MA Literature and Culture (Online)

Why choose Herts?

  • Flexible: This is one of the only Literature and Culture courses available online both full and part time.
  • Teaching Excellence: Our lecturers have won many teaching awards and are active writers for leading academic publishers (see key staff section).
  • Employment Prospects: Our graduates work as academics, writers/authors, publishers, agents, and researchers for organisations including Warner Brothers, and The Corner Shop PR Agency.

About the course

Our online MA in Literature and Culture enables you to explore innovative and diverse texts and their many different contexts – historical, social and political. Your engagement will focus on themes at the forefront of contemporary culture, including identity politics, Otherness, and the environment. Online learning offers you the benefits of flexible opportunities to hone your critical and analytical skills with plenty of support from our research-active academic staff. You’ll also gain advanced research skills and have the opportunity to pursue your own research interests via a 13,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice.

Twenty-first century literary scholarship challenges readers to engage with the cultural impact of globally significant issues such as sustainability, cultural difference and race relations, and inclusivity with regards to intersectional identities. The modules on this Master’s programme are specifically designed to develop students’ critical understanding of literature and related forms of cultural expression (film, music, and the visual arts) within these frameworks. Students will undertake three of the four following modules as part of their MA programme of study:

It seems paradoxical that our complex contemporary world is characterised both by digital ‘interconnectedness’ and increasing experiences of fragmentation and isolation. One way to explore this is to scrutinise how the twentieth century ushered in an ever more urban and cosmopolitan world interconnected via networks of communication and transport as well as cultural networks of influence and exchange. Our “Networks of Modernism” module challenges more traditional versions of the modernist literary canon and considers an exciting range of early twentieth-century texts written at a time when ideas about gender, race, class and sexuality were changing rapidly.  It explores a broad range of topics and tropes, from war to parties, from subways to greenwoods, from urban poverty to salon culture, from the behaviour of crowds to sexual transgression and taboo - and locations as diverse as Bloomsbury and Harlem, Dublin and Alabama.  It engages with recent theoretical debates about modernist writing, including deconstructive, psychoanalytic, spatial and queer approaches.

From climate change and rising extinction rates to the preservation of the Amazon, contemporary environmental concerns proliferate on an urgent, global, scale. Such concerns underpin our module “Earth Words: Literature, Place and Environment” which traces the ways in which changing attitudes towards our environment (conceived in various ways), have been shaped, mapped, and critiqued by literary texts. A number of theoretical approaches to understanding the concepts of ‘space’, ‘place’ and ‘nature’ are explored, including the 'spatial turn' in cultural studies, and the burgeoning field of ecocriticism. Students are introduced to a diverse range of literary and cultural texts, including poetry, essays, novels, creative non-fiction and short stories, from the late eighteenth century to the present day. They are also encouraged to reflect on their own relationship to the immediate environment, and the places that have shaped their life and identity.

One of the paradoxes of contemporary fiction is that so much of it focused on the past. “Historical Fiction: Memory,
Nostalgia and the Past in Contemporary Culture” 
is a response to this trend, exploring the relationship between literature, television, film and the uses (and sometimes abuses) of the past in contemporary political and cultural debate. The module covers a range of global fictions, popular TV and cinematic costume dramas and looks beyond texts to consider role of museums and memorials in shaping the ways in which the past is represented. Among other topics the module will explore debates about memory and nostalgia, the ways in which texts rewrite the past in response to postcolonial and queer theories, and the reasons why traumatic past events continue to be a source of fictional representations. Each year the module will conclude by studying a recent winner of the annual Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction to consider whether new trends might be emerging. By the end of the module we will have explored the ways in which the past is never static but continues to be a source of inspiration, debate and controversy in fiction and beyond.

Our students come from a broad range of disciplines, with many attracted to our module on vampire fiction, “Reading the Vampire: Science, Sexuality and Alterity in Modern Culture”. Going beyond Gothic studies, this topic has generated national media interest and the accompanying  Open Graves, Open Minds Project hosted by Herts’ Literature department is an important online research tool for our students and all those interested in Gothic studies, the fantastic and the magical in fiction and folklore.

In our ground-breaking “US Culture and #BlackLivesMatter” module you’ll engage with diverse contemporary texts ranging from novels and non-fiction to film, music, art, and television to consider the meaning of blackness and racial identity in twenty-first century American culture. As inspired by the social justice movement against racism and violence from which it takes its name, this module foregrounds the diversity of black life, enabling students to engage with diverse cultural texts on topics such as identity, violence, politics, love, Otherness, and queerness. This innovative module has also been featured on BBC Radio 6 and The Independent.

The interdisciplinary scope of the modules offered in this MA is reflected in the broad range of subjects chosen by our students for their dissertations. Recent topics have ranged from space, place and narrative in Young Adult fiction to the representation of disability in the Harry Potter novels, to fin de siècle vampire fiction. Graduates of the MA Literature and Culture have found it an excellent platform for further research in their chosen specialism at PhD level, as well as an excellent grounding for a wide range of careers in the arts, education and the media.

What will I study?

This online programme features a spectrum of digitally-accessed resources for students including recorded lectures, student-led discussion platforms, and one-to-one supervision. You will also have access to a wide range of academic resources via UH’s Online Library. Assessment is normally by coursework only. Outstanding online support is offered via StudyNet, our virtual learning environment.

The MA comprises six modules including a final dissertation project, which gives you the opportunity to develop an extended piece of research on a topic of your choice, fully supported by a supervisor. It is possible to undertake study on a full-time (one year) or part-time (two-year) basis. It is also possible to undertake one of the Literature modules on its own; please consult UH Online regarding arrangements.

Our MA students are encouraged to attend events and conferences and present their papers as part of their teaching and learning. You’ll be invited to participate in a postgraduate research forum and welcome to attend the annual international conference hosted by the Literature department as part of its groundbreaking Open Graves, Open Minds Project.

  • Level 7
    Module Credits Compulsory/optional
    Earth Words: Literature Place and Environment 30 Credits Compulsory
    The Networks of Modernism 30 Credits Compulsory
    Research Methods 1: Theoretical and Critical Debates 15 Credits Compulsory
    Research Methods 2: Advanced Research Skills 15 Credits Compulsory
    Dissertation 60 Credits Compulsory
    Historical Fiction: Memory, Nostalgia, and the Past in Contemporary Culture 30 Credits Compulsory
  • Further course information

    Course fact sheets
    MA Literature and Culture (Online) Download
    Programme specifications
    MA Literature and Culture (Online) Download
    Additional information

    Sandwich placement or study abroad year


    Applications open to international and EU students


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