Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Dickens and Victorian Culture - MA

2018

As the only named Master’s programme within the UK devoted to Charles Dickens, this programme studies the author in a place that perhaps offers more Dickensian associations than anywhere else in the world.

2018

Overview

It combines a focus on both the local and the global author through compulsory modules contextualising the variety of ways in which Dickens engaged with the social, cultural and political issues of his age. Interdisciplinary approaches are employed, using Dickens as a focus, to consider the relationships between19th-century fiction and journalism, the Victorians’ engagement with material culture, and their fascination with the body and its metaphors.

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

Modules

The following modules are indicative of the types of modules available, which may vary from 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.

You take at least two of the following:

EN835 - Dickens, the Victorians and the Body
EN876 - Dickens and the Condition of England
EN836 - Dickens and the Material Culture of the Victorian Novel

You then write a dissertation on a subject related to Dickens and/or Victorian culture between the start of the Summer Term and the end of August.

Modules may include Credits

This module explores the Victorians' fascination with the body and its metaphors. Using the works of Dickens as its principal lens, the module will explore notions of disease, infection, health and illness in the national body, the social body and the biological body. Engaging with debates on laissez-faire economics, prostitution, nationalism, and anxieties concerning sexual and fiscal production, this module will explore how authors, thinkers and artists of the nineteenth century worked through ideas about the body in Victorian culture.

Read more
30

This course investigates the development of American modernism in art and literature in the fifty year period between 1890 and 1940; a time bookended by official closing of the American frontier (which effectively concluded the period of the nineteenth century associated with "manifest destiny") and the outbreak of World War Two. The course will explore key texts of the period within their artistic and social contexts, including the development of new scientific and social-scientific modes of inquiry, the growth of the city and the increasing importance of the USA on the world stage.

The course is organized into blocks comprised of texts associated with various cities and movements within American modernism. We will begin by looking at the importance of New York and the American expatriate scene, before considering modernism in the mid-West and US South. A reading pack will be provided in the first week as an aid to student research.

Students will be expected to develop their own research interests within the topic and will be assessed by a 5,000 word essay. Essays that investigate topics not directly covered by the set reading are encouraged and can be developed in consultation with the tutor.

Read more
30

This module explores the construction and contestation of authorship between the publication of Alexander Pope's brilliant Grub Street satire, The Dunciad (1728) and of James Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791). In this period, notions of authorship underwent significant change as the image of the author as craftsman (or less flatteringly as tradesman) gave way to the image of the author as original creator or genius – an image that still informs our understanding of authorship to this day. Through an exploration of a wide variety of novels, satires, periodicals, and biographies, as well as visual images we will explore how the modern author’s fortunes were shaped by such factors as the decline of the patronage system, the growth and democratisation of the literary marketplace, the emergence of the woman writer and the labouring-class or unlettered genius.

Topics for discussion will include the myth and reality of Grub-Street; the gendering of authorship; the relationship between authorship and nation; the economics of authorship; the birth of the literary critic; canon-formation; literary celebrity and scandal.

Read more
30

'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.

Read more
30

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.

Read more
30

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.

Read more
30

This module will chart the emergence of ideas associated with sustainability, ecology and conservation in the Victorian period through examining prose writings on the relationship between culture and environment. While earlier work in ecocriticism tended to focus on poetry (especially of the Romantic period), scholars have more recently begun to argue that the novel may be the literary form best suited to explore environmental and ecological issues due to its emphasis on character, place, and narrative duration.

This module will therefore examine Victorian novels in which human interaction with – and connection to – the environment is a central concern and will then contrast these novelistic depictions with essays which advocated a diverse range of environmental or ecological causes in the nineteenth century (urban regeneration and cultural heritage, nature conservation and animal rights, self-sufficiency and alternative communities).

Informed by current scholarship in ecocriticism and sustainability studies, this module will consider how class, gender and sexuality influenced the articulation of critical responses to Victorian modernity and generated new ideas concerning culture and nature, human and animal, environment and economy, urban and rural, community and technology.

Read more
30

This module will look at eighteenth-century British representations of North American Indigenous people and consider the cultural functions of these representations, their origins, and their effects on British identity.

Students will be asked to look at British texts beginning with samples of early voyage narratives up to the Romantic period and consider the changing purpose of the figure known as the "Indian." In addition to conventional literary texts, this module will also incorporate museum catalogues, collected objects, and philosophical writing from the period.

The module will look at the interest in primitivism alongside narratives of progress and Enlightenment, as well as the new anxieties surrounding developments such as consumerism and empire, and assess the unique role played by Indians.

Read more
30

This course investigates what has come to be known as the affective turn in literary criticism. This turn, acting as a response to linguistic criticisms popularized during the moment of high postmodernism in the 1970s-1980s, seeks non-linguistic, or pre-linguistic ways of understanding the world. Under this new critical regime, feelings, mood, forces, and emotions become ways of tracking, describing, and engaging with the contemporary. In both the literature and the theory, students will be tasked with investigating representations of subjectivity in the present. The contemporary sees an enmeshing of theoretical and literary texts where both become crucial tools of critical inquiry. Thus, the literary texts in the module will reflect the theoretical concerns of the theoretical texts, and vice versa.

Students will examine a range of contemporary American fiction and poetry that investigate representations of feelings, emotions, and mood. In this way the module will focus on the place of humans within a larger ecological structure, and through working with the literary and theoretical texts students will ex-amine the construction of boundaries between humans and their surroundings. Some broad questions the module seeks to explore: What is the relationship between the individual, the public, and literature? What can the study of affect add to literary criticism? Finally, are there particular aesthetic techniques that capture something as ephemeral as a mood, or a feeling?

Read more
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.

Read more
60

Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by a 5,000 word essay for each module and a 12,000 word dissertation.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide excellent postgraduate-level study that deepens and extends your understanding of work in the field of Dickens and Victorian culture
  • develop your understanding of, and engagement with, the critical and methodological paradigms that inform the field of studies in Dickens and Victorian culture
  • develop your independent critical thinking and judgement
  • develop your research skills in the relevant field so as to provide a pathway for you to undertake PhD work in the area of Dickens and Victorian culture
  • build upon and extend an already-established reputation at Kent for distinction in the learning and teaching of Dickens and Victorian culture.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • primary sources and recent scholarship concerning Dickens as a major figure in Victorian print culture and English literature more generally
  • the relationship of Dickens to his age in terms of relevant contexts such as the newspaper and periodical market, the theatre, politics, economics, imperialism, the law, religion, science, education, gender, class, and visual culture
  • the part played by Victorian literature in addressing contemporary social problems
  • the theoretical and methodological challenges presented by researching a past historical moment.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the acquisition of advanced skills in the use of bibliographic and other research methods essential to the pursuit of original research at graduate level
  • the demonstration of competence in critically evaluating research tools and findings
  • the ability to conceptualise and formulate a substantial research project
  • 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 criticise analytically.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the research, analysis and evaluation of Victorian texts, including both primary and secondary sources
  • a developed, critical understanding of a variety of scholarly approaches to the study of literature and other cultural forms in this period
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of various kinds of text and their political, cultural and historical contexts
  • a developed scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work, of bibliographic practices, and of structuring and developing an argument over an extended piece of written work.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • advanced oral and written communication skills, including the capacity to argue for a point of view with clarity, organisation, cogency and sophistication
  • a capacity for independent research and learning, including the ability to think independently, analytically, critically and self-critically
  • the ability to assimilate and  organise  substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds
  • IT skills: word-processing, email communication, the ability to access electronic data and evaluate online resources.

Careers

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, 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 at the Canterbury campus 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. Benefits from the ICA 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 (ICA).

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. Details of recently published books can be found within our staff research interests.

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

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.

Eighteenth Century

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.

Nineteenth Century

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.

American Literature

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.

Creative Writing

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.

Modern Poetry

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.

Postcolonial

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.

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 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

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

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

Fees

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

Dickens and Victorian 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 information@kent.ac.uk


General additional costs

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

Funding

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