This interdisciplinary Master’s programme provides an opportunity for you to deconstruct the American experience at an advanced level.
It interrogates, challenges and moves beyond the Exceptionalist rhetoric and nation-states ideology of traditional American Studies to consider the USA, and its neighbours, in an insightful, challenging and relevant way.
You develop specialist knowledge and research skills in a range of disciplines by navigating complex historical, cultural, geo-political and environmental issues. A sophisticated awareness of the reach (and the limitations) of US hegemony, as well as issues of cultural collision, media penetration, region and identity, give our graduates an intellectual grounding well-suited to many careers, in addition to a solid foundation for graduate work at MPhil or PhD level.
About the Centre for American Studies
American Studies at Kent dates back to 1973 and, over the last few decades, has developed a strong research culture; this matches the commitment of the University to interdisciplinary study as well as the mandate of American Studies to explore the American experience in ground-breaking ways.
Our team of scholars maintains close links with a number of North and South American research institutions and archives, and the University’s Templeman Library houses impressive collections on slavery, Native American culture, and photography/visual materials.
We treat the American experience in a critical and reflective manner, and offer an extremely good base for postgraduate study. While able to supervise a wide range of American topics, the Centre currently operates three specialist research clusters of particular interest to candidates:
- The American West
- The Study of US Environmental Issues
- The Study of Race, Ethnicity and Borders.
School of English
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of English was ranked 10th for research intensity and 15th for research power in the UK.
An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 95% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
School of History
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of History was ranked 8th for research intensity and in the top 20 in the UK for research power.
An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% 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.
You take a compulsory 30 credit module ‘Transnational American Studies: Research and Approaches’. This is a year-long module designed to introduce key modes of analysis in transnational and interdisciplinary study as well as consider different methodologies, themes and intellectual debates. Assessment includes an extended essay, seminar presentation and a critical review of an academic research paper.
You also select 90 credits from a range of optional modules, spread across at least two disciplines. Optional modules vary year to year and below is a selection of recent modules on offer:
- American Cold War Propaganda
- Geiger Counter at Ground Zero: Explorations of Nuclear America
- From Wounded Knee to the Little Bighorn Casino: The Vietnam War in American History
- American Narrative in the Age of Postmodernism
- American Modernism
- Boundary Busting and Border Crossing
- Myth, Image, Fashion and Propaganda in the Cuban Revolutionary Era
- History and Memory
- American Foreign Policy
The remaining 60 credits are made up with a Dissertation. Written over the summer term, this 12,000 word extended study allows students to work on their own research project based on primary research. You have the opportunity to present your ideas as part of workshop sessions on researching American Studies in the core course and receive supervision from an academic specialist.
Modules above 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.
|Modules may include||Credits|
US800 - Transnational American Studies:Methods and Approaches
The aim of this module is to explore the culture and society of the Americas, notably incorporating a transnational perspective. This will involve giving you a thorough grounding in the techniques and approaches needed for advanced study and research in advanced American Studies. This module will engage with interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches in order to train you to 'operate across disciplines, learning how to integrate a variety of approaches in formulating and solving problems, and using diverse materials and information sources.' You will be encouraged to engage with critical debates surrounding American society and also to interrogate, challenge, and move outside the exceptionalist rhetoric and nation- state ideology of conventional American Studies. Attention will be focused on (but by no means confined to) Anglophone literature and culture, although Chicano/Hispanic motifs will be forwarded in the context of English language-based study.Read more
EN818 - American Modernism, 1890-1940
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
EN842 - Reading the Contemporary
'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
EN872 - Provocations and Invitations
This module introduces the challenges and pleasures of postmodern poetry and poetics. We will consider a range of poetic texts, and essays on poetry, that between them raise profound questions of nation, agency, language, politics and gender in the post-war period. Starting with Charles Olson's ground-breaking inquiries into 'open field poetics', we will investigate a range of American and British poets for whom the poem has been a way of generating new modes of thought and life. In particular we will explore the ways in which poetry of the period enables us to think through the implications of globalisation. We will consider how poetry can escape the constraints of place, and how it can imagine new forms of collective identity.
Among the poets we will consider are: Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Frank O’Hara, Denise Riley, Lyn Hejinian, J. H. Prynne, and Tony Lopez. The work of these writers will be read alongside contemporary philosophy and political theory, and will be considered in relation to other art forms, especially painting. Students on the module will benefit from the activities of the Centre for Modern Poetry, including regular readings, research seminars and the reading groups.Read more
EN900 - Illness and Disability in American Culture
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.Read more
EN908 - Inventing the American "Indian" in the Eighteenth Century
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
EN912 - Affect in Contemporary American Literature
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
FI813 - Film History: Research Methods
This course examines film history and historiography through case studies. In carrying out this investigation students will be encouraged to work with archive and primary sources held in libraries, museums and archives. For students studying in Canterbury, this would include, for example, the online resources of the Media History Digital Library, as well as the British Film Institute Library or British Library. For students studying at the Paris campus this would include, for example the Cinémathèque Française, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the American Library in Paris and the Paris Diderot library. This will help them to evaluate and contest received histories, which may be based on an aesthetic, technological, economic, and/or social formations. Through this investigation students will be better able to understand the role and value of the contextual study of film, while giving them the opportunity to research and write on an aspect of film history. The choice of case study will depend upon the expertise of the module convenor.Read more
HI857 - Geiger Counter at Ground Zero: Explorations of Nuclear America
This module critically examines the surface and decay of Nuclear America in the twentieth century. Responsible for ushering in the modern atomic era, the USA is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in nuclear technology and weaponry. Receptivity towards the atom has nonetheless shifted over time: atomic materials once heralded the saviour of American society (through the promise of reactors delivering ‘electricity to cheap to meter’) have also been deemed responsible for long-term environmental problems and doomsday anxieties. Why the atom has received typically bi-polar and polemic responses is of great interest here. Along with events of global significance (such as the bombing of Hiroshima), the module also covers the more intimate views of American citizens living and working close to ground zero. Personal testimonies come from ‘atomic foot soldiers’ traversing blast sites in the 1950s and protesters trespassing across reactor sites in the 1970s. In particular, the module examines the role of media, propaganda and image in inventing popular understandings of the nuclear age, as well as the contribution of atomic scientists to national discourse.
Themes and Topics:
Popular and Scientific Ideas of Radioactivity
The Manhattan Project and the Decision to drop the Bomb
Cold War (1): The Rosenbergs
Atomic Veterans and explorations of Ground Zero
Civil Defence and Fallout Culture
Atomic Movies (1) Fantasy
Cold War (2): The Cuban Missile Crisis
Protesting the Peaceful Atom: Diablo Canyon and Three Mile Island
Atomic Movies (2) Realism and Survivalism
Cold War Memory, Legacy and Atomic TourismRead more
US801 - Transnational American Studies Dissertation
The dissertation is selected by the student as an independent research project and hence the curriculum is not generic. The project should contain inter or multi-disciplinary perspectives in line with the rationale of American Studies and has to contain elements of primary research and original thinking appropriate to postgraduate level work.Read more
Teaching and Assessment
Assessment for this course includes an extended essay, seminar presentation and a critical review of an academic research paper.
This programme aims to:
- provide you with a thorough grounding in the techniques and approaches necessary for advanced research in American Studies.
- promote interdisciplinarity as a conceptual mode of theory and analysis (encourage you to ‘operate across disciplines, learning how to integrate a variety of approaches in formulating and solving problems, and using diverse materials and information sources.’
- encourage critical reflection and engagement with public debates relating to aspects of American society.
- consolidate the strengths of our long-running undergraduate programmes whilst interrogating, challenging, and moving outside the exceptionalist rhetoric and nation-state ideology of conventional American Studies (develop a ‘synthesising impulse…which can work across, as well as interrogate traditional discipline boundaries in innovative ways’.
- promote a curriculum supported by scholarship, staff development and a research culture that provides breadth and depth of intellectual inquiry and debate.
- assist you to develop cognitive and transferable skills relevant to their vocational and personal development.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain a knowledge and understanding of:
- The culture and society of the Americas
- Advanced methodological practices associated with research in American Studies
- The value of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives
- The value of a transnational perspective in relation to study of the Americas (‘the similarities and differences between areas, thus fostering cross-cultural and international perspectives’.
- texts and other source materials, read both critically and empathetically while addressing questions of genre, content, perspective and purpose
- the problems inherent in the cultural record itself, and the limits within which interpretation is possible
You develop the intellectual skills in:
- advanced academic study
- organising, evaluating and presenting research findings appropriate to postgraduate study
- gathering, deploying and synthesising information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding of critical theory and general methodology
- making discriminations and selections of relevant information from a wide source and large body of knowledge
- reflecting on, and managing your own learning and to seek to make use of constructive feedback from peers and staff to enhance your own performance and personal research skills
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- the close critical analysis of documents of American culture, politics and society.
- a informed understanding of the variety of critical and theoretical approaches to American Studies.
- the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to American Studies.
- the ability to understand a multi-disciplinary academic subject, with its array of literature, history and other discourses.
- the ability to combine various academic discourses (eg. Literature and History) in order to forge an interdisciplinary understanding
- the ability to construct an independent, research-led argument, marked by an inter- and multi-disciplinary pedagogy and scholarly practice .
You will gain the following transferrable skills:
- Communication: the ability to organise information clearly; respond to written sources; present information orally; adapt style for different audiences; use of images as a communications tool.
- Numeracy: the ability to read graphs and tables; integrate numerical and non-numerical information; understand the limits and potentialities of arguments based on quantitative information.
- Information Technology: produce written documents; undertake online research; communicate using email; process information using databases and spreadsheets (where necessary).
- Independence of mind and initiative.
- Self-discipline and self-motivation
- Ability to work with others and have respect for others' reasoned views.
Recent postgraduates now work in media, publishing and a variety of businesses in the UK, Europe and the USA. Teaching is also a popular option, as are marketing and public relations. A Master’s in American Studies gives you an intellectual grounding suitable for graduate work at MPhil or PhD level.
American Studies benefits from excellent library resources, and is especially strong in literature, film and history. Specialist collections include slavery and anti-slavery, a large collection of works on photography and contemporary images, and a slide library with well over 100,000 classified slides. The Library also houses the British Cartoon Archive. Kent is within easy reach of London’s major library resources.
Postgraduate students have access to the resources provided by the Centre for American Studies and its related departments. The Centre runs regular research events each year. Other schools and departments such as English, Film, Politics and International Relations, and History also host research seminars that students are welcome to attend.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of American Studies; American Review of Canadian Studies; European Journal of American Culture; and American Indian Quarterly. Details of recently published books can be found within the staff research interests section.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
A first or 2.1 honours degree in an appropriate 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.
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.
Staff interests broadly fit within the parameters of American literature, American history, American film and American politics, although we actively welcome interdisciplinary projects that investigate several areas of study. Current strengths in American Studies at Kent are: Native American literature and culture; African-American history; slavery and the Atlantic world; the American West; US environmental issues; US visual culture; Disney and recreation; American realist fiction; modern American poetry; US immigration politics; American science fiction; Hollywood; US foreign policy.
The American West
Kent is the only UK institution to operate a research cluster on the American West, with five members of the Centre specialising in trans-Mississippi studies. The research cluster engages in pioneering work on Native American literature, Western films and video games, female frontiering and several other elements of the Western experience.
The Study of US Environmental Issues
US environmental history is a relatively new field of study, but of increasing importance. Our two environmental specialists work on wildlife management, animal studies, nuclear protest and concepts of ecological doomsday.
The Study of Race, Ethnicity and Borders
The Centre has a long history of studying race and ethnicity. Currently, six members of the team cover a range of topics that include African-American political, cultural and social history, Native American literature, Latin American relations and immigration writing and politics.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the school websites:
Literature : www.kent.ac.uk/english/staff
Latin American Studies: www.kent.ac.uk/secl/hispanicstudies/staff/
Dr Stella Bolaki: Senior Lecturer in American Literature
Multi-ethnic American literature (especially with a focus on migration/diaspora and transnational approaches); the Bildungsroman; gender theory; life writing and illness/disability; medical humanities.View Profile
Dr Michael Collins: Senior Lecturer in American Literature
Nineteenth-century print culture, theatre, American studies and New York intellectual history; performance theory; new historicist and/or transnational methodologies.View Profile
Dr Will Norman: Reader in American Literature and Culture
Twentieth-century American literature and culture; European and American modernism; Vladimir Nabokov; models of high and low culture in the mid-20th century; critical theory; American crime fiction and transatlantic studies.View Profile
Professor David Stirrup: Professor of American Literature and Indigenous Studies
First nations and Native American literature; 20th-century North American literature; the American and Canadian Midwest; border studies.View Profile
Dr George Conyne: Lecturer in American History
American, constitutional, political and diplomatic history; Anglo-American relations; British diplomacy in the 20th century; the Cold War.View Profile
Dr Karen Jones: Senior Lecturer in American History
The American West; environmental history; the wolf: science and symbolism; hunting, nature and American identity; human relationships with animals; nuclear culture; parks and other tourist/heritage landscapes.View Profile
Dr John Wills: Senior Lecturer in American History
Modern US history; environmental, cultural and visual history; American nuclear landscapes; California protest culture; Disney; theme parks; tourism; 1950s America; cyber-society (including video games).View Profile
Dr Ruth Blakeley: Reader in International Relations
US foreign policy; US-Latin American relations; terrorism; state violence; human rights.View Profile
Dr Andrew Wroe: Senior Lecturer in American Politics
Direct democracy; trust in politics; immigration; race/ethnicity; American politics and government.View Profile
Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald: Reader
Genres, including romantic comedy, melodrama and the gothic; stardom; film costume; strategies and representation of sex and virginity; performance.View Profile
Professor Peter Stanfield: Professor of Film; Head of School of Arts
The cultural history of American film, with a twin focus on cycles of formulaic movies and the synergy between cinema and other forms of popular culture, including music, comic book and sequential art, pulp novels and material culture.View Profile
Dr William Rowlandson: Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies
Cuban art and culture, especially José Lezama Lima; Latin American poets; Borges.View Profile
Professory Natalia Sobrevilla Perea: Professor of Hispanic Studies
State formation and political culture in the Andes from the end of the colonial period throughout the 19th century, as well as issues of race, ethnicity and military culture in the 19th and 20th centuries in South America.View Profile
The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|American Studies - Taught MA at Canterbury:|
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact email@example.com
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