MA American Studies

"The intellectually rigorous seminars, the vibrant student body and the incredibly brilliant and dedicated faculty have continually challenged me to think between and beyond disciplines"

In their words

Alexis Acciani, MA American Studies Graduate.

We have one of the largest concentrations of American studies scholars in the country, covering the entirety of the field. Our work offers new perspectives on some of the classic questions in this subject.

This MA provides you with a great opportunity to become embedded in the research culture of a leading department of American studies and to push the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary boundaries of the field. Our course is organised thematically, covering race, gender and civil liberties, American regions and environments, landscapes and cityscapes, and popular culture and the avant-garde. Your studies will equip you with the methodological training you need to pursue your interest in America from different disciplinary perspectives.

This course is designed to develop your critical abilities and ensure you receive the rigorous preparation needed for future employment or doctoral research.


American studies as a discipline began with a question: what is it that makes the United States so very different from the rest of the world? In other words, what makes it an ‘exceptional’ nation? Scholars of literature, of history, of the American political system, of anthropology and sociology have grappled with that question to create a dynamic, interdisciplinary field – in which scholars today share perspectives, methods and theories in a rich intellectual exchange. 

On this course you will explore the events and forces that shaped the United States, and gain a deeper understanding of how this powerful nation moulds and influences the cultural, political and economic lives of its own peoples and the world. You will be taught through a complementary mix of seminar classes – engaging you in debate and creative discussion about the subject’s rich heritage and current critical issues in the field – and academic tutorials, allowing you to define your research specialisms and tailor your own learning.

If your background is in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary American studies, we can support you as you continue to specialise in this vibrant field and find exciting new areas to pursue. If you’re a graduate of literature or history, or another discipline, we will not only provide a place to explore the United States in depth, but offer new theoretical and conceptual perspectives that can enliven your existing scholarship.

Course structure

This course is designed to build on your undergraduate training so that you develop exceptionally high levels of theoretical understanding and knowledge of American thought, culture and politics. All teaching is conducted in small seminar groups, giving you the opportunity to engage fully with your own ideas and those of others.

This broad-ranging programme combines the study of cultural theory, literature, film, history and politics. You will take the team-taught modules Race and Resistance; Democracy and Dissent; American Word and Image; and Good Good Girls and Good Good Boys? American Fictions of Innocence. These are underpinned by a module that introduces you to both the field of American Studies, and to research practices and interests shared by the American Studies faculty. You will also have a free choice module. 

You will then write a dissertation of 15,000–20,000 words over the summer, for submission in September. We encourage you to select topics that have stimulated your interest over the course of the year. You will be allocated a supervisor whose expertise and interests match your chosen project, so that you receive intensive one-on-one guidance and mentoring.

Skills and experience

As a postgraduate student you will be part of a vibrant research community that brings faculty and students together regularly. You’ll participate in our research seminars, where distinguished scholars from the UK, USA and elsewhere present their research for discussion with the UEA American Studies research community. You will be encouraged to present your work in this supportive environment, where you can critically engage in scholarly debates. You’ll also develop your research and professional skills through sessions organised by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities Graduate School.

Our research centre, the Arthur Miller Institute, promotes the study of America throughout Europe. The Institute organises an annual International Literary Festival, which has brought major writers from around the world to UEA, including Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Andrea Levy, Richard Ford, Toni Morrison, Stephen Fry, Germaine Greer, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Jay McInerney.


There is no written examination; you will be assessed on the basis of coursework (essays and sometimes class presentations) and your dissertation. The dissertation counts for a third of your total marks.

Course tutors and research interests

We have three distinct thematic areas of research strength, covering the critical issues in American studies today: race, gender and civil liberties; the American environment, places and spaces; and popular culture and the avant-garde.

Our research crosses disciplinary boundaries and brings together the varied expertise of our academic staff, who are all active researchers in the field. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework assessment we came fifth in the UK, with 74% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent (REF2014).

Where next? 

You could follow our graduates into successful careers in a range of sectors, including higher education, teaching, advertising, publishing, arts administration and the media. As a postgraduate student, you will be offered a variety of workshops and sessions focused on career development.

This course is also available on a part time basis.

Course Modules 2018/9

Students must study the following modules for 160 credits:

Name Code Credits


This Core Autumn module will introduce you to key theories in American Studies. As American Studies is an interdisciplinary field, we require you to familiarise yourself with foundational concepts in the field through the taught aspect of this module. Along with this, you will have a unique opportunity to conduct your own research work alongside scholars in American Studies at UEA and to deepen your engagement with and participate in our research culture. Thematically, the research specialities in American Studies at UEA cluster around three key areas: race, gender and civil liberties; environment, space and place; and popular culture and the Avant-Garde. We work within the interdisciplinary tradition of American Studies as well as being engaged with traditional disciplines of history and literature. You will have advanced research-tutorials with American Studies faculty across the semester to enable a tailored teaching experience based upon these research specialisms.




Students are required to write a dissertation of a length as specified in their MA Course Guide on a topic approved by the Course Director or other authorised person.



American Word And Image, Post-1945

American culture is powerfully visual. From the 'eyes of the world' judging Winthrop's City upon a Hill and Emerson's 'transparent eyeball' to advertising, art, TV and movies America is a culture of the image. But how do we read such a culture? This team-taught module examines the fecund intersection of word and image in post-war American literary texts, visual art, and popular culture in order to explore ways of reading postmodern America. You will cover key phases, figures and texts of late twentieth-century American writing (poetry, comics, autobiography) in conjunction with contemporaneous art practices (Abstract Expressionism, Performance Art, Conceptualism, and Pop art). You will examine works that challenge the historic separation of visual and verbal, instead reading poetry, illustrated texts, artists' books, philosophy, conceptual art, painting, comic books, photography, digital media, installations and exhibitions as places where images and texts meet and are mutually enhanced. You will learn about, and critically negotiate, key philosophical, literary, art historical, and art critical debates concerning post-modernity and post-war visual art in order to assess the powerful sway of word and image on America's imagining of itself in the late Twentieth Century. The overall aim is to investigate how correspondences between verbal and visual disciplines and practices affect both constructions of and reflections on modern American experience. This is taught in a number of two-week-long units with regular round-up sessions for the teaching team and you to consolidate and develop overarching themes and issues.



Democracy and Dissent

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." (Winston Churchill) "Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? # Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine." (Henry David Thoreau) "America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel." (Allen Ginsberg) Democracy is both a mode to be celebrated, but also at times resisted. It is a process for ensuring equality and freedom, but also an overbearing 'machine' devouring individuality. Dissent is built into the very fabric of the US from the Puritan 'errand', through the Revolution, 'civil disobedience' and up to 60s draft resistance and more recently to the Tea Party, and Occupy movements. This module will explore the nature and practice of democracy in the US and the ways in which it develops through dissent.




Oscar Wilde wrote that 'The youth of America is their oldest tradition; it has been going on now for three hundred years'. Is this true? If so, why? This module aims to account for the preoccupation with youth in America, focusing particularly on the concept of 'innocence'. Drawing on a wide array of fictional and theoretical works, you'll consider the following questions: What is at stake in America's investment in innocence? What power interests and ideologies are maintained by repeatedly describing America as 'innocent'? How is this investment in innocence revised in different historical moments? How is it challenged? How is innocence (and loss of innocence) depicted differently for female, male, white and non-white protagonists? At the end of this module, you'll have had the opportunity to reflect on these questions in seminars, and pursued your own interests in assessed work (presentation and essay). You will also have developed your communication, writing and research skills.




"Where there is power, there is resistance" (Foucault). What forms resistance to oppression might have taken however, and indeed, what counts as resistance, are at the heart of this module. Your module is about theories of race and strategies of resistance within the Americas. Interdisciplinary and team-taught, it begins with the premise that the ideology of white racial dominance continues to subordinate American peoples of colour. You will then examine a range of forms and strategies of resistance, from covert and overt forms under the slave system, to the response of indigenous peoples to the overt power of the State, to the struggle for civil rights during the 20th century. You will consider particular case studies each week drawn from the teaching team's research areas. You will develop a deeper critical understanding of conceptual terms associated with race and resistance. You will be asked to think comparatively, reflecting on different forms of resistance and the differing methodologies used to analyse it. The interdisciplinary nature of your module means you will benefit from a range of expertise and disciplines (intellectually and methodologically). Your module will enable you to understand how history, literature and studies can be put in dialogue with each other around the same overarching theme. You will learn through seminars, tutorials, and self-directed study. The focus of the week's discussion will center around questions you've developed from the set-reading and your own additional resources if applicable. You'll be assessed through coursework with various workshops and tutorials to guide you in developing this. You will develop knowledge and skills to enable you to take forward either to further study or in your chosen career. Aside from honing your research, writing, and presentation skills, you'll also develop your communication and leadership skills. Growing intellectually through the weekly small-group discussions, you'll also meet each other outside of the context of the seminar for further discussions around a set task.



Students will select 20 credits from the following modules:

Name Code Credits


This module will use case studies of Southeast Asia, Central America and the Middle East to explore the reasons for American interventions and to assess their success or failure. It will offer an historical understanding of the assumptions and practices which lie behind contemporary US foreign policy-making. The module will introduce students to the institutions and processes involved in the making of American foreign policy.




Various attempts at (sub-)categorising contemporary fiction interpret it as a departure from previous aesthetics or a response to political or historical events or movements: post-modern; post-colonial; post-feminist; post-communist; post-9/11; post-millenial; post-national; even post-post-modern etc. As a prefix, "post-" suggests supersedence rather than novelty; at worst it is merely an aspirational syllable. Its proliferation co-exists with more conventional attempts at temporal taxonomy such as monographs and student guides dedicated to specific decades. One way of reading "post"-something-or-other is to think of it as an engagement with, and critical reassessment of, the past it so assiduously hyphenates: its literary conventions, cultural heritage, philosophical traditions, political ideologies, and - paradoxically - its long shadows way beyond the present moment. The manifestations of these engagements and reassessments can be rather contradictory. The memory boom of the 1990s put paid to claims about "the end of history" or skepticism over Grand Narratives. The renewed popularity of the (neo)historical novel and period drama also chafes against the recent turn towards trauma studies. The effects of new market forces, media and digital technology on the form of writing and the construction of the "author" could also be seen as one of the legacies of modernism. A focus on mindfulness, ethics and affect sits uneasily alongside the necessity for art to provoke and push boundaries. Expressions of the regional contend with an increasing awareness of transnational subjects, diasporic identities and global issues, and some of the most interesting writing today comes from 'the East' or writers with hybrid origins and hyphenated identities. Can fiction still be formally inventive and how might it enter into dialogue with other art forms (photography, sculpture, painting, cinema)? In the light of the critical and commercial success of 'creative non-fiction' we might also want to ask precisely how narrative can perforate disciplinary and generic categories. On this module we will attempt to construct a (naturally provisional, selective and incomplete) genealogy of the contemporary by examining some of the discernible trends and tensions of relatively recent. Much of this writing will be Anglophone but you should be prepared for adventures in reading translations. We will also have the opportunity to do some work in UEA's newly founded Archive of Contemporary Literature: what and who is being archived according to which criteria, and what do archivists, academics and critics consider archival about the contemporary?




How are sex, gender and sexuality brought together to ensure the normative privileging of heterosexuality and the sex/gender binary? What possibilities are there for resistance to these norms? How does such resistance situate us socially, culturally, and politically? With queer theory as its focus and drawing on case studies from different fields - literature, film, drama and performance, politics, history, among others - in this interdisciplinary module, you'll examine sex, gender, and sexuality as effects of historically specific socio-cultural and geo-political power relations. Rather than approaching queer studies as a singular or coherent school of thought, you'll be encouraged to continuously problematise queer studies as a field and a mode of analysis, asking: What does it mean for theory, in particular, to be queer? What is involved in queering theory and being critically queer? What kinds of bodies or desires does queer describe? What are the promises of queer theory, and what are its perils? What is the future of queer? While doing so, you'll explore a variety of topics, such as politics of difference, representation and cultural production, performance and performativity, temporality and spatiality, subjectivity and embodiment. Overall, in this module, you'll problematise and challenge normalisations, hierarchies and relations of domination and explore the powerful processes and languages that attempt to fix sex, gender and sexuality as unchanging and universal.




You will learn about the relationship between feminisms and the cultural history of (primarily) US and UK television from second wave feminism to the present. Your module charts the dialogue between feminism and television in Anglophone contexts from the 1970s through to the 2010s, focussing on flashpoint moments for feminism (e.g. the women's liberation movement; millennial postfeminism; the global financial crisis) and touchstone texts (e.g. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Prime Suspect, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sex and the City, Girls, Scandal) that have resonated particularly strongly with female audiences (e.g. soap operas; lifestyle TV; women centred dramas), struck a chord with feminist concerns (e.g. work/life balance, sexual freedoms, empowerment, the politics of relationships/singlehood/friendship), and generated foundational criticism by feminist television scholars. It will be structured chronologically, and topics may include feminism and female audiences; action heroines on television; the figure of the female detective; women's work; intersectional identities (queerness, post-racial discourse, masculinities) and recessionary culture.




Comic books have a long association with the world's film and television industries. Comics have long provided the origin sources for film and television adaptations, from the early animation and live action television to today's blockbuster films. Moreover, comics from around the world, from Marvel and DC Comics in the USA to European bande desinee to Japanese manga, have become the origin points for vast multimedia franchises. This module seeks to understand the relationships between comics and their media adaptations. To do so, you will take a global view of the comics in film and television, considering examples from Hollywood to Asia. In doing so we will consider the range of genres and topics that comics have influenced within film and television cultures including: issues of ideology and gender, issues of adaptation, franchising and transmedia production.




You'll examine one of the pressing issues of political theory, constitutional law, democracy, and media regulation: why is free speech important and what if any should be its limits? You'll compare and contrasts the conditions of free speech in China, the UK, and the United States. You'll be introduced to some of the classic defences of free speech found in the writings of J.S. Mill and the judicial decisions of Oliver Wendall Holmes. Following on from this you'll examine the question of free speech as it relates to freedom of the press and new media. You'll also explore the question of the limits of free speech, particularly in relation to hate speech. At this point you will have a chance to examine human rights instruments and laws pertaining to the issues, including the ECHR, the Human Rights Act 2008, and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2008, as well as a range of legal cases from courts across the world. You'll be exposed to a range of deeper ideological debates among liberals, libertarians, multiculturalists, and critical theorists. The approach will be multidisciplinary drawing on politics, philosophy, and law. The format will be a two-hour class each week, comprising research-led teaching, seminar discussions, practical exercises, textual reading, balloon debate, and essay writing and research-skills mini-sessions. The assessment comprises of formative feedback on the presentation of an essay plan and summative assessment of two essays. The module compares and contrasts the conditions of free speech in China, the UK, and the United States. Students are introduced to some of the classic defences of free speech found in the writings of J.S. Mill and the judicial decisions of Oliver Wendall Holmes. Following on from this they will examine the question of free speech as it relates to freedom of the press and new media. Students will also explore the question of the limits of free speech, particularly in relation to hate speech. At this point students will have a chance to examine human rights instruments and laws pertaining to the issues, including the ECHR, the Human Rights Act 2008, and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2008, as well as a range of legal cases from courts across the world. During the module the students will be exposed to a range of deeper ideological debates among liberals, libertarians, multiculturalists, and critical theorists. The approach will be multidisciplinary drawing on politics, philosophy, and law. Finally, the format of the module will be a two-hour class each week, comprising research-led teaching, seminar discussions, practical exercises, textual reading, balloon debate, and essay writing and research-skills mini-sessions. The module assessment is as follows: formative feedback on the presentation of an essay plan; summative assessment of two essays.




Providing a conceptual overview of feminist research approaches, this module examines contemporary gender and power relations. You will examine both the formal and informal power structures that shape the experience of gender. Bringing together the fields of media and sociology, politics and cultural studies, you will explore the relationship between feminist theory and activism.




Working from the assumption that the media are an integral part of modern political life, we will examine the way in which politics is represented in the media and reviews critically the argument about 'bias'. We will also explore the arguments around the ownership and control of media, the increasing use of the media by political parties and the changing relationship between citizens and politics engendered by new communication technologies.




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

Further Reading

  • Discrim-inations

    How did the South African anti-apartheid movement inspire African Americans in their fight for freedom from racial inequality? Dr Nicholas Grant explores the history of international opposition to racism to find out the answer.

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  • The Lost Ones

    In the late nineteenth century, as the federal government entered the final stages of US nation building with its accompanying conquest and dispossession of Native nations, a glaring question remained unanswered: what should be done with the surviving indigenous peoples who had withstood this onslaught.

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    Your University questions, answered

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  • Return to Learn

    Thinking of returning to education after some time away? Come along to our open evening on 23 May to find out about studying for a degree in the Arts and Humanities.

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Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject Humanities or Social Sciences
  • Degree Classification UK BA (Hons) 2.1 or equivalent
  • Special Entry Requirements A 3000 word essay from your previous degree should be uploaded to your online application.

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all components)
  • PTE (Pearson): 62 (minimum 55 in all components)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact


This course's annual intake is in September of each year.

Alternative Qualifications

If you have alternative qualifications that have not been mentioned above then please contact university directly for further information.


All applications for postgraduate study are processed through the Admissions Office and forwarded to the relevant School of Study for consideration. If you are currently completing your first degree or have not yet taken a required English language test, any offer of a place will be conditional upon you achieving this before you arrive.

Fees and Funding

Tuition fees for the academic year 2018/19 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,550 (full time)
  • International Students: £15,800 (full time)

If you choose to study part-time, the fee per annum will be half the annual fee for that year, or a pro-rata fee for the module credit you are taking (only available for Home/EU students).

We estimate living expenses at £1,015 per month.

Scholarships and Awards:

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities has a number of Scholarships and Awards. For further information, please click here.

How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515