UCC Postgraduate courses

English – Texts & Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance

About This Course

Fact File

  • Title

    English – Texts & Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance

  • Code


  • College

    Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences

  • Duration

    1 year Full-time

  • Teaching Mode


  • Qualifications


  • EU Fees

    See Fees and Costs for full details.

  • Non-EU Fees


  • Entry Requirements

    See Requirements for full details.

  • Closing Date

    Open for EU applications, check rounds closing under How to Apply

  • Non-EU Closing Date

    30 June 2023

  • Start Date

    11 September 2023

Course Outline

This MA offers students the opportunity to explore the full variety and contexts of Old English, Middle English, and Renaissance literature from the islands of Britain and Ireland, as well the afterlives and legacies of these literary traditions in the modern era.

The MA examines interactions between texts in English from these islands, tracing the beginnings of Anglo-Irish writing, as well as the cultural transmissions and transformations between classical, European, and insular intellectual and literary traditions circa 700 to circa 1700. The programme takes a particular interest in interrogating conventional boundaries between periods (such as medieval and Renaissance), genres, and media (drama, prose, poetry, oral traditions, film etc.). Modern writers and filmmakers have a fascination with the Medieval and Early Modern that goes far beyond rewritings of ancient myths, or star-studded movie versions of Shakespeare’s plays, and this programme aims to alert students to some of these recent cultural approaches. The MA programme is also stimulated by exceptional contexts and resources from medieval and early modern sites, such as Spenser’s Kilcolman Castle in north Cork, to the early printed book collections of the Boole Library’s Special Collections.

Thus, the MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance programme is designed to provide students with the ability to analyse, understand, and communicate:

  • the conceptual and critical issues involved in the study of Old, Middle, and Renaissance English;
  • the historical and cultural contexts that the study of these periods involves;
  • the issues surrounding the reception, transmission, appropriation, and transformation of early writing across time and especially in modern texts and media.

Moreover, this intensive taught MA provides the foundations for study at higher degree level. It introduces the subject-specific skills that are required for the primary study of earlier English (palaeography, codicology, analysis of the physical composition of printed texts, use of databases and bibliographies) and seeks to develop essential transferable skills (writing, research, analysis, referencing, presentation, teamwork, time-management) that are invaluable as students embark on a scholarly project or career.

Taught Element

The subject modules and the Literary Research Skills module comprise the taught element of the MA and run from October to March. The subject modules introduce students to the specific thematic area of their choice. The Literary Research Skills module aims to equip MA students for the development and implementation of their research strategy through the acquisition of a range of research skills.

Research Element
Dissertation: the dissertation will be written between March and the end of September, and will be submitted in October. It will be supervised by a member(s) of staff, after consultation and agreement, and will be 15,000 to 17,000 words. Supervision will take place between March and the end of September.

Part 1: Taught Modules

  • EN6052 New Histories of the Book: Theories and Practices of Earlier Writing (10 credits)
  • EN6009 Contemporary Research: Skills, Methods and Strategies (10 credits)

Elective Modules

  • EN6053 Old English Literature to c. 1200 (10 credits)
  • EN6051 Middle English Literature, 1200-1550 (10 credits)
  • EN6054 Renaissance Literature c. 1500-1700 (10 credits)
  • EN6063 The Road Goes Ever On: The Reception of Old, Medieval, and Renaissance Literatures (10 credits)

Note: Subject to the approval of the MA programme coordinators, students may substitute one 10-credit module with a 10-credit module from one of the other MA programmes: MA Modernities: American and British Literature and Film, or, the MA in Irish Writing and Film. Modules from the MA in Creative Writing cannot be chosen. Students may not replace EN6052 New Histories of the Book with another MA module.

Part 2

  • EN6017 Dissertation in English (40 credits)

Details of the programme content and modules are in the Postgraduate College Calendar


Further details on the modules listed above can be found in our Book of Modules. Any modules listed above are indicative of the current set of modules for this course but are subject to change from year to year.

University Calendar

You can find the full academic content for the current year of any given course in our University Calendar.

Course Practicalities

The seminars for the taught core programme of the MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance consist of two two-hour sessions per week. Each seminar will concentrate on the close reading of primary texts and on contextual issues, considering authors and texts along with key criticism concerning matters such as genre, history, book history, politics, culture, and art. In the past, students have participated in once-off masterclasses from visiting experts (e.g. on Shakespeare’s Globe theatre) and field trips to local sites of Medieval and Renaissance interest and sites of importance to the production and dissemination of Anglophone writing in Ireland (such as Spenser’s Kilcolman Castle, Co. Cork, and Marsh’s Library, Dublin).

All MA students in English must also take EN6009 Contemporary Literary Research, which requires a 2 hour per week attendance.

The MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance is assessed by a combination of continuous assessments (which may include essays, a research journal in ePortfolio format, oral presentations, or other exercises) and concludes with the submission of a 15-17,000-word dissertation.

Who Teaches on this Course

Why Choose This Course

The MA: Texts and Contexts offers a unique graduate programme covering the full range of the three linguistic and cultural phases of earlier English writing: Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) to c.1100; Middle English (or later Medieval writing) to c.1500; and Early Modern (or Renaissance) writing (c.1500-1700). Through each of its modules, the MA provides an exciting and challenging course of study in a supportive research-led teaching environment. Students engage in independent research, small group discussion, and collaborative projects to develop and acquire knowledge and transferable skills essential to further study and a range of careers. The programme will appeal to students interested in Old, Medieval, and Renaissance literature, and the afterlives of these traditions, and to those who wish to develop their knowledge and skills in critical and creative thinking, communication, organisation, and problem-solving.

MA students benefit from the School’s thriving research community and have the opportunity to attend scholarly conferences, research seminar series, masterclasses, reading groups, and public outreach events. Past MA students also have a long history of actively contributing to Cork’s literary and cultural life and to UCC’s vibrant research community (e.g. through events such as Inkwell, the UCC English Society Medieval and Renaissance symposium, and Bookends, the annual UCC English postgraduate conference).

Study in UCC also affords graduate students the opportunity (subject to approval) to enrol in modules in other languages and literatures of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance such as Latin, Irish, Italian, and the languages of the Iberian peninsula.    

Skills and Careers Information

Graduates of the MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance will be linguistically and critically-adept writers and researchers, capable of advanced scholarly research. Our graduates have the skills and abilities in independent research, effective verbal and written communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, organisation, teamwork, problem-solving, and time-management.

With extensive knowledge of the physical, socio-historic, formal, and linguistic contexts of ideas and writing over time, some graduates on the MA Texts and Contexts advance to doctoral study. Equipped with an array of transferable skills, students also progress to careers in areas such as teaching, journalism and broadcasting, publishing, the arts and heritage industries, librarianship and curation, the civil service, policy research and formation. 


To be considered for admission to an MA programme within the School of English, an applicant will normally possess a honours primary degree result of Second Class Honours Grade 1 (2H1) level or higher or equivalent qualification in English or a cognate subject. All candidates must satisfy a Selection Committee who may request applicants to provide letters of reference.

For North American students a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 is expected.

The selection committee for the MA in the Department of English, University College Cork also attaches strong importance to the additional special supplementary online questions and the online 500-word personal statement for the MA in English (Medieval and Renaissance: Texts and Contexts): CKE31 Additional Questions

International Master’s Pathway – Higher Diploma in Academic Discourse and Skills

There is an alternative entry route for international applicants via the International Master’s Pathway (IMP) – Higher Diploma in Academic Discourse and Skills (NFQ, Level 8). See the IMP page for more information.

English Language Requirements

Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Please visit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

For applicants with qualifications completed outside of Ireland

Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants

For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

  • In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.
  • Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.

Fees and Costs

The EU fee for this course is €6,130.

The Non-EU fee for this course is €16,700.


If your course required a deposit, that figure will be deducted from your second semester fee payment in January.

EU student fee payment

Fees for EU students are payable in two equal instalments. First payment at registration in August and the second in January.

International student fee payment

International Students can pay in two equal instalments once they have paid the appropriate deposit. The initial payment is due on registration and the balance usually by the end of January.

How can I pay?

You can pay by Credit/Debit card online or by credit transfer.


If you have any questions on fee payment please email our Fees Office at fees@ucc.ie.

How Do I Apply

1. Check Dates: Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

  • For Irish and EU applicants we operate a rounds system and you can check the rounds closing dates here.
  • Note that not all our programmes are subject to the rounds system so check the opening and closing dates for your specific programme in the fact file boxes above.

2. Gather Documents: Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

  • Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC;
  • Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply Online: Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Any questions? Use our web enquiry form to contact us.

Additional Requirements (All applicants)

Please note you will be required to provide additional information as part of the online application process for this programme. This will include the following questions:

  • You may enter the details of professional or voluntary positions held. We strongly encourage you to complete this section with all relevant work experiences that will support your application.

  • Please describe your motivation and readiness for this programme.

  • Please detail your computing/technical/IT skills.

  • Please enter the name and email address for two academic referees who can provide references for previous relevant academic performance, qualifications, and aptitude.

The closing date for non-EU applications is 30 June 2023

For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact