BA (Hons) Philosophy and English Literature

About the course

Literature can offer new perspectives on familiar themes, as well as open doors to unfamiliar ideas and cultures which are temporally or spatially remote from your own. It is an ideal source for philosophical reflection, exploring and challenging the assumptions that frame the way we think, act and see the world around us.

Our BA Philosophy and English Literature degree encourages you to expand your imaginative capacities and to critically reflect on possibilities for how the world could be, by engaging with a wide variety of perspectives. You will gain skills in understanding how to read and interpret in context, and in how to formulate your own arguments, to arrive at your own conclusions.

In your first year, you might choose to study international and American literature or revisit Shakespeare and consider his cultural relevance today through fictional, cinematic and TV adaptations. In Philosophy, you might explore questions which lie at the heart of much literature, such as whether anything can give meaning to life, and whether our striving to achieve anything of significance is ultimately futile, even ridiculous. The philosophy of film and literature module addresses the assumption that anything is possible in fiction and considers the extent to which that is true.

All our English Literature and Philosophy lecturers are active researchers, so you’ll share the excitement of doing original work in a supportive and highly-rated academic community. Our Philosophy team is in the top 15 in the Guardian League Table 2019 and rates as one of the 100 best Philosophy departments worldwide in the 2017 QS rankings.

In your second year, you’ll focus on period-based literature from the Renaissance onwards and gain an understanding of literary history, from Elizabethan verse and drama, via Augustan poetry and the emergence of the novel in the 18th century, to the radical transformations of the Victorian age, and the emergence of modernity in the 20th century. In Philosophy, you’ll choose from a variety of topics, which includes a module on the nature of art, expression and representation (in literary as well as visual art), and modules on influential texts in philosophy, such as Plato’s Republic.

The final year allows for even more opportunity to tailor your degree to reflect your own interests. On the literature side, themed options include children’s literature, young adult fiction, Renaissance tragedy, 21 st century American literature, European crime fiction, literary adaptations and the culture of print in the 18th century. A wide variety of Philosophy modules are available, including modules on feminist philosophy, the nature of language and meaning, and a module on Nietzsche, who is well-known for his literary style.

Why choose this course?

We give you: 

  • A flexible programme of study, allowing you to concentrate on areas you find especially interesting
  • An exceptional academic team, conducting internationally renowned research
  • Stimulating, innovative courses that allow you to make rewarding connections between two disciplines
  • CV-building potential through work placements and extra-curricular activities

What will I study?

Our philosophy students benefit from being part of a lively and active academic community. You’ll learn through formal courses and extracurricular seminars, while our small group teaching helps you to find your feet in the academic environment. There are plenty of opportunities to discuss critical issues with staff and fellow students, including an optional residential weekend each year.

What job can I get?

On this degree you will be encouraged to understand different perspectives, ask penetrating questions, and identify flawed arguments – skills integral to many professions. You’ll develop many other transferable skills sought by employers, such as creative and critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to communicate ideas in a structured, productive way.

Our graduates have an excellent record of securing roles in a range of industries including teaching, the media, publishing and information management. For those interested in teaching, all Humanities graduates are guaranteed an interview with our School of Education. Many graduates go on to higher levels of study, engaging in research in their chosen fields.

'I certainly developed professionalism and employability through studying Philosophy, primarily through the methods of rational and logical problem solving. I acquired a skill that is useful in whatever field one works in. However, it is enterprise that I most notably improved on while at Herts. I had never really considered starting a businesses or working for myself, but while studying Philosophy (particularly my Masters by Research and my undergraduate dissertation) I realised I was learning self-management and combining this with my new proficiency at problem solving sent me down a new path. Since leaving Herts I have set up multiple small business which are growing healthily. This individuality has really helped me find out what I want to do in life.'

Rob Baggs

BA(Hons) Philosophy, MA(Res) in Philosophy