MA Modern and Contemporary Writing

"My year at UEA was one of the best of my life"

In their words

Ian McEwan, Creative Writing Graduate and Booker Prize winner


The British Archive for Contemporary Writing at UEA contains the extensive personal archive of the Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing, and literary material from other prominent authors such as Naomi Alderman, Tash Aw, Malcolm Bradbury, Amit Chaudhuri, J.D. Salinger, Roger Deakin, Lorna Sage, WG Sebald and the playwright Snoo Wilson.

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In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), UEA was ranked joint tenth in the UK for the quality of its research in English Language and Literature (Times Higher REF 2014 Analysis) with 82 per cent of our research rated either 4* (world leading) or 3* (internationally excellent).

The MA Modern and Contemporary Writing has two main focuses: the relationship between key writers of modernism and contemporary literature, and between creative and critical writing. Our course draws on UEA’s strengths as one of the largest and most distinguished departments for 20th-century literature in Britain and as the UK’s leading department in Creative Writing and in Literary Translation.

We believe that the critical study of literature can also be creative, and that creative writing is always in itself an act of criticism. At UEA, literary critics and theorists encounter and exchange ideas with practising poets, novelists, dramatists and biographers.

You’ll also have opportunities to develop your interests in translation and in neighbouring disciplines such as philosophy, film, anthropology and American studies.


The School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA has a long and celebrated history for its role not only in the study of modern and contemporary literature, but also in fostering its creation. Alongside our world-leading role in the teaching of creative writing and literary translation, we also boast one of the largest and most diverse groups of scholar-critics working on 20th- and 21st-century literature of any university in the world.

Our course offers a high level of flexibility. You can specialise in modernism, contemporary literature, or the period in between. You can focus on the relationship between creative and critical writing, literature across languages, on poetry or fiction, or on literature in relation to philosophy or to historical contexts. You will be able to choose optional modules from among UEA’s rich offerings in translation, philosophy, American literature, film and creative writing.

This course is unique in inviting you to explore criticism and creation through each other. At UEA we believe that reading and writing are or should be one. Distinctive optional modules will offer you the chance to develop your critical writing in ways that are themselves creative and artistic, through formal and linguistic experimentation, and through modes of literary understanding such as parody, imitation and transposition that preceded the invention of literary criticism in the 20th century.

You will also find yourself in seminars where your fellow students will be novelists, poets, playwrights, biographers and translators, as well as students of philosophy, film, and American literature.

As a postgraduate here, you will be part of a vibrant mix of MA and PhD students who are engaged in modern and contemporary literature in a variety of ways, whether it be through producing critical studies of novels, poetry or plays or through writing their own.

Course Structure

The MA Modern and Contemporary Writing course takes one year of full-time or two years of part-time study.

You’ll take one mandatory module, Living Modernism, in the autumn. The focus here is on the extraordinary experiments of the early decades of the 20th century (in writers such as Joyce and Woolf) and on the living legacy their inventive works bequeath to contemporary critical and creative writing.  You will also choose one optional Autumn module, such as ‘Fiction After Modernism’, which looks at a range of mid-century writers.

In the spring, you’ll choose one or two from our range of three modules: Contemporary Fiction, Ludic Literature, and Creative-Critical Writing.

In Contemporary Fiction we will attempt to trace some trends in relatively recent fiction. We will focus on the ways in which fiction engages with the zeitgeist and current affairs but also ask how it responds to literary conventions, cultural heritage, philosophical traditions, and political ideologies. We will discuss to what extent key critical thinkers can help us frame the contemporary and its preoccupations. You will also have the opportunity to discover in UEA’s unique British Archive for Contemporary Writing.

In Ludic Literature, you’ll explore the origins of postmodernist writers such as Pynchon, Muldoon, Ashbery, Carter, Perec, and Borges in modernist and pre-modernist writers, such as Dostoevsky, Joyce, and Kafka. You’ll also be encouraged to explore ways of understanding and creating literature through parody and imitation that date back before the creation of modern criticism in the twentieth century. Creative-Critical Writing is concerned with texts that seek to respond inventively to the literature they analyse; texts which, in their own language, structure, method and thinking, acknowledge how they have been transformed by the art they have encountered. You’ll look at recent examples of such writing – forms such as the essay, conceptual criticism, auto-commentary, and confessional criticism – and will have the opportunity to experiment with them yourselves.

In addition to this, you’ll take one to two further optional modules, from a wide range offered within the School and beyond. These include further literary-critical modules, philosophical-literary modules, and a wide range of modules on pre-20th century literature, film, translation, and American literature. You can also, space permitting, choose from a range of modules which mix creative writing with criticism.

The programme concludes with a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice, which you will begin in the spring and complete at the start of September.


Teaching and Learning

During the Autumn semester of 2020/21, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching for this MA will take place online, where you'll have live, in-depth, face-to-face discussions with tutors and your peers. This immersive online teaching will be complemented and enriched by in-person, small-group, tutor-led learning opportunities on campus. This will enable you to get just as much out of UEA's exceptional resources and expertise as ever in a way that's fulfilling, flexible, and safe, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We envisage a fuller return to in-person teaching in the Spring semester, with the precise balance between online and in-person learning being determined by the best public health advice, government guidelines, and university policy.

Teaching on modules is by weekly seminars, supplemented by occasional one-on-one meetings in office hours.

You’ll benefit from being part of UEA’s renowned literature department – where we have one of the largest groups of critics working on modern and contemporary writing in the world. The scholars, critics and theorists working and teaching here include tutors such as Stephen Benson, Tom Boll, Jo Catling, Clare Connors, Thomas Karshan, Duncan Large, Anshuman Mondal, Jeremy Noel-Tod, David Nowell-Smith, Rachel Potter, Petra Rau, Cecilia Rossi, Karen Schaller, Jos Smith, Bharat Tandonand Matthew Taunton. You may also be able to take courses from novelists, poets and playwrights, including Tiffany Atkinson, Giles Foden, Jean McNeil, Rebecca Stott, Henry Sutton and Steve Waters.

Independent study

Independent study is especially important for your end of year dissertation. In the spring you will have four seminars to prepare you for your work on the dissertation. This extended research project serves as the culmination of the work, both literary-critical and theoretical, that you have conducted over the course of the year. There is an opportunity to do creative-critical work on the dissertation, and many students have used it as a testing ground for further study at PhD level.

You will work one-to-one with a dissertation tutor on a topic of your own choosing. They will encourage you to develop a topic that suits your particular interests, subject to their capacity to supervise the work effectively. And they’ll meet with you regularly for substantial feedback on your work.


All of your modules will be assessed by a final 5,000-word piece, which, depending on the module, will be critical, creative, or creative-critical.

For most modules you will test your knowledge and practical skills in practice (formative) assignments before your summative assessments, which count towards your final grades. You’ll discuss your formative feedback with your tutotrs as part of a deepening self-reflective journey through your studies.

Your dissertation will be 15,000 words and may be critical or creative-critical, but not wholly creative.

After the course

After the course, you could follow in the footsteps of many past graduates who’ve gone onto PhD study at UEA or at other universities in Britain and internationally.

You’ll also be well placed for developing your own writing in fiction, poetry, journalism or literary criticism or moving into careers such as publishing, teaching or the media. Or you could simply see this MA as a pleasure and an end in itself.

Career destinations

  • Writing
  • Academia
  • Teaching
  • Publishing
  • Media
  • Publicity

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 120 credits:

Name Code Credits


This core module will introduce you to the MA in Modern and Contemporary Writing. Living Modernism will consider a range of modernist texts in relation to aesthetics, politics and transnationalism. The course asks you to investigate the historical conditions of transnational cultural production, particularly in relation to the venues of textual publishing, dissemination, translation and reception. We will also explore modernist writing as a product of cosmopolitan metropolitan centres - of London, Dublin, Paris, New York and Berlin - and read modernist texts as thematic and formal engagements with cosmopolitan - and metropolitan - subject positions and styles. Finally, you will be encouraged to consider modernism in relation to post-First World war political internationalism and to investigate the adoption and twisting of modernist cosmopolitan literary techniques to disclose the intellectual implications of enforced exile, estrangement and persecution. Authors discussed might include James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, Jean Rhys, T. S. Eliot and Mina Loy.




This is compulsory core dissertation.




This module introduces you to some of the challenges, possibilities, and productive practices of independent graduate research in preparation for your work on the dissertation. It is tailored to the distinctive approaches and emphases of your particular MA programme.



Students will select 20 credits from the following modules:

Students should select one module (20 credits) from Option Range A. LDCE7010A - Criticism/Critique and LDCE7012A - Fiction 'After' Modernism are recommended to students on the Modern and Contemporary Writing MA course.

Name Code Credits


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.




What is British Cinema in the 21st century? A succession of global blockbuster successes such as the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises - or smaller, home-grown films that are aimed at a domestic market? The key to understanding the current state of the British film industry lies in the unique history of that industry, and the films, genres, and movements it has produced. It is an industry caught between different roles: wanting to speak to the world, but also producing films that speak to the 'British' character; aesthetically torn between European artistry and Hollywood commercialism. You will study how two different aspects of British cinema - described as 'realism and tinsel' (or spectacle) - move between claims of "quality", emotional restraint, and documentary realism and visually extravagant, excessive and generic pleasures. You'll focus on key genres and industry trends - heritage, social realism, comedy, the 1930s British documentary movement, the 1960s 'New Wave' - that recur in the modern era, and exert a powerful hold on how British cinema is imagined. The consideration of realism alongside spectacle will allow you to consider why one has been privileged over the other, to explore those 'other' (potentially more potent) visual alternatives, and give you a better understanding of how claims of 'realism and tinsel' have clashed and co-existed within aesthetic and critical debates around British cinema. Using individual case study topics from the wealth of British cinema history, you will explore concepts of genre, authorship, class, and stardom. You'll also investigate the British response to technological innovations such as sound, colour, widescreen/3-D, and special effects, creating an alternative heritage of what counts as 'British cinema'.




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.




We often think of poetry as a descriptive art, representing our experience of the world. One of the most important things it describes, however, is the experience of language. This module will consider some of the ways in which poetic language has been described in philosophy and literary criticism, and some of the poems in which it has described itself. It offers a historical survey of some of the major texts in Western poetics, from Plato to contemporary writers, to be read alongside a range of poems. You will be encouraged to contribute texts from their own reading for discussion. Short formative exercises will also be set in class, in preparation for the final 5,000-word coursework essay or portfolio coursework of 2,000-word book review and 3,000-word essay.




Fiction 'After' Modernism: Re-reading the 20th century responds to the current reassessment of critical narratives about 20th century fiction by restoring significance to a critically awkward phase of 20th century writing. Focusing roughly on the thirty years either side of 'mid-century', we examine what it means to read these writers work in the wake of modernism. We will challenge the formalist distinction between experimental and realist fiction that has dominated the most influential work on the mid-century novel, and which has also stamped many post-war writers as irretrievably minor. In a similar spirit, we will explore how writers worked in the 'between' of modernism and postmodernism. Rather than produce a cohesive narrative about the period, we will examine how our writers engage with, and disturb, their own literary, historical and critical inheritances. This module is an opportunity to participate in an emerging critical conversation that is carving out new directions in literary study. Working through the period with special attention to previously marginalized (and in some cases forgotten) writers, alongside a selection of critical and theoretical texts, we will examine the ways our writers accede to, challenge, and disrupt our critical understanding of fiction after modernism. This module offers you an opportunity to participate in - and indeed contribute to - a still emerging critical conversation that is redefining 20th- century literary studies. Some critics have expressed an "invariable sense of disappointment" with the aesthetic failures of fiction written 'after' modernism: but it is precisely the fiction these critics have neglected to read critically that is leading other scholars to radically re-think the stories critics have told about the period. The critical re-evaluation of neglected writers is pushing 20th century scholarship in new directions, and creating new debates and dialogue about how we read the 20th century, we join the conversation.




How can different theories and approaches change the way we understand film? This module provides you with a firm grounding in key theoretical and historical approaches to studying cinema and film, allowing you to navigate the complex networks of competing and intersecting debates that must be considered in undertaking postgraduate research. There will be extensive emphasis on the use and analysis of primary archival documents, equipping you with the skills to undertake your own analyses. At the end of the module you will undertake independent research that poses new questions and offers new perspectives in an area of film studies that interests you.




Trolling. Ru Paul's Drag Race UK. Trump. Theresa May as the 'Dancing Queen'. Gender-neutral toilets. Intersectionality. Gender matters in the 21st century: but while for some this realisation marks a fourth wave of feminism, for others the study of gender is a threatening political force. Rather than produce a chronological history of gender study, we work instead from the contemporary out. And we approach each issue through a constellation of materials - theoretical, critical, and case-study - drawn from the history of gender studies and from contemporary work happening across scholarly and public contexts. 'Gender in Study' asks how the gendered lives we live now speak to the history of gender study: are we living lives that take us back into that history? Or do we need new modes of thinking and writing gender now? Each week we will examine an aspect of our gendered lives now: these might include love and intimacy; sickness and disability; race; class; fashion and body decoration; the gendering of 'care'; labour; post-feminism; eating; affect and the gendered politics of feeling and emotion; sex and the mind, gendered futures. For each topic we read several kinds of materials including theoretical texts that that have been significant for understanding how that topic has been thought and more recent theoretical and critical work emerging from and responding to contemporary contingencies. Each week also includes a case study devised of materials in contemporary culture to develop our thinking in light of 21st century modes of thinking and experiencing gender. Given the nature of the module and the MA you can also expect materials to be drawn from across relevant disciplines and from fields that are interwined with thinking gender (such as race theory, queer studies, masculinity studies etc). Examples of scholarship we might study includes: Judith Butler, bell hooks, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Catherine Mackinnon, Trinh Min-ha, Andrea Dworkin, Colebrook and Bray, Sara Ahmed, Karen Barad, Joanna Bourke, Roxanne Gay, Kathi Weeks, Juliet Mitchell, Johanna Hedva, Blye Frank, Raewynn Connell, Jennifer C. Nash or Valerie Solanas. While most of our critical and theoretical writers are explicitly addressing gender, some of the work we study is useful because of the ways it, itself, is gendered - we are not only interested in the question of gender has been studied, but how the study of our critical concerns has, itself, been gendered. You should see the module readings as a starting point for discussion and we'd encouraged you to contribute other examples to the module either from further reading or drawn from personal experience.







Do you want to understand the relations between language, culture and thought? This module will give you an insight into some aspects of Linguistic Anthropology, Psycholinguistics, and Applied Linguistics. You will look at language and linguistic issues from different perspectives in relation with culture and mind. You will be able to understand aspects of cross-cultural variation in verbal and non-verbal communication, acculturation and culture shock, multilingualism and second language acquisition, and differences in the encoding of meaning. You will take part in classroom-based activities in pairs and small groups. You will be assessed at the end of term with an essay. This module will provide you with intercultural awareness and a deeper understanding of the differences among languages and cultures.




This module aims to introduce you to the rich and important complexity of medieval humanism and to the distinctive turns that mark the beginnings of a new Renaissance humanism. Such an aim, of course, at once implies a series of attendant questions: what is humanism (and what was medieval humanism)? In what ways was Renaissance humanism different from medieval humanism and what is the relationship between the continuities and the new departures? And why orient an approach to medieval and Renaissance culture about 'humanism' at all? These questions, then, also lie at the heart of the module. We start from the central proposition that new approaches to the 'studia humanitatis' (the study of the humanities - art, literature, history, philosophy) pioneered by the self-styled humanists ('umanisti') between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries constitute one of the most important achievements of the Renaissance. They defined the terms by which Renaissance humanists themselves most often distinguished their own work from the intellectual traditions of the medieval past and from the work of their (allegedly) more old-fashioned contemporaries. What, though, did medieval humanism really look like and what precisely did Renaissance humanism bring that was new? Our focus will be on five vernacular English and Scottish writers: Chaucer, Lydgate, Henryson, Douglas, and Bellenden (Surrey's translation of Books 2 and 4 of the 'Aeneid' offers a neat terminus and foil to Chaucer's earlier Virgilian versions, but we shall find that the translations of Douglas and Bellenden more richly reward our attention). From the freer reworkings of Chaucer and Henryson to the translations and scholarly excavations of Douglas and Bellenden, perhaps. Or from the classical past as an emblem of tragic self-destructiveness in Chaucer's Troy and Thebes to new and revitalising political possibilities found within Livy's Republican Rome by Bellenden? We focus on the period from the 1380s to the 1530s, but it will take us often to France and, more often still, to Italy. It will require us to open windows onto the medieval reception of the classical legacy from the 5th century to the 16th (as well as onto the classical works themselves), we bring together disparate materials, placing poems and plays alongside university syllabi and the book-lists of late-medieval libraries.




What is a short story? Is it more than a story that is short? And if it is, what is the more and how might it be written? These are just some of the questions you'll grapple with, in the course of a semester studying one of the most alluring and elusive of literary forms. On this module we'll explore the short story's intoxicating power together. Of course, there's no single 'correct' way of writing a short story, but there are things worth knowing about, not least because the short story is such a particular form: it both asks for and gives very different things, both to the writer and to the reader. You'll be exposed to a wide range of work by writers from across the world. In the course of your reading and your discussions, you'll uncover some of the form's many shapes, its technical challenges, its limitless potential. In so doing, you'll sharpen both your creative and your critical faculties. While this is predominantly a practice-based course - intended to improve your ability to write short fictions - such is the nature of the form that an understanding of its history and its theory is unquestionably beneficial, not to say generative - as you will discover, short stories are very often in conversation with themselves. Although most of the stories you read will be relatively contemporary, the module will also attempt to historicise the form, attempting to sketch a sense of its development. In the end reading and writing are the best ways to 'learn' to write short stories and you'll be encourage to do this as much as possible, with time set aside for writing and/or workshopping throughout the semester, enabling your thinking and theorising to be put into immediate practice. All of which is done to enable you to write the best short fiction you're capable of writing at this time. By the end of the course, not only will you have developed a significant body of work in the form of sketches and drafts, but you'll have developed a grounding in short fiction theory, enabling you to articulate a sense of your understanding of this most intoxicating literary form. PLEASE NOTE that this module is frequently oversubscribed, so priority will be given to MA Creative Writing courses. Students who choose the module might not get their first choice and are strongly advised to choose a reserve choice.




This module introduces you to the ways in which material texts (both in manuscript and print) were transformed during the vital era from the emergence of print at the end of the middle ages to the close of the 17th century. How did the ways in which books were published change? How can we use the evidence of annotated books to reconstruct readers' habits and interests? How far did print transform the nature of the book? What happened to books as they started to become absorbed and classified within modern libraries? And how did manuscript documents -- especially letters -- enable the enormous boom in communication characteristic of the seventeenth century? How did the transformation of material texts create new possibilities for writing and thinking? The module equips you with the skills in early-modern archival studies that are necessary to tackle these questions. In particular, we spend a portion of each seminar learning how to read the handwriting of sixteenth and seventeenth century documents. The module culminates in visits to two archives in Norwich -- the Norfolk Record Office and the Norfolk Heritage Centre -- and your summative assessed work will take the form of a study of document(s) from these archives. The module will be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the most vitally important era of the transformation of the book.




This module provides you with critical and creative knowledge of modern crime/thriller fiction, and is designed to complement the Creative Writing MA programme. Crime/thriller fiction, the world's most popular literary genre, is particularly subject to ever evolving conventions, expectations, precedents and sub-genres. Understanding the presiding logistical and thematic issues is fundamental to both the creation of and critical response to crime/thriller fiction. In the module you will analyse the developments and characteristics of the modernisation of the genre, through a symptomatic approach to authors such as James M Cain, Patricia Highsmith, Tana French, and Marlon James, from police procedurals to psychological thrillers. Issues of literary worth, escapism and social context, particularly will be examined. A prior interest in the genre is not necessary, while there will be much focus on the structural aspects of the novel. Your creative work will also concentrate on how to craft a convincing plot, creating believable characters, building narrative drive and suspense, and generating voice. There will be a chance for you to workshop work-in-progress, as you produce your original crime/thriller fiction.




You'll explore key issues in the history of the theory and practice of translation in the West. You'll explore the changes in the cultural status of translation from ancient times to the present, analysing the ways in which translations have contributed to the reception of texts, and focusing on some of the political, theological and philosophical debates which translations have provoked. In the second half of the module you'll focus on a range of contemporary debates in translation studies. You're encouraged to explore your own theoretical interests and present your findings in class. There is no foreign language requirement, and all materials are read in English.




Why are women still under-represented within film? Why are women filmmakers still struggling to get their creative visions on screens? Our intention is to explore and critically reflect upon the relationship between women and film whilst focusing on issues such as women's cinema as counter cinema; women's cinema as minor cinema; women filmmakers; international women's film festivals; the representation of women in film; female spectatorship, (fe)male gaze; sexuality; feminism and post-feminism in film; female subjectivity; female desire, feminist filmmaking. We will focus on analysing contemporary films from a variety of national and transnational cinemas that may include Hollywood, British, Turkish, Japanese, Argentina, Palestine, India, Greece, Portugal, Africa and Brazil.



Students will select 20 - 40 credits from the following modules:

Students should select two modules (40 credits) across Option Ranges B and C. At least one of those modules must be selected from Option Range B, which are recommended modules for this course.

Name Code Credits


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-millennial; 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 scepticism 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 writing. Much of this writing will be Anglophone but you should be prepared for adventures in reading translations. We will also have to opportunity do some work in UEA's 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?




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.




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.



Students will select 0 - 20 credits from the following modules:

Students should select two modules (40 credits) across Option Ranges B and C. Option Range B contains recommended modules for this course, but students can select one module from Option Range C if they selected just one module from Option Range B.

Name Code Credits


Critical reading and creative writing collide when adapting a text for performance in another medium. The very process forces a string of questions: Is it possible to separate a story from its expression? What, if any, are the obligations owed to the source text? Must the adaptation always be 'secondary'? Can we define a 'good' adaptation? The questions only grow more interesting if we consider changes in reception and more complex when we alter era or cultural setting. This module focuses on key questions in dramatic adaptation, establishing a foundation in basic theory and then focusing on readings of source works and screenings or performances of adaptations. Seminar discussions probe the choices offered by original texts and explore the possibilities and limitations inherent in different forms. In the later sessions, you will have the opportunity to workshop an adaptation for a final project. Writers are expected to produce scripts, while theatre directors will have to option to produce a script or a performance. The module is a must for scriptwriters, but no prior scriptwriting experience is necessary as the seminars teach the basic techniques of dramatic writing. Class workshop will further develop skills in the specific dramatic forms.




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 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? 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.




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.




We are currently witnessing a renaissance in history writing. Sales of historical novels continue to rise steeply. Societies have formed; new prizes have been established. A number of eminent historians are turning from fact to fiction. What can the historical novel do in terms of reaching the past that more conventional historical accounts cannot do? Can it challenge long-told historical narratives, propose new ones or give us new vantage points? You will cross the boundaries between literature, history and creative writing to explore the possibilities (and paradoxes) of historical fiction. You'll study the history of the historical novel and read critical and theoretical essays about the writing of history alongside examples of ground-breaking, innovative or revisionist modern and contemporary historical fiction. Books studied might include for instance Mantel's Wolf Hall, Graham Swift's Waterland, Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, Toni Morrison's Beloved and Emma Donohue's collection of short stories, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits. You will also explore ideas around 'history of the emotions' and the 'history of mentalities'. You will present work in progress in the workshop format as you move towards the submission of either a final piece of historical fiction (short story or part of a novel) or a critical essay or a portfolio that includes both critical and creative work.




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.




Throughout this module you will produce translations in conditions that encourage and facilitate reflection on the process and product of translation. You will be encouraged to think experimentally, not only about the forms a finished translation might take, but also about the ways in which process might be incorporated into the translation. The module has a workshop format and culminates in a series of presentations of the projects on which students have chosen to work. A series of sessions devoted to the discussion and hands-on tackling of practical problems connected with translation and the projects ahead, precede the presentations. One class meeting will take place at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts and another at the Special Collections of the UEA Library. Throughout the semester you will be encouraged to discuss a variety of texts, both critical and creative, that help illuminate the process and product of literary translation. You will also be invited to circulate your own bibliographies (developed in relation to in-class presentations as well as the main project) to other members of the class, and to bring to our attention any text(s) you encounter that may be of particular relevance. Your final project will engage with the process of producing literary translation, and will comprise a scholarly discussion thereof illustrated by your own translations of a more or less experimental nature. The in-process project will be presented to the class for discussion and feedback in the second part of the semester.




Are you interested in how a book is selected for publication, in how to write for an online readership, or in learning how to edit? Whether you are a writer or a would-be publisher, this module will give you an introduction to the modern publishing industry and equip you with some of the practical skills involved in the successful publication of texts. As well as becoming acquainted with the structure and economics of the contemporary publishing world, the opportunities and challenges posed by digitalisation, you will examine the process whereby books are chosen by literary agents and publishers, review principles of text and jacket design, acquire basic copyediting and proofreading skills, learn tips for publicising books online, write jacket 'blurbs' and press releases. You will also engage with the principles and practice of blog-writing, with copyright law and aspects of publishing finance. In recent years speakers such as Chris Hamilton-Emery from Salt, Philip Gwyn Jones of Scribe, Rosie Sherwood of art-publisher Elbow Room and Eloise Wales of The Literary Platform have addressed the seminars. We have examined correspondence between authors and publishers in the UEA Archive of Contemporary Writing and visited the Jarrold's Print Museum in Norwich and the London International Book Fair. Towards the end of the module you will also have to opportunity to become involved in the editing of the annual MA Creative Writing anthologies. Assessment is by formal essay OR creative-critical assignment such as a literary blog.




"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.




Unlike some other art forms, film and television drama productions are very influenced by the businesses and marketplaces in which they operate. This module will provide a practical understanding of the processes of creative script and project development; the workings of the independent film business and the TV business; and how to develop a story and package for the marketplace. By the end of it you'll know how films and TV dramas get dreamt up, how they get pitched, and how they get financed. You will learn how the industry actually works.




Some of the most exciting and innovative fiction of the moment is in fact a hybrid form of fiction, borrowing subject matter and techniques from traditionally non-fiction modes such as memoir, criticism, journalism, reportage and life-writing. These novels depart from the usual concerns with character, realistic dialogue and plot to focus on voice, place, and time, employing strategies of literary craft to be formally innovative. This course looks at original non-fiction and also at contemporary 'realist' novels which are pushing boundaries and gaining attention in the wider literary culture. We will study the forms, techniques and thematics of both non-fiction and fiction, with an aim to experimenting with and improving students' writing in both forms. Some writing in class and between classes will be required. The second half of the module will include workshopping student work-in-progress. This is a practice-based module taught by a novelist and non-fiction writer and aimed primarily at students on the creative writing strands but is also open to students studying for critical MAs.




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.




This module will allow you to explore innovative and experimental forms of place writing, from the critical and theoretical to the literary and artistic. You'll study critical and theoretical approaches such as (though this may be subject to small changes each year) psychogeography, ecocriticism, critical heritage studies, deep mapping, animal studies, and literary activism. At the same time, you'll consider a number of original works of literature from recent years, thinking carefully about the relationship between theory, method and form. Some of the authors that you'll consider (though this may be subject to small changes each year) are: Richard Mabey, Alice Oswald, W.G. Sebald, R.F. Langley, Italo Calvino, Kei Miller, Sue Clifford and Angela King, Tim Robinson, Paul Farley, Kathleen Jamie, Iain Sinclair, and J.A Baker. During the module, you'll explore some of the following questions: how have different ways of 'framing' place influenced the sense of cultural identity associated with that place? What role might literature play in this? How might recent developments in theory and practice inform your own methods of place writing? How might they encourage you to experiment with new methods? What surprising literary forms might this lead to? And finally, what new ideas might this prompt about publication, exhibition and public engagement? On this module, you'll not only gain a strong foundation in debates concerning literature's relationship to the environment, to heritage, and to ideas of community but you'll engage with these debates following your own line of inquiry, and/or through your own developing practice, in ways that will equip you to take on similar projects after the MA as well.




This module is designed to complement the prose fiction workshop but is open to students on related programmes. You'll be provided with creative and critical knowledge in a single experiential burst, by exploring as they are relevant to writing fiction such topics as time, place, dramatic structure, character and concinnity. We'll also give consideration to professional issues confronting novelists, from writer's block to editing, contracts and dealing with the media. The module presents the writer as both artist and supplier of intellectual property to a market, while examining that and other tensions critically. Reading, writing and analysis happen alongside each other. You'll examine fictional, critical and professional texts, and write exercises illuminating the issue at hand. Assessment is by creative writing coursework with a critical commentary and you'll also be expected to make presentations on topics of your choice.




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

  • UEA Literary Festival

    The University of East Anglia's first literary festival took place in 1991 and over the last twenty five years we have welcomed a host of award-winning authors, journalists, illustrators, scientists, economists, broadcasters and more.

    Read it UEA Literary Festival
  • Home Truths

    The troubled little sister of crime fiction, domestic noir has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years.

    Read it Home Truths
  • Unlocking The Past

    How can the study of dusty manuscripts lead to the creation of interactive digital mapping tools? How does digitising globally significant medieval and early modern letters lead to donning walking gear and creating heritage trails across Norfolk?

    Read it Unlocking The Past

    Your University questions, answered

    Read it #ASKUEA

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject English Literature or a Related Subject Preferred
  • Degree Classification Bachelors (Hons) degree - 2.1 or equivalent
  • Special Entry Requirements Sample of work - see below

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 in each section and 7.0 in writing)
  • PTE (Pearson): 65 (minimum 50 in each section and 65 in writing)

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

Special Entry Requirements

A sample of your academic writing (for example an essay from your undergraduate degree) of up to 3000 words.


The School'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 the Admissions Office directly for further information.

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:

There are a variety of scholarships and studentships available to postgraduate applicants in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. For further information relevant to the School of Literature and Creative Writing, 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