Postgraduate Course

MA Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment

MA Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment

Overview

The details
Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment
October 2019
Full-time
1 year
Colchester Campus

Essex is one of the oldest inhabited areas of the British Isles, a landscape shaped by human history. Our MA Wild Writing allows you to explore this landscape and the wilder landscapes of Britain, as well as those across the world, through a combination of science and literature modules. Our field trips take you outside the classroom, often in sun, sometimes in snow or rain. You gain an understanding of key environmental challenges while building your own ways of approaching writing about the wild: creative, critical, and scientific.

One of only five universities in the UK to offer a taught postgraduate course on literature and the environment, we are unique in our combination of modules on contemporary nature writing, ecocriticism, and psychogeographic literature.

Our full-year focus on writing about landscape, place, and the environment allows you the choice of focusing on developing your scholarly abilities through exploring ecocriticism, or on developing your creative writing practice about the natural world – or you can aim to advance both.

Your core modules cover topics including:

  • the emergent creative non-fiction genre exemplified by figures such as Robert Macfarlane, Kathleen Jamie, and Helen Macdonald
  • 19th – 21st century environmental poetry and prose
  • contemporary ecocriticism and environmental literature
  • psychogeography

An unusual collaboration between the departments of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies and Biological Sciences, we also offer you the opportunity to gain a greater scientific depth of knowledge about the natural world as you develop as a writer. You might want to explore the impacts and management of pollution or the ecology of fisheries.

You will explore the literature of landscape and the environment both within the seminar room and beyond, exploring the wild spaces of Essex and East Anglia through field trips that take you to wonderfully wild worlds in the company of leading experts. We visit inspiring areas including Mersea Island, Orford Ness, Tilbury, and the Norfolk Fens.

Why we're great.
  • Explore the emergent creative non-fiction genre, including work by Robert Macfarlane, Kathleen Jamie, and Helen Macdonald
  • Take your studies outside the classroom, exploring the wild spaces of Essex and East Anglia
  • Find out more by reading Wildeasters, a nature writing blog with contributions from current students and alumni
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

Teachers on the course include the internationally renowned ecocriticism scholar Dr Susan Oliver, who is a specialist in Romantic and 19th-century studies; the poet and nature writer Dr Chris McCully; and, environmental scholar and writer Professor Jules Pretty.

The MA Wild Writing is led by the writer Dr James Canton, who recently spoke on Radio 4’s ‘Open Country’ about the landscapes of Essex, and specialises in nature and travel writing.

Specialist facilities

  • Start to get some publications to your name by writing for our student nature writing blog Wildeasters
  • Access our archives – the University of Essex is home to the notebooks, diaries, maps, letters, and binoculars of J. A. Baker, author of the critically acclaimed The Peregrine (1967)
  • Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
  • Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading literature specialists at the Essex Book Festival – the festival director is based in our department, and loads of events take place on campus
  • Get involved onstage or behind the scenes at our on-campus Lakeside Theatre
  • Learn a language for free alongside your course

Your future

A number of our graduates from the MA Wild Writing have gone on to undertake successful careers as writers; others are practicing artists, scholars or environmentalists. One now works on climate change in Washington, another is a “wild practitioner” who work on the relation between nature and mental health and another now works for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police around Chesapeake Bay!

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

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, which means that we offer funded PhD studentships which also provide a range of research and training opportunities.

“I see the edge of the grey tarmac and every individual blade of grass, I see the hare leaping out of its hiding place, with its ears laid back and a curiously human expression on its face that was rigid with terror and strangely divided; and in its eyes, turning to look back as it fled and almost popping out of its head with fright, I see myself, become one with it.”

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, writing about a visit to Orford Ness – a site for one of the course field trips

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A mid 2.2 degree in Creative Writing, Theatre/Drama Studies, Literature, Film and Media Studies, Modern Languages and Art History.

Applications from students with a 2:2 or equivalent will be considered dependent on any relevant professional or voluntary experience, previous modules studied and/or personal statement.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here.Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language 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.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.

Structure

Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

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.

The New Nature Writing

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.

View The New Nature Writing on our Module Directory

Memory Maps: Practices in Psychogeography

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. This module usually involves a walking tour around Colchester where we will have the chance to explore these literary landscapes and experience these worlds for ourselves. Students will incur travel costs of approximately £2.50 for this trip.

View Memory Maps: Practices in Psychogeography on our Module Directory

Literature and the Environmental Imagination: 19th to 21st Century Poetry and Prose

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.

View Literature and the Environmental Imagination: 19th to 21st Century Poetry and Prose on our Module Directory

Writing the Novel (optional)

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.

View Writing the Novel (optional) on our Module Directory

United States Nationalism and Regionalism (optional)

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.

View United States Nationalism and Regionalism (optional) on our Module Directory

Creative Writing Workshop (optional)

Editing and redrafting is a crucial part of the writing process, but can often feel like the most difficult phase. This participatory workshop is your opportunity to receive peer-to-peer feedback on your work, in a mutually supportive and friendly environment. You work alongside colleagues to develop creative best practice, and learn how to provide constructive comments on features such as form, voice, and distance.

View Creative Writing Workshop (optional) on our Module Directory

Writing Magic (optional)

Magic and writing have a close association, in terms of subject, structure and in the creation of literature itself. Magic is a 'pretended' or 'hidden principle', which uses the supernatural and works in the same way as mythic or metaphorical literary writing in seeking to reveal hidden connections and truths. The history of magic, both as a subject for writing, with its colourful characters and events, and in its use of ritual and archetype and with its themes of transformation, offers many possibilities for writing and creativity in theory and practical application.

View Writing Magic (optional) on our Module Directory

Consumption, political economy and sustainability (optional)

Does shopping change the world? Can you make a difference by choosing more sustainable options as a consumer? These are key questions that you will be able to answer after completing this module. Examine the systems through which many of the everyday goods you enjoy are produced, circulated and consumed, explore how commodities are provisioned within a global society, and consider the possibilities and complexities of transitioning towards a more sustainable market.

View Consumption, political economy and sustainability (optional) on our Module Directory

Colonialism, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights (optional)

How has colonialism created human rights problems, now and in the past? And what part did mandates for free markets, industrialism and state sovereignty play? Study thinkers like Cesaire, Fanon, Arendt, Agamben and Taussig. Discuss specific international situations like Palestine, forced removal of Aboriginal children and the war on terror.

View Colonialism, Cultural Diversity and Human Rights (optional) on our Module Directory

Teaching

  • An emphasis on practice, going outside of the classroom where possible
  • Field trips to the local area
  • Visits from the authors you are studying
  • Seminars may include introductions by your tutor, presentations by you, and discussion based on a programme of reading
  • Training in research skills in the social sciences including practical work in computer labs

Assessment

  • Literature modules assessed by essays of 4,000-5,000 words, usually combining a creative piece and critical commentary
  • Sociology modules include assessed coursework

Dissertation

  • You produce a dissertation of approximately 12,000 words
  • This takes the form either of a critical essay, or a creative piece with an accompanying critical commentary

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee

£7,940

International fee

£17,040

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold 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.

2018 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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.

If you are applying to a masters course in the department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies you must provide a piece of critical academic writing (2,500 words) on a topic relevant to your application.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to over 13,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

 

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.

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of 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. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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