MA English: Issues in Modern Culture

Please note: applications for 2016 will close on 29 July 2016.

Programme Convenor: Dr Julia Jordan


The English Department offers a one-year MA English degree, focusing on 'Issues in Modern Culture'.

The 2015/16 programme consists of three courses and a dissertation:


This course orchestrates close reading and discussions of some of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century British, French and American writers who most strikingly ‘made it new’.

Authors taught on this strand of the programme in the coming session will include: Gustave Flaubert, Walter Pater, Henry James, D.H. Lawrence, Jules Laforgue, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Samuel Beckett, Jean Rhys, Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Michel Houellebecq and David Foster Wallace.

This course is compulsory for all students enrolled in the Issues in Modern Culture MA.


This course, which is taught in the autumn term, explores the relationship between modern culture and the city from the 1860s to the present day. It does so by reading literature and other art forms (ranging from the high-brow to the popular) in the context of a broad range of societal, philosophical, and technological developments.

The following topics will be covered by the Contexts strand of the programme in the coming session: Baudelaire and Urban Forms, Epiphany and the Everyday, The American Scene, City Symphonies, Documenting the City, Suburbia, Filming New York, Graphic Cities, Psychogeography, Queer Fictions and the City.


For the third course (Options), taught in the Spring term, students will each choose two sets of seminars, each five weeks long. These options will explore specific periods, movements or thematic concerns of related works of literature or films.

These courses give students a thorough grounding in the skills needed for independent research. Emphasis is placed on the production of a dissertation in which students have extensive scope to develop their own individual research interests.

The department will offer six sets of Options in the spring term. Students on the MA Issues in Modern Culture may take two of these optional courses, which change every year.

Options seminars for spring 2016 include: 21st Century Fiction, Modernist Days (and Nights), Freud, Cultures of Chance: Accident, Error and Catastrophe in Literature from 1960, Marxist Aesthetics, and Counterfit Culture: Authenticity and Originality in American Literature.

Options in previous years have included: American Counter-Culture, Modernism and History, Arts in the Anthropocene, Modernism: Sex and Redemption, Post-War American Poetry, Joyce Amongst the Modernists, Detective Fictions. 

Each option will be worth 8.25% or 15 credits.

With permission of the course convenor, students may choose to replace Options with papers taught outside the Department.


The Dissertation is 12,000 words long. It is worth 60 credits, or 33% of the final mark. Students will be allotted a supervisor who will discuss their initial proposal. Students will receive two supervisions during the summer over which the dissertation is written.

Application requirements

Candidates for admission to the programme should normally have at least a good upper second-class honours BA degree in English, or its overseas equivalent. Applicants should be aware, however, that the majority of those accepted onto the course have a First Class Honours BA degree or its overseas equivalent. This is an popular course, and each year we are unfortunately forced to reject a number of well-qualified candidates.

Most students on the course have BA degrees in English, but we will also consider applicants holding a degree in another subject, although tutors will need to see obvious commitment to the study of English Literature and a strong academic background for these applicants to be successful.

Application Process

We receive most applications between January and March of the proposed year of entry. The deadline for applications to be completed is 29th July 2016. References should also have been uploaded by both referees before this deadline.

Candidates will be asked to provide transcripts of their academic record with their application, and the tutors will primarily be making decisions over whether or not an applicant is admitted on their previous academic achievements, their personal statement, and their references.

Applicants are not interviewed. Candidates are not required to enclose a writing sample with the initial application.

The programme begins in September. It extends over not less than one calendar year for full-time students and two calendar years for part-time students.

Part-Time Students

We welcome applications for part-time study of this course, as well as full-time. Part-time students take the Contexts and Options strands in their first year, and Authors in the second year. The dissertations of part-time students are submitted at the end of their second year.

Further Information

For further information about this course, or about anything else UCL-related, please email the Admissions and Postgraduate Administrator,

Apply Online

A link to the application from on the main UCL website can be found at the bottom of this page: