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American Literature and Culture - MA


This MA programme allows you to take your study of Anglophone American literature to the next level.



Anchored around a core module on American culture and conflict, the programme gives you a foundation in the points of contest and debate that have shaped American literature, providing you with the tools needed to pursue your interests and deepen your understanding of the field. Our selection of optional modules includes a wide range of topics taught by experts in their field, from critical race theory and transatlantic literature to American modernism and Cold War fiction.

The programme includes a field trip to a major library in the United States or other research destination, accompanied by one of our members of staff, aimed at developing your research skills. You will draw on this experience in writing a 12,000 word dissertation on a topic of your choice, supervised by one of our Americanist academics.

Overall, the MA in American Literature and Culture is designed to give you breadth and depth of understanding in the field, preparing you for PhD study and a range of other professional career paths.

About the School of English

The School of English has a strong international reputation and global perspective, apparent both in the background of its staff and in the diversity of our teaching and research interests.

Our expertise ranges from the medieval to the postmodern, including British, American and Irish literature, postcolonial writing, 18th-century studies, Shakespeare, early modern literature and culture, Victorian studies, modern poetry, critical theory and cultural history. The international standing of the School ensures that we have a lively, confident research culture, sustained by a vibrant, ambitious intellectual community. We also count a number of distinguished creative writers among our staff, and we actively explore crossovers between critical and creative writing in all our areas of teaching and research.

The Research Excellence Framework 2014 has produced very strong results for the School of English at Kent. With 74% of our work graded as world-leading or internationally excellent, the School is ranked 10th out of 89 English departments in terms of Research Intensity (Times Higher Education). The School also received an outstanding assessment of the quality of its research environment and public impact work.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of English was ranked 10th for research intensity and 15th for research power in the UK.

An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 95% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Course structure

In the autumn term you will take the 30 credit compulsory core module “American Culture and Conflict,” and choose one other 30 credit module from our selection of Americanist options. In the spring term you will take two further 30 credit modules from our selection of Americanist options. You may choose to replace one Americanist option with a module from a different subject area. After the end of the spring term you will participate in the field trip, and begin your dissertation at the beginning of the summer term. 

You will complete your dissertation by the end of August.


The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may include Credits

Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by a combination of coursework and a 12,000 word dissertation. There are no sat examinations for this programme.

Programme aims

This programme will help you to develop:

• your independent critical thinking and judgement
• your research skills for advanced literary study and other professional careers
• your understanding and critical appreciation of the expressive resources of language
• your ability to argue a point of view with clarity and cogency, both orally and in written form

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

This programme will help you to achieve:

• a systematic understanding of the principal currents, debates and conflicts in American literary and cultural history, informed by recent research in the field
• a comprehensive understanding of appropriate methods and techniques for studying American literature and culture
• an advanced knowledge of significant historical contexts for the assessment of American literature and culture
• an advanced understanding of how American literature and culture relates to its historical contexts

Intellectual skills

This programme will help you to achieve the following skills:

• ability to show originality in the application of knowledge in American literature and culture
• ability to conceptualize the relationship between American literature and culture and its historical contexts
• ability to analyze and interpret key texts in American literature and culture in relation to their historical contexts
• ability to evaluate recent scholarship in American literary and cultural history, and the methods used in it

Subject-specific skills

This programme will help you to achieve the following subject-specific skills:

• ability to use appropriate methods for scholarship on American literary and cultural history
• ability to conduct research on American literature and culture in the context of a field trip
• ability to articulate and advance coherent arguments about American literature and culture in writing and speech

Transferable skills

This programme will help you to achieve the following transferable skills:

• ability to work effectively both individually and as part of a team
• ability to marshal an argument, summarizing and defending a particular interpretation or analysis of a text
• ability to gather, assimilate and organize complex information in relation to a particular problem
• ability to motivate oneself in the exercise of personal initiative and responsibility
• ability to show self-direction and originality and solving problems


Many career paths can benefit from the writing and analytical skills that you develop as a postgraduate student in the School of English. Our students have gone on to work in academia, journalism, broadcasting and media, publishing, writing and teaching; as well as more general areas such as banking, marketing analysis and project management.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The Templeman Library is well stocked with excellent research resources in American literature and culture. These include a large collection of scholarly monographs, electronic subscriptions to a wide range of scholarly journals, and a number of digital archives, including for example historical collections of major US newspapers. The British Library in London and its Eccles Centre for American Studies is within easy reach of Canterbury, and offers a superb collection of research resources including historical collections relating to American literature and culture. The School of English offers support for attending and organising conferences, and a dedicated postgraduate study space equipped with computer terminals and a printer. 

Conferences and seminars

As a student on the MA in American Literature and Culture you will have access to many international conferences, symposia, lectures and workshops organised at the University of Kent.

The School of English runs several series of seminars, lectures and readings throughout the academic year. Our weekly research seminars are organised collaboratively by staff and postgraduates in the School. Speakers range from our own postgraduate students, to members of staff, to distinguished lecturers who are at the forefront of contemporary research nationally and internationally. The School of English postgraduate students are encouraged to organise and participate in a conference which takes place in the summer term. This provides students with the invaluable experience of presenting their work to their peers.

The Centre for American Studies, one of two interdisciplinary faculty centres at Kent, hosts its own series of open lectures on Americanist topics throughout the humanities. This includes the annual Bolt Lecture, one of the highlights of our academic year, delivered by a world-leading scholar. The Centre also runs postgraduate workshops and seminars which give students a chance to discuss their work with visiting experts. The Centre runs its own postgraduate symposium at the end of the academic year, in which to you will be invited to participate.

The University of Kent is now in partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Benefits from this affiliation include free membership for incoming students; embedded seminar opportunities at the ICA and a small number of internships for our students.

Dynamic publishing culture

On the MA in American Literature and Culture you will taught by research-active academics at the forefront of their fields. All our staff regularly publish books and articles in leading journals. Recent books by Kent academics on American literature topics include Stella Bolaki’s Illness as Many Narratives: Arts, Medicine, Culture (Edinburgh University Press, 2016); Michael Collins’ The Drama of the American Short Story 1800-1865 (Michigan University Press, 2016); Sean Grattan’s Hope Isn’t Stupid: Utopian Affects in Contemporary American Literature (Iowa University Press, 2017) and Will Norman’s Transatlantic Aliens: Modernism, Exile and Culture in Midcentury America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016). We are also home to Transmotion, a journal of Native American and First Nations writing edited by David Stirrup.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A first or upper-second class honours degree in a relevant subject (or equivalent).

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Staff research interests include nineteenth and twentieth-century American fiction, poetry and intellectual history, indigenous writing in the Americas, illness and disability studies, contemporary American literature, modernism and postmodernism, critical race studies, class and culture, the short story, queer theory and transatlantic studies. 

Research in American literature is conducted partly through the interdisciplinary Centre for American Studies, which facilitates co-operation with Americanist researchers throughout the humanities. Research expertise in the Centre includes US foreign policy, Disney, nuclear culture, the history of environmentalism, the West, modern American painting, Hollywood cinema and colonial America.

Staff research interests

Dr Will Norman

Twentieth-century American literature and culture; crime fiction; postmodernism; theories of time in relation to literature; and the critical work of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Fredric Jameson. 

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Dr Stella Bolaki

Multi-ethnic American writing, particularly migration/diaspora and transnational approaches; the Bildungsroman; gender theory; life writing; illness/disability; medical humanities.

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Professor David Stirrup

Native American literature and culture; 20th-century American literature; the American midwest.

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Dr Sean Grattan: Lecturer in American Literature

Contemporary American literature, twentieth century American literature, gender and sexuality studies, utopian literature, and affect theory.

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Dr Michael Collins

Nineteenth-century print culture, theatre, American studies and New York intellectual history; performance theory; new historicist and/or transnational methodologies.

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The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

American Literature and Culture - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7300 £15200
Part-time £3650 £7600

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact

Additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

In addition, you will required to attend a compulsory field trip to the United States during the course of the year, attached to your dissertation. This trip will be partially subsidised wherever possible but the extra costs of travelling must be met by you.  These costs will vary from year to year depending on destination, duration and activities planned.

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: