Postgraduate Course

MA American Literatures

MA American Literatures

Overview

The details
American Literatures
October 2018
Full-time
1 year
Colchester Campus

Gain a rich understanding of the variety and interconnections of American writing, exploring major poetic, fictional, non-fictional and dramatic works. American literature is topical and contemporary; Author Junot Díaz’s book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was declared the best novel of the 21st century (so far!). This is just one of the novels that you will have the opportunity to study on this course.

At Essex, we challenge the study of the United States as a territorially bound space by embracing an expanded conception of ‘America’, which explores the richness of U.S. and Caribbean literatures in dialogue. This allows you to formulate sophisticated analyses of the role of space and place in the production of American writing and identities.

You explore how cultural geography may be integrated into literary history, concentrating on American literatures topics including:

  • How violence and conflict have shaped writing across the American tropics
  • The difference between reality and the “American Dream”
  • Caribbean modernities and post-colonialism
  • US nationalism and regionalism in literature
  • African American literature

We are ranked among the top 200 departments in the QS World University Rankings (2018).

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

Why we're great.
  • Explore the variety and interconnections of US and Caribbean writing and dramatic works
  • Learn from expert teaching staff who publish extensively on US and Caribbean literatures
  • Discover innovative practical ways of engaging with texts including theatre visits and archival research

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.

This course reflects our longstanding strengths in the literatures and cultures of the Americas, particularly the US South and Caribbean regions. You are taught by leading area specialists who have researched and published extensively on Caribbean and US literatures:

  • Professor Maria Cristina Fumagalli has published widely on Caribbean literature and culture, including her recent book On the Edge: Writing the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
  • Dr Owen Robinson is a US literature specialist with particular interests in William Faulkner and the US South; forthcoming publications include Myriad City: Towards a Literary Geography of New Orleans
  • Dr Jak Peake has broad interests across Caribbean and US writing, with particular expertise in Trinidadian literature; forthcoming publications include Between the Bocas: A Literary Geography of Western Trinidad

We are an interdisciplinary department and our academic staff have expertise in literature, film theory and practice, drama, creative writing and journalism.

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.

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.

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.

Research Methods in Literary and Cultural Analysis

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.

View Research Methods in Literary and Cultural Analysis on our Module Directory

War, Violence and Conflict in the American Tropics

How does the literature of the American Tropics differ from the literary traditions of the US, Caribbean, or Latin America? How has it been shaped by the fighting between indigenous populations and its European and African settlers? Drawing on an unfolding research project by academics at Essex, this module takes a radically different approach to the study of literary history in the Americas by focusing on ‘place’ rather than language or the concept of ‘nation state’.

View War, Violence and Conflict in the American Tropics on our Module Directory

United States Nationalism and Regionalism

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 on our Module Directory

"There is a Continent Outside My Window" : United States and Caribbean Literatures in Dialogue

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.

View "There is a Continent Outside My Window" : United States and Caribbean Literatures in Dialogue on our Module Directory

Dissertation

Your dissertation is the culmination of your time at Essex. Focusing on one particular topic in great depth, you formulate an urgent research question to be subsequently addressed, either critically or creatively. Your dedicated supervisor will be on-hand to guide you through the process, and our pre-requisite module on research methods will ensure you are fully prepared for the task at hand.

View Dissertation on our Module Directory

The New Nature Writing (optional)

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 (optional) 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

Memory Maps: Practices in Psychogeography (optional)

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 (optional) on our Module Directory

Dramatic Structure (optional)

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.

View Dramatic Structure (optional) on our Module Directory

African American Literature (optional)

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.

View African American Literature (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

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

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 (optional) on our Module Directory

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

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee

£7,560

International fee

£16,225

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)

  • Saturday, June 23, 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

We want you to throw yourself in at the deep end, soak up life and make the most of those special Essex moments.

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.

 

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.

Two women looking at a PC screen
Ask us a question

Want to quiz us about your course? Got a question that just needs answering? Get in touch and we’ll do our best to email you back shortly.