Modern Languages

French and Comparative Literature - MA



Our MA in French and Comparative Literature involves the postgraduate study of literature beyond national and linguistic borders with a particular focus on French culture.

Comparative Literature at Kent involves the study of literature from two or more European cultures, to gain an intercultural and transnational understanding of cultural practice. The MA in French and Comparative Literature introduces you to a wide range of theoretical perspectives, enriching your appreciation of the cultures, texts and critical practices examined in the programme's various modules. You benefit from expert teaching from members of the Department of Modern Languages and the Department of Comparative Literature and thus participate in an interdisciplinary dialogue.

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.

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. There is also a version of this programme which allows you to spend the spring term in Paris.

This programme is ideal for modern languages graduates who wish to consolidate their knowledge in a wider context; English graduates wishing to diversify their interests; and graduates in other humanities subjects (history, philosophy, theology) who would like to apply their knowledge to literary and visual material.


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.

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 Nietzsche 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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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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CP805 - European Modernism: Sexual and Textual Deviance (30 credits)

This module investigates modernism as a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary phenomenon via close readings of a selection of literary and essayistic texts written in the early decades of the 20th century by a range of key European authors. After an exploration of the socio-cultural and historical contexts from which these texts emerge, we study the specificities of modernist literature by paying close attention to the formal and stylistic innovations which accompany typically modernist thematic preoccupations, such as deviant sexuality, the workings of the unconscious, self-reflexive thematizations of the specificities of the medium, new technological developments, the city, time, decay and a sense of metaphysical despair. Stylistic techniques such as multi-perspectivity, free indirect discourse, stream-of-consciousness, montage and fragmentation are explored not just as tools for rendering a dramatically altered conception of experience, but as formal expressions of the plight of the peripatetic modernist subject in their own right.

The course will be taught in English. Relevant texts may be studied in English translation, but students with proficiency in European languages are encouraged to read texts in the original language.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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CP806 - Postcolonial Cultures (30 credits)

Our contemporary world has been shaped decisively by the histories of colonialism and imperialism and, concomitantly, of postcolonialism. Nationhood, hybridity and identity, globalism and regionalism, diasporas, the politics of gender and cultural diversity and difference have emerged as topics central not only to postcolonial studies but also to the interplay of regional and global societies and their cultural practices. However, when reviewing the engagement with postcolonial issues in Anglo-American academia, it is striking that there is a pronounced bias towards Anglophone postcolonial artistic, literary, and cinematic production. This obviously is a distorted perspective since not only do essential theoretical texts on colonialism and postcolonialism originate in other linguistic and cultural contexts (and have, like the writings of Frantz Fanon or Albert Memmi made their mark at least to a degree in postcolonial studies), but the cultural practices of other postcolonial spheres are no less versatile and varied.

While it is not practicable, nor even desirable or possible, to include 'all' postcolonial contexts, this module still aims at developing a distinctly comparative perspective on the various developments and interactions between the Anglophone, Francophone and Hispanic spheres of postcolonial cultures, all of which originate from the confrontation with European colonialisms and imperialisms. It will highlight contexts, histories and locations of postcolonial cultures, it will investigate theorisations of postcolonial literatures and cultures and it will situate postcolonial cultural practices and theoretical writings within the complex, diverse histories and cultures which make up the 'postcolonial' world. To knit the various, linguistically defined, sections of this module together, texts have been chosen to allow the discussion of four central topics as they occur in different postcolonial cultures: language, identity, gender and nationhood. With Shakespeare's The Tempest and the essays by Rodó ("Ariel") and Retamar ("Calibán"), a frame is provided which introduces, encompasses and concludes the module's thematic concerns.

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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CP808 - Writing the Self: Autobiography in the Modern Period (30 credits)

The notion of autobiography as a documentary genre, in which the writer unproblematically records the facts of his or her life, has been called into question by modern critical studies of the genre, many of the most important theorists of autobiographical writing insisting upon its central place in the literary canon, alongside plays, novels, and poems, with which it would share a certain 'literariness'. Focusing on a wide range of modern autobiographical texts from different national and linguistic cultures, this module will treat questions of generic definition, form, motivation, and rhetorical strategy. Among the specific questions to be considered are: Can autobiography be strictly defined? How does autobiography relate to other literary genres such as the diary or the first-person novel? Is autobiography a particular kind of narrative? Is there an identifiable rhetoric of autobiography? Is sincerity a meaningful criterion when considering autobiography? What kinds of relationship do autobiographers attempt to establish with their readers? We shall also consider some of the recurring themes in autobiographical writing since the Romantic period, including the representation of childhood, the family, sexuality, gender, ethics, mortality, and politics.

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:

  • provide the opportunity for you to obtain a postgraduate qualification (MA) in one year, and to allow, if required, a smooth transition to doctoral studies
  • allow you to study modules in both modern French studies and comparative literature
  • develop your knowledge and understanding of relevant aspects of contemporary Paris and the cultural history of the city as reflected in modern French, European, English and American literatures and other artistic media
  • enhance your comprehension and communication skills in both French and English
  • develop your awareness of various critical and research methodologies and of the interplay between literature, art and cultural context
  • 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 a deepening of intercultural awareness and understanding
  • provide opportunities for the further development of personal, communication and research skills and other key skills appropriate for graduate employment both in industry and in the public sector
  • provide further development of critical, analytical, problem-solving and other transferable skills.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the French language
  • aspects of French literature and the visual arts
  • aspects of comparative literature
  • The cultural history of modern France, as reflected in art and literature
  • research methodology
  • critical theory and its application to the appreciation of literature and to a research dissertation.

Intellectual skills

You gain intellectual skills in:

  • comprehension, both oral and written, in French and English
  • research methodology: the ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and primary sources
  • the ability to reason logically, critically and analogically
  • the ability to evaluate complex information critically
  • the ability to synthesise complex information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding of the subject
  • the ability to identify, investigate, analyse, formulate and advocate solutions to problems. Develop reasoned arguments, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement
  • learning to work in different environments by adapting to the educational, cultural and professional environments of England and France, while adopting an interdisciplinary approach to literary studies.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the ability to communicate at an advanced academic level in French and English
  • an advanced knowledge and effective understanding of the various structures and registers of French
  • an advanced ability to analyse a variety of sources, both textual and visual, in French and English
  • develop an appreciation of a variety of literary styles and art forms and their lines of divergence and convergence
  • develop a comprehensive knowledge of the cultural development of modern Paris, as expressed in literature and art
  • a comprehensive understanding and ability to apply and evaluate various theoretical approaches to the study of literature and other art forms.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to communicate orally at a high standard
  • the ability to produce written work of a high standard, in an appropriate register, in French and English
  • a high level of competence in information processing, using relevant databases and online research
  • the ability to undertake group tasks that will encourage co-operative skills
  • problem-solving skills in a variety of theoretical and practical situations
  • time management.

Study support

About French at Kent

French at Kent is part of the Department of Modern Languages. 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. 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 and two networked multimedia laboratories.

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. 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 Framework (2014), Modern Languages at Kent was ranked 3rd 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 StudiesDiderot StudiesDix-neufForum for Modern Language StudiesFrench Cultural StudiesFrench StudiesModern Language ReviewRevue 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.  


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.

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.

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

Entry requirements

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

General entry requirements

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

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

Research areas

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 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-run journal Skepsi.

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.


Dr Katja Haustein: Lecturer in Comparative Literature

French and German autobiographical writing; visual culture; memory and identity; literature and the emotions; women and gender; art and medicine.


Dr Patricia Novillo-Corvalan: Lecturer

Modernism, 20th-century Hispanic and Latin American literature; Borges, Cortázar, Joyce; reception studies; medical humanities.


Dr Axel Staehler: Reader in Comparative Literature

Jewish literature and culture, early modern European festival culture, the 18th-century novel in Europe, intermediality and ‘iconarratology’, postcolonial literature and theory, contact zones and intercultural communication, fundamentalism and literature.


Dr Xiaofan Amy Li: Lecturer in Comparative Literature

France and China/East-Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries, the French reception of Chinese antiquity.


Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner: Reader in Comparative Literature

Modernist literature, the history of sexuality, the European avant-garde, the history of medicine and psychoanalysis.


Professor Shane Weller: Professor of Comparative Literature

European modernism, postmodernism and literary theory; Beckett, Kafka, Blanchot, Celan, Bernhard, Sebald; literature and ethics; literature and philosophy; history of ideas.


Dr Sara-Louise Cooper: Lecturer in French

French language and literature from the nineteenth century to the present day.


Dr Tobias Heinrich: Lecturer in German

German literature, culture and language.


Enquire or order a prospectus


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Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 768896

Subject enquiries

Postgraduate Office, School of European Culture and Languages

T: +44 (0)1227 816119


School website

Open days

We hold regular Open Events at our Canterbury and Medway campuses. You will be able to talk to specialist academics and admissions staff, find out about our competitive fees, discuss funding opportunities and tour the campuses.

You can also discuss the programmes we run at our specialist centres in Brussels, Athens, Rome and Paris at the Canterbury Open Events. If you can't attend but would like to find out more you can come for an informal visit, contact our information team or find out more on our website.  

Please check which of our locations offers the courses you are interested in before choosing which event to attend.


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:

*Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department for Education or Research Council UK) permitted increases are normally inflationary and the University therefore reserves the right to increase tuition fees by inflation (RPI excluding mortgage interest payments) as permitted by law or Government policy in the second and subsequent years of your course. If we intend to exercise this right to increase tuition fees, we will let you know by the end of June in the academic year before the one in which we intend to exercise that right.

If, in the future, the increases to regulated fees permitted by law or Government policy exceed the rate of inflation, we reserve the right to increase fees to the maximum permitted level. If we intend to exercise this extended right to increase tuition fees, we will let you know by the end of June in the academic year before the one in which we intend to exercise that right.


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Last Updated: 24/04/2014