English and American Literature - MA

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Explore the richness and diversity of English Literature from a wide range of periods, cultures, and genres. Strengthen your skills, develop your specialism and expand your critical and theoretical knowledge.

Overview

Immerse yourself in your chosen topics and create a bespoke course that suits your interests.

Why study English and American Literature with us

  • Cutting-edge literary and theoretical study: You’ll work alongside world-leading researchers with expertise ranging from the medieval to the contemporary
  • Teaching new literature and new theories: Explore diverse topics such as new modernist studies, Native American literature and decolonial knowledges, global writing and the environment, and the new Brexit novel.
  • Make your voice heard: be at the forefront of debate in our lively, confident, and engaged research community
  • Join a new generation of critical thinkers: develop your own critique of a culture in crisis and sharpen your critical language
  • A vibrant academic community: As a postgraduate student in the School of English, you’ll benefit from a lively, confident, and engaged research culture, sustained by a creative, cutting-edge intellectual community.

What you’ll learn

You'll develop your research skills, which you'll apply to your dissertation. This will provide you with knowledge and skills for careers in teaching, publishing, arts management, journalism and many other sectors, or a solid foundation for PhD study.

You'll discover topics as diverse as sexuality in the 18th century and the politics of Cold War America; Victorian culture and Native American indigenous decolonial knowledges; or the global environmental crisis and disability activism, working alongside world-leading researchers with expertise ranging from the medieval to the contemporary.

Entry requirements

Smiling female postgraduate student
You are more than your grades

For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Entry requirements

A first or second class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may 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. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

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.

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Course structure

Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time

You take two modules 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.

Modules

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.

Compulsory modules currently include

Optional modules may include

This module examines the relation between race and power from the premodern period to the contemporary. Through symptomatic readings of a range of literary and theoretical texts, this module introduces students to critical concepts and historical moments that are essential for understanding race and power. Key questions addressed are: how does race emerge and develop as a concept, how does its relation to power change, and what role does literature, theatre and film play in shaping and challenging racial identity? From Shakespeare's Othello and Zadie Smith’s The Wife of Willesden (2021) to race theory and anti-racist politics, this module explores discourses that grapple with the stark realities of our age.

Find out more about ENGL8001

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 organised 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.

Find out more about ENGL8180

This module helps you to situate and heighten awareness of your own work in relation to your own practice and to practitioners from other languages. You are not expected to know any other language! Instead, you will use cribs, literal translations, commentaries and transliterations, among other tools, to inspire and guide you in creating your own versions, as is common practice amongst translators. Seminars will focus on your work in creating new poems in English, using contemporary or classic poetry in a language of your choice. The work will be contextualised through the study of translation theories and practices.

Find out more about ENGL8380

This module will introduce you to a variety of theoretical frameworks for reading Victorian literature as 'world literature': that is, the product of global circuits of knowledge and commodity exchange, as well as cross-cultural encounters. The first half of the module moves from an examination of the global dimensions of canonical nineteenth-century novelists such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens alongside writers from the ‘Black Atlantic’ such as Mary Prince and Mary Seacole to an examination of how the expansion of the ‘settler empire’ produced new forms of writing by colonial emigrants that explored the experience of settlement and sought to represent the Indigenous communities colonists encountered to British reading publics. The module then moves to an interdisciplinary consideration of the role anthropological writings played in shaping discourses of race, and how colonial and Indigenous travellers to Britain ‘wrote back’ in various ways against these discourses.

Find out more about ENGL8450

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.

Find out more about ENGL8520

This module is designed to introduce postgraduates to high level research in the field of post-45 American literature and culture, spanning the period from the end of World War Two to the late twentieth century. Proceeding in chronological fashion, it will address key issues such as the cultural Cold War, Black Power, feminism and cosmopolitanism through the close analysis of cultural items in their historical moment. These will include texts such as novels by Ralph Ellison and, Thomas Pynchon; essays by Susan Sontag and Joan Didion; cultural criticism by Clement Greenberg and Lionel Trilling; and sociological analysis by C. Wright Mills. In addition, painting and film will be discussed where appropriate. Students will be encouraged to approach and understand aesthetic texts and objects both on their own terms and in relation to broader historical phenomena such as shifting geopolitical configurations, changing race and gender relations, and the rise of neoliberalism. Ultimately they will be in a position to address fundamental questions about the nature and function of "culture" itself in the period. Throughout the module, students will also explore the latest research in the field, reading influential contemporary scholarship and acquainting themselves with salient critical debates concerning methodology, including those over the sociology of culture, the demise of postmodernism as a critical paradigm, and periodization.

Find out more about ENGL8650

This module explores the affinities, disjunctions, and dialogue between American, British, and Irish literary traditions from 1880 to 1920. The turn of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth gave writers on both sides of the Atlantic an acute sense of epochal drama and self-consciousness: they brooded over ideas of decadence, apocalypse, progress, revolution, and the nature of the zeitgeist; heralded endings, transitions, repetitions, reversals, and beginnings; and explored the ambivalences and confusions provoked by the idea of the 'modern'. We will pay particular attention to how writers conceptualise and represent history and time, and seek to anatomise the varieties of pessimism, nostalgia, and utopian thinking that the turn of the century inspired.

This module focuses on texts by both canonical and non-canonical writers that often fall through the cracks of conventional literary history because they were published in the 'awkward age' and are often considered neither solidly Victorian nor yet programmatically modernist. We will interrogate standard national narratives of literary history (in the case of Britain, the compartmentalisations of the fin de siècle and the Edwardian, and in the case of America, those of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era), as well as the assumption that national literary traditions were distinct and coherent in the period. We will consider how American, British, and Irish writers reckoned with the forces shaping transatlantic intellectual and cultural life, especially post-Darwinian science, imperialism, socialism, feminism, and cosmopolitan ideals of culture. We will also consider how writers made the awkwardness of the age not simply a thematic preoccupation but a complex aesthetic challenge, prompting innovations as well as efforts to sustain the ideal of a literary tradition.

Find out more about ENGL8660

This module explores the emergence of 'sexual normalcy' in the literature of the Enlightenment period in Britain by focusing on the phobic constitution of the sodomite in literary and legal texts. Beginning with accounts of late seventeenth-century sodomy trials and moving on to Edmund Burke’s impassioned speech to the House of Commons (12th April 1780) on the fatal pillorying of two sodomites, this module critiques the ways in which authors and political commentators deployed the sodomite – both male and female – as a condensed symbol for a number of cultural and political transgressions. Participants will examine how anxieties about the sodomite informed the construction of heteronormativity in this period, while also considering the implications that this has for sexual and gender identities today.

Find out more about ENGL8680

This module explores representations of illness and disability in American literature and culture, with a particular emphasis on contemporary illness narratives. It encourages students to compare and contrast a range of different genres and media (fiction, life writing, drama, photography, film, popular culture, blogs) and to assess the extent to which they reshape fundamental American ideals and narratives such as the myths of individualism and of everlasting health and happiness. The module follows a thematic rather than chronological framework and is divided into three sections. The first section has a more historical flavour and considers the legacy of the nineteenth-century freak show, prosthetic bodies in post-war and contemporary American culture, and key moments in U.S. disability activism. The second section explores the relationship of illness to language and cultural narratives and, using as case studies cancer narratives and AIDS representations from the twentieth century, examines the aesthetics and politics of illness. It also focuses on the "medicalization" of emotions, statistical panic, and the fear of death as addressed in postmodern fiction and memoirs that consider illness in relation to age (adolescence) and the environment. The final section turns to the depiction of doctors and patients in literature and popular culture, cross-cultural perspectives on health and illness, and the rise of the medical humanities as an academic field.

Find out more about ENGL9000

Medicine is one of the great human activities. It has a rich and deep history, and it has both created challenges for humans and solved many of our problems. Various academic subjects – such as History, Literature, Philosophy, Law, Archaeology, Drama and Religious Studies – have interesting perspectives on Medicine. For example, through an appreciation of some of medicine's history one can see the tensions that may exist between the scientific spirit and the demands of a society. Similarly, the study of illness narratives and works of literature that explore illness reveals the tension between the lived experience of illness and clinical understandings of disease. Moreover, medical science creates interesting ethical and legal problems, both for society at large and for medical practitioners. In this team-taught module we will study various topics about medicine through the eyes of a number of academic disciplines. You will also come to appreciate the different styles of thought and investigation peculiar to individual disciplines. Topics that stem from the individual academic disciplines will be studied on their own terms in the sessions, although common threads will emerge. (e.g. 'The Humanities', 'Contribution to Medical Practice’, ‘Illness’, ‘The Medical Practitioner’, ‘Medicine and Society’, ’The Arts as Therapy’, ‘Perspectives on Mental Health’ etc.).

An overarching theme and idea in this module, and the programme, is that a multidisciplinary approach through the Humanities is a highly illuminating way to appreciate medicine.

Find out more about ENGL9090

This module studies the ways in which the idea of culture has been contested in the United States from the end of the American Civil War to the close of the twentieth century. It will focus on a series of significant texts that intervened in the cultural debates of their time, bringing questions of aesthetics and representation to bear upon the social and political issues, and each making a claim about the nature and value of culture in the United States. These texts, such as W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk or Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation do not belong to conventional literary genres such as the poem or novel, but their literary qualities of style, tone, rhetoric and voice are nevertheless to be studied as inseparable their distinctive interventions.

The module begins with the idea that culture is a terrain upon which social and political conflicts take place and proceeds to trace an intellectual history of those conflicts. Topics to be covered include the place of race and ethnicity in determining ideas of culture, the relationship between indigenous and settler-colonial cultures; the politics of culture; the development of modernist and postmodernist aesthetics; transnational cultural exchange; intersectionality; capitalism and culture; and the influence of scientific and technological developments on culture.

Find out more about ENGL9130

'Postcolonial Writing and the Environment' will introduce students to prose, poetry and film that engages with environmental concerns, including globalisation and indigeneity, climate change, food and water security, species endangerment/extinction, tourism, pollution and migration. Students will interrogate how these concerns are underpinned by human interaction with the environment, and will examine how cultural texts not only facilitate affective engagement with these issues, but allow us to envision solutions and work towards preferred futures. The module will emphasise the political implications of postcolonial ecocriticism by addressing questions of social and environmental justice, animal and human rights, colonialism and postcoloniality, and culture and the individual (amongst other concerns) as a way of showing that analysis of postcolonial writing and the environment always requires attentive and critical engagement with shifting geopolitical world orders. Students will read the core texts in relation to the emerging fields of ‘global’ and ‘world-literature’, and will be introduced to critical and conceptual debates around issues such as ‘slow violence’, the Anthropocene, and writer-activism.

Find out more about ENGL9160

How is the relationship between animals and humans understood in the modern world? This module examines the role and significance of animals in our society by focusing on literary, cultural and scientific texts from the nineteenth century to the present, and how human activities have affected the lives of other animals and their habitats. It charts the radical shifts in how humans have thought of and written about animals from the arrival of Darwinian evolutionary theory to recent concerns about climate change and mass extinction. Across a range of texts, the ways in which humans have observed, hunted, collected, consumed and displayed animals will be considered alongside topics including sexuality, race and gender. The history of colonialism and post-colonialism provides an important context for the module, as does the rise in the natural sciences and growth in interdisciplinary theoretical approaches to questions of animality.

Find out more about ENGL9220

You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.

Compulsory modules currently include

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, prepare your dissertation proposal, and begin writing. 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.

Find out more about ENGL9980

Teaching

Teaching and assessment

Assessment is by a 5000 word essay for each module and a 15,000 word dissertation.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • extend and deepen through coursework and research your understanding of a body of literatures in English, with special emphasis on modern and postcolonial literatures, and on literary and critical theory
  • enable you to develop an historical awareness of literary traditions
  • develop your independent critical thinking and judgement
  • introduce you to bibliographic method and scholarship and to foster in you the research methods that facilitate advanced literary study
  • provide a basis in knowledge and skills if you intend to teach English and American literature, especially in higher education
  • develop your understanding and critical appreciation of the expressive resources of language
  • offer opportunities for you to develop your potential for creative writing (where such a module is taken)
  • offer scope for the study of literature within an interdisciplinary context, notably that provided by history
  • develop your ability to argue a point of view with clarity and cogency, both orally and in written form.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • authors and texts from British, American and postcolonial literatures
  • the principal literary genres, fiction, poetry drama and of other kinds of writing and communication
  • literatures in English from countries outside Britain and America
  • traditions in literary criticism
  • the challenges of creative writing (where such a module is taken)
  • terminology used in literary criticism
  • the cultural and historical contexts in which literature is written, published and read
  • critical theory and its applications
  • literary criticism as a practice subject to considerable variation of approach
  • inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to the advanced study of literature
  • research methods.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the application of the skills needed for advanced academic study and enquiry
  • the evaluation of research findings
  • the ability to synthesise information from a number of 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 source and large body of knowledge
  • the exercise of problem-solving skills.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • enhanced skills in the close critical analysis of literary texts
  • informed critical understanding of the variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of literature
  • the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to advanced English studies
  • sensitivity to generic conventions in the study of literature
  • well-developed linguistic resourcefulness, including a grasp of standard critical terminology
  • articulate responsiveness to literary language
  • appropriate scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work, in particular in bibliographic and annotational practices
  • an understanding of how cultural norms and assumptions influence questions of judgement.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • developed powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view orally and written form, with clarity, organisation and cogency
  • enhanced confidence in the efficient presentation of ideas designed to stimulate critical debate
  • developed critical acumen
  • the ability to assimilate and organise substantial quantities of complex information
  • competence in the planning and execution of essays and project-work
  • enhanced skills in creative writing (where the relevant module has been taken)
  • the capacity for independent thought, reasoned judgement, and self-criticism
  • enhanced skills in collaborative intellectual work
  • the ability to understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives
  • research skills, including scholarly information retrieval skills
  • IT skills: word-processing, the ability to access electronic data.

Fees

The 2022/23 UK fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9300
  • EU full-time £13000
  • International full-time £17400
  • Home part-time £4650
  • EU part-time £6500
  • International part-time £8700

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

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.

Your fee status

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.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about 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:

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

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Independent rankings

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.

Research

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 19th-century research group's interests include literature and gender, journalism, representations of time and history, sublimity and Victorian poetry.

American Literature

Research in North American literature is conducted partly through the 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 events series 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 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

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.

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.

Conferences and seminars

Our research centres organise many international conferences, symposia and workshops. 

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.

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.  

Apply now

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