List of Free Online English Literature Courses and Schools
See our list of the top free online English literature courses. Learn about what courses are available and what topics they cover to find the course that's right for you.
Online English Literature Courses for Credit
Students who don't want to register or pay tuition can find plenty of free English literature courses available online; however, these courses likely won't provide a path to college credit. Students interested in earning credit have the option of taking online courses that charge a fee in exchange for access to online lessons. Fee-based courses help students earn alternative forms of college credit.
Education Portal offers this style of distance learning via short, engaging video lessons and self-assessment quizzes. Free transcripts are also available for these video lessons. Both the transcripts and the video lessons can help students earn college credit. Students interested in English literature can explore the English 101: English Literature course, which includes lessons on these topics and more:
- Old and Middle English Literature - Learn about Beowulf and Chaucer and examine several of the Canterbury Tales', including the Knight's Tale and the Miller's Tale.
- 17th and 18th Century English Literature - Topics in this chapter include Pilgrim's Progress, the works of John Milton, mock heroic poetry, restoration comedy and Gothic literature.
- Romantic Poetry in English Literature - Examine works by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, John Keats and William Wordsworth.
- Turn-of-the-Century Literature - Watch videos on Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad and W.B. Yeats and see examples of their writings.
- Nonfiction in English Literature - Explore such writers as Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Philip Sydney and John Ruskin.
Free Online Non-Credited English Literature Courses
While some of the free online English literature courses listed below contain much of the content of actual college classes, these resources are self-directed, and none offer credit. While the courses themselves are free, students may be encouraged to purchase textbooks or supplemental reading materials.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Eighteenth-Century Literature: Versions of the Self in 18th-Century Britain
- Major Authors: John Milton
- Major English Novels
Free online materials for these courses include syllabi and reading assignments, along with writing prompts for essays. Students must obtain copies of the works they will read during these courses. Familiarity with Paradise Lost is recommended for anyone taking Major Authors: John Milton. Major English Novels examines works from the beginning of the genre in the 1700s through the mid-20th century. Course assignments for Eighteenth-Century Literature: Versions of the Self in 18th-Century Britain includes readings from authors like Mary Shelley, David Hume, Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.
The Open University
These free 15-hour online courses utilize resources from Open University's for-credit courses. Students can read lectures and complete suggested activities that encourage them to think and write about the literature they are studying. Students will need to obtain copies of the works, and additional readings are recommended. In Approaching Literature: Reading Great Expectations, students can explore several methods of reading the Charles Dickens' novel by looking at his writing style, point of view, character development and depiction of Victorian society. Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus allows students to analyze the English play to determine Marlowe's intended message.
St. John Fisher College
Students can download the detailed PDF lecture notes that correspond with this Survey of British Literature III course, which includes poems, plays and novels from authors like Oscar Wilde, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf. Three textbooks may need to be purchased, but many readings are available for free through provided links. Students can assess their knowledge through a variety of study questions.
University of Michigan
Shakespeare's Principal Plays examines Shakespeare's take on familial relationships through studies of plays that include King Lear, The Tempest, Henry V and Hamlet. Students can download free podcasts of lectures from iTunes U and access the plays through links that are provided. No textbook or additional reading materials are required.
University of Oxford
Students can download free podcasts of lectures, but no other course materials are available online. In the D.H. Lawrence course, seven lessons look at Lawrence's use of humor and his ideas on Christianity. The three lectures available on George Eliot are designed to acquaint students with her work and her impact on literature.
During the Milton course, students can study the poetry of John Milton by downloading 24 free videos of classroom lectures, along with PDF handouts that further explain the topics covered in the lessons. The midterm and final examinations are also available for downloading. Students must obtain a required anthology of Milton's poems and prose. A King James version of the Bible is also recommended as supplemental reading.