MA Modern and Contemporary Writing
- Full Time
- Degree of Master of Arts
- Course Length
- 1 years
- Course Start Date
- September 2024
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 rub shoulders 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’ll be able to choose optional modules from among UEA’s rich offerings in translation, philosophy, American literature, film and, subject to space, creative writing.
This course is unique in inviting you to explore criticism and creation through one another. 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’ll 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.
Study and Modules
The MA Modern and Contemporary Writing course takes one year of full-time or two years of part-time study.
In the autumn semester, you will start your course by studying the extraordinary experiments of the early decades of the 20th century (by writers such as Joyce and Woolf) and the living legacy their inventive works bequeath to contemporary critical and creative writing. You will also choose one optional autumn module, including modules in fiction, poetry, creative writing, translation, film, gender studies, and medieval and renaissance literature.
In the spring, you’ll choose at least one from a bespoke range of modules which focus on postmodernist, contemporary or creative-critical writing.
On these modules, you might 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; or you may trace trends in relatively recent fiction, focusing 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. You might also study ‘creative-critical’ 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. In doing so, you might look at recent examples of such writing – forms such as the essay, conceptual criticism, auto-commentary, and confessional criticism – and may have the opportunity to experiment with them yourselves, or you may explore ways of understanding and creating literature through parody and imitation that date back to before the creation of modern criticism in the 20th century. On some of these modules, you will also get to do some work with the resources in UEA’s unique British Archive for Contemporary Writing.
In addition to this, you can take further optional modules, from the wide range offered within the School and beyond. These include further literary-critical and creative writing modules, and modules on film, translation, race and queer theory.
The programme concludes with a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice, which you’ll begin in the spring and complete at the start of September.
Optional A Modules(Credits: 20)
Optional B Modules(Min Credits: 20, Max Credits: 40)
Optional C Modules(Min Credits: 0, Max Credits: 20)
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. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, the University will endeavour to consult with 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. 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 inform students.
Teaching and Learning
Teaching on most modules is by one three-hour seminar per week, 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 who have taught on this course include Stephen Benson, Tom Boll, Birgit Breidenbach, Clare Connors, Thomas Karshan, Duncan Large, Anshuman Mondal, Jeremy Noel-Tod, David Nowell-Smith, Rachel Potter, Cecilia Rossi, Karen Schaller, Jos Smith, Bharat Tandon, and Matthew Taunton. You may also be able to take courses from novelists, poets, and playwrights, including Tiffany Atkinson, Giles Foden, Jean McNeil, Tessa McWatt, Henry Sutton, and Steve Waters.
Independent study is especially important for your end-of-year dissertation. In the spring, you’ll have four two-hour 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’ll work one-to-one with a dissertation tutor on a topic of your own choosing. They’ll 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 on a regular basis for substantial feedback on your work.
Each 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’ll 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 teachers 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.
- Degree Classification
- Bachelors degree (minimum 2:1 or equivalent)
- Degree Subject
- Literary or Humanities
- English Foreign Language
Applications from students whose first language is not English are welcome. We require evidence of proficiency in English (including writing, speaking, listening and reading):
IELTS: 7.0 overall (minimum 7.0 in writing and 6.0 in the others )
Test dates should be within 2 years of the course start date.
We also accept a number of other English language tests. Review our English Language Equivalencies for a list of qualifications that we may accept to meet this requirement.
If you do not yet meet the English language requirements for this course, INTO UEA offer a variety of English language programmes which are designed to help you develop the English skills necessary for successful undergraduate study:
This course is open to UK, EU and International applicants. The annual intake for this course is in September each year.
Additional Information or Requirements
Candidates will be required to submit a sample of academic writing (for example an essay from your undergraduate degree) of up to 3000 words with their application.
Our Admissions Policy applies to the admissions of all postgraduate applicants.
Fees and Funding
Tuition fees for the Academic Year 2024/25 are:
UK Students: £9,975 (full time)
International Students: £21,200 (full time)
If you choose to study part-time, the fee per annum will be half the annual fee for that year, or a pro-rata fee for the module credit you are taking (only available for Home students).
We estimate living expenses at £1,023 per month.
Further Information on tuition fees can be found here.
Scholarships and Bursaries
The University of East Anglia offers a range of Scholarships; please click the link for eligibility, details of how to apply and closing dates.
Course Related Costs
Please see Additional Course Fees for details of course-related costs.
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.
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.
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 to develop your own writing in fiction, poetry, journalism or literary criticism, or to move into careers such as publishing, teaching, or the media. Or you could simply see this MA as a pleasure and an end in itself.