MA Philosophy and Literature

"The modules i took were both challenging and intellectually stimulating"

In their words

Kristin Fryer, MA Philosophy and Literate graduate


In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), UEA was ranked eighth in the UK for its research impact in Philosophy (Times Higher REF 2014 Analysis).

Combine your love of literature and philosophy, whilst exploring the insights that they bring to each other on this fascinating and challenging MA programme.

Philosophy and literature have always been complementary subjects – and in many traditions they are still thought of as inseparable. By studying the two together you will be able to explore notions of truth, authority, meaning, morality and other themes in relation to literature and its value.

Some philosophical traditions, such as existentialism, have developed hand in hand with literature. Over the last 30 years important work has brought literary topics into the heart of other philosophical traditions. It is now widely acknowledged that both subjects suffer impoverishment when kept unnaturally apart.

Whether you’ve studied one or both of these disciplines before, you can build on what you know and develop an expertise that spans and combines these two fascinating subjects.


Our Philosophy and Literature MA programme is designed to discover and develop your talents in both fields. You will study in a small supportive community of people who share your passions. It will suit you well whether you have just completed your undergraduate degree or if you want to return to study after starting your career. It’s ideal as a preparation for a PhD, or simply as a way to deepen your engagement with the subjects you love, whilst developing transferable skills that are valuable in any number of careers, from law to marketing to journalism.

In postgraduate workshop meetings you will be encouraged to comment on and discuss the work of other graduate students, and to share your dissertation plans. This encourages friendly peer support and discussion, with helpful comments and suggestions from the rest of the graduate community. For each session there will be a senior academic assigned to oversee the discussion, and some sessions have visiting staff with relevant expertise relating to practical aspects of philosophical research.

You will also learn through a great deal of private study, complemented by the teaching and workshops. This will include extensive reading, preparing for seminars and written work. You will be able to make good use of UEA’s state-of-the-art library facilities and will be guided on how to locate relevant literature for your studies, using the online databases and our many subscriptions to journals in the field.

As part of this course you will benefit from a rich programme of research events. These include the Wittgenstein workshop and specialist reading groups on topics ranging from ancient philosophy to philosophy of mathematics. There’s also a regular seminar where visiting academics deliver papers in all branches of philosophy, followed by the chance to meet the speaker in a social capacity post-seminar.

Course Structure

Over the Autumn and Spring semesters, you will study four taught modules, two of which are purpose-designed for this course and cross over between the two disciplines. During the rest of the year, from May to September, you will work on your dissertation. Part of the credit for the dissertation module is earned in participation and active engagement with a research training workshop which is shared with the PhD students. This continues through both semesters, and finishes when you start the dissertation.

In your first semester, in the autumn, you’ll take one core module in Methodology and Epistemology of Philosophy, which is shared with the MRes students. Alongside that you will take a dedicated interdisciplinary research-led module called Criticism/Critique, which is jointly taught by experts from our School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies and the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. This makes the MA a genuinely joint degree, and not one in which the two subjects are only taught in parallel.

In the spring you will take another dedicated interdisciplinary module on Philosophy of Literature, in which you will explore the core philosophical (aesthetic, ethical, and so on) questions we face in creating and engaging with the literary arts. You will also engage with a variety of influential readings concerning notions of truth, authority, meaning, morality and other themes in relation to literature and its value.

In the spring you will choose one further module from an extensive list of MA modules in literature. It is also possible to request supervision on a philosophical topic of your own design, on one of the supervised study modules taken by the MRes students.

Alongside these modules, you will attend the Philosophy postgraduate workshop throughout both semesters. Here, you and other students will exchange ideas and present your work for discussion. Some sessions are devoted to skills in the use of bibliographical resources, career development and research applications. Throughout your studies, you will be encouraged to take part in the full range of research activities in both departments.

Your dissertation will be on a subject chosen by you in consultation with your tutors and you will work on this under the guidance of a supervisor.

Teaching and Learning

Our teaching is informed by cutting-edge research and practice and we believe that active researchers make the best lecturers. Our lecturers’ specialised research is the central focus of all of our postgraduate modules, meaning you will benefit from a direct insight into some of the liveliest philosophical issues and debates.

For each taught module there is a weekly seminar (two or three hours) or small group session. You will also receive written feedback on your coursework, and some modules include one-to-one tutorials. For the dissertation you will receive one-to-one tuition.

In postgraduate workshop meetings you will be encouraged to share your work – sharing both essays and embryonic ideas that need development. This encourages friendly peer support and discussion, with helpful comments and suggestions from the rest of the graduate community. You’ll also have a senior academic assigned to oversee these workshops and give feedback on your performance in the practical tasks of academic presentation.

You will also learn through a great deal of private study, complemented by the teaching and workshops. This will include extensive reading, preparing for seminars and written work. You will be able to make good use of UEA’s state-of-the-art library facilities and will be guided on how to locate relevant literature for your studies, using the online databases and our many subscriptions to journals in the field.

As part of this course you will benefit from a rich programme of research events. These include the Wittgenstein workshop and specialist reading groups on topics ranging from ancient philosophy to philosophy of mathematics. There’s also a regular Thursday seminar where visiting academics deliver papers in all branches of philosophy, followed by the chance to meet the speaker in a social capacity post-seminar.


Each of your modules will be assessed by essays or other forms of coursework.

For the dissertation you will submit an essay of 12,000-15,000 words. Your credits for this module will include your performance in the postgraduate workshops.

Your degree result is based on your marks for all these modules and your dissertation.

After the course

This MA is a great route into PhD research, which is the first step towards a career in higher education. You can make your PhD application during your MA or after you’ve finished.

However, this MA is also perfect if you don’t yet have fixed career plans, or are simply not content to end your studies with a BA. The course prepares you for many different walks of life: it fosters independence, initiative, personal time management and the ability to work with a mentor. It hones your intellectual and communication skills, and your ability to empathise with the views of others.

Career destinations

  • PhD research or other higher education careers
  • Journalism
  • Teaching
  • Careers in writing and poetry
  • Broadcasting and cultural industries
  • Charity and environmental work

Course related costs

Please see Additional Course Fees for details of other course-related costs.

Course Modules 2020/1

Students must study the following modules for 160 credits:

Name Code Credits


This module tracks the notion of 'Critique' in philosophical and political thought, as well as literary criticism and artworks' own self-reflection, from the late 18th century to the present. 'Critique', from the Greek term krinein ('to discern'), brings together questions of philosophical method, from the relation between concept and intuition to the project of understanding a historical moment through its cultural artefacts and practices; however, it also engages the 'criticality' of artworks: how they reflect on their own processes and socio-economic conditions. But if these various intellectual projects converge around a shared sense that they are doing 'critique', then it is not clear that political critique and aesthetic critique aspire towards the same thing; the concept of critique thus also permits us to grasp discrepancies and points of dissensus between different forms of intellectual, and 'critical', praxis. The module starts by providing a historical grounding in debates around 'Critical Philosophy', linking Immanuel Kant's 'critical' distinction of concept and intuition to German Romanticism's model of a 'literary absolute' in which literature actualises itself as 'critique', such that through its ironic relation to its own linguistic medium, it assumes the place of philosophy itself. We consider Hegel's responses both to Kant's critical philosophy and to the literary theorising of the Schlegels and Novalis, with readings from the Phenomenology of Spirit, the Logic and the Aesthetics, before turning to the development of Hegelian thought in Marx. Having established this basic historical narrative, we then trace the different intellectual projects and problematics that the notion of 'critique' opens up, from the 'critical theory' of the Frankfurt school through thinkers including Althusser, Fanon, Foucault, Braidotti, and Ranciere. Against this we encounter an alternative series of responses to 'critical' philosophy, notably via Heidegger, Deleuze, and Simone Weil. At the crux of these different approaches to 'critique' is the relation between different philosophical, political and literary intellectual movements, and central to this module is the question of how 'critique' extends beyond scholarly activity, whether it is the ways in which avant-garde art and poetics incorporate self-critique into their understanding of support, medium, process, etc., or whether it is in practices of political resistance. To this end, the module is overtly forward-looking, not only charting a contested history from Kant to the present, but also asking what forms future attempts at critique can, and should, take.




This is the dissertation component of the MA degree in Philosophy and Literature, together with a preliminary weekly workshop which will guide you towards the research skills required for doing well at independent work in philosophy. You'll participate in the workshop during the two teaching semesters, presenting and discussing your work as well as that of your peers, and engaging in the collaborative tasks associated with becoming a critical and collegial member of the research community. You'll then complete a dissertation proposal at the end of the Spring semester, with a view to being accepted to work with your chosen supervisor on a dissertation topic of your choice. You'll complete the dissertation of 12,000 to 15,000 words over the summer.




As a graduate you will be provided with the methodological foundations for independent philosophical research. Through practical exercises complementing theoretical discussion and philosophical case studies, you will examines various philosophical methodologies from different research traditions, including empirical methodologies, and assesses their strengths and weaknesses. You will also look into the genesis, structure, and status of philosophical problems and theories, as well as the scope, strengths, and weaknesses of both historically important and currently debated philosophical methodologies. On this basis, your module addresses key questions about philosophy: What are the proper aims and purposes of philosophy? In what ways is philosophy similar to, and different from various sciences? In what ways can methods and insights from other disciplines, especially the social sciences, be put to use for philosophical purposes?




In a collaborative seminar or group-study format, you'll explore (together with the teacher) a range of topics in the philosophy of literature. Topics that you'll study will typically include: the definition and purpose of literature; the status of fictional characters; the relevance of author's intention and the role of interpretation in fixing meaning; aesthetic evaluation, taste, subjectivity and objectivity; the value of fakes and copies; the emotional effect of literature; whether literature can convey truth and knowledge, and the relationship between aesthetic judgement and ethics. You'll prepare a package of two essays relating to different parts of the course, preceded by formative drafts and essay tutorials.



Students will select 20 credits from the following modules:

Students may request to take other modules (e.g. a language module or a Philosophy supervised study module) with the permission of the Course Director.

Name Code Credits


Too often, academic critical writing seems to bring pre-packaged language to bear on works whose whole essence and aim is to change the ways in which we see and describe our world. And too often such writing fails to acknowledge the ways in which it itself participates in the literary 'creativity' it is also about. How, then, to write criticism? Criticism which responds inventively to the literature which it analyses? Criticism which registers, in its own form, language, method and the ways in which it has been transformed by the work(s) of art it encounters? Criticism which recognises that it cannot rest on received concepts and categories? In this module you'll explore these questions. Over the course of the semester we'll read, ponder and experiment with a broad range of possible ways of practising creative-criticism, including the essay form, auto-commentary, conceptual writing, inventive 'theoretical' writing, and diaristic writing. Your assessed work for the module will be in two parts: a piece of creative-critical writing of your own and a critical reflection on a particular aspect of the theory and practice of creative criticism.




Throughout the medieval and Early-Modern periods Norwich was one of England's most important cities - probably second only to London - and East Anglia one of the country's culturally liveliest and richest areas. In this module you will explore the literature of these periods in its material contexts (the region's prosperity and power may still be seen in its architecture and in the rich holdings of its libraries and museums) and ask whether there was a specifically East Anglian cultural tradition. You will explore East Anglia's rich dramatic traditions, its devotional literature and practices (in orthodox forms and in those that brush against the heterodox), and, insistently, the manner in which its literature participates in its broader social and cultural worlds. This module may particularly appeal to you if you have an interest in the cultural traditions of Norwich and East Anglia or, more generally, in the literature of place.




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.




The aim of this mixed creative-critical module is twofold: both to explore together some of the major works of playful or 'ludic' modern literature across various languages, and to develop our appreciation of style and form by practising various forms of writing that are themselves ludic: creative imitation, parody, transposition from one style and form to another, creative translation. In play, we will find, the boundary between the 'creative' and the 'critical' becomes unclear. The module is generally taken by a mix of students from the various critical and creative writing MAs, as well as by students in Literature and Philosophy. On the 'critical' side, the module traces the evolution of leading postmodernist styles and themes, especially ludic ones, back to their origins in Dostoevsky, Joyce, Kafka, Borges, and Nabokov. Using these enormously influential authors as a starting point, we read a range of ludic authors, passing back and forth between languages, nations, and genres. Each week we usually pair two authors. In previous years we have studied, for example, Dostoevsky against Nabokov, Kafka against Borges, Perec against Queneau and Calvino, Carter against Coover, Muldoon against Heaney, Pynchon against Barthelme, and Ashbery against Mallarme. There is also a strong philosophical element of the module, you will be encouraged to explore the philosophical theory of aesthetic play in Kant, Schiller, and Nietzsche, and later in Huizinga and Derrida. On the 'creative' side in previous years we have, for example, read Kafka's short tales against Borges's re-writings of them, tried to write like Kafka or Borges, turned a Kafka story into a Dostoevsky paragraph or a Nabokov poem, explored the various translations of these authors, and played with re-translating them. We have taken a story by Coover and re-written it as a sestina, two kinds of sonnet, and a villanelle. In doing all this, we are asking fundamental questions not only about play but also about style and form, how they shape meaning and make possible certain kinds of writing and thinking. We are also returning to the way in which literature was studied, and creative writing engendered, before the invention of professional literary criticism and creative writing courses in the twentieth century. All students will be encouraged to try their hand at parodying and imitating the texts we are studying, though this is not compulsory. Final assessment can take the form of a 5000 word critical essay or of a combination of a creative piece and a critical essay, to make up 5000 words.




This module sets out to understand why and how humanism -- the advocacy of the study of the humanities, the Greek and Roman classics -- gave birth to the astonishing outpouring of literature that we call the Renaissance. We will situate English Renaissance literature within the wider context of the humanist literature of France, the Netherlands, and Italy. Questions we consider include: how did the rediscovery of classical texts generate new possibilities for literary writers? How did humanists understand the nature of poetic creation? How did their advocacy of rhetoric create new ways for writers to engage with public life? And what happened when humanists turned philological methods upon the most sacred text of their culture: the bible? Our work will focus on the writings of Thomas More, Desiderius Erasmus, and Michel de Montaigne, but there will be opportunities to read far more widely in the Renaissance literature of the period. Foreign language texts are all read in translation. The might be of interest to anyone who wishes to gain an in-depth understanding of one of the most dazzling periods of European literary history.




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

  • Are Some Risks Too Big To Take?

    As human capability reaches the point where we think we can remould the fundamentals of nature itself, what's guiding us – and how can we avoid becoming the architects of our own extinction?

    Read it Are Some Risks Too Big To Take?
  • The Precautionary Principle

    Brexit could kill the precautionary principle – here’s why it matters so much for our environment

    Read it The Precautionary Principle

    Your University questions, answered

    Read it #ASKUEA

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject Philosophy or a related subject
  • Degree Classification Bachelors (Hons) degree - 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: 7.0 (minimum 6.0 listening, 6.0 speaking, 7.0 writing and 6.0 reading)
  • PTE (Pearson): 65 (minimum 50 listening, 50 speaking, 65 writing and 50 reading)

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 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 Faculty Admissions Office and then 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

Tuition fees for the academic year 2020/21 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,850
  • International Students: £16,400

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 UK/EU students).

Living Expenses

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 relevant to Philosophy, please click here.

How to Apply

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

To apply please use our online application form.

Further Information

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