English Literature MA

Why choose this course?

This innovative English Literature MA course focuses on dissident writing and transgressive texts, from the early modern period to the present, and from contexts around the globe.

Engaging with recent developments in theoretical and critical practice, the course will develop your knowledge and understanding of English literature and will sharpen your skills of literary research, writing and analysis.

Course assessment is flexible and innovative, ranging from traditional essays and dissertations to blogs and multimedia presentations.

Capitalising on our London location, several modules are complemented by optional field trips to enhance and support your learning experience.

Mode Duration Start date
Full time 1 year September 2020
Full time 2 years including professional placement September 2020
Part time 2 years September 2020
Location Penrhyn Road

Reasons to choose Kingston

  • You will be taught by world-leading academics with highly rated research publications.
  • Several modules are complemented by field trips, such as to the British Library, museums and theatres (there are additional costs for travel and entry fees).
  • This course enables you to become part of a vibrant postgraduate community and attend extra-curricular events organised by Writers' Centre Kingston and the Race/Gender Matters Research Cluster, which both organise talks, workshops and festivals.

What you will study

The English Literature MA is a rigorous, challenging and fascinating course which enables you to study diverse literary texts and engage with cutting-edge theoretical and critical approaches.

You will complete 180 credits in total, which will include the 30-credit compulsory module Transgression and Dissidence, three optional 30-credit modules and the final 60-credit Dissertation module.

Modules

Optional placement year

The core module, Transgression and Dissidence, introduces the course's central themes by focusing on texts that explore the limits of human experience and contravene cultural boundaries.

Your three option modules provide opportunities to analyse and discuss a range of contentious issues across different historical periods and with respect to different genres.

Your 15,000-word dissertation will allow you to research a subject of your choice, produced under the supervision of a specialist academic member of staff.

Core modules

English Literature Dissertation

60 credits

This is a core module for the MA in English. It consists of supervised independent research and writing and enables you to conduct detailed and extensive research into a distinctive area of enquiry and to present that research in a dissertation of approximately 15,000 words.

Transgression and Dissidence

30 credits

The birth of modern literature is bloody, ill-tempered and violent in the flights of its newfound poetic imagination. Terror and sensation define the novel and degeneration underpins imperial encounters with modes of otherness it can neither conquer nor avoid. Modern challenges to conventions of form also spill over and disturb the bounds of experience, consciousness and good taste amid changing social mechanisms; later provocations – obscene and disturbing in terms of theme and content – assume a role in the vanguard of social and political liberations of consciousness, sexuality, and nation: democratic contestations and freedoms are found and founder in apparently darker literary impulses.

          This core module on the English Literature MA examines the transgressive potentiality of literature. It focuses on textual material that explores the limits of human experience, contravenes cultural boundaries and troubles established verities. It also asks how literature, through such transgressions, has provided opportunities for dissent and resistance, and considers the extent to which literature has thereby acted as a catalyst for social and political change. It interrogates a range of critical approaches to literature, transgression and dissent, and assesses the possibilities and limitations of various modes of dissident scholarship.

          Students will engage with five literary texts drawn from different periods and contexts (these might include a Renaissance drama, an eighteenth-century Gothic novel, a nineteenth century sensation novel; a twentieth-century postmodern novel; and a contemporary work of postcolonial fiction); each will be approached through a selection of critical materials that provide complimentary and competing frameworks for evaluating literary transgression and the scope literature offers for political and sexual dissidence. In so doing the module also introduces students to several of the thematic and theoretical preoccupations of the MA course's optional and special studies modules.

Optional modules

Mappings and crossings

30 credits

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.

Sex and Text

30 credits

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.

Trauma and Justice

30 credits

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.

Ten Critical Challenges for Creative Writers

30 credits

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.

Radical Writers

30 credits

Salman Rushdie, Mary Wollstonecraft, Geoffrey Chaucer, Audre Lorde, Charlotte Bronte, Chinua Achebe, Mary Shelley, John Milton, Lawrence Sterne, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison...the list is endless. At every point in literary history there are writers who break the mould and challenge the status quo. Whether it is through writing epics that endure through centuries, addressing the injustices of the time or challenging the very notion of what a novel, poem or a play can do, writers can be radical in a number of exciting ways. This module looks at works by radical writers in depth, studying one famous text in detail by a range of writers from different time periods and taught by lecturers who are experts in these writers. We will look at the context of each text as well as the way the text is written, determining why these radical writers have been so successful and looking at the effects their texts have had on the world around them. We will look at the idea of the literary 'canon', made up of writers who have been radical in some way, and consider the way that this idea can be challenged, reinvigorated or refreshed.

American Countercultures

30 credits

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.

Making Shakespeare: Text, Performance and Adaptation

30 credits

This optional Level 6 module allows you to pursue Shakespeare studies at an advanced level and is founded upon a detailed and extensive study of the writer and his works.  Consideration will be given to a range of critical approaches to Shakespeare as well as the long history and dynamic status of Shakespeare in performance and adaptation, for example in relation to questions of gender, identity and globalisation.  You will be encouraged to reflect upon the role of Shakespeare in culture now as well as relevant contemporary contexts such as the nature of early modern theatregoing alongside crucial political and religious conditions. Teaching on the module will be closely aligned with the rich resources available at the Rose Theatre and in particular will afford you the opportunity to participate in the stimulating series of talks and events organised as part of the Kingston Shakespeare Seminar (KiSS).

Gender and Sexuality

30 credits

This module traces how literature from the 19th century to the present has concerned itself with questions of gender identity and sexuality, often offering a radical voice for those - including both women and LGBTQ+ voices - excluded from dominant and mainstream discourses. Rooted in feminist and queer theory, we will explore how feminist writing has critiqued patriarchy, how literature has challenged normative gender roles, how it has engaged with powerful questions regarding the body and the politics of desire, and how it has represented the debates within different facets of the feminist and queer community. We will also consider how writers have employed literary form and genre - for example the use of experimental writing, dramatic or poetic form, or the romance genre - and to what extent debates surrounding these forms and genre contribute to a gendered politics of cultural production. Explicitly intersectional in its approach, we will frame our discussions with an interrogation of how the politics of gender and sexuality is shaped by its relationship with questions of class, race, disability, and religion. Examples of authors studied might include Jeanette Winterson, Fleur Adock, Carol Ann Duffy, Tony Kushner, Clare Macintyre, Leila Aboulela, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Virginia Woolf.

Many postgraduate courses at Kingston University allow students to do a 12-month work placement as part of their course. The responsibility for finding the work placement is with the student; we cannot guarantee the work placement, just the opportunity to undertake it. As the work placement is an assessed part of the course, it is covered by a student's Tier 4 visa.

Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme.

The information above reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. Updates may be made on an annual basis and revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year. The regulations governing this course are available on our website. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered.

Entry requirements

Typical offer

What you need to apply for this course

We normally expect applicants to have a good second-class degree in English literature or a related subject. We will consider non-standard entrants on an individual basis.

You must also submit a 3,000-word piece of critical writing on a literary topic or work, a personal statement (1,000 words).

Additional requirements

Prior learning - AP(E)L

Applicants with prior qualifications and learning will be considered on an individual basis.

International

English language requirements

All non-UK applicants must meet our English language requirements. For this course it is Academic IELTS of 6.5 overall with 7.0 in Writing and 5.5 in all other elements. Please make sure you read our full guidance about English language requirements, which includes details of other qualifications we'll consider.

Applicants from one of the recognised majority English speaking countries (MESCs) do not need to meet these requirements.

Teaching and assessment

The teaching on each 30-credit module will comprise weekly two-hour or three-hour seminars. These sessions are dynamic and flexible, and typically feature a combination of teacher-led presentations, class discussion and individual student presentations.

The two core modules are supplemented by a series of workshops which are focused on developing the advanced skills you will need for the study of literature at postgraduate level.

Guided independent study

When not attending timetabled sessions, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This typically involves reading and analysing articles, regulations, policy document and key texts, documenting individual projects, preparing coursework assignments and completing your PEDRs, etc.

Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities including online resources, the library and CANVAS, the University's online virtual learning platform.

Support for postgraduate students

At Kingston University, we know that postgraduate students have particular needs and therefore we have a range of support available to help you during your time here.

Your workload

Year 1: 17% of your time is spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity.

Contact hours may vary depending on your modules.

Type of teaching and learning

Type of teaching and learning
  • Scheduled teaching and learning: 102 hours
  • Guided independent study: 498 hours

How you will be assessed

Assessment typically comprises practical elements (e.g. presentations) and coursework (e.g. essays, reports, portfolios, dissertation).

The approximate percentage for how you will be assessed on this course is as follows, though depends to some extent on the optional modules you choose:

Type of assessment

Type of assessment
  • Coursework: 85%
  • Practical: 15%

Feedback summary

We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.

Class sizes

To give you an indication of class sizes, this course normally enrols 6-12 students and lecture sizes are normally 4-12. However, numbers can vary by module and academic year.

Who teaches this course?

You will be taught by committed, enthusiastic staff who are experts in their fields.

You will also benefit from exciting, challenging talks and performances given by visiting scholars and artists. Recent events have featured the philosopher Emanuela Bianchi (New York University) and the performance artist Travis Alabanza.

Postgraduate students may also contribute to the teaching of seminars under the supervision of the module leader.

Fees for this course

Home and European Union 2020/21

  • MA full time £8,190
  • MA part time £4,504

Overseas (not EU) 2020/21

  • MA full time £14,500
  • MA part time £7,975

Fees for the optional placement year

If you choose to take a placement as part of this course, you will be invoiced for the placement fee in Year 2. Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme and the costs for the placement year.


Funding and bursaries

Kingston University offers a range of postgraduate scholarships, including:

If you are an international student, find out more about scholarships and bursaries.

We also offer the following discounts for Kingston University alumni:

Facilities

The campus at Penrhyn Road is a hive of activity, housing the main student restaurant, the learning resources centre (LRC), and a host of teaching rooms and lecture theatres.

The library offers:

  • subject areas, plus a free inter-library loan scheme to other libraries in the Greater London area;
  • online database subscriptions; and
  • a growing selection of resource materials.

At the heart of the campus is the John Galsworthy building, a six-storey complex that brings together lecture theatres, flexible teaching space and information technology suites around a landscaped courtyard.

The Iris Murdoch Archives

Kingston University hosts two major archives relating to Iris Murdoch, a significant philosopher and one of the twentieth century's greatest novelists. These archives currently comprise:

  • Iris Murdoch's Oxford library (more than 1,000 volumes, many of them heavily annotated by Murdoch);
  • the papers, tapes, interviews and manuscripts collected by Peter Conradi, Iris Murdoch's official biographer and Murdoch scholar; and
  • various letter runs and documents donated by well-wishers.

Resources in London

Kingston is just a 30 minute train journey away from central London. Here you can access a wealth of additional libraries and archives, including the British Library.

After you graduate

This English Literature course is designed for students who have a personal or a professional interest in literature. It is particularly suited for those wishing to enhance their careers in areas such as:

  • publishing, library, and museum services;
  • journalism;
  • teaching;
  • the arts in general;
  • the creative industries; or
  • any other context where a knowledge of literature and skills in critical analysis are of importance.

For those interested in further research, the course also provides an excellent foundation for MPhil/PhD-level study in English literature.

What our students and graduates say

I can say without a doubt that the MA prepared me properly for further study. The friendly and intellectually stimulating environment gave me confidence in my academic ability and continues to provide a supportive network. Progressing on to doctoral study was fully supported by the faculty and my supervisor, who had an excellent understanding of the funding opportunities available and the process of application.

The English Literature MA at Kingston is well structured and offers a range of different modules. The core theme of transgression is explored through monstrosity, gender, race and sexuality, maintaining relevance to the social, economic and technological landscapes of the twenty-first century. The final dissertation is a great opportunity for developing an independent research project under the guidance of the knowledgeable teaching team.

There are a number of social and academic events organised throughout the year, and there is a real sense of community within the department which makes it a truly great place to study.

Sarah Worgan

Inspiring, terrifying, stimulating, intellectually stretching – just a few of the responses evoked by my two years part-time reading for an English MA at Kingston.

As a mature student, newly retired, I was initially daunted by my rash decision to take up postgraduate study, especially never having formally studied English before. However, after my initial panic, the course opened a world of new ideas and extended my thinking around earlier passions – slavery, loss, gender; and new ones – post-coloniality, the writings of minority groups; modern philosophers – lots of struggle, but also wonderful surprises.

Being part time allowed time to investigate and explore my chosen themes, and my fellow students were unfailingly friendly and welcoming. Tuition was always thought-provoking and staff invariably supportive, while there was a wide choice of modules and freedom to explore my particular interests.

Janet Smith

The English Literature MA gave me a good grounding in essential questions regarding gender, race, oppressions, sexuality, and ethics, as well as refinement in academic conventions – the finer details of referencing and style – and a valuable introduction to sustained self-directed study, in the form of the final dissertation.

I can safely say that my year at Kingston has provided the sturdiest of stepping stones into doctoral study.

The University is a place to which I certainly want to return; I will feel proud to be counted among its alumni, due to the friendly and welcoming atmosphere, the engaging and lively calendar of social and academic events, and the magnificence of the teaching staff.

 

Daniel Bristow

Links with business and industry

We maintain links with institutions and organisations including:

  • Writers' Centre Kingston, Kingston University's literary cultural centre dedicated to creative writing in all its forms, with an annual programme of events from readings and talks to workshops and international festivals;
  • the University's local theatre, the Rose, where we hold regular readings in the Culture Cafe and periodic interviews by Richard Cohen with major writers such as Hilary Mantell, Sebastian Faulks and Elif Shafak.

A range of additional events and lectures will enhance your studies and add an extra perspective to your learning. Activities for this course include:

  • a series of masterclasses with publishing specialists and professionals;
  • weekly guest lectures by leading journalists including Samira Ahmed, an award-winning journalist with 20 years' experience in print and broadcast; David Jenkins, editor of Little White Lies, a bi-monthly movie magazine powered by illustration; Richard Moynihan, Head of digital journalism, The Telegraph and Alex Stedman, fashion blogger at The Frugality and former style editor at Red magazine;
  • regular philosophy lunchtime lectures which focus on a major figure in the history of Western philosophy, introducing students to that thinker's work, usually through the discussion of one of her or his emblematic works.

The literary magazine Woke is edited by MA students, providing:

  • a platform for the publication of creative work;
  • a chance to get hands-on experience of the publishing process.

Research areas

The department is characterised by an active research unit. This ensures they are in touch with the latest thinking and bring best practice to your studies.

Research in English literature at Kingston University covers the following areas:

  • 20th century and contemporary British and American literature;
  • early modern literature and culture, including Shakespeare;
  • Victorian literature and culture;
  • gothic literature;
  • writing and the natural and built environment;
  • critical theory;
  • life writing;
  • trauma studies;
  • LGBT writing and queer theory;
  • travel writing; and
  • postcolonial studies.

It focuses around the following research initiatives:

  • The Iris Murdoch Archive – established in 2004 to oversee research on the Iris Murdoch archives acquired by Kingston University in 2003/04;
  • Life Narrative research group – engages in applied research projects in partnership with academic, governmental, humanitarian and industry stakeholders and produce publications centred on the experience, methodology and formats of life narratives across written, visual, and virtual cultures.
  • Race/Gender Matters Research Cluster – captures and concentrates research on theoretical, critical and creative engagements with race, gender and language.