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Modern Literature (MA, PG Dip, PG Cert)

The Modern Literature (MA) provides a theoretical framework for literary study before focusing on topic and genre-based modules. Our aim is to explore and understand the cultural developments of the past two hundred years and their impact on writing, first within Britain and then registering the increasing input of other Anglophone literatures.

Students can study for:

  • Modern Literature (MA)
  • Modern Literature (PG Dip)
  • Modern Literature (PG Cert)

The programme draws on the expertise of staff with specialist interests in Utopian and Dystopian Literature, Children’s Literature, Modernist Literature and Art, Gender; Contemporary Literature, and Narrative and Literary theories.


Students can study for:

  • Modern Literature (MA)
  • Modern Literature (PG Dip)
  • Modern Literature (PG Cert)

You can apply directly to the University using the Apply Now button at the top of the page. 

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Tuition Fees 2023/24:
Home: £7,800
Tuition Fees 2023/24:
Overseas (distance/online): £10,400
Fees are for the whole course.

Reasons to choose this course

  1. Non-traditional approach to literary studies by drawing in perspectives from, for example, anthropology or philosophy, sociology and education;
  2. Modules are underpinned by the research profiles and interests of staff;
  3. Module assessment is linked to enhancing the employability skills of graduates;
  4. Possibility to combine study and work through flexible, self-directed learning;
  5. All modules are supported by electronic means available through Moodle, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

What you will learn

Course Overview

The part-time distance Modern Literature (MA) moves away from a purely historical and period-based model of literary studies organised around a rump of canonical texts.

Underpinned by instruction in advanced research methods and skills and the comparative study of theoretically informed critical approaches, this MA enables students to develop a nuanced grasp of literature in English and associated aspects of culture in the period from 1790 to the present day.

Students on the MA complete four 30 credit modules in Part I of the course: three compulsory modules – Critical Theory and Bibliography; Shifting Times and Worlds: Modernism and After; and The Child in the Time: Representation of the Child in Modern Literature – and one further optional module, before proceeding to the 60 credit Dissertation in Part II.

Modules reflect staff expertise, for example, the utopian urge in the literature of the modern period or the cultural and intellectual history, philosophy and theology of medicine, body and soul, particularly anatomy.

Module Topics

Part I (PG Cert, PG Dip & MA)

Theoretical Approaches to Texts (15 credits; compulsory)

 This module looks to develop student’s awareness of the implications and possibilities of a wide range of theoretical positions and methodologies for their own reading and critical practise. Students will demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of developments in critical theories of interpretation and literary production, to then apply these theoretical concepts independently in the analysis of a range of texts.

Literary Research Methods and Approaches (15 credits; compulsory)

 This module aims to introduce students at a high level to aspects of the process of literary research scholarly editing and textual criticism. It encourages students to critically reflect upon the methodologies, principles and techniques of literary research, and show an advanced and sustained understanding of the roles of scholarly editing and textual ‘problems’.

Shifting Times & Worlds: Modernism & After (30 credits; compulsory Year A)

This module offers two parallel reading lists in which the writers are categorized by identity (gender, sexual orientation, and, often hybrid, nationality) as well as form. This shift in focus seeks to avoid any idea of a fixed canon of the ‘best’ and enable the students to have an informed choice in their textual study.

The Child in the Time: Representation of the Child in Modern Literature (30 credits; compulsory Year B)

This module examines the shifting nature of representing children within both adult and children’s texts. Again, this is a module that mirrors historical developments by tracing a wide variety of texts from the 19th Century to the contemporary. These include the realist novel, Victorian fairy tale fantasies, Golden Age children’s literature and the growing anxiety about the teenager post WW2 in Lord of the Flies and Chocky. The module also accommodates visual literacy by including picture books. The module title pays homage to Ian McEwan’s postmodern text exploring the construction and deconstruction of the figure of the child.

Utopias, Dystopias and the Functions of Fictions (30 credits; optional)

This module considers the nature of the utopian genre and how it relates to the novel. It mirrors the historical development of the novel but moves away from realism to introduce new, perhaps less well-known, texts. Its concern with the creation of other worlds accommodates an interest in fantasy while not downgrading intellectual questions.

Epic, Religion, and Philosophy: Spenser and Milton (30 credits; optional)

This module involves detailed and sustained study of two epic poems – Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. This involves consideration of their place in the development of the genre of epic and its imaginative re-creation in the Renaissance and early modern period. Students will analyse the set texts in terms of various ancient, Renaissance, early modern and modern criteria for defining the ‘epic kind’ of literature, in relation to and as integrating other modes or genres, as appropriate, such as allegory, romance, and lyric. Other earlier or contemporaneous literary texts (or extracts of texts) will be read for purposes of comparison and elucidation, including other poetic and prose works by Spenser and Milton.

Bodily Distempers and Passions of the Mind: Shakespeare and Donne (30 credits; optional)

The module will guide students in the scholarly exploration of the Renaissance and early modern representation of bodily, mental, ethical, and political disorder, by focusing the literary work William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and John Donne (1572-1631). Students will engage with writing in a variety of genres, including dramatic tragedy, the sermon, meditation, erotic love sonnet, religious sonnet, and other kinds of lyric. Additional literary and non-literary works by these and other contemporary writers will provide context and scope for comparison.

Celtic Arthur and the Mabinogion (30 credits; optional)

This module will introduce students to medieval Welsh prose via a detailed study of four native Welsh prose tales, Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi (the Four Branches of the Mabinogi) in translation. Having placed the legends within the wider context of the eleven Welsh tales, known collectively as the Mabinogi(on), and having surveyed the kind of prose texts available in Welsh in the Middle Ages, students will be introduced to the narrative content of the tales and consider issues relating to dating, manuscript transmission, authorship, literary motifs, style and structure.

To what extent is it possible to use linguistic and historical evidence to date the tales and is there any evidence to suggest that they belong to a pre-Christian past? What theories have been proposed regarding authorship of the Four Branches and to what extent do they betray Celtic and/or Norman influence? What is the relationship between the different branches and do they contain any evidence of lost traditions?

Students will consider their relationship to early Welsh poetry and medieval triads, as well as their Irish connections. The module will also focus on a number of research questions relating to stylistic features and the importance of oral transmission and performance and consideration will be given to the Mabinogi’s cultural legacy.

Building Small Worlds: The Short Story in English (30 credits; optional)

Part II (MA)

MA Dissertation (Modern Literature) (60 credits; compulsory)

The module assessments in Part 1 are designed to prepare students for the task of submitting a substantial research thesis as part of their Part 2 research portfolio.


The programmes assessment strategy consists of formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments aim to use the form of ‘spiral assessment’, encouraging students to revisit and implement standards that have been covered in previous modules. For example, theories introduced in the first theory module are revisited throughout all literature modules while ideas linking literary form to cultural and ideological change reappear in all the modules.

Within individual modules topics may be developed over the entire unit with linked assessments enabling feedback from the earlier tasks to inform later ones. The use of online discussion fora ensures professional self-reflexivity is embedded in all modules; it may be promoted further though specific assignments according to the focus of the module.

The module assessments in Part 1 are designed to prepare students for the task of submitting a substantial research thesis as part of their Part 2 research portfolio.

Some modules therefore use a standard assessment pattern consisting of one or two longer essays and a presentation. In some modules, student progress is assessed by using the portfolio format.

The portfolio offers flexibility in the assessment of professionally focused skills, both collaborative and personalised; the standard essay/presentation provides essential training in key skills by developing an eye for detail in both reading and writing, and promoting the development of complex argument. Each form plays a valuable role in nurturing the multiskilled and adaptable graduate.

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Key Information

Entry Criteria

Applicants are expected to have a good first degree (a first or upper second), although every application is considered in its own merit, so places may be offered on the basis of professional qualification and relevant experiences. Candidates with a lower degree classification or no degree may be admitted at Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma level, with an opportunity to upgrade to Master’s level if satisfactory progress is made.

Career Opportunities

The programme develops skills which are essential to any high-level graduate employment, such as administration, fundraising, policy making and management.

These are the abilities to engage with, assess and analyse complex information critically; to formulate and write clear and coherent arguments that respond to particular concerns and to present complex information to mixed (or at least varied) audiences.

The programme focus on debate and engagement with multiple perspectives is equally valuable. Such skills are essential to any of the professions that deal directly with people. These may include social work, probation services, mental health advocates.

Students who study this MA with a view to enhancing their career opportunities will benefit from module assessments that will focus on developing students’ listening and reflective skills, and the ability to articulate complex ideas in structured and succinct writing.

Additional Costs

Approximately £250–300 for literature.

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Bursary / Scholarship Information

You may be eligible for funding to help support your study. To find out about scholarships, bursaries and other funding opportunities that are available please visit our Scholarships and Bursaries section.


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Further Information

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions related to the University or to this course in particular.