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Postgraduate Courses 2017/18

Modern French Studies - MA



Kent offers an excellent environment for postgraduate study in French literature, thought, culture, society and the visual arts from the 18th century to the present.

French culture has always had a huge impact on the world; from politics to cinema, literature to fashion, France remains a major influence in European and global culture.  The MA in Modern French Studies offers you the opportunity to study a range of major writers and key themes in French literature, media and culture from the 18th century to the present day.

The programme is designed for students with a variety of interests, including literature, the visual arts, philosophy and aesthetics. It also reflects the research specialisms and publications of the members of Department of Modern Languages, with wider input from the School of European Culture and Language (SECL).

Kent provides an ideal location in which to study French culture; our Canterbury campus is close to mainland Europe, with Paris only a couple of hours away by Eurostar. The programme can also be studied in Canterbury and Paris, where you relocate to Kent’s Paris centre for the spring term.

In the autumn and spring terms, you take a choice of four modules, before undertaking a 12,000 word dissertation over the summer with supervision from an expert within the department.

The MA in Modern French Studies is an ideal programme for students seeking to further their knowledge of French culture, history and literature and/or to prepare for further postgraduate research.

National ratings

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.

Course structure


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.

FR804 - Real Fictions: The Documentation of Modernity (30 credits)

The nineteenth-century novel has traditionally been seen in terms of categories or movements such as romanticism, realism, and naturalism. This module, rather than viewing novels in terms of their supposed adherence to the principles of particular aesthetic movements, reads a selection of nineteenth-century French novels as documentary fictions: fictions which document the modernity that makes them possible, and which are underpinned by incorporative documentary practices for which that modernity is also a condition of possibility. Of particular interest will be the ways in which contemporary discourses from various fields (medicine, science, historiography, social thought) are incorporated into these fictions. Rather than identifying ‘sources’, however, the emphasis will be on situating fictional texts in their wider discursive and epistemological contexts, and identifying points of commonality between literary and extraliterary discourses.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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FR807 - Postmodern French Detective Fiction (30 credits)

This module examines a selection of French novels from the post-war period to the present day. Each of these novels employs the tropes of detective fiction as part of a wider literary project. The module invites students to analyse the ways in which the hermeneutic imperative of detective fiction is deployed within literary (and often experimental) fiction from this period. The corpus will include nouveaux romans, works by the Oulipo writer Georges Perec, the postmodern detective fictions of Pennac and Echenoz, and Amélie Nothomb’s autofiction. Students will be encouraged to explore questions of genre fiction, the productive interplay between genre fiction and literary fiction during this period, and the ways in which the tropes of detective fiction are used during the postmodern period to explore questions of knowledge, truth and identity.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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FR866 - Literature and Theory (30 credits)

This module will introduce students to a wide range of theoretical positions with the aim of enriching their understanding and appreciation of literature and critical practice. We will begin with the thinking of Nietszche and Freud, before examining that of Saussure, Benjamin, Lévi-Strauss, Genette, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, Kristeva, Cixous, and Irigaray. As well as encouraging a critical engagement with the claims of the theories themselves the module will examine a number of representative theoretical readings of literary works. Students will learn to evaluate these various thinkers and use their ideas, as appropriate, in their own writing.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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FR872 - Theories of Art in Modern French Thought (30 credits)

This module examines a selection of pre-eminent texts in modern French art theory and philosophy. It invites students to analyse and to chart intersections and developments in French writing on the image across shifting critical landscapes, including those marked by phenomenology, structuralism and post-structuralism. Students will be encouraged to explore French theories of art with due attention to historical precedents, and to reflect on the aesthetic, political and technological significance of the visual arts for a wide range of French thinkers.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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FR998 - French Dissertation (60 credits)

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.

Credits: 60 credits (30 ECTS credits).

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Teaching and Assessment

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

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • attract and meet the needs of candidates who wish to gain an in-depth understanding of textual and visual interconnections pertaining to modern French studies
  • provide you with a cultural approach to the study of relations between the visual and the textual
  • consider the manner in which literature and the visual arts intersect in French culture from the eighteenth century to the present
  • provoke critical reflection on areas of modern French literary studies and theories of visual studies
  • provide training in multidisciplinary research methods
  • build on your proficiencies in spoken and written French
  • introduce you to various methodological approaches
  • 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
  • provide you with a means of access to intellectual awareness and understanding
  • provide opportunities for the development of your personal, communication, research and other key skills appropriate for graduate employment both in industry and in the public sector
  • develop your general critical, analytical and problem-solving skills which can be applied in a wide range of situations.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding in:

  • speaking, reading and writing French at an advanced level
  • theories of art from the eighteenth century to the present
  • the representation of works of art in literature from the eighteenth century to the present
  • the relationship between literary texts and their cinematic adaptations
  • the manipulation of photography in modern works of literature
  • the use of photography as a means of propaganda.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • oral and written language usage
  • problem-solving: the ability to reason logically, critically and analogically
  • research methodology: the ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and primary sources
  • the ability to identify, investigate, analyse, formulate and advocate solutions to problems
  • the ability to develop reasoned arguments, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement
  • learning to work in a different environment by integrating into the educational, cultural and professional environment of England, with regards to an interdisciplinary approach to literary studies.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • communicating effectively in French
  • developing a reading speed in French
  • developing a detailed knowledge and effective understanding of the various structures and registers of French
  • analysing a variety of French sources, both textual and visual
  • refining your reception (listening and reading) skills in addition to your production skills (speaking and writing)
  • developing an appreciation of a variety of art forms and their lines of convergence.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to communicate orally at a high standard
  • the ability to produce written work of a high standard to comply with French style guidelines
  • the ability to undertake group tasks that will enable you to resolve conflicts in an interdisciplinary environment
  • a high level of competence in information processing, using relevant databases and online research
  • time management.


A postgraduate degree in French studies is an extremely versatile qualification that can open the door to exciting career opportunities in many professions. Our graduates have gone on to work in the IT industry, academic administration, cultural management and to further postgraduate training and academic careers at UK and overseas universities.

Study support

About French at Kent

French at Kent is part of the Department of Modern Languages. 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 main research interests include word and image studies, narratology, literary theory, psychoanalysis, medical humanities, sociolinguistics, postcolonial studies, gender studies and autobiography.

Staff and postgraduates in French take a leading role in the School of European Culture and Languages’ Centre for Modern European Literature and the School of English’s Centre for Studies in the Long Eighteenth Century, whose activities include conferences, lectures, research seminars and reading groups. Students also participate in an annual international conference organised by Skepsi, an online journal based in the School of European Culture and Languages and run by MA and PhD candidates.

Our programmes benefit from Kent’s proximity to Paris in more than one way. Most colleagues within French have research links in Paris. We have a long-standing exchange with the prestigious École Normale Supérieure. A more recent development is the exciting range of MA programmes based in Canterbury and Paris. Roughly half of our research students opt for a co-tutelle leading to the award of a PhD from Kent and a doctorate from a French institution. Students who undertake their research entirely in Canterbury benefit from the cosmopolitan atmosphere at the UK’s European university.

Postgraduate resources

The Templeman Library has excellent holdings in all areas relevant to our research, with particular strengths in 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st-century French literature. The School of European Culture and Languages provides high-quality IT facilities, including state-of-the-art media laboratories, dedicated technical staff and designated areas for postgraduate study. Other facilities include all-purpose teaching rooms, two networked multimedia laboratories and a streamed film library.

Language speaking

Every year, a considerable number of French nationals and native speakers of other foreign languages follow our postgraduate courses, while European exchange students who come to Kent as undergraduates often stay on to do graduate work. We are involved in the Erasmus and Tempus networks, and we also have a team of foreign- French-language lectors who combine undergraduate teaching with study for a Kent higher degree or with writing a dissertation for their home universities. Postgraduate dissertations in French studies at the University of Kent may be written in English or in French. The University of Kent also offers language training, particularly in English, for overseas postgraduates.


The Graduate School offers all postgraduates in the School of European Culture and Languages a wide-ranging programme of training in transferable skills. The School provides training workshops for postgraduate students with teaching responsibilities, bringing together postgraduates from all our subject areas. Research students may gain further academic experience by giving talks at the Centre for Modern European Literature research seminars. Postgraduates in the School of European Culture and Languages also organise their own annual international conference, and edit and contribute to Skepsi, the School’s postgraduate online journal of European thought.

World-leading research

In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, the performance of French at the University of Kent was ranked 7th in the UK, with a high proportion of our research publications judged to be first-rate (“world-leading” or “internationally excellent”). Backed by strong institutional support, our group continues to make an assertive and original contribution to French studies in the UK. Our research activities are given a markedly international dimension by publications, conference papers and public lectures in mainland Europe, the USA, Australia and elsewhere, as well as a range of collaborative ventures.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Australian Journal of French Studies; Diderot Studies; Dix-NeufForum for Modern Language Studies; French Cultural Studies; French Studies; Modern Language Review; Revue Romane; and Romance Quarterly.

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.

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

English language entry requirements

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Staff interests broadly fit within the parameters of French literature and thought from the 18th century to the present, with research clusters organised around the following areas: the European Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment; Ekphrasis; Franco-Sino relations; Life Writing; Medical Humanities; Philosophy and Critical Theory; French Surrealism; Cubism; the Avant-Garde; the interface between visual arts and text.

Recent publications have focused on authors, artists and thinkers including the following: Apollinaire; Artaud; Badiou; Barthes; Blanchot; Cocteau; Crébillon fils; Deleuze; Diderot; Djebar; Flaubert; Foucault; Houellebecq; Lacan; Maupassant; Mérimée; Nimier; Proust; Sade; Yourcenar; Zola.

Centre for Language and Linguistic Studies (CLLS)

Founded in 2007, the Centre for Language and Linguistic Studies (CLLS) promotes interdisciplinary collaboration in linguistic research and teaching. Membership embraces not just the members of English Language and Linguistics but also other SECL 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.

Centre for Modern European Literature

Many of the most significant European writers and literary movements of the modern period have traversed national, linguistic, and disciplinary borders. Co-directed by members of Comparative Literature, French, and German, the Centre for Modern European Literature 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. It also works with the editors of the postgraduate journal Skepsi, and runs the MA in Modern European Literature.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Thomas Baldwin: Reader in French

Nineteenth and 20th-century French literature; representations of art in literature; literary theory and philosophy. 


Dr Larry Duffy: Senior Lecturer in French

Nineteenth-century French literature, thought and culture; Flaubert, Zola; Houellebecq; realism, naturalism and documentary literature; the body.


Dr James Fowler: Senior Lecturer in French

Novels, drama and other writings of the 18th century; Diderot and the Enlightenment; prudes and their relation to libertinage; narratology; psychoanalysis; discourses of the body; Richardson’s reception in France.


Dr David Hornsby: Senior Lecturer in French and Linguistics

The history of the French language; sociolinguistics of French; sociolinguistic theory.


Professor Ben Hutchinson: Professor of Modern European Literature

Nineteenth and 20th-century German and European literature, especially Rilke, W G Sebald, Jean Améry, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Geoffrey Hill, 20th-century poetry, modernism. 


Dr Lucy O'Meara: Lecturer in French

Literary and cultural theory; aesthetics; Roland Barthes.


Professor Peter Read: Professor of Modern French Literature and Visual Arts

Nineteenth and 20th-century French literature and the visual arts; Apollinaire; Surrealism. 


Enquire or order a prospectus



Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 827272


Subject enquiries

Dr Thomas Baldwin
T: +44 (0)1227 824718
E: t.baldwin@kent.ac.uk

School website


The 2017/18 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Modern French Studies - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £6500 £14670
Part-time £3250 £7340

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

The University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in its publicity materials is fair and accurate and to provide educational services as described. However, the courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Full details of our terms and conditions can be found at: www.kent.ac.uk/termsandconditions.

*Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills or Research Council UK) they will be increased up to the allowable level.

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The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 764000