This course can be taken over one year, full-time (September to September) and part-time over two to three years.
All taught modules are assessed by written work. Tutors provide feedback on practice exercises as preparation, and detailed comments on assignments.
Towards the end of your studies, you will complete a supervised dissertation. The MA dissertation is your chance to push yourself that little bit further. By now you’ll have read a lot and written a lot of and you’ll have some sense of the writer you want to be. The dissertation is where you bundle together your skills and experience, add in the influence of your favourite writers, and let your ambition drive things forward. You will work independently and will meet your supervisor in person for four individual sessions. You could write a pamphlet-length set of poems, or an extended story or group of stories. Or you could try something experimental that stretches the conventions of literary genre.
You take the following typical creative writing modules:
Creative Writing Conventions and Techniques
You are encouraged to develop your own creative practice through an examination of a range of ideas and techniques. You will develop your creative writing skills through activities, including group discussions, exercises and workshops. Matters such as reviews, publication, public readings, and the teaching of creative writing may be included as ways of examining the context of creative practice. You will learn how to incorporate the responses of others into their revisions, develop a more productive writing process, and become better editors of their own work. The assessment consists of either a portfolio of prose or poetry, or a combination of the two, as well as a critical essay.
Writing Workshop: Fiction
This module looks at the skills and techniques of contemporary short story writing. Through an exploration of structure, technique, and methodology, students examine a range of international fiction from a writer's perspective, with an emphasis on craft. Each week you will respond creatively to set tasks and critical readings, building up both their confidence and ability in terms of short story writing. The assessment consists of a portfolio of short stories and a critical essay.
Learning to Read: criticism for creative writers
In this module, students will develop skills in reading and writing critically as a creative writer. The aim of the module is to enable students to reflect and analyse the technique and craft being employed in their own and others’ creative writing, as well as how those texts may be articulated through literary, theoretical, personal, and cultural contexts. We will explore a wide range of texts, including hybrid forms such as the creative-critical essay, the poem-essay, and art-writing. The assessment will consist of a creative exercise and a critical essay.
Writing Workshop: Poetry
This module is designed to make students familiar both with the craft and practice of using some common poetic conventions, and with the contexts in which poetry is published and read. You will benefit from lecture-style input, group discussion, and a workshop during which they will share and discuss their draft poems. You will be supported in your craft and encouraged to work towards submitting your work for publication. The assessment consists of a portfolio of poems and a critical essay.
Practice and Practitioners
This module investigates the relationship between the writer and creative industries. It aims to expand students’ awareness of the professional and practical contexts of their own writing, as well as between the published text and potential audience. We will focus on a range of activities in the field of publication and production of creative writing. Students will have the opportunity to explore the role of institutions and practitioners by engaging with emerging and established writers, publishers, booksellers, editors, producers, and literary event organisers. The assessment will consist of a either a portfolio of prose or poetry, or a combination of the two, as well as a critical essay.
You then choose modules offered by the School of English from the following representative list:
Drama and Creative Writing
Learning to Publish: Contemporary Forms and Practices
This module is designed to introduce students to the broad publishing landscape, including: journals, small presses, online writing and social media. Students will explore the landscape of contemporary literary journals both offline and online, and study the practical skills needed to research, write, edit and publish writing across a range of forms and platforms. The module will be structured around practical work in support of The Letters Page literary journal, and will be a mixture of lecture-style content on relevant topics and practical writing workshops.
Shakespeare: Text, Stage, Screen
This module offers students the opportunity to explore the fluidity and interpretive possibilities of the Shakespeare work and text across multiple genres. Built around three theatre trips, this module will go into depth on three plays, looking at their literary interest (from book history and sources to thematic concerns and characterisation) and their performative possibilities, including in at least one stage and one screen adaptation of those plays. By approaching the plays from multiple angles, students will be able to consider the varied potential for reinterpretation and recreation that each text offers.
Students will build on seminar explorations (taught by a rotating team of tutors) to develop their own project question about the interpretive possibilities opened up by each take, and the choices made by specific interpreters of the text. Projects will be developed in consultation with tutors to take into account the interplay of performance and text.
Riotous Performance: Drama and Disruption
This module allows you to engage with a range of modern drama, all themed around the idea of riot.
This module explores the phenomenon of the riot, examining both how such a notion is defined and how it might relate to other kinds of western performance event. In particular, the module asks students to analyse the way that riots have both been triggered by, and represented in, an assortment of other performances, and students will be encouraged to compare and contrast material from a range of different chronological periods and across a range of different genres.
Although the module is largely focused upon dramatic texts, it will allow students the opportunity to consider an assortment of other performance events, as we analyse the drama of Synge and O’Casey, the ballet of Stravinsky and Nijinsky, and the performance poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson.
Cognition and Literature
This module represents a course in cognitive poetics. It draws on insights developed in cognitive science, especially in psychology and linguistics, in order to develop an understanding of the processes involved in literary reading. The module also develops skills in stylistics and critical theory.
Consciousness in Fiction
The module will explore in depth techniques for the presentation of consciousness in novels and other fictional texts. You will learn about the linguistic indices associated with the point of view of characters and the various modes available to a writer for the presentation of characters’ thoughts and perceptions. Alongside detailed examinations of narrative texts which portray consciousness, students will also study different theories put forward to explain the nature of writing consciousness in texts. Our stylistic analyses of fictional minds will also aim to account for historical changes in the techniques used for consciousness presentation.
This module explores the relationship between language and drama. Taking a multi-faceted approach, drawing on facets of linguistic analysis from stylistics, discourse analysis and sociolinguistics, the module considers the role of language in moving dramatic scripts from page to stage, exploring aspects of characterisation (such as identity, power and provocation), the role of language in story-telling on stage and the 'management' of performance through stage directions. Working with a range of texts from the early modern period to the present day, the module investigates the role of language in shaping character, dialogue, interaction, and staging.
Research in Literary Linguistics
This module explores the use of linguistic frameworks to investigate literary texts. Through a series of practical analyses, you will be introduced to a range of linguistic explorations of poetry, prose, and drama from a wide range of historical periods. The module will invite you to use the analyses as an occasion for the critical evaluation of the various approaches to language and literature, to investigate the notions of literariness and interpretation, and to consider the scope and validity of stylistics in relation to literature and literary studies. The range of key research methods and methodologies in stylistics will be studied.
It has often been suggested that the very idea of literary history – of a narrative that understands, classifies, and explains, the English literary past – is an inherent impossibility. The relationship between literature and the history of the time of its creation is an equally vexed and productive question. This module will look at the various ways in which literature in the last few centuries has combined with the study of history, with significant changes in the ways in which works of the past are viewed, and also how histories of literature began to be constructed (a history of literary histories, so to speak) paying attention to such questions as the development of the literary canon, periodicity, inclusions and exclusions, rediscoveries, and lack of representation. It will also look at the ways in which literary biography, autobiography and life-writing relate to the creation of literary histories. This will be a team-taught module, introducing key topics in the area and apply them to a variety of types of literature from different historical periods, and the myriad critical ways in which such literature has been viewed, retrospectively.
Modernism and the Avant-Garde in Literature & Drama
This module will investigate radical strategies of aesthetic presentation and the challenge they offered to prevailing limits of personal, gender and national identity between 1870 and 1960. Through a selection of key literary, dramatic, cultural, and critical texts, the module will examine ways that modernist and avant-garde writings draw their formal, generic and political borders, how they reconfigure ideas of the self, and what the political consequences of that reconfiguration are. The module will also consider the multiple meanings of 'radicalism' in an aesthetic and literary context, relating those meanings to questions of taste, community, and the market. This will be a team-taught module which examines a wide spectrum of literature and drama, including the era's cultural criticism and more recent critical and theoretical studies.
Textualities: Defining, Making and Using Text
This module investigates the ways issues in modern editorial theory—the nature of authorship, what constitutes an ‘authoritative’ text, and the inevitably embodied nature of textuality—illuminates our understanding of literary creativity. You will explore how modern editors describe and theorise the textual transmission of a range of works, drawn from a variety of periods, places and forms. They will examine different concepts of textuality—including copy-texts, plural or ‘mobile’ texts, and digital texts—and different theories of text-editing, such as ‘first’ and ‘final’ intention editing, ‘social’ and ‘eclectic’ texts, and genetic editing. You will explore how theories of literary creativity are embedded in editorial practices, and so, therefore, how editorial treatment determines the ways we ascribe identity and value to texts. Students of all literary periods will gain a detailed understanding of how literary texts are produced, and why some versions of well-known literary works take precedence over others. Creative writers will appreciate how the editorial process—which may include the choice of illustrations, type-faces, cover designs, and the imposition of a house-style, be that paper-based or digital, as well as changes to the text itself—affects how readers engage with a work, and ultimately how they value it.
You will be expected to reflect on editorial practice as they have encountered it, and also to undertake practice themselves.
History of the Book 1200-1600
This module introduces the study of the book as artefact. You will learn about methods of construction and compilation, handwriting and early printing techniques, reading marginalia as well as text; you will also be introduced to the benefits and applications, as well as the problems, of applying an understanding of the artefact to the texts contained within.
Middle English Romance
This module considers 21st century historicized readings of a major English literary genre, and demonstrates that medieval English romance texts can be set in complex and profound critical relationship to each other and to other artistic media. Such an approach is possible largely because of the vibrant and privileged international socio-literary milieu in which many romance tracts were first written and received. You will be encouraged to explore how reading Middle English romance texts can equip us with vocabulary and concepts to discuss the cultural specificities of the literary representations of romance, love and chivalry in this period, the representations of public and private identities, and the questions regarding individuality and selfhood that arise in literature produced in a volatile period of religious and social uncertainty and dissent. These are all issues that now define “the Middle Ages” for modern scholars.
Students take the dissertation in creative writing which is a major piece of advanced independent work alongside a critical essay, under the supervision of a specialist in their chosen genre.
Professional Development modules
All students will take one of the following two modules:
Research Methods: The Laboratory of the Arts
This module builds on the research skills that students will have already developed during their undergraduate degrees and on discipline-specific MA modules. The emphasis in this module is both on ensuring students are possessed of a whole range of practical ways to approach research, and on making students think about the nature of their discipline-specific approaches within a context of growing interdisciplinarity. Students will have the chance to consider topics as varied as academic publishing, digital transformations, and the use of illustrations in dissertations. They will also have the opportunity to hear academics from across the Faculty talk about the problems they have confronted and how they overcame them. The module's primary goal is to engender both confidence in dealing with original research, and a recognition of the huge range of approaches that can be used to address research questions.
Arts in Society
The aim of the module is to prepare students for applying their arts MA across society to enhance their careers and to contribute to wider society. It will demonstrate how the arts can be used to transform society, politics and culture but also to enhance the careers of arts and humanities MA students. Students will be able to explore, explain and then detail how their disciplinary skills can impact upon wider issues to emphasise the applicability of the arts and humanities. From the role of the scholar activist to understanding ‘knowledge transfer’ and ‘public engagement’, the module will support the development of professional skills in preparation for careers within academia or across a range of employment sectors. Students will harness the ways in which the arts and humanities enable us to think differently and to innovate. As such, students will be able to work on issues of research, networking, grant-writing and cultural exchange. Students will also learn how to engage, communicate and create.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.