The study of English literature and language: from early medieval times to the present day.
The bedrock of most English courses is English literature: the study of written English from its Anglo-Saxon origins to its present day. Some courses also include English language, which is also offered as a separate subject in a minority of universities. English language is the study of the structure and use of English, and its role in society.
Many English courses will begin with a year in which students are offered the chance to familiarise themselves with the skills and approaches of critical analysis, alongside introductory modules covering particular phases of literature and/or authors.
In the second and third years, options come to the fore. The historical scope is wide, with some options relating to the language of the Middle Ages: students at Leicester have the chance to study Anglo-Saxon texts in the original, for example, while at Oxford, Old Norse and even Medieval French are options on the English Language and Literature course. Students will also have the chance to study literature by period, by author and by theme. As one would expect, the giants of the canon – from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Milton, Dickens and Joyce – are studied virtually everywhere, while students might also want to explore more obscure authors or particular themes, genres and critical movements, such as structuralism, Marxism and postcolonialism. Examples of modules listed by universities are "Devotion and dissent in medieval English literature"; "Victorians and social change 1840-1870"; and "Literary representation and the history of homosexuality".