This programme offers you the chance to study a range of theories in depth. It engages with modern literary theory, psychoanalytical theory, political theory and theories of visual and aesthetic experience.
You reflect on these areas of thinking in themselves and as they relate to particular literary texts, to post-enlightenment philosophy and to other relevant areas of culture and experience. It is for those interested in writing, reading, language, art, the self, literature and discovering more about the relations between literature and philosophy.
The MA in Critical Theory offers a choice of two core courses that survey a wide range of modern theoretical approaches, and a range of taught options covering postcolonial theory, theories of art, modern approaches to comparative literature, deconstruction and a chance to work in depth on a single key theoretical text and the writings it refers to.
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.
School of English
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.
School of European Culture and Language
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, modern languages and linguistics was ranked 3rd for research quality, 3rd for research output and in the top 20 for research intensity, research impact and research power in the UK.
Our submission was the highest ranked nationally to include modern languages – a testament to our position as the UK’s European university. An impressive 100% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
You take two modules in the autumn term and two in the spring term; one core module (FR866: Literature and Theory) and three optional modules. You are also expected to attend the Faculty and School Research Methods Programmes.
You then write a theory-based 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. 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.
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Teaching and Assessment
The course is assessed by coursework for each module and by the dissertation which accounts for a third of the final grade.
This programme aims to:
- extend and deepen through coursework and research your understanding of modern literary and critical theory
- study the reading-practices, analytic tools and vocabularies of modern critical thought
- develop your independent critical thinking and judgement
- introduce you to the research methods that facilitate advanced theoretical study of literature
- provide a basis in knowledge and skills if you intend to teach critical theory, especially in higher education
- develop your understanding and critical awareness of the expressive and analytical resources of language
- offer scope for the study of critical theory within an interdisciplinary context, notably that provided by philosophy
- develop your ability to argue a point of view with clarity and cogency, both orally and in written form
- examine this writing in the wider context of literature, culture and philosophy
- provide teaching which is informed by current research and scholarship and which requires you to engage with aspects of work at the frontiers of knowledge
- develop your research skills to the point where you are ready to undertake a research degree, should you so wish.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- modern literary and critical theory
- the relations between literary and critical theory and particular literary texts, genres and movements
- the relations between literary and critical theory and philosophy
- the relations between literary and critical theory and other relevant areas of culture and experience
- psychoanalytic theory
- theories of the visual and aesthetic experience.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- the application of the skills needed for academic study and enquiry at graduate level
- evaluation of research findings
- the ability to synthesise information from a range of primary and secondary sources in order to gain a coherent understanding of theory and practice
- the ability to make discriminations and selections of relevant information from a wide range of sources in a large body of knowledge
- the ability to think conceptually and to criticise analytically.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- advanced skills in the close critical analysis and discussion of theoretical, literary and other writing
- a developed and critical understanding of the variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of literature and other cultural forms
- an ability to articulate your knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to critical theory
- well-developed linguistic resourcefulness, including a grasp of standard critical terminology
- articulate responsiveness to critical and theoretical language
- developed scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work, of bibliographic and annotational practices, and of structuring and developing an argument over an extended piece of written work
- a nuanced understanding of how norms and assumptions influence questions of judgement.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- developed powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, in extended oral and written form, with clarity, organisation, cogency and sophistication
- the ability to think independently, analytically, critically and self-critically
- the ability to assimilate and organise substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds
- an advanced level of competence in the formulation, planning and execution of extended written projects
- an advanced level of competence in the formulation, planning and formal oral presentation of research papers
- the experience of collaborative intellectual work
- the ability to understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives
- trained research skills, including scholarly information retrieval skills
- IT skills: word-processing, email communication, the ability to access electronic data.
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). In certain circumstances, the School will consider candidates who have not followed a conventional education path.These cases are assessed individually by the Director of Graduate Studies.
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.
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 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
Professor Jennie Batchelor: Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies
Eighteenth-century literature; gender; women’s writing; fashion; visual and material culture; influence and intertextuality studies and 18th and early 19th-century periodicals and magazines.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
Professor Peter Brown: Professor of Medieval English Literature
Chaucer and other late-medieval English writers; contextual aspects of medieval culture, including historiography; the visual arts; dreams and space.View Profile
Dr Michael Collins: Senior 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
Dr Rosanna Cox: Lecturer in Early Modern Studies
Milton; 16th and 17th-century literature and culture; gender; political writing; intellectual history.View Profile
Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid: Reader in English and Environmental Humanities
Nineteenth-century literature and culture, especially representations of nature and the environment, time, history, queer theory; sublimity; ecology and psychogeography.View Profile
Dr Sarah Dustagheer: Lecturer in Early Modern Literature
Early modern drama and literature, Shakespeare, playwriting, performance, theatre space and spatial theory.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 Sarah James: Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature
Late-medieval literary, visual and religious culture; vernacular theology; hagiography; manuscript studies.View Profile
Dr Declan Kavanagh: Lecturer in 18th-Century Literature
Eighteenth-century poetry; satire; political writing; masculinity; Irish literature; queer theory; gay, lesbian and transgender writing and culture; phobia in literature; disability studies.View Profile
Professor Bernhard Klein: Professor of English Literature
Early modern literature and culture; Irish studies; travel writing and cartography; maritime history and culture.View Profile
Professor Donna Landry: Professor of English and American Literature
Eighteenth-century literature, culture, and empire; colonial discourse and postcolonial theory; Middle Eastern, especially Turkish, literature; Ottomanism and Enlightenment; travel writing; queer theory; animal studies; sea and desert studies; historical re-enactment.View Profile
Dr Sara Lyons: Senior Lecturer in Victorian Literature
Nineteenth-century literature and culture; Victorian poetry and critical prose; fin-de-siècle aestheticism and decadence; the interrelations between literature, religion, secularism in the long nineteenth century.View Profile
Dr Ariane Mildenberg: Senior Lecturer in Modernism
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: Reader in American Literature and Culture
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 Alex Padamsee: Lecturer in English and American Literature
Postcolonial literature and theory; South Asian literatures; British writing on India; race, empire and colonisation in 19th and 20th-century British literature; partition and trauma studies.View Profile
Professor Wendy Parkins: Professor of Victorian Literature
Victorian modernity; gender and sexuality in the 19th century; the Victorian novel (especially Dickens, Gaskell, Collins); literature of the fin-desiècle period; aestheticism and William Morris.View Profile
Dr Ryan Perry: Lecturer in Medieval Literature
The axis between literary criticism and codicological analysis; the application of new critical approaches to manuscript study, borrowing from disciplines such as anthropology and focusing on the situation of texts within their synchronic material contexts.View Profile
Professor Catherine Richardson: Professor of Early Modern Studies
Early modern drama, literature and cultural history; relation between textual and material culture, especially clothing and the household; oral and literate cultures.View Profile
Dr Robbie Richardson: Lecturer in 18th-Century Literature
Eighteenth-century British and transatlantic literature and culture; history and literature of British empire; museum studies; material culture; Indigenous studies; postcolonial and critical race theory; cultural studies.View Profile
Professor Caroline Rooney: Professor of African and Middle Eastern Studies
African and Middle Eastern literature, especially Zimbabwean and Egyptian; colonial discourse and postcolonial theory; the Arab Spring; liberation literature and theory; terror and the postcolonial; global youth cultures, especially hip-hop and spoken word; contemporary visual arts; sea and desert studies; queer theory; psychoanalysis.View Profile
Dr Derek Ryan: Lecturer in Modernist Literature
Virginia Woolf studies; modernism; animal studies; posthumanism; theory; philosophy and literature.View Profile
Professor David Stirrup: Professor of American Literature and Indigenous Studies
First nations and Native American literature; 20th-century North American literature; the American and Canadian Midwest; border studies.View Profile
Dr Juha Virtanen: Lecturer in Contemporary 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
Professor Catherine Waters: Professor of Victorian Literature and Print Culture
Victorian literature and culture, especially fiction and journalism; Dickens; Sala; George Eliot; literature and gender.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 Clare Wright: Lecturer in Medieval Literature
Medieval drama and performance; audiences; embodiment, corporeality, movement and memory; religious and devotional culture; performance theory; cognitive theory and neuroscience; space and place.View Profile
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|Critical Theory - 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.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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