MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture



The Modern School offers a broad range of options in the literature and culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries within the structure of its MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture.

The courses I have taken in my MA in Modern Literature and Culture have all been thought-provoking, but very importantly, pertinent to my research interests and philosophical concerns

MA in Modern Literature and Culture

These options enable individual graduate students to construct a distinct, individually chosen MA programme, yet build on the critical, theoretical, and historical contexts that are established in the core course. Students can design a course that will suit their wish either to acquire a general knowledge of the period or to specialise in a particular area.

You will develop an understanding of:

  • the engagement of modern writing with a range of cultural issues
  • the cultural meanings and associations of important developments in literary technique in the twentieth century
  • the development of ‘modernity’ in association with particular genres and writers
  • some of the ways in which modern historical and technological development affected notions of writing
  • the importance of political movements such as feminism and the formation of gay identities to modern writing.

Introductory reading

You can get a flavour of the criticism, anthologies, and core texts featured on this course by downloading a reading list compiled by members of staff:

Course Structure

Course Structure

The programme is fully modularised and divided into 4 taught modules (one compulsory, three options), a research skills training programme, and a research dissertation. 

The core module, Reading Modernity, provides an introduction to some of the key critical and theoretical debates in the study of modern literature and culture. It offers students the opportunity to examine a number of issues that are central to the period. 

In addition to their core module, students take three option modules, one in the Autumn term, and two in the Spring term. During the Summer term and Vacation, students work on their dissertations.


  • Four assessed essays of approximately 4,500 words each
  • A 14,000-16,000 word dissertation, written in consultation with a supervisor on an agreed topic


Core Module

Core Module: Reading Modernity

This module addresses some of the major literary trends and cultural debates of modern and contemporary times. It considers the different ways that ‘modernity’ has been understood – whether it be as a period or as a particular constellation of values or some combination of both – and focuses on the multiple art-forms and theories of art this yielded. It proceeds in a loose chronological fashion, examining a broad swathe of writers, genres and intellectual disciplines. The aim is not to provide an exhaustive survey, but to focus on some salient or representative moments of recent cultural history that will allow you to make informed choices about more specialised options of study.
The module is conducted through seminars, offering a broad variety of teaching styles and critical approaches. For each seminar there is core reading which is compulsory preparation, and also a selection of further reading which you are encouraged to sample as widely as possible.
The Term at a Glance*
Week 1: Introductory Meeting 
Week 2: Modernist Poetry and the Politics of Allusion
Week 3: The Modernist Novel: Joyce’s Ulysses
Week 4: Elizabeth Bowen and the Modern Short Story
Week 5: Utopian Longings
Week 6: Reading Week (and procedural essay)
Week 7: Confession and Death at Mid-Century 
Week 8: Beckett’s Voices 
Week 9: Thatcherism, Neoliberalism and Resources 
Week 10: Signifying Katrina 

Full module outline: Reading Modernity Autumn 2016/7 (PDF  , 162kb)

*Weekly structure may vary from year to year due to staff availability

Option Modules

Option Modules

In addition to their core module, students take one option module in the first term, and two option modules in the second term. 

Click here for all 2017/18 modules

Modern and Contemporary MA Option Modules

Students taking the Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture MA are given priority on the following option modules, when they run:


Additional Option Modules

Students may wish to take options from outside their MA programme, subject to availability. Options include:

Film and Literature
Global Literature
Poetry and Poetics
Victorian Literature
 Romantic and Eighteenth Century Literature
Renaissance Literature
Medieval Literature

 Option modules will vary from year to year according to staff availability, and will run subject to minimum numbers. Option modules may also be taken in other arts and humanities departments.

Walter Benjamin at the card catalogue of the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris, 1937

Who to contact

For more information on this MA, please contact:

Adam Kelly (MA Convenor)

How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system. If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.