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MA English: Issues in Modern Culture

Programme Convenor: Dr Matthew Sperling

Photo grid of 15 authors who are taught on this programme. See information below regarding authors covered.

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

The 2018/19 programme consists of four taught units (Authors, Contexts, and a wide range of Options of which you choose two), and then a dissertation.

Authors

This course orchestrates close reading and discussions of some of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers who most strikingly ‘made it new’. The Contexts course is taught through seminars and it is assessed by a take-home exam consisting of two 2500 word essays, which takes place during the first week of the summer term.

Authors taught on this strand of the programme in the most recent session included: Walter Pater, Henry James, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Willa Cather, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bishop, Alfred Hitchcock, Patricia Highsmith, Chinua Achebe, Bob Dylan, Sylvia Plath, Maxine Hong Kingston, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Bill Manhire, Alan Hollinghurst, and Alison Bechdel.

This 60-credit course is compulsory for all students enrolled in the Issues in Modern Culture MA.

Contexts

Photo grid of images related to texts taught on this programme. See information below regarding topics covered.

This course, which is taught in seminars during 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. It is assessed by a 6000 word essay submitted in the spring term.

The following topics were covered by the Contexts strand of the programme in the most recent session: Modernity and the City; Underworlds; City Symphonies; Blackness and the City; Class and the City; Abstract Expressionism; Filming New York; Queer Fictions and the City; TV and the City; Domestic Space.

Click here for an indicative Contexts reading list.

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

Options

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. Each option is assessed by a 4000 word essay submitted towards the end of the summer term.

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.

The Options seminars for spring 2019 are:

  • Complicated Feelings
  • Chance and the Avant Garde
  • Queer Literature, Queer Theories
  • The American Counterculture
  • Inventions of Cinema
  • Cultures of Offence

Options in previous years have included: Marxist Aesthetics; Contemporary Poetry; Global Anglophone Fiction; History and Fantasy; 21st Century Fiction; Modern Sex; Modernist Days (and Nights); Counterfeit Culture: Authenticity and Originality in American Literature; Modernism and History; Post-War American Poetry; Joyce Amongst the Modernists; Detective Fictions.

Each option is worth 15 credits (8.25% of the MA programme).

Students may choose to replace Options with papers taught in another department with the Arts and Humanities Faculty at UCL.

Dissertation

The Dissertation is 12,000 words long. It is worth 60 credits (33% of the final mark) and is submitted at the end of August. Students will be allotted a supervisor who will discuss their initial proposal and read a small quantity of work in draft form. 

The independent research and writing undertaken for the dissertation provide the opportunity for students to complete a stand-alone project and entails excellent preparation for students who wish to continue on to doctoral study.

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.

Programme Breakdown

This MA programme is a 180 credit course. Overall, the dissertation is worth 1/3 of your final mark, the Authors take-home exam is worth another 1/3, and the course essays for Contexts and Options make up the final 1/3 of the final degree classification.

A pie chart showing the breakdown of the MA English: Issues in Modern Culture degree programme by module. Total 180 credits: Authors 60; Contexts 30; Options One 15; Options Two 15, Dissertation 60.

 

Application Requirements

Candidates for admission to the programme should have at least a good upper second-class honours BA degree in English, or its overseas equivalent, and most successful candidates will have achieved first-class grades in relevant undergraduate modules. Please note that this is an extremely 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. In these cases 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 5pm on 29 June 2019 but we would encourage students to apply before this in order to ensure that places are still available.

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 reference. Your personal statement should be a maximum of two A4 pages and demonstrate clearly why you wish to undertake this specific programme of study.

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

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 the prospectus page.