UCL English


MA English: Issues in Modern Culture

Programme Convenor: Dr Matthew Sperling


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

The 2017/18 programme consists of three main units (Authors, Contexts, and a wide range of Options), and then 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, James Joyce, Jules Laforgue, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Elizabeth Bowen, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Willa Cather, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bishop, Ralph Ellison, Alfred Hitchcock,Sylvia Plath, Bob Dylan, Patricia Highsmith, Toni Morrison, Alan Hollinghurst, David Simon (The Wire), 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: Modernity and the City, Psychogeography, The Body and Technology, Class and the City, Mysterious Cities, The Harlem Renaissance, Hollywood Fiction, Queer Fictions and the City, Species of Spaces, and Catastrophe

Although the vast majority of students do take Contexts, it may be replaced with another 30 credit course taught elsewhere in UCL.

Click here for an indicative Contexts reading list.


During 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.

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

Options seminars for spring 2017 include: Cultures of Offence: Literature in a Liberal Age; Modern Sex; Contemporary Poetry; Inventions of Cinema; Global Anglophone Fiction; Afrofuturism

Options in previous years have included: 21st Century Fiction; Modernist Days (and Nights); Cultures of Chance: Accident, Error and Catastrophe in Literature from 1960; Marxist Aesthetics; Counterfeit Culture: Authenticity and Originality in American Literature; American Counter-Culture; Modernism and History; Arts in the Anthropocene; Post-War American Poetry; Joyce Amongst the Modernists; Detective Fictions. 

Each option will be worth 8.25% or 15 credits.

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. 

The Dissertation is a perfect preperation for students who wish to continue to doctoral study, but also works well for students who wish to complete a smaller stand-alone project.

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. This is, however, a 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 (or have majored) 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 28th July 2017, but we would encourage students to apply before this in order to ensure that places are still available. 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.

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, Dr Clare Stainthorp: c.stainthorp@ucl.ac.uk

Apply Online

A link to the application form, as well as more detailed information about entry requirements, can be found on this page: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught/degrees/english-issues-modern-culture-ma

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