MA American Studies

Key facts

(Guardian University Guide 2017)

"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.

The MA in American Studies offers you the opportunity to develop an expertise in American literature and social and cultural history. Your studies will equip you with the methodological training you need to pursue your interest in America from different disciplinary perspectives.

The world-leading department has particular strengths in race, gender and identity, civil liberties, American cities, American landscape and the environment, popular culture, and comparative American Studies.

The MA in American Studies develops the critical powers you acquired as an undergraduate and provides the rigorous preparation needed for future employment or as preparation for doctoral research.


Why does the United States of America matter so much to us all?

Wealth, but world-wide credit crisis? Automobiles and highways? War on terror? First black president? International movie industry? The American dream? Patriotism and flag waving?

Whatever the reasons the United States matters to you, studying for one of our MA degrees [American History; American literature; American Studies; or American Studies and Film] will allow you to 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.

Why Study America at UEA?

American Studies has come 5th in the UK with 74% of its research rated 4* (world leading) or 3* (internationally excellent) in The Research Excellence Framework (REF2014), a major Government analysis of university research quality. Within the Area Studies Unit of Assessment we were the highest rated for American Studies. Our vibrant research community ensures that faculty and graduate students meet regularly for research seminars and social events. The Arthur Miller Centre organises an annual Literary Festival, bringing major North American writers to the campus every year. All our MA programmes are interdisciplinary and are among the most established and prestigious in Britain.

Course Content and Structure

Students build on their undergraduate training to develop exceptionally high levels of theoretical understanding and knowledge of American thought, culture, literature, history, politics and film. Faculty members and students of American Studies work within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries. All teaching is in small seminar groups, which provides students with the opportunity to engage fully with their own ideas and those of others.

MA in American Studies

This is a broad-ranging programme that combines the study of cultural theory, literature, film, history and international relations. All students take Theories of American Culture (team-taught by eight faculty members) and choose two other modules taught within American Studies, for example: Twentieth-Century American Novel; The Black Atlantic; Slave Life in the Antebellum South; Native American History; American Foreign Policy Interventions; Race and Resistance; Gender and Genre in Contemporary Cinema; Postcolonial Theory. The fourth module is a free choice; students can select this additional module within American Studies, or take a module in a complementary MA programme, such as Studies in Fiction, Life Writing, Film Studies, Culture and Communication, History, or International Relations.

Final Dissertation

A dissertation of 15-20,000 words is prepared over the summer for submission at the start of September. Students are encouraged to select topics which have stimulated or grabbed their interest during the course of the year. Each student is allocated a supervisor whose expertise and interests match their chosen dissertation project. All students receive intensive one-on-one supervision and mentoring.

Course Assessment

There is no written examination. Assessment is on the basis of coursework (essays and sometimes class presentations) and the dissertation. The dissertation counts for half the marks of the course.

Research Community

MA students are valued members of the American Studies’ research community and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and interact intellectually and socially with faculty members and Ph.D students. As part of your training you will attend weekly research seminars, where distinguished scholars from the UK, USA and elsewhere present their research for discussion with the UEA American Studies research community. Postgraduate students are encouraged to present their work in this supportive environment, where they can critically engage in scholarly debates.

Transferable Skills

Many transferable skills are developed through the MA programmes in American Studies, including: research and writing skills; ITC skills; presentational skills; practice in public speaking and academic debate; team-work; time and project management.

This course is also available on a part time basis.

Course Modules 2017/8

Students must study the following modules for 160 credits:

Name Code Credits


This module offers students a unique opportunity to work alongside scholars in American Studies at UEA and to deepen their 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. Students will have fortnightly advanced research-tutorials with American Studies faculty across the year of study 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. The module 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). It 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. Students 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 module's overall aim is to investigate how correspondences between verbal and visual disciplines and practices affect both constructions of and reflections on modern American experience. The module will be taught in a number of two-week-long units with regular round-up sessions for the teaching team and students 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 will seek to account for the preoccupation with youth in America by focusing particularly on the concept of 'innocence', and by examining how various models of innocence are invoked and questioned in American literary texts. Drawing on a wide array of fictional and theoretical works, we will consider the following questions: What is at stake in America's investment in innocence? Major cultural events - such as the Vietnam War and 9/11, for example - are often described as representing a 'loss of innocence' in American culture. 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? With particular reference to fictions of growing up in America, how is innocence (and loss of innocence) depicted differently for male and female protagonists?




This module is aboutrtheories 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. A range of forms and strategies of resistance will be examined, from covert and overt forms under the slave system, to the struggle for civil rights during the 20th century both in the US and South Africa, and concluding with a consideration of two specific forms of revolution, the Haitian Slave Revolt and the Mexican Zapatista Rebellion.



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.




Would an ideal society have no more crime? Who would be wealthy or powerful? Would politics be outlawed? Do utopians try to impose their views on the rest of humankind? Do the flaws in human nature justify the pessimism of dystopian writers? This unit compares selected utopian and dystopian texts produced during the last six centuries. Themes will include property, social control, gender, morality and politics. Another dimension of the course is to consider the purpose of utopian thinking and the historical role of utopian ideas in social theory and social reform.




Beyond National Cinema links to work undertaken in Semester 1 of the MA Film Studies degree, to expand our definitions of cinema beyond the confines and borders of the nation. We examine a series of case studies that think through different methods and means by which films can be categorised, and what is at stake when those categories are enacted. Topics may include things like: flows and trafficking in national cinemas, transnational cinemas, world cinema, postcolonial cinemas, regional and local cinemas and global cinema. Within these topics we will study a wide range of cinemas from around the globe including things such as: Middle-Eastern cinema, British cinema abroad, Bollywood, Women's cinema, Asian "extreme" cinema and transnational Hollywood cinema. In examining these topics we will introduce students to a wide range theories and methods useful in the study of films beyond national borders including thing such as historical methods, gender studies, audience studies, political economics, industrial studies and more. The aim of the modules is to encourage students to think beyond the normative definitions of films within national categories, to shift their view to the global, regional and political aspects of filmmaking and consumption.




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 - this interdisciplinary module aims to examine sex, gender, and sexuality as effects of historically specific socio-cultural and geo-political power relations. Key concerns of the module include the politics of difference, representation and cultural production, performance and performativity, temporality and spatiality, subjectivity and embodiment. Rather than approaching queer studies as a singular or coherent school of thought, the module will continuously problematize 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? Overall, the module aims to 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.




This module draws on normative political theory and contemporary political science to consider how the concept of democracy has changed since it originated in ancient Greece and looks at the critiques of democracy advanced by critics and opponents especially in the 20th century. The ideas and values underpinning democracy will be interrogated and some recent solutions for today's 'democratic deficit' including electronic democracy and cosmopolitan democracy will be evaluated.




This module will develop students' engagement with genre studies through the analysis of a range of fantasy genres, focusing particularly on science fiction film and television, and its overlaps with horror, anime, blockbuster Hollywood franchises, etc. In the process it will require students to think about how these genres work in terms of their historical contexts of production and consumption, and analyse a range of texts in relation to a variety of social/cultural and political issues. In the process, the students will engage with a range of theories and methods, which will also be grounded through the examination of specific texts and historical case studies.




The module examines 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? 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 will rely heavily on formative feedback on presentation and essay writing skills, building to one assessed long essay and a seminar performance mark.




The module is designed to explore the debates over media effects. It will challenge the effects tradition, which motivates many of the concerns with media censorship and regulation, and suggest alternative ways of understanding the ways in which audiences consume contemporary media. In the process, it will examine a range of approaches to the understanding of media consumption.




Working from the assumption that the media are an integral part of modern political life, this module examines the way in which politics is represented in the media and reviews critically the argument about 'bias'. It also explores 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.




Hollywood has remained a dominant force in film production, distribution and exhibition in recent decades, despite competition from other local and transnational cinemas. This module aims to explore the success of the Hollywood system through a focus on the industry itself, and the films it produces, particularly those that have been most successful at the domestic and international box office. The module will, therefore, cover a range of relevant topics that may include: what kind of films does Hollywood invest in? Is financial gain the best lens to judge issues of 'popularity'? Who are the target audiences for those films? What is the role of the audience in receiving and popularising these hit movies? What is the relationship between domestic theatrical release, circulation in foreign markets and distribution in other media such as television, film, and DVD?




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. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

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 2017/18 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,300 (full time)
  • International Students: £14,800 (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