Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature - MA

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Comparative Literature at Kent offers an excellent environment for the postgraduate study of literature beyond national and linguistic borders.

Overview

The programme involves the study of literature from two or more linguistic traditions. You engage in and pursue detailed literary and cultural analysis that crosses boundaries.

The MA programme explores three main areas: themes, genres, movements and major literary figures; the interactions and exchanges between literary traditions; and the theory and practice of comparative literature. These complementary strands encourage comparative analysis in a variety of contexts, ranging from the study of national literatures to the exploration of different genres, periods, media and literary theory.

You begin by studying a choice of four modules across the Autumn and Spring terms, before writing a 12,000-word dissertation over the summer, supervised by an expert in the department.

Why study Comparative Literature at Kent?

  • You gain all the benefits of a traditional literature degree combined with the study of literatures from around the world, including Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
  • Gain access to the Canterbury Cathedral Library and our Special Collections archive containing manuscripts, historic records, photographs, maps and printed books dating back to the late 8th century.
  • Canterbury city is steeped in literary traditions from Chaucer to Dickens, from Marlowe to Conrad. In the heart of Kent, you can travel to London in under an hour by train, and coastal beaches are a short bus ride away.
  • Take advantage of our experienced, world-leading lecturers, working at the cutting edge of their fields and providing excellent support.
  • Benefit from additional expertise within the School of Culture and Languages, particularly from colleagues within Modern Languages, as well as subjects taught more widely in Arts and Humanities such as the School of English and the Departments of Classical Studies, Philosophy and Religious Studies.

You begin by studying a choice of four modules across the Autumn and Spring terms, before writing a 12,000-word dissertation over the summer, supervised by an expert in the department.

The MA in Comparative Literature is an ideal programme for those wanting to engage in and pursue detailed literary and cultural analysis that crosses national boundaries.

Entry requirements

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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 second class honours degree (2.2 or above) or equivalent in a relevant subject (eg, Comparative Literature, English, Modern Languages, Classics, and other related disciplines).

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

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

The figure of the psychopath has haunted the popular imagination for centuries. First written about by Theophrastus – a student of Aristotle – the so-called 'unscrupulous man' paved the way for modern understandings of psychopathy. Since 1888, when German psychiatrist J.L.A. Koch first coined the term psychopastiche, psychiatrists and neuroscientists have been concerned with understanding the psychological, behavioural and social idiosyncrasies that define the disorder.

On the one hand, the psychopath is associated with criminality, social delinquency, a lack of empathy and even evil; on the other, they are the subject of a complex mental illness that can be medically diagnosed, treated and controlled. More recently, the psychopath has been viewed as an expression of a particular brand of masculinity that is rooted in the narcissistic materialism of the modern world. While psychopaths constitute a disproportionate number of the criminal population, they also appear in the corporate world, successfully blending with society and achieving (often substantial) socio-economic success.

Bringing together psychiatric discourses and literary and filmic analysis, this module will examine the figure of the psychopath in its various manifestations as it appears in literature and film. It offers students an introduction to the medical humanities and an opportunity to develop their thinking around this complex and intriguing figure.

This module is designed to familiarise students with the history of Comparative Literature as an academic discipline, to develop their ability to analyse critically the major conceptions of Comparative Literature that have emerged over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and to enable them to apply theories of Comparative Literature in the analysis of literary movements, literary genres, literary topoi, and literary figures who recur at different moments in literary history.

Students will begin by studying a range of major conceptions of Comparative Literature, and will consider the implications for the discipline of Comparative Literature of theories of globalisation, multiculturalism, translation studies, and world literature. They will then proceed to analyse selected literary works within the framework of these conceptions of Comparative Literature. The module will therefore combine a theoretical with a practical literary-critical dimension, encouraging close reading and an appreciation of historical context in the analysis of theoretical and literary texts.

Theoretical interest in the fantastic has increasingly developed over recent decades following the acclaimed seminal study by Todorov, The Fantastic (1973). Students will explore major works of the genre from several European countries in conversation with a range of critical perspectives (such as discourse theory, narrative theories, and psychoanalytical theory). The comparative nature of the module will also afford an opportunity to enhance understanding of the literatures and specific texts studied in their respective cultural contexts.

The idea that emotions might play a role in the production and reception of literature is not exactly a new one. Since antiquity, writers have pondered the affective power of literature. The creative writing process itself is often linked to affective or emotional states, such as grief and desire.  And literary characters like Medea, Romeo and Juliet, Werther, and Mr Darcy have come to embody specific forms of emotion. The scholarly response to this area of inquiry has come in waves. Only a few decades ago academic research on the emotions was scarce. Now, we witness an unprecedented surge of interest in our feelings and their cultural transformations and encodings. Often explained as a postmodern response to the shortcomings of structuralism, this surge has touched most academic disciplines from the humanities to the neurosciences. The ongoing intensity has pushed the debate to a meta-level, considering what has been coined ‘the turn to affect’ (Ruth Leys) as a phenomenon that is, in itself, worthy of critical inquiry.

The aim of this module is to reflect on the ongoing cross-disciplinary discussion, and to explore in what ways we can make some of its key findings productive for the analysis of literary texts. The module opens with a critical introduction to some of the most relevant themes and trends in emotions studies considering anthropological, neuro-psychological, historical, and sociological approaches (for example by Ekman, Rosenwein, Nussbaum, Damasio, Massumi, Illouz, and Leys). Following on, we shall focus on examination of a selection of literary and autobiographical works that range from the age of Sturm und Drang (Goethe) to the nouveau roman (Duras). The idea is to discuss these works in close conjunction with the suggested secondary material, and to explore the following sets of questions:

  • What is an affect, and what is an emotion?
  • Do emotions have a history? In other words, do emotions change over time in intensity, prevalence, and character, or do they essentially remain the same? Is it our attitudes towards them that change?
  • Is there a relation between emotions and moral judgement? More specifically, do the ways we feel have an influence on the ethical choices we make?
  • Who or where is the subject who feels, and how can we define the relation between his or her feelings and the manifold ways in which they are codified?

The individual sessions are organised around the exploration of three specific emotions: love, grief, and guilt. The module concludes with a summary of our key findings that will enable us critically to evaluate core aspects of the current state of debate.

Compulsory modules currently include

The topic of the dissertation will usually be based on, and develop from, work undertaken on one or more of the four coursework modules undertaken in the course of the MA. The dissertation must be comparative in nature, including an analysis of more than one work, from more than one national/linguistic tradition.

Find out more about CPLT9980

Teaching

Teaching and assessment

Assessment is by one 5,000-word essay for each module, and the dissertation.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide you with the knowledge and skills to prepare you for the academic study of comparative literature at MPhil/PhD level
  • attract outstanding students, irrespective of race, background, gender, or physical disability from within the UK
  • further the University’s International Strategy by attracting graduate students from abroad as well as from the UK
  • enable you to begin to specialise in your areas of interest
  • enable you to hone your ability to read literature and literary theory critically and comparatively
  • provide you, consistent with point one above, with a transition from undergraduate study to independent research
  • provide you with a training that will culminate, if followed through to PhD level, in the ability to submit articles to refereed journals in comparative literature.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • several key periods in modern European literature, based on a critical study of the relevant literature and literary theory
  • the applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry in comparative literature, in particular through an engagement with questions of genre, the concept of literary movements, literary theory, and literature’s relation to other discourses (including psychoanalysis and philosophy)
  • the ability to conceptualise, design and implement the final project (dissertation).

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • listening attentively to complex presentations, using your powers of analysis and imagination
  • reading carefully a variety of technical and non-technical material
  • using libraries effectively
  • reflecting clearly and critically on oral and written sources
  • marshalling a complex body of texts
  • remembering relevant material and bringing it to mind when needed
  • constructing cogent arguments in the evaluation of this material.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the ability to understand and analyse complex literary and theoretical material
  • the ability to read literature in a comparative context
  • the ability to differentiate between the formal implications of differing genres (ie poetry, prose, drama, photography, painting, and film) and to respond to the differing problems of these genres and media
  • the ability to situate literary and theoretical texts in their socio-historical context.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • working with others: participating in seminar discussions, responding to the views of others and to criticisms of your own views without giving or taking offence, engaging in independent group work, including the running of the graduate seminar
  • language skills: discussing complex material in English and (where possible) in the language(s) of original composition
  • communication: producing focused and cogent written work, giving oral presentations, using visual aids where appropriate
  • problem-solving: identifying problems, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of different solutions, defending your own solutions with cogent arguments
  • improving your learning: identifying your strengths and weaknesses, assessing the quality of your own work, managing your time and meeting deadlines, learning to work independently
  • using information technology: using online information sources, word-processing essays, using email for receiving and responding to communications.

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, 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.

Research

Research areas

Areas of particular research strength in Comparative Literature at Kent include the European avant-garde, modernism and postmodernism, postcolonial literature, literary theory, literature and medicine, literature and the visual arts, literature and sexuality, and literature and philosophy. The list below indicates the range of current research interests of members of staff within Comparative Literature and the other disciplines with whom we work closely. 

Many of these staff are members of the Centre for Modern European Literature and Culture. They can supervise postgraduate students for the MA or PhD degrees in any of their respective areas of expertise. If you are considering applying to undertake a research degree, we encourage you to contact us to discuss your plans at an early stage of your application.

  • The European avant-garde
  • Modernism and postmodernism
  • Postcolonial literature
  • Literary theory
  • Literature and medicine
  • Literature and philosophy
  • Literature and sexuality
  • Literature and the visual arts

Centre for Modern European Literature and Culture

Many of the most significant European writers and literary movements of the modern period have traversed national, linguistic, and disciplinary borders. Co-directed by the departments of Comparative Literature and Modern Languages & Linguistics, the Centre for Modern European Literature and Culture aims to promote collaborative interdisciplinary research that can do justice to these kinds of border crossing. Ranging across English, French, German, Italian and Spanish literature, the Centre focuses in particular on the European avant-garde, European modernism and postmodernism, literary theory, the international reception of European writers, and the relations between modern European literature and the other arts, including painting, photography, film, music and architecture. The Centre’s activities include a lecture and seminar series and the regular organisation of conferences. 

Centre for Language and Linguistics

Founded in 2007, the Centre for Language and Linguistics (CLL) promotes interdisciplinary collaboration in linguistic research and teaching. Membership embraces not just the members of English Language and Linguistics but also other members with an interest in the study of language, as well as researchers in philosophy, computing, psychology and anthropology, reflecting the many and varied routes by which individuals come to a love of language and an interest in the various disciplines and subdisciplines of linguistics.

Careers

A postgraduate qualification from the University of Kent opens up a wealth of career opportunities by providing an impressive portfolio of skills and specialist knowledge.

Comparative Literature graduates develop key skills, including critical thinking, analysis and problem solving. They go on to successful careers in areas such as the media, academia and many different cultural institutions including libraries, museums and galleries.

We also recommend that you take advantage of the expertise and knowledge available from our Careers and Employability Service, which provides a range of advice, guidance and opportunities to enhance your career.

Study support

About the Department of Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature is part of the Division of Arts and Humanities which embraces other disciplines including: Classical & Archaeological Studies, English Literature Modern Languages and Linguistics, History, Architecture, Philosophy, Drama and Theatre, Film, Art History, Media Studies and Religious Studies. This means that students enrolled on a postgraduate programme in Comparative Literature can draw on the excellent resources of a diverse team of teachers with expertise in many areas.

The research interests of our staff are specifically comparativist in nature, and include the European avant-garde, modernism and postmodernism, postcolonial literature, literary theory, and the relationship between literature and the visual arts. In addition to the research expertise of our staff, all postgraduates in Comparative Literature benefit from the activities organised by the Centre for Modern European Literature and Culture. These include lectures by prestigious guest speakers, research seminars, conferences and a reading group.

Postgraduate resources

The Templeman Library has excellent holdings in all our areas of research interest, with particular strengths in modern European literature. The Department provides high-quality IT facilities, with state-of-the art language laboratories, dedicated technical staff and designated areas for postgraduate study. Language-learning and translation facilities include eight all-purpose teaching rooms and two networked multimedia laboratories.

Training

All postgraduate students have the opportunity to undertake both subject-specific training and an extensive postgraduate skills training programme provided by the Graduate and Researcher College. 

Language speaking

Every year, a considerable number of native speakers of foreign languages follow our courses, and several European exchange students stay on to do graduate work. There are also foreign language lectors who are either combining teaching with a Kent higher degree or completing a dissertation for their home universities. We can assist with language-training needs for overseas postgraduates, particularly where English is concerned.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Comparative Critical Studies; French Studies; Forum for Modern Language Studies; German Life and Letters; Modern Language Review.

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.  

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Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

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United Kingdom/EU enquiries

MA at Canterbury

Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 768896

E: information@kent.ac.uk

Subject enquiries

Department of Comparative Literature, Division of Arts and Humanities

T: +44 (0)1227 824792

E: artshumsadmissions@kent.ac.uk

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International student enquiries

Enquire online

T: +44 (0)1227 823254
E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk

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