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MA Literature

Why we're great

  • Explore an extensive range of world literature across time, geography and genre
  • Join a diverse network of distinguished alumni including Nobel Prize and Booker Prize winners
  • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society and our Myth Reading Group

Course options2016-17

MA Literature Full-time

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

Part-time

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 department offers a distinctively comparative approach to the study of literature; at Essex you don’t just study English literature, you study world literature in English. You explore literature across time, geography, and genre, combining scholarly research with innovative, practical ways of engaging with texts.

You grapple with the challenges of conducting research into Shakespeare and other early modern literature, acquiring specialist skills in archival research, palaeography, and the study of rare and antiquated books. You study materials on 18th century drama and literature, visiting the UK’s only surviving Regency Theatre to investigate how architecture affected the content of drama, and how drama reflected Georgian society. You have the opportunity to explore the history of genres such as the novel and lyric poetry, and study a truly extensive range of work; your reading takes you from African American literature, through Caribbean literatures, to the literature and performance of New York, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow and London.

Our department is 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.

Our expert staff

At Essex, we have an impressive literary legacy. Our history comprises staff (and students) who have been Nobel Prize winners, Booker Prize winners, and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Our Department is a vibrant conservatoire of scholars and practitioners who are committed to unlocking creative personal responses to literature. This distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning novelists, poets and playwrights, as well as leading literature specialists.

Our academic staff specialise in a range of areas including modernism, comparative and world literature, Shakespeare, the Renaissance, modernism, travel writing, nature writing, translated literature, cultural geography, Irish and Scottish writing, U.S. and Caribbean literatures, and the history of reading.

Specialist facilities

  • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at our department’s Myth Reading Group
  • 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
  • Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
  • 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 and performance skills at our Lakeside Theatre Workshops
  • Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work which is being tried and tested

Your future

A good literature degree opens many doors.

We 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 research skills are needed to analyse eighteenth-century literature? How did Georgian theatre architecture affect Romantic drama? Study in situ (at The Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, the UK’s only surviving Regency theatre). Learn the cultural, historical and social contexts and theories relevant to eighteenth-century literature and drama.

What are the challenges when researching Shakespeare? What about other early-modern literature? Explore major critical approaches linked to key Shakespeare texts. Gain in-depth knowledge of works, their contexts and critical achievements. Build your own research skills, with training in archival research alongside mastering of a range of resources.

On this module, you approach writing about the natural world through a series of three-week units on subjects such as trees, marshes, coasts, and birds. Each unit will begin with a focus on the local – the wild east of Essex and Suffolk – before moving outwards to larger perspectives. Several of the units will involve field trips led by the writers being studied, which will include such figures as Richard Mabey and Robert Macfarlane.

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.

Want to write your own stage plays? Have an idea of a screenplay? Learn about the range of contemporary plays and possibilities that exist within contemporary drama. Develop your own work, discussing topics like dialogue, construction of plot and structure of scenes within a supportive and creative environment.

How have relations between literature and film changed over the years? Is it a hostile relationship or mutually enriching? How have they adapted to each other? Study the relationship between literature and film from the nineteenth-century to today, where books, movies and comics continually feed off and into each other.

What do we mean by documentary? How does documentary feed into our ongoing fascination with reality? Examine non-fiction films and more recent hybrids, such as mockumentaries, reality TV and real-life programming. Examine avant-garde filmmaking approaches in relation to how we perceive and question reality and real-life stories.

Want to produce fiction films? Eager for hands-on experience, plus an understanding of the theoretical concepts? Our script-to-screen module covers conceptual research, script development, visual language and practical realisation. Work on a group film, receiving technical training on auditioning and directing, lighting for camera, art direction and film editing.

Want to work in film? Keen to perfect your technical skills? Want to understand the business of film production? Attend master classes by industry professionals that focus on the craft of filmmaking. Develop your technical knowledge of cinematography, directing and editing/postproduction. Realise where you want to be in the industry.

How can a nation reach its potential if it will not think of itself as new, independent and important? Study major writers from the nineteenth century onwards. Explore the development of US nationalism and literature. Examine the development of regionalism. Understand how these processes relate to wider transnational considerations.

How has African-American writing shaped US culture? And how has it often been at the forefront of literary experiment? Examine fiction and poetry that moved the African-American experience from the literary margins to cultural prominence. Understand literary developments, and how these link to broader historical, social and theoretical changes.

Why do we traditionally identify North America and Europe as modern? And then see the Caribbean or Africa as non-modern? Investigate American literature more broadly, gaining knowledge of the crucial (but often neglected) interconnections between Caribbean and North American history. Rethink the “American” paradigm and modernity creatively and critically.

How do US writers imagine and represent the Caribbean? And vice versa? Deepen knowledge of American literature by examining poetic, fictional, nonfictional and dramatic works in a broader context. Investigate contemporary issues like the American Dream, what it means to be from the Americas, migration, and the question of language.

Wilderness. Activism. Extinction. What is the relationship between literature and the environment, and how has it changed over time? How does imaginative thought connect with scientific understanding? Study leading environmental theorists alongside literary works from the Romantic period to postmodernity, while optional film screenings enhance your study of written texts.

Teaching

  • Five modules are followed over the autumn and spring terms, and generally consist of ten two-hour seminars
  • Innovative, practical ways of engaging with texts include visits to theatres and archival research
  • 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
  • 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) written between April and September

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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.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.