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Literature and Philosophy MA

Mode Duration Attendance Start date
Full time 1 year Two days per week September 2018
Part time 2 years One day per week September 2018

Choose Kingston's Literature and Philosophy MA

The Literature and Philosophy MA draws on the interdisciplinary relationship between both subjects. It combines rigorous philosophical and cutting-edge literary study, at the same time as critically examining questions around the relationship between the two disciplines in an inclusive, critical and non-partisan manner.

The course demands the best of its students, while at the same time providing a supportive pedagogical environment, in which teaching is student-centred and research led. You will be challenged to engage in critical thinking in ways that will prepare you for a range of careers.

On the course you will be able to draw on the resources of not only literature and philosophy, but also creative writing, journalism and publishing, and in a faculty that incorporates the study of film, psychoanalysis, drama and dance. You can therefore take advantage of a broad range of intellectual and creative resources.

Here's what one of our students says about the course:

"For those interested particularly in Literature and Philosophy the course is perfect," Jamie Toy (current student, Literature and Philosophy MA)


"After graduating from English Literature and Creative Writing, I found that I wanted to keep going with my studies. The MA in Literature and Philosophy was introduced the year I graduated from my BA, and enabled me to really focus on my personal research interests. The lecturers are dynamic and cover broad fields of knowledge so they're always happy to help with academic questions if you are stuck. Likewise, they are also incredibly friendly and generous with their time if and when you need it.

The library contains everything you need and I can also access the libraries on other campuses - I particularly appreciate the Knights Park Library for its vast art book collection. Being in such close proximity to CRMEP as well as other departments within the university means that there are always events, conferences and seminars to attend also.

I've also enjoyed attending events hosted by Kingston Shakespeare Seminar, Writers' Centre Kingston, Race/Gender Matters and Cultural Histories at Kingston, who've arranged conferences, seminars and readings on a regular basis.

Kingston's open and relaxed atmosphere sets it apart from other universities for me. You really can bring what you want to the table workwise and there's always a staff member somewhere that will help you with those ideas, no matter how obscure."

What will you study?

The course offers you a broad range of topics in English, including gender, race theory and postcolonial literature and theory, medieval literature, Shakespeare, the gothic, the American Suburban novel, Iris Murdoch, slavery and empire. It also offers you the chance to engage in continental philosophy with an emphasis on deconstruction, French thought, German idealism, critical theory, aesthetics, contemporary feminist, modern continental thought and psychoanalysis. The core module offers you the chance to examine the boundary between English and philosophy, focusing on their divergent assumptions as well as their connections. It pushes you to think about what is unique to each discipline, and how each discipline can complement the other.

Assessment

Coursework and dissertation.

Course structure

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.

Core modules

  • This core module, to be taken in the first teaching block of the MA in Literature and Philosophy, has been designed to give students a solid foundation in core issues, questions and debates relating to the nature of the relationship between literature and philosophy, on which they will be able to draw throughout their degree. The module opens with an introductory session that explores the questions raised by interdisciplinary study and the ways in which interdisciplinarity is to function during the course, encouraging students to consider the ways in which literature and philosophy can think together in a manner that exceeds either discipline's methodological or conceptual aims.

    The module is then divided into two core blocks that frame central philosophical and literary issues in relation to each other. In the first, philosophy as literature, the module examines the ways in which philosophical texts draw on and expose questions of literature and the imagination, through their concern with issues such as representation, interpretation, the nature of meaning and language, rhetoric and concepts of politics and authority. How for example does Deleuze's interest in and replication of literary form contribute to the politics of his philosophy? How does one read Derrida's literary reference points as philosophical interventions? What are the implications of the Kantian legacy for our conception of creativity? How does Sartre offer us a philosophy of literary representation? In the second, literature as philosophy, the module explores how literary texts have functioned as interventions into philosophical debates. Why, for example, was Iris Murdoch defined as novelist philosopher? How is twentieth-century French philosophy woven into the concerns of contemporary fiction? When taken alongside each other, how do the differing modes of representing reality offered by literature and philosophy enhance each other's material concerns? The module is delivered by a weekly two and a half hour interactive workshop session in which students will be encouraged to present informal papers and lead discussions.

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  • This module is the culmination of students' study and research on the MA. It provides them with an opportunity for intensive and detailed research-based exploration of their chosen topic under the guidance of a dissertation supervisor with expertise in their field. Students will receive guidance on producing a research proposal and a literature review, and on analysing key historical debates and interpretations of their topic. Together with the skills learned in the core module, this will enable them to construct a plan of research on which to base a dissertation. Students following the public history route may choose to vary the format of their dissertation and produce an analysis of a practice-based project or examples of public history such as museums, film, television, heritage trails, websites or historic houses.

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Option modules

  • This optional module in the MA course in English Literature studies early modern gender, culture and international exchange. You will explore cultural exchanges – of goods, styles, individuals, texts, artworks, and ideas – between sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Britain and the Continent, with a special concentration on London’s emergence as a world capital. The module studies these international exchanges largely through the lives and works of early modern women and through male-authored works which comment upon women’s roles, for two reasons. First, although men’s and women’s experiences were similar, important differences in early modern culture placed women in a tense, symbolic relationship to foreign influences. This is especially true in England, where the island’s national and cultural insularity was often gendered as feminine, reflecting the reign of a female monarch throughout most of the sixteenth century. Secondly, women’s strategies for stepping beyond domestic boundaries to publish or circulate texts parallels the political and social strategies informing exchanges from one national or cultural context to another. Thus the period’s ‘traffic in women,’ to borrow Gayle Rubin’s familiar phrase, provides a concise metaphor for its traffic in goods and ideas.

     
  • This module examines the ways literature has helped to imagine, construct and reconceive spaces, places, and populations, from those at home and in the city, to ones of exploration and empire. The module approaches diverse literary material of the colonial period – from travel writing to adventure fiction – through theoretical frameworks derived from critical geography, postcolonial criticism and cultural studies. Key concepts such as the contact zone, transculturation, hybridity, mimicry, and borderland are examined and debated in order to develop a critical understanding of how literature maps territories, represents places, and transgresses spatial and subjective boundaries. The module also pays particular attention to how gender, race, class and national identity intersect and inform the ways in which writers engage with particular spaces.

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  • Literature has a long history of representing the erotic, and of exploring, affirming and contesting ideas about the body. This optional module explores how modern writers have, from the late-nineteenth century to the present, engaged with moral, legal and scientific understandings of sexuality, and considers the impact of feminist criticism, queer theory and pornography studies upon how we think about the complex and often difficult relationship between sex and writing. You will critically examine provocative and formally challenging textual material in order to debate a range of contentious issues and themes, such as sexual morality and censorship, literary and journalist accounts of prostitution, the supposed distinctions between literature, erotica and pornography, the effects of new technologies on the representation of sexual desire, and utopian and radical visions of sex and society.

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  • Personal testimonies and oral and textual representations of traumatic experience are the life force of human rights work, and rights claims have brought profound power to the practice of historical and autobiographically based writing. This module uses a range of approaches from a number of disciplines to explore the connections and conversations between human rights and the representation of familial and socio/historical traumatic experiences in writing. We will examine traumatogenic works by survivor-writers who are eyewitnesses to slavery, genocide, and forced displacement as well as those who have experienced personal, familial violence and rights abuse. We will also look at works by theorists of trauma and autobiographical writing, documentary filmmakers and human rights advocates making use of literary/critical, historical, psychological, and rights advocacy approaches in our discussions.

    The module will have four key sections sections—testimony, recognition, representation, and justice—evoking the key stages in turning experience into a human rights story. In doing so it attends to such diverse and varied arts as autobiography, documentary film, report, oral history, blog, and verbatim theater. It will begin by looking at moving personal accounts from those who have endured persecution, imprisonment, and torture; turn to meditations on experiences of injustice and protest by creative writers and filmmakers; and finally explore innovative research on ways that digital media, commodification, and geopolitics are shaping what is possible to hear and say.

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  • The module is designed to introduce students to some issues of critical and literary theory. The module is also designed to make students more aware of how their work impacts upon wider literary, cultural, political and philosophical issues. Awareness of these theories and of some of the issues surrounding the production and reception of literary texts will stimulate them, encouraging creative and conceptual thinking.  The module will explore debates about literature and the practice of creative writing through readings of essays and texts that are relevant to criticism and theory.  The academic component of the assessment will support the creative work with the objective that students will also have to demonstrate critical, academic, analytical skills.

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  • This module examines the rich and dynamic presence of British black and Asian writing from the mid-17th century to the present. Exploring the ways in which black and Asian writing has contributed to definitions of Britishness for more than 300 years, it examines how black writers have produced formally innovative and conceptually challenging responses to questions of race, class, gender and identity, while simultaneously making significant creative contributions to the fields of drama, prose, poetry, and life-writing. In the first half of the module, students will study a range of early British texts from the mid-17th century to the 19th century from writers such as Equiano and Mary Seacole, alongside contemporary works which have reflected on the black cultural presence in Britain during this period, while the second half of the module turns to 20th century and contemporary texts by writers such as Zadie Smith. Andrea Levy, Monica Ali, Hanif Kureishi, Meera Syal, Gautam Malkani, Leila Aboulela, Jackie Kay and John Agard, contextualised by appropriate critical and cultural theories from thinkers such as Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall. The module is assessed by a flexible assessment strategy which allows students to respond to the module through a combination of critical essay, performance and/or creative writing, and discussion posts documenting engagement and critical response. 

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  • Throughout its history, the American nation has centred its identity upon notions of protest, resistance and dissent: a questioning of authority that has come to define American ideas of democratic freedom and individuality. This module explores how writers of poetry and prose from the 19th century to the present have asserted the American consciousness through literatures of counter-cultural resistance, challenging political ideologies, and questioning established modes of thinking. We will explore movements such as Transcendentalism, the Beats, Black Arts, and the New York School and their production of a counter-cultural aesthetic. Alongside this, we will consider individual writers who have responded to dominant discourses surrounding race, gender, nationalism, capitalism, and war - writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Chesnutt, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Leslie Marmon Silko, George Saunders and Thomas Pynchon. How, we ask, have these writers and movements both responded to and shaped the idea of American identity through a politics that is both radical and anti-authoritarian? The module is assessed by a combination of two short essays, discussion posts and a long critical essay.

     
  • What does it mean to be human? What does it means to post-human? Who are our postmodern monsters? And what is the relationship between these differently defined subjects and the environments - built, natural, virtual - in which they exist? In this module we examine literature that has asked these questions, investigating how narratives of modernity have interrogated assumptions about the relationship between living subjects and the physical world, and indeed the way in which both those subjects and that world are conceived. Framed by ecocritical and spatial theory, we will consider how narrative explores the way in which the physical world has been treated in the current age - the age described as the Anthropocene  - and how it has played a role in re-shaping our understanding of that world, and the changing idea of what constitutes the human. Alongside this, we will consider how literature illuminates the ways in which spaces and places are themselves implicated in these definitions, with particular consequences for questions of race, gender, class, and sexuality. The module will include field trips to relevant sites such as urban developments and local wildlife centres, and will be assessed by a combination of essay and critical reflection.

     
  • This module provides an introduction to the tradition of philosophical aesthetics through a detailed study of its founding text, Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement.

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  • This module involves guided study of a selection of major works of post-war Italian philosophy, focusing each year on the work of two or more related thinkers. The module will explore the tension in Italian philosophy between the claims of theology and radical politics, one expressed in the turn to bio-philosophy and bio-politics during the 1990s. Thinkers studies include Agamben, Cacciari, Negri  and Esposito. Topics will include: the place of contemporary Italian philosophy with respect to the history of philosophy, its place with respect to French and German philosophy, political theology, time, bio-philosophy and bio-politics. 

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  • Based on a study of artists' texts, art criticism, art history and philosophical writings on art, this module comprises a critical examination of the legacy and possibilities of modernist and avant-garde criticism in contemporary art theory. As well as introducing students to some of the major texts and ideas in these traditions of art theory and art criticism, the modules aims to enable students to reflect critically on works of contemporary art in the light of their study.

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  • This module offers students an opportunity to study major works by Nietzsche and Heidegger. In particular it considers the relationship between Nietzsche's critique of metaphysics as the manifestation of an ascetic 'will to truth' and Heidegger's project of 'dismantling' and 'overcoming' metaphysics in light of a renewal of the question of being.

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  • This module involves guided study of two or three major works of twentieth-century French philosophy, focusing each year on the work of two related thinkers. Possible topics include: Sartre or de Beauvoir's existentialism, Levinasian ethics, Merleau-Ponty's theory of embodied perception, Foucault's theory of power, Derrida's practice of deconstruction, Deleuze's conception of difference, Badiou's concepts of the subject and truth.

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  • Each year this module involves guided study of major works from the tradition of Modern European Philosophy, focussing either on a single text or on a range of texts in relation to a theme. The module offers students the opportunity to undertake intensive study under the guidance of a Professor – Étienne Balibar – who is himself a major thinker in the Modern European Tradition. Past topics have included Althusser, the dispute over humanism and the idea of a philosophical anthropology and the reception of Das Kapital in the Western Marxist Tradition. For 2014–15 the module will focus on a study of Spinoza's Ethics, providing a general introduction to the structure and key ideas of the text, and proposing commentaries for 10 strategic propositions (or groups of propositions) chosen across the five ‘parts' of the work.

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  • This module involves guided study of one or more major works of modern political philosophy. Texts and themes vary from year to year, but possible topics include: power, class, the state, sovereignty, government, organisation, institution, constitution, representation, democracy, ideology, property, mode of production, capitalism, colonialism, slavery, violence, subjection, nature, citizenship, law, rights, difference, justice, legitimacy, insurrection, insurgency, revolution, resistance, and so on. Approaches to the material will be filtered through contemporary debates in European philosophy and critical theory, with reference to figures like Agamben, Foucault, Negri or Rancière; primary texts may include canonical works by Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, as well as material associated with major political sequences like the revolutions in France, the Americas, Russia, Cuba, and so on, or with more recent sequences like the anti-colonial struggles, May 68, or social mobilisations around questions of race, sex, class, debt, etc. 

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  • Each year this module focusses on a study of a different selection of Freud's major and minor works, mining them for their philosophical significance and reflecting on the implications of psychoanalysis for philosophy, particularly in relation to the philosophical notion of the subject. Where appropriate the module will discuss the critical development of this theoretical framework by psychoanalysts such as Jacques Lacan and Jean Laplanche, its reception and deployment in the tradition of Freudo-Marxist critical theory, and the theoretical transformation and political critique of Freudian theory in feminist and queer theory.

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You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

We aim to ensure that all courses and modules advertised are delivered. However in some cases courses and modules may not be offered. For more information about why, and when you can expect to be notified, read our Changes to Academic Provision.

A copy of the regulations governing this course is available here

Details of term dates for this course can be found here

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This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

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Contact us

Admissions team

*5p per minute from a BT landline. Call charges from other providers may vary.

Location

This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

View Penrhyn Road on our Google Maps
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