MA English Literature: Modern Literary Cultures

About the course


This programme is intended to look at the representation of particular cultural issues across a range of texts. You will be asked to consider the representation of a particular topic or concept in a range of texts across time and to ask how these representations respond to each other and to the changing political and social circumstances for the text. You will also be asked to consider how a range of texts from a short historical period respond differently to a shared set of historical circumstances. Modules ask you to engage with the major contemporary theoretical and critical issues in modern literary studies.

For the MA, you take three 30-credit modules, two 15-credit research methods modules, plus a dissertation (equivalent to four 15-credit modules). The Postgraduate Diploma requires three 30-credit modules (plus the research methods modules) and the Postgraduate Certificate requires two 30-credit modules. Assessment of modules is normally by coursework, either two pieces of about 2-3,000 words, or one piece of 4-5,000 words.

The English Literature subject group organises a range of literary activities including visits from influential speakers, a postgraduate research forum and conference, and a number of highly successful international conferences. These include the Open Graves Open Minds conference on the literary undead; Worlds Apart Science Fiction Conference, The Bram Stoker Symposium and the Locations of Austen Conference.

For details about the planned suite of modules please contact the Literature MA Co-ordinator, Dr Anna Tripp, on 01707 285654 or email

Why choose this course?

The MA in Modern Literary Cultures offers you the opportunity to explore culturally charged themes and critical debates across a diverse range of texts. You will be asked to consider the representation of a particular topic or concept in a range of texts across time and to ask how these representations respond to each other and to the changing political and social circumstances for the text. You will also be asked to explore how a range of texts from a short historical period respond differently to a shared set of historical circumstances. Modules ask you to engage with the major contemporary theoretical and critical issues in modern literary studies. 

Download the brochure: MA English Literature

Entry requirements...

We normally require at least an upper second class Honours (or equivalent) degree with a significant element (at least 50%) of Literature. Graduates with an Honours Degree in any discipline who have otherwise demonstrated potential to succeed at postgraduate level in Literature will also be considered. IELTS requirement- 6.5.

If you do not have the required level of English for entry, our academic English courses can help you to achieve this level.

What our
students say

What our<br>students say

The course has been all-consuming. I got through because of the outstanding teaching and tutoring of the English department. I have been given an excellent education. Many new areas of knowledge have been opened up to me and my range of interests has multiplied. It may have been a small decision for you to have taken me onto the course, but the experience has been life-changing for me.

-John Molson, Modern Literary Cultures student


The advanced research skills the programme gives you are of value in a wide range of careers.

Teaching methods

Assessment is normally by coursework only. Taught modules require either two pieces of coursework of approximately 2-3,000 words, or one piece of coursework of 4-5,000 words.

The dissertation is an extended piece of research, normally 15,000 words in length.


Year 1

Core Modules

  • Dandies, Decadents and New Women: Fin de siecle Literary Culture 1880-1900

    This module studies texts (novels, plays, poetry, painting, non-fictional prose) produced on the cusp of the modern age. It explores how they reflect an astonishing array of beliefs and obsessions: the emergence of the `New Woman'; fears of the dark spaces of the city (most famously played out in the `Jack the Ripper' case); developments in psychology; new thinking on desire and sexuality; imperialism and Empire; `decadence'; degeneration; the emergence of `celebrity' culture and the shock of the `new'. We will interrogate various strands of this highly-volatile period and examine the relations between primary texts and the social and cultural contexts out of which they emerge. Authors for consideration are likely to include such controversial figures as Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, Guy de Maupassant, 'Michael Field', Henrik Ibsen, Charlotte Mew and Marie Corelli. The module is intended to give you a good grounding for further study of this period.

  • Earth Words: Literature, Place and Environment B

    This module focuses on the interconnection between literature and place or environment. The module will trace the ways in which changing attitudes towards our environment (conceived in various ways), have been shaped, mapped, and critiqued by literary texts. We will explore a number of theoretical approaches to understanding the concepts of ‘space’, ‘place’ and ‘nature’, including the burgeoning field of ecocriticism. Students will then be introduced to a diverse range of literary and cultural texts, including (but not limited to) poetry, essays, novels, and short stories, from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Students will also be encouraged to reflect on their own relationship to their immediate environment. Authors studied might include William Wordsworth, Thomas Clare, Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, Mary Austin, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Robinson Jeffers, Edward Abbey, Gary Snyder, Don DeLillo, Iain Sinclair, Paul Farley and Michael Simmons Roberts.

  • Literature Dissertation

    The MA Literature Dissertation gives students the opportunity to investigate and write about an area of individual interest in depth and detail. The emphasis is on independent thought, research and writing, but this will be supported in an agreed programme of supervision. The topic should be appropriate to postgraduate-level literary study, and chosen by the student in consultation with his or her supervisor. The dissertation should aim to make a distinctive contribution to work in the relevant field.

  • Literature Research Methods 1: Critical and Theoretical Debates

    This module aims to develop your knowledge and understanding of some of the theoretical approaches and related critical methodologies which have been influential in literary studies. Areas covered may include: liberal humanism and practical criticism; new historicism and cultural materialism; feminism and theories of masculinity; queer theory; postcolonial theory; psychoanalytic theory; ecocriticism There will be an emphasis on the practical application of these theoretical approaches, and you will be invited to assess the strengths and limitations of each.

  • Literature Research Methods 2: Advanced Research Skills B

    This module is designed to help you to develop some of the advanced skills necessary for the postgraduate study of Literature. Topics covered may include, for example: using search engines and databases; accessing electronic journals; interdisciplinary research; planning and structuring longer pieces of work; writing abstracts; constructing annotated bibliographies; presenting research to an audience; writing for publication. This module will equip you to embark on your Masters dissertation and any further postgraduate research and you will develop a valuable portfolio of transferable skills relevant to a wide range of graduate careers.

  • Reading the Vampire: Science, Sexuality and Alterity in Modern Culture

    This module investigates vampire narratives in literature from early vampire stories such J. Sheridan Le Fanu's lesbian vampire tale Carmilla and Bram Stoker's Dracula, the most famous vampire narrative of all; to the twentieth-century vampire chronicles of Anne Rice and the romantic blockbusters of Stephanie Meyer. Since their animation out of folk materials in the nineteenth century, vampires have been continually reborn in modern culture. They have enacted a host of anxieties and desires, shifting shape as the culture they are brought to life in itself changes form. Reading the Vampire embeds vampires in their cultural contexts, exploring their relationship to modernity; the influence of key thinkers such as Darwin, Marx and Freud will be addressed, together with issues of gender, national identity, technology, consumption, and social change. The module will provide a forum for the development of innovative research and examine these creatures in all their various manifestations and cultural meanings.


Fees & funding

Fees 2016

UK/EU Students

Full time: £6,100 for the 2016 academic year

Part time: If you decide to study this course on a part time basis you will be charged on a modular basis. The cost is £510 per 15 credits for the 2016 academic year

International Students

Full time: £12,000 for the 2016 academic year

Fees 2017

UK/EU Students

Full time: £6,450 for the 2017 academic year

International Students

Full time: £12,100 for the 2017 academic year

*Tuition fees are charged annually. The fees quoted above are for the specified year(s) only. Fees may be higher in future years, for both new and continuing students. Please see the University’s Fees and Finance Policy (and in particular the section headed “When tuition fees change”), for further information about when and by how much the University may increase its fees for future years.

View detailed information about tuition fees

Additional course-related costs

There may be some additional costs or charges associated with studying on this course. These costs or charges may be compulsory (ie you have to pay them if you are studying this course) or they may be optional (ie you don’t have to pay them, but they may help you get the most out of your course).

Any such costs or charges will be outlined in the About your course factsheet that can be found on the course Overview page.

Other financial support

Find out more about other financial support available to UK and EU students

Living costs / accommodation

The University of Hertfordshire offers a great choice of student accommodation, on campus or nearby in the local area, to suit every student budget.

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How to apply


Start DateEnd DateLink
24/09/201730/08/2018Apply online (Full Time)
28/09/201731/07/2018Apply online (Part Time)


Start DateEnd DateLink
24/09/201830/08/2019Apply online (Full Time)
28/09/201831/07/2019Apply online (Part Time)