MA Philosophy and Literature

"I was really impressed by the number of modules i could take, allowing me to custom my degree to my expectations. The modules i took were both challenging and intellectually stimulating"

In their words

Kristin Fryer, MA Philosophy and Literate graduate

Suited to graduates who majored in philosophy or English literature or both, this Master’s programme will allow you to investigate the links between the two disciplines and to discover areas for your own research.

You will take a selection of taught modules, both from Philosophy and from our world-famous School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. These will be complemented by a year-long programme of workshops, shared with our PhD students, which develops your skills in presenting your research to others and helps you get a sense of what it is to work on a PhD.

You will also write a dissertation on a topic of your choosing; this typically engages both your literary and philosophical interests, and usually follows on from some work done in the taught modules.

This degree will prepare you for applying for a PhD, but is also a strong postgraduate qualification that will be an advantage for many other possible paths and careers.


Philosophy and literature is one of the most exciting growth areas in modern Anglo-American philosophy. Over the last 30 years, under the influence of such major figures as Stanley Cavell and Martha Nussbaum, the subject has transformed from a minority interest to a major component in the philosophical world as well as in the curriculum. It is now widely acknowledged that because the literary form of philosophy is part of its philosophical value, and the philosophical knowledge provided by literature is part of its literary value, both subjects suffer impoverishment when kept unnaturally apart.

Course structure

Like the Philosophy MRes, this programme is designed as a 12-month research training Master’s. One part (80 credits) is dedicated to the four Master’s-level modules, taken in the autumn and spring semesters – each of which must be passed separately – and a second part (100 credits) is dedicated to your dissertation in the summer (inclusive of attendance at a course-long workshop). It is also very well suited to students who want to continue their studies beyond the MA, purely for interest or to add value to their existing qualifications and take the subject further, and with no special intention of pursuing a PhD. Because it encourages initiative, the ability to reflect on one’s own studies, and a range of literary skills, and since it culminates in a substantial piece of research, this MA provides a good foundation for many leadership roles and graduate career routes.

The MA in Philosophy and Literature encourages you to explore the deep links between the two subjects at many levels. You can choose from a wide range of modules in both subjects, working alongside students in the renowned School of Literature and Creative Writing, and sharing the postgraduate workshop module and some core modules with the MRes Philosophy students. In the first semester there is a co-taught module featuring experts from both fields; this makes the MA a genuinely joint degree, and not one in which the two subjects are only taught in parallel.

In the autumn you take a core module in Methodology and Epistemology of Philosophy, and a research-led module called Criticism/Critique, which is an interdisciplinary exploration jointly taught by experts from our departments of Philosophy, Politics and the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. In the spring you will take the Philosophy of Literature module, where 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.

You may also choose one further module from options in literature or philosophy. These include Ludic Literature; Creative-Critical Writing; and you may also request supervision on a topic of your own design in a series of essays and one-on-one tutorials, as is the case for the MRes students. In addition, you will attend the Philosophy Postgraduate Workshop throughout the year, in which you and other students will exchange ideas and present your work for discussion, and take part in a variety of research activities in both departments.

In the summer, after completing the taught modules, you will undertake a dissertation, written on a subject of your own devising and under the guidance of a supervisor.

The degree can also be studied part-time.

Skills and experience

As part of this course you will benefit from a rich programme of frequent research events, from the Wittgenstein workshop and specialist reading groups on topics ranging from ancient philosophy to philosophy of mathematics, to the regular Thursday seminar at which visiting academics deliver papers in all branches of philosophy, after which graduates can meet the speaker in the bar or over dinner. A highlight of the week is the postgraduate workshop, a friendly and supportive forum for developing embryonic ideas and testing polished work.


You will be assessed on your taught modules, which are 20 credits each, and the research training workshop and dissertation module, which together comprise 100 credits. So, just over half of your final mark will rest on the workshop and dissertation. For the dissertation module you prepare a 12,000–15,000-word dissertation over the summer under the guidance of a supervisor, on a subject approved by the Course Director. You must pass all the components of the course separately.

Course tutors and research interests

We offer a distinctive research environment, with an interdisciplinary outlook and a focus on methodological and meta-philosophical reflection. We are a leading centre for research on Ludwig Wittgenstein. The research interests of our staff include: philosophy of language and linguistics; philosophy and social science; environmental philosophy; metaphilosophy; philosophy of literature, film and the arts; Wittgenstein and the Wittgensteinian tradition; and ancient philosophy.

Much of our research integrates topical and historical research, and engages with influential contributions from all key periods of Western philosophy. You are welcome to discuss your research plans with academic staff. For contact details and research interests go to

Where next?

You will develop many intellectual skills on this course, including the ability to express yourself clearly and articulately, structure an argument, conduct rigorous reasoning and analysis, be aware of critical distance, interpret texts carefully, and empathise with different ways of thinking.

Our graduates go on to work in professions including higher education, computing, politics, teaching, journalism and the media. As a research student, you will be offered a variety of workshops and sessions focused on career development, including opportunities for teaching and attending conferences.

Course Modules 2017/8

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 guides students towards the research skills required for doing well at independent work in philosophy. Students participate in the workshop during the two teaching semesters, presenting and discussing each other's work and engaging in the collaborative tasks associated with becoming a critical and collegial member of the research community. They then complete a dissertation proposal at the end of the Spring semester, with a view to being accepted to work with their chosen supervisor on a dissertation topic of their choice. Students complete the dissertation of 12,000 to 15,000 words over the summer.




The module provides commencing graduate students with the methodological foundations for independent philosophical research. Consideration will be given to traditional and contemporary issues and the ways of approaching them that are characteristic of various traditions and styles and genres of philosophy. We shall also consider questions about the nature and scope of philosophy, its role in solving or diagnosing puzzles/confusions in its own and other disciplines, the place of literature and literary examples in philosophical argument, and questions about its relation to empirical sciences. The module is taught in a weekly seminar. The two 3000-word essays are on individually assigned topics reflecting the needs or interests of each student. The summative assessment is on the basis of a single package, comprising these two essays revised, in the light of feedback, for the final submission. This module is geared to the needs of students on the MRes in Philosophy and on the MA in Philosophy and Literature. Students on other MA/MSc programmes are welcome, but please consult the module organiser, since you will need some prior experience in philosophy (ideally a first degree in the subject, preferably including both analytic and continental approaches) or a serious commitment to mastering a range of diverse approaches in contemporary philosophy, some of them quite technical.




In a collaborative seminar format, students explore together with the teacher a range of topics in the philosophy of literature. Topics studied 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. Students 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 necessarily 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 thinking the ways in which it has been transformed by the work(s) of art it encounters? Criticism which recognizes that it cannot rest on received concepts and categories? This module aims to explore those 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, criticism as performance, inventive 'theoretical' writing, and diaristic writing.




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.




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?




A COMPULSORY MODULE FOR STUDENTS ON THE MA IN MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY WRITING. This core module will introduce students to Modern and Contemporary Writing. It does so through the idea of 'Living Modernism', highlighting the worldliness of modern writing and exploring modernism's continuities in contemporary culture. After an introductory session focusing on some recent critical attempts to assert modernism's continuing relevance, students will spend five weeks reading James Joyce's Ulysses, and Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse alongside critical essays exploring the texture and the worldly contexts of these modernist experiments. The second half of the semester will consider the living legacy of worldly modernism. Starting with a consideration of the 1930s and 1940s as key decades in literary-historical accounts of the 'end' of modernism, we will consider Djuna Barnes' Nightwood and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as different responses to the radical energies of modernist culture. This is partly a question of literary influence: Has modernism degenerated into a 'host of distinct private styles or mannerisms' as Fredric Jameson argued? And what is its significance for the critical theory of Jacques Derrida, Fredric Jameson, Giorgio Agamben and others? The other focus is on the persistent 'worldliness' of modern writing, as it continues to tarry with ideas of law and justice. With this in mind, we end the module by turning to Roberto Bolano's epic 2666, a contemporary novel with ambitions to compare with those of Joyce. The questions of whether, how and where modernism continues to live--which have elsewhere been posed as drily academic questions about where we draw the boundary lines between literary periods or movements--are taken here to have an urgent aesthetic, ethical and political significance for our contemporary moment. Authors explored will include James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, George Orwell, Jacques Derrida, Roberto Bolano, and Giorgio Agamben.




Play, or the ludic, is often listed as one of the main characteristics of postmodernist art, but what is meant by play is usually left no more clearly defined than what is meant by postmodernism. This course seeks to trace the evolution of leading postmodernist styles and themes, especially ludic ones, back to their origins in Joyce, Kafka, Borges, and Nabokov. Using these enormously influential authors as a starting point, we will read a range of ludic authors, passing back and forth between languages, nations, and genres. Authors studied will include Georges Perec, Italo Calvino, Raymond Queneau, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, Robert Coover, Angela Carter, Paul Muldoon, and John Ashbery. We will examine these authors in relation to one another, and to their major pre-postmodernist sources, such as Carroll, Rimbaud, Mallarme, and Dostoevsky. We will also be reading theorists of play such as Schiller, Huizinga, Derrida, and Bakhtin. Central to the module is the exploration of play as a response to literature, and a way of creating new literature out of old, through the play of parody, imitation, transposition, and translation. We will be studying these ancient modes of literary response and performing them ourselves: 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? Authors studied include: Thomas More, Desiderius Erasmus, Edmund Spenser, Joachim Du Bellay, Philip Sidney, Ludovico Ariosto, Torquato Tasso, Jean Bodin, Michel de Montaigne, and Ben Jonson. Foreign language texts are all read in translation. The module is compulsory for students on the Medieval and Early Modern Textual Cultures MA, but 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

  • Power of Thought

    Philosopher Dr Eugen Fischer and psychologist Dr Paul Engelhardt are pioneering the use of psycholinguistic methods in philosophy.

    Read it Power of Thought
  • 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?

    Your University questions, answered

    Read it #ASKUEA

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject Philosophy or a related subject
  • 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: 7.0 (minimum 6.0 listening, 6.0 speaking, 7.0 writing and 6.0 reading)
  • PTE (Pearson): 68 (minimum 55 listening, 55 speaking, 68 writing and 55 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 2018/19 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,550
  • International Students: £15,800

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).

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.

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