This is an interdisciplinary programme in the field of contemporary culture. It is a unique collaboration between the University of Kent and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London.
The MA allows you to choose from a range of modules, each focusing on different aspects of contemporary culture. You will be taught jointly by academics and practitioners in the School of English, the School of Arts, the School of Music and Fine Art, and curators at the ICA. In addition, you will have the opportunity to enrich your academic knowledge and professional development with research trips, and a public presentation opportunity at the ICA.
The programme provides you with a deep understanding of the relationship between disciplines in the arts and an appreciation of the way in which interdisciplinary thinking makes it possible to grasp and respond to key issues in contemporary culture. The MA equips you with the skills, knowledge and professional experience to progress into areas such as artistic practice, related higher postgraduate research, arts management and policy, and a variety of other careers within the arts.
The Contemporary MA is also available with a term in Paris.
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.
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.
In addition to the core module (Reading the Contemporary, taught jointly by academics and practitioners in the School of English, the School of Arts, the School of Music and Fine Art, and curators at the ICA), you will be able to choose from a wide variety of modules in the areas of contemporary literature, creative writing, film, drama, and history and philosophy of art. You are invited to attend an induction at the ICA at the start of your studies to introduce you to the facilities and are encouraged to make use of the ICA’s programme of seminars and events. In addition, the MA will also involve research trips and a public presentation opportunity at the ICA.
Besides engaging with ICA curators through the core module in Reading the Contemporary, students will also participate in three research trips in the autumn, spring and summer terms, led by ICA curators and responding to contemporary artistic developments, media and platforms. Students will be encouraged to apply to vocational placements within the ICA's Creative Team for two days a week over three months, working directly with the curators of Talks, Exhibitions, Artists' Film Club, Cinema or Learning and Touring programmes. Students will enjoy unique access to the knowledge of the ICA's Creative Team while working on their final project, and will have the opportunity to present their projects publicly at the ICA at the end of the year.
You take one compulsory module (EN842 - Reading the Contemporary) plus one additional module in the autumn term and two in the spring term. You are also expected to attend the Faculty and School Research Methods Programmes. You then write the dissertation between the start of the summer term and 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.
|Possible modules may include||Credits||ECTS Credits|
|EN842 - Reading the Contemporary||30||15|
'Reading the Contemporary' is a cross-disciplinary module the aim of which is to find out what it means to read the contemporary period through its aesthetic practices. The module will be co-taught by staff from the School of English, the School of Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, with seminars alternating between the Canterbury campus and the ICA (London).
The module has three main objectives. First, it will consider what it means, in a theoretical sense, to think about our contemporary moment. Second, it will address key themes and issues in contemporary culture and will consider how they bear on and are shaped by recent aesthetic forms. Third, through the seminars delivered at the ICA, which will arise directly out of the ICA's programme, students will be introduced to examples of current aesthetic practice.
|FI811 - Conceptualising Film||30||15|
Conceptualizing Film will provide students both with an in-depth examination of certain key issues in film theory, as well as approaching them (predominantly) from a distinct perspective associated with an emerging 'paradigm' of theory, namely analytic philosophy of film. The module will be organized around a series of sub-themes within the general domain of the philosophy of film, including emotion and film, the aesthetics and ethics of film, the nature of photographic and filmic representation, and the ways in which films might themselves act as vehicles for philosophical ideas. Throughout the course we will also consider the different styles of philosophy and their relationship to film theory. Seminars will stress the importance of examining arguments with care and rigour, and will introduce students explicitly to certain formal philosophical 'methods' of assessing arguments (eg. spotting question-begging, understanding distinctions such as that between entailment and implicature, the use of counterexamples and thought experiments). The ability to acquire and put to use such skills will be central in students achieving module objectives.
|FI812 - Advanced Film Theory||30||15|
This course examines the medium of film, considering its specific qualities as an art form and the particular ways in which it engages its audience. The emphasis of the course varies from year to year, responding to current research and scholarship, but it maintains as its focus the aesthetic strategies of film in contrast with other arts, film's relationship with reality, the interdisciplinary reach of Film Studies, the particular kinds of engagement into which cinema invites its audience and/or French film theory. Students studying at the Paris campus will benefit from having access to relevant institutions in Paris, such as the Cinémathèque Française, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the American Library in Paris and the Paris Diderot library. The course explores both the historical trajectory of the theory of film as well as how these conceptual frameworks inform contemporary scholarship.
|HA825 - Post-Conceptual Art and Visual Arts Criticism||30||15|
The construct of the post-conceptual in relation to visual arts practice has two principal inflexions. Firstly, it delineates a generation of contributors typically born in the 1960s and 1970s for whom the legacies of Modernism and conceptual art are cultural givens. Secondly, it situates a range of practice (including media art and digital platforms) in relation to expanded and evolving contexts of criticism, cultural consumption and curation.
The proposed curriculum will follow recent visual arts-based critical responses to the development of particular genres and associated shifts in cultural production. For example, this will include the attention given to emerging practices of self and group curation and the rationale for the doubling or multiplying of artistic agency variously demonstrated by collectives such as SUPERFLEX, Claire Fontaine and by a range of contemporary working partnerships.
The module will explore how several recent critics have mobilised and applied ideas of the political to account for distinctive thematics within recent practice. Considering some of the recent distinctions noted by the art critic Claire Bishop, the module will evaluate different forms of sculpture and installation practice (immersive, site responsive, site independent and site specific) and how these mediate changing contexts and conditions of production and spectatorship.
|HA826 - History and Theory of Curating||30||15|
This module will introduce you to the history and theory of curating through a series of detailed case studies from the early modern period to the present day. These will focus on how collections have been formed and maintained, the nature of key institutions in the art world like museums and galleries, and in particular it will examine the phenomenon of the exhibition. Different approaches to curating exhibitions will be examined, and the responsibilities of the curator towards artists, collections, and towards the public will be analysed. Broad themes in the theory of curating and museology will be examined. Wherever possible the case studies chosen will draw on the resources and expertise of partner organisations, such as Canterbury Museums and the Institute for Contemporary Art.
|HA836 - The Art of Portraiture: Historical and Philosophical Approaches||30||15|
This module aims to give students an advanced understanding of concepts and methods involved in the study of portraits. A programme of seminars will explore recent philosophical and art historical literature on portraiture and related research topics. The historical development of portraiture and its different subgenres will be traced, influential portrait artists will be discussed and their work will be critically analysed all of which will be addressed within a broader theoretical framework, focusing on philosophical issues such as the nature of personal identity, objectification, the definition of art, and theories of representation and genre.
|HA838 - Key Concepts and Classic Texts in History and Philosophy of Art||30||15|
This module will introduce you to key concepts and classic texts that are central to understand fundamental debates in history and philosophy of art as well as art criticism. Some examples of key concepts are the notion of representation, intention, style, influence, the aesthetic, fiction, beauty, etc.; and some examples of texts are Wollheim's Painting as Art, Schapiro's The Apples of Cezanne, Baxandall's Patterns of Intention, Walton's Categories of Art, Barthes' Camera Lucida, Danto's After the End of Art. The module will be team-taught by historians and philosophers of art, the texts and/or key concepts discussed in the seminars are subject to change.
|EN852 - Colonial and Postcolonial Discourses||30||15|
This module introduces you to a wide range of colonial and postcolonial theoretical discourses. It focuses on the construction of the historical narrative of imperialism, psychology and culture of colonialism, nationalism and liberation struggles, and postcolonial theories of complicity and resistance. The module explores the benefits and problems derived from reading literature and culture by means of a postcolonial and postimperial lens. Through the study of crucial texts and events, both historical and current, the module analyses the birth of imperialist narratives and their complex consequences for the world today.
|EN872 - Provocations and Invitations||30||15|
This module introduces the challenges and pleasures of postmodern poetry and poetics. We will consider a range of poetic texts, and essays on poetry, that between them raise profound questions of nation, agency, language, politics and gender in the post-war period. Starting with Charles Olsons groundbreaking inquiries into open field poetics, we will investigate a range of American and British poets for whom the poem has been a way of generating new modes of thought and life. In particular we will explore the ways in which poetry of the period enables us to think through the implications of globalization. We will consider how poetry can escape the constraints of place, and how it can imagine new forms of collective identity.
Among the poets we will consider are: Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Frank OHara, Denise Riley, Lyn Hejinian, J. H. Prynne, and Tony Lopez. The work of these writers will be read alongside contemporary philosophy and political theory, and will be considered in relation to other art forms, especially painting. Students on the module will benefit from the activities of the Centre for Modern Poetry, including regular readings, research seminars and the reading groups.
|EN897 - Advanced Critical Reading||30||15|
This module is designed to extend and develop skill, enjoyment and confidence in reading critical, literary and theoretical texts. We reflect on the pleasures and challenges of the reading process, moving slowly through a single major text. We will pause over exciting, complex or important passages, taking time to follow up references and footnotes, identify important themes and ideas, consult works of art and writings that share those themes, explore how the texts touch us and how they think. The module is designed to help you come away with an in-depth knowledge of the main text and of texts and ideas surrounding it, as well as gaining deeper understanding of how you read.
Our ten weekly seminars will usually function as a two-hour guided reading-group. Seminars will incorporate student presentations introducing a particular passage, focusing on issues raised by the text or on relations between these issues, the text and other module reading. Total study hours: 20 per week. Students will be assessed on a piece of written work of 5,000 words presented at the conclusion of the module on a topic agreed with the teacher.
In 2016-17 the central text is Philippines by Hélène Cixous.
Philippines was published in 2009 and Laurent Milesi's English translation came out in 2010. It concerns telepathy, and we will be looking at texts on telepathy by Freud, Derrida and Nicholas Royle, as well as George Du Maurier's very popular novel Peter Ibbetson (1891), and the film version of Peter Ibbetson from 1935 starring Gary Cooper and mentioned in Cixous' book. We will also think about love, dreaming, literature and childhood as they emerge out of these texts.
|EN998 - Dissertation:GPMS||60||30|
Writing a Masters dissertation provides the opportunity for you to explore a topic of interest at greater length and in more depth than any academic assignment you will have undertaken to date. As such, it can be both an exciting and daunting experience. This module addresses what is involved in writing a dissertation and helps you to plan your research and prepare your dissertation proposal. It also provides a forum to share ideas with other students and to discuss any questions you might have about the process of researching and writing an extended piece of work.
Teaching and Assessment
Assessment is by a 5-6,000-word essay for each module and a 12,000 word dissertation.
This programme aims to:
- provide an excellent quality of postgraduate level education in the field of contemporary culture
- provide a cross-disciplinary, inspiring learning environment informed by high-level research and practice
- provide a pioneering educational opportunity within the UK context through which MA students will progress into careers in the fields of arts management and policy, or on to related postgraduate opportunities
- develop the following range of aptitudes and skills: high-level written communication, the capacity to present information and argument in public, information literacy, research methods, work-based teamwork skills, project planning
- promote engagement with a range of disciplines and thereby enable you to pursue careers in a range of complex organisational settings within the field of the arts
- promote an understanding of the relations between disciplines and an appreciation of the ways in which cross-disciplinary thinking within the arts makes it possible to grasp and respond to salient issues in contemporary culture
- provide a vocational training within an academic framework through internships provided by the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- principles and application of underlying modes of inquiry within different academic disciplines and contexts across the field of the arts
- issues shaping contemporary theory and philosophy
- the relation between artistic practice and theoretical inquiry in the contemporary period
- the varying ways in which different disciplines and practices across the arts conceptualise the contemporary
- how to use the resources of contemporary art practice to think through current issues and future challenges in modern culture
- the ways in which contemporary art practice addresses its publics, and the institutions through which it influences thought and opinion.
- how to discuss, conceptualise and mediate current work in the fields of fine art, film and literature
- a selected topic within a given discipline and the application of appropriate research methods.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- research skills: how to formulate research questions and hypotheses to address problems across a range of disciplines within the Arts
- analytical skills: how to interpret arguments, marshal information from published sources, interpret materials from archives, critically evaluate your own research and that of others
- information technology literacy: the use of appropriate technology to retrieve, analyse and present information
- presentation skills: the use of public forum to develop ability to present arguments persuasively.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- reasoning: how to construct arguments within different intellectual contexts and disciplines across the Arts, how to formulate and address research questions and problems
- communication: how to communicate within and across Arts disciplines, how to mediate key ideas between disciplines and towards the non-academic public, how to speak and write persuasively in discursive contexts
- presentation of research: how to write essays and a dissertation in an appropriate style, in keeping with the conventions of different subject areas
- project organisation: how to conceive and execute a dissertation-length project under the guidance of academic and practice-based supervision
- employment-oriented practice: how to integrate with a gallery-based team, how to shape arts programming, how to mediate contemporary arts practices to the general public.
- careers: a recognition of career opportunities for postgraduates in the fields of contemporary arts.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- communication: the ability to organise information clearly, present information in oral and written form, adapt presentation for different audiences
- reflection: make use of constructive informal feedback from staff and peers and assess your own progress to enhance performance and personal skills
- self-motivation and independence: time and workload management in order to meet personal targets and imposed deadlines.
- teamwork: the ability to work both independently and as part of a research group using peer support, diplomacy and collective responsibility.
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.
The Templeman Library is well stocked with excellent research resources, as are Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library. There are a number of special collections: the John Crow Collection of Elizabethan and other early printed texts; the Reading/Raynor Collection of theatre history (over 7,000 texts or manuscripts); ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online); the Melville manuscripts relating to popular culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries; the Pettingell Collection (over 7,500 items) of 19th-century drama; the Eliot Collection; children’s literature; and popular literature. A gift from Mrs Valerie Eliot has increased the Library’s already extensive holdings in modern poetry. The British Library in London is also within easy reach.
Besides the Templeman Library, School resources include photocopying, fax and telephone access, support for attending and organising conferences, and a dedicated postgraduate study space equipped with computer terminals and a printer.
Conferences and seminars
Our research centres organise many international conferences, symposia and workshops. The School also plays a pivotal role in the Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, of which all graduates are associate members. The Institute hosts interdisciplinary conferences, colloquia, and other events, and establishes international links for all Kent graduates through its network with other advanced institutes worldwide.
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 School runs several series of seminars, lectures and readings throughout the academic year. Our weekly research seminars are organised collaboratively by staff and graduates 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 Centre for Creative Writing hosts a very popular and successful weekly reading series; guests have included poets Katherine Pierpoint, Tony Lopez, Christopher Reid and George Szirtes, and novelists Abdulrazak Gurnah, Ali Smith, Marina Warner and Will Self.
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. The School of English also runs an interdisciplinary MA programme in the Contemporary which offers students an internship at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. They also edit several periodicals including: Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities; The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature: 600-1500; The Dickensian; Literature Compass; Oxford Literary Review; Theatre Notebook and Wasafiri.
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.
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.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
Meet our staff in your country
For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.
English language entry requirements
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
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 in the School of English comes roughly under the following areas. However, there is often a degree of overlap between groups, and individual staff have interests that range more widely.
The particular interests of the Centre for Studies in the Long Eighteenth Century converge around gender, class, nation, travel and empire, and the relationship between print and material culture. Staff in the Centre pursue cutting-edge approaches to the field and share a commitment to interdisciplinary methodologies.
The Centre regularly hosts visiting speakers as part of the School of English research seminar programme, and hosts day symposia, workshops and international conferences.
The recently established Centre for Victorian Literature and Culture provides a stimulating and distinctive research environment for staff and students through seminars, conferences and collaborative research projects. The MA in Dickens and Victorian Culture is the only MA of its kind in the UK, and both the MA and the Centre places a particular emphasis on Victorian literature and culture associated with Kent and the south-east.
Research in north American literature is conducted partly through the Faculty-based Centre for American Studies, which also facilitates co-operation with modern US historians. Staff research interests include 20th-century American literature, especially poetry, Native American writing, modernism, and cultural history.
The Centre for Creative Writing is the focus for most practice-based research in the School. Staff organise a thriving series of events and run a research seminar for postgraduate students and staff to share ideas about fiction-writing. Established writers regularly come to read and discuss their work.
Medieval and Early Modern
The Faculty-based Canterbury Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies has a distinctive brand of interdisciplinarity, strong links with local archives and archaeological trusts, and provides a vibrant forum for investigating the relationships between literary and non-literary modes of writing in its weekly research seminar.
The Centre for Modern Poetry is a leading centre for research and publication in its field, and participates in both critical and creative research. Staff regularly host visiting speakers and writers, participate in national and international research networks, and organise graduate research seminars and public poetry readings.
Established in 1994, the Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Research has acquired an international reputation for excellence in research. It has an outstanding track record in publication, organises frequent international conferences, and regularly hosts leading postcolonial writers and critics. It also hosts a visiting writer from India every year in association with the Charles Wallace Trust.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Professor David Ayers: Professor of Modernism and Critical Theory
Anglo-American Modernism; European Avant-Garde; literature and culture of the Americas; critical theory and philosophy; Russian Revolution and the Cold War.View Profile
Dr Stella Bolaki: Senior Lecturer in American Literature
Multi-ethnic American literature (especially with a focus on migration/diaspora and transnational approaches); the Bildungsroman; gender theory; life writing and illness/disability; medical humanities.View Profile
Dr Michael Collins: Lecturer in American Literature
Nineteenth-century print culture, theatre, American studies and New York intellectual history; performance theory; new historicist and/or transnational methodologies.View Profile
Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah: Professor of English and Postcolonial Literature
Colonial and postcolonial discourse as they relate to African, Caribbean and Indian writing.View Profile
Professor David Herd: Professor of Modern Literature
Twentieth-century poetry and poetics; American literature; the avant-garde; the politics of migration.View Profile
Dr Ben Hickman: Senior Lecturer in Modern Poetry
English and American experimental poetry of the 20th century; new American poetry; Anglo- American poetic relations; the dynamic between poetry and political action.View Profile
Dr Ariane Mildenberg: Lecturer in English and American Literature
Modernist poetry; Wallace Stevens; Gertrude Stein; Virginia Woolf; the kinship of method and concern between phenomenology and modernist literature and art; the interaction of contemporary philosophy with theology; the relationship between modernism and postcolonial writing; translation of Scandinavian poetry.View Profile
Dr Will Norman: Lecturer in North American Literature
Twentieth-century American literature and culture; European and American modernism; Vladimir Nabokov; models of high and low culture in the mid-20th century; critical theory; American crime fiction and transatlantic studies.View Profile
Dr Juha Virtanen: Lecturer in American Literature
Twentieth century literature and theory; contemporary literature; American and British poetry after 1945; intersections between poetry, performance, visual arts, and socio-polital discourses.View Profile
Dr Sarah Wood: Reader in English Literature and Literary Theory
Creative critical writing; 19th and 20th-century poetry and fiction, especially Robert Browning and Elizabeth Bowen; writing and visual art; literary theory; deconstruction, especially Derrida; psychoanalysis; continental philosophy.View Profile
Dr David Stirrup: Reader in Indigenous and Settler Literatures of the Americas
First nations and Native American literature; 20th-century North American literature; the American and Canadian Midwest; border studies.View Profile
The 2017/18 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|The Contemporary - MA at Canterbury:|
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.*
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.