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Undergraduate Study

English at Trinity

Trinity is ranked 25th in the world for English Language and Literature (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022). Our commitment to small-group teaching means that you will benefit from close personal staff supervision, so that your writing and discussion skills develop.

Our English courses have been designed to develop independence of critical thought and the articulation of informed discussion, both oral and written. Much of your work will be undertaken independently, and you will have at your disposal the resources of one of the world’s great libraries, with rich resources in the full range of literature in English. The School of English also co-ordinates many non-syllabus activities, such as lecture series, conferences and symposia, guest lecturers (such as Anne Enright, Paula Meehan, Colm Tóibín and Emma Donoghue) and visiting writers including Richard Ford, the Pulitzer prizewinning author.

The School actively supports several journals of creative and critical writing by undergraduates. Many of our students are involved in student societies, where they take part in activities such as journalism, debating and theatre. In this way we ensure that your time studying English at Trinity is exciting and intense.

Students have the option of studying either English Studies (Single Honours) or English Literature (Joint Honours). For more information please see undergraduate courses.

English Studies (Single Honours)

The study of English is concerned with the history and practices of writing in English and encompasses literary works spanning English, Anglo-Irish, American and post-colonial cultures. It aims to develop a thorough knowledge of the history of these literatures while also enabling students to develop a sophisticated critical consciousness and an awareness of critical and cultural theory. Compared to English Literature (Joint Honours) students, English Studies students cover a longer historical range (including before 1300) and also consider topics such as Popular Literature and the Literature of Childhood.

More details about the modules studied is contained in the 'modules' section of the student handbooks which are uploaded to the Fresher and Sophister pages in Michaelmas Term.

English Literature (Joint Honours)

English Literature covers a broad range of literatures written in the English language, from Chaucer to the present day. The aim of the course is to help students acquire a sense of the development of literatures in English over time and space and a rich array of critical techniques and questions. While Joint Honours students study a range of genres, periods and national literatures, the course is less comprehensive than that of the Single Honours programme.

Starting with the 2019-2020 intake, students studying English and another subject enter as Joint Honours students. This structure allows more flexibility within the degree, including, for the first time in English, the opportunity to study two subjects for the full four years.

While Joint Honours students cover all the principal areas of literatures in English, they take a selection of the modules available to Single Honours students in order to leave time for their other subject.

Details of the SH and JH courses are contained in the student handbooks, available on the Fresher and Sophister pages.

Graduate Skills and Career Opportunities

Trinity’s School of English graduates gain leading roles in intellectual, professional and public life. The skills developed by students of English are in high demand from employers, especially in journalism, broadcasting, teaching, advertising, marketing and business, arts management, publishing, law and diplomacy. Recent graduates work in Google, the Irish Times, the Department of Foreign Affairs, RTÉ and PwC.

The four-year degree provides an outstanding platform for postgraduate study in English, and usually about 30% of our graduates go on to read for a higher degree in English (master’s degree, Ph.D. degree).

Many well-known creative writers are Trinity English graduates, including Eavan Boland, Deirdre Madden, Michael Longley, John Connolly, Derek Mahon, Brendan Kennelly, Anne Enright, Paula Meehan and Sally Rooney.

Course Content

The English courses are designed so that the first year consists of compulsory modules, taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. In the second year there are further compulsory modules, but you will also take open modules outside English. In the third and fourth year, students choose between a large number of option modules in English, reflecting the great variety of expertise among the staff.

There is particular emphasis on small-group teaching, enabling you to benefit from close personal staff supervision. Independent study and research are encouraged, and quite a high proportion of your time will be taken up preparing work in the library and writing essays.

First and Second Years (Fresher)

The first and second year provide an introduction to a variety of critical theories, practices and approaches to literature. You will primarily concentrate on selected prescribed texts. Examples of first and second year modules include: Genres, Irish Writing, Imagining the Middle Ages, Shakespeare, Writing Childhoods, Pulp: Introduction to Popular Literature, American Literature, Postcolonial Literature and Imagining the Contemporary

Third and Fourth Years (Sophister)

In the third and fourth years, you will choose most of your modules from a wide range of specialist options; in these years, modules are taught at an advanced level in small group seminars. Examples of third and fourth year modules may include: Creative Writing, Ulysses in Context, African and Caribbean Literature, Crime Fiction, Global Shakespeare, Modernism, American Writing, Children’s Literature, Popular Literature, and History of the English Language. All final-year students are expected to complete a Capstone project, which might be a dissertation, a study of material from the Library’s Open Collections, or a portfolio of Creative Writing


Assessment is by a combination of submitted essays, journals, dissertation and end-of-semester examinations. In first and second year the weighting is approximately 66% submitted work and 33% final examinations. In third and fourth year it may vary depending on the modules chosen, although submission of a Capstone project is compulsory for all final year students.

Dual BA Program between Trinity College Dublin and Columbia University

The Dual BA between Trinity College Dublin and Columbia University allows English Studies students to study at two world-leading universities.

Dual BA students engage deeply with their chosen academic subject from the outset of their time in Dublin. After two years at Trinity, they transition to Columbia, where they benefit from the breadth of the US curricular model, taking classes from the Columbia Core curriculum. Students are full members of both university communities throughout the four years of the programme and graduate with a degree from each university.

For more information on the Dual BA between Trinity College Dublin and Columbia University, please visit Dual Degree  or contact

Study Abroad

Students in the School of English may apply to study abroad during their third year, either on the Erasmus programme in Europe or on a non-EU exchange in a wide range of countries, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Singapore and China. For more information on study abroad destinations and requirements visit the study abroad information here.