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MA Creative Writing

Why we're great

  • Learn from the professionals as part of our innovative Writers at Essex series
  • Join a diverse network of distinguished alumni and award-winning teaching staff who have shaped the world of literature
  • Publish your own work in our annual creative writing journal, Creel

Course options2016-17

Duration: 1 year
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Fee (Home/EU): £5,950
Fee (International): £14,950

Duration: 2 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Fee (Home/EU): £2,975
Fee (International): £7,475

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719
Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

Our challenging, practice-based course offers you a unique approach to the practice of writing, emphasising innovation and experimentation in your work.

On our MA Creative Writing, you deepen your knowledge of literary tradition, exploring different modes and genres in order to develop your own creative and expressive written skills. You expand your use of creative writing techniques and improve your critical judgement of your own work.

Our course encourages you to develop your writing by stepping outside your comfort zone and discovering the different approaches to verbal art that are possible today. This will invigorate your own practice, whether you are writing psychogeography, plays, novels, stories or something else. You will choose from a variety of modules, covering topics such as:

  • Development of a novel plan, from research and concept-development, to plotting, character, and structure
  • Experimental language play of the Oulipo group across the short story, autobiography, cartoons, cookery and theatre
  • Relating magic to writing and creativity, both in theory and in practice
  • Psychogeography, writing about walking, place, landscape, history and the psychic environment
  • Poetic practice across experimental writing in poetry from the performative to the visual

To help you hone your craft, we also host two Royal Literary Fund Fellows, professional writers on-hand to help you develop your writing on a one-to-one basis, and regularly host talks and readings by visiting writers.

Essex has nurtured a long tradition of distinguished authors whose work has shaped literature as we know it today, from past giants such as the American poets Robert Lowell and Ted Berrigan, to contemporary writers such as mythographer and novelist Dame Marina Warner, and Booker Prize winner Ben Okri.

We are ranked Top 20 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015, and three-quarters of our research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014).

This course is also available on a part-time basis.

"The facilities were fantastic while the lecturers were very supportive and still continue to offer help, even though I have now graduated! There was always a good atmosphere and I know I’ll never have writer’s block again! I am working towards a career as a playwright, so of course my degree has been invaluable to me, and I have recently been approached to do a Channel 4 TV show called The Audience."

Janine Hornsby, MA Creative Writing, 2012

Our expert staff

Our teaching staff are experienced and established writers who have a breadth of experience across literary genres, from novels, prose and plays, to poetry and song.

Our creative writing teaching team has a breadth of experience in the literatures of different cultures and different forms. Our current teaching staff include poet and short story writer Philip Terry, lyric writer and essayist Adrian May, novelist and camper Matthew de Abaitua, poet and performance-writer Holly Pester, poet, fisherman and memoirist Chris McCully, and award-winning playwrights Elizabeth Kuti and Jonathan Lichtenstein.

Our Centre for Creative Writing is part of a unique literary conservatoire that offers students the skills, support and confidence to respond artistically and critically to the study of writing with the guidance of experts.

Specialist facilities

  • Write for our student magazine Albert or host a Red Radio show
  • View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
  • Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading literature specialists at regular talks and readings
  • Our on-campus Lakeside Theatre has been established as a major venue for good drama, staging both productions by professional touring companies and a wealth of new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students
  • Improve your playwriting skills at our Lakeside Theatre Writers workshops
  • Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work which is being tried and tested

Your future

Many of our students have gone on to successfully publish their work, notable recent alumni including:

We also offer supervision for PhD, MPhil and MA by Dissertation in different literatures and various approaches to literature, covering most aspects of early modern and modern writing in English, plus a number of other languages.

Our University is one of only 11 AHRC-accredited Doctoral Training Centres in the UK. This means that we offer funded PhD studentships which also provide a range of research and training opportunities.

A number of our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies graduates have gone on to undertake successful careers as writers, and others are now established as scholars, university lecturers, teachers, publishers, publishers’ editors, journalists, arts administrators, theatre artistic directors, drama advisers, and translators.

We work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Are you ready for your dissertation? Examine a variety of research methods and methodologies, building the research skills and understanding needed to complete your postgraduate-level research project.

What inspires a writer? How do you develop your idea? What about plotting, character, structure and setting? Explore the general principles of developing a novel from initial inspiration to final draft. Undertake practical exercises to find out which writing methods best suit you and your ideas.

A new genre of literature has been emerging: moving between fiction, history, traveller's tales, and memoir, it explores the spirit of place. This tradition of “psychogeography” has been most vividly taken up and given a new contemporary twist by writers in the eastern stretches of England, in the work of writers such as Ronald Blythe, W.G. Sebald and Iain Sinclair. This module is concerned with writing on the landscape of this region – the ways the wilder reaches of Essex and Suffolk have been depicted – and allows you to develop your critical and creative writing about place. On field trips, we will have the chance to explore these literary landscapes and experience these worlds for ourselves.

Teaching

  • Five modules are followed over the autumn and spring terms, and generally consist of ten two-hour seminars
  • An emphasis on practice, experimenting with different techniques to produce work of your own
  • Seminars may include introductions by your tutor, presentations by you, and discussion based on a programme of reading
  • Visiting scholars are invited to speak about their research

Assessment

  • Four essays of 4,000-5,000 words, usually combining a creative piece and critical commentary
  • There is normally considerable freedom for you to choose the topics of your essays
  • A reflective piece on research methods

Dissertation

  • You produce a dissertation of approximately 20,000 words
  • This takes the form of a creative piece and a critical commentary

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

We will consider applications with an overall grade of 2:2 and above.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.5 in writing

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

Applying

You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

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