents or artefacts which they have chosen which comment on a particular topic but from contrasting viewpoints. The student group is divided up into a number of small committees responsible for peer reviewing and editing the journal, deciding on its house-style and designing it.

VIDES 2023 - Volume 11 (pdf) features 24 short essays. Through comparing artefacts across art, literature, history, material culture and philosophy and considering how these inform one another, these essays explore a range of topics in a truly interdisciplinary way. 

The articles here span the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, covering topics as wide-ranging as fashion, travel, botany, photography, and imperialism, and cover the globe, from the South Pacific to India, and from Singapore to the English countryside. The essays grapple with the complex issues of race, class, gender, work, the environment, colonialism, and politics, demonstrating the importance of the Humanities for not only interpreting the past but also understanding our present and future. 

Earlier volumes of Vides are also available to read online here. 

Teaching staff

Course Co-Directors

Dr Leah Clark

Associate Professor in the History of Art and Director of Studies in History of Art at the Department, and Fellow of Kellogg College.

Dr Carly Watson

Departmental Lecturer; Co-Director, with Dr Leah Clark, of the MSt in Literature and Arts (MLA) and also Course Director of the DPhil in Literature and Arts (DLA).

Other core teaching staff

Dr Yasmin Khan

Associate Professor of British History, OUDCE, member of the History Faculty and a fellow of Kellogg College 

Dr Lynn Robson

Associate Professor in English Literature and fellow of Regent's College

Professor Barrie Bullen

Professor Emeritus at the University of Reading, Honorary Research Fellow, Royal Holloway, University of London; visiting fellow of Kellogg College

Dr Janet Dickinson

Senior Associate Tutor in History, OUDCE and Lecturer at New York University in London

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. In order to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.

Fees and funding


Please visit the MSt in Literature and Arts page on the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for details of course fees and costs.


ClarendonThe Clarendon Fund's purpose is to assist academically outstanding graduate students through their studies at Oxford. If you apply by the January deadline you will be automatically considered for a Clarendon scholarship.

Kellogg College offer scholarships to part-time graduate students, please visit the Kellogg College website for more details. 

Please visit our 'sources of funding' page for information on student loans, bursaries and Professional and Career Development Loans as well as details of external sources of funding. For further information on funding, see the Oxford Funding Search

Application details

For information about entry requirements, fees, selection criteria and how to apply, please visit the course page on the Graduate Admissions website.

If you have any questions about this course, please email: