MA Literature and Culture (Online)

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, examinations may be replaced by an alternative form of assessment during the academic year 2020/2021. Please refer to the Programme Specification on these pages for further details.

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:

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.

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.

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.


The advanced research skills you’ll gain on this MA, alongside transferable intellectual and personal skills, are of value in a wide range of careers, including teaching, publishing, the arts and media. Many of our graduates go on to higher levels of study, engaging in PhD research in their chosen fields.

MA graduates Daisy Butcher and Jennifer Cameron are now PhD students of literature at Herts, while MA graduate Olivia Steen has worked on the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and is now a visiting lecturer in Creative Arts with a new PhD project.

MA graduate Sam Cooper went on to take a PhD at Nottingham Trent University, where he now teaches and publishes, while Amelia Eikli started her own publishing house and is a writer and blogger.

Please note that some of the images and videos on our course pages may have been taken before social distancing rules in the UK came into force.