English Literature: Contemporary Writing

MA ( 1 year Full-time / 2 years Part-time )


The Contemporary Writing pathway offers you the opportunity to engage with American, British, Irish, and world Anglophone literary cultures.

Register your interest

This pathway focuses on cutting-edge developments in literature. It uses notions of ‘writing’ and of the ‘present’ as gateways into contemporary debates about the historical present, the nature of time, and the difficulties of periodisation. Special attention will be paid to questions of technology, innovation, and social change. Our approach to contemporary material will be genuinely interdisciplinary and we will explore how such writing plays a role in current theoretical debates, engages with contemporary philosophy, and is transformed within the context of digital culture.

We are home to one of the largest and most diverse groups of staff in this field of any department in the country, and expertise in late-twentieth- and twenty-first-century culture brings together perspectives that are regional and transnational, theoretical and historicist. Distinctively, the pathway will also give you the opportunity of working with our leading postcolonial scholars, and to think about contemporary cultural production in global contexts of reception.

The pathway is delivered by a strong team of specialists in contemporary literature and culture, with particular expertise in digital cultures, technology, narrative theory and the contemporary novel. Staff on the contemporary pathway include Mark Currie, Sam McBean, Andrew van der Vlieskitt price and Zara Dinnen, whose research interests and publications address topics in digital culture, new media, popular culture, contemporary fiction, American Fiction, science and technology, time, feminism, queer theory, temporality and the theory of narrative. 

A range of option modules will enable you to study major novelists and poets from national literary traditions within and beyond an Anglo-American frame. The core module, ‘Writing and the Present’, equips you with a set of critical vocabularies with which to engage historically, formally and philosophically with contemporary literature. The pathway as whole thus facilitates a twin focus on the notions of writing and the present, encouraging you to examine the most urgent intellectual issues of our time that relate to the notion of ‘the contemporary’, not only in academic contexts but also in lived social experience.

The pathway combines specially-designed core modules with the opportunity to select further options from across the whole range of MA modules on offer in the Department of English. You may also opt to take a cognate elective module offered by the Schools in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and by other Colleges of the University of London.

For more information please visit the School of English and Drama website.


The Contemporary Writing pathway is currently available for one year through full-time study, or two years part-time.

Modules are taught in weekly two-hour seminars. The research-training module will involve visits to archives and galleries which may each take up an afternoon. The dissertation is supervised through sessions with a specially designated supervisor. In addition to the timetabled sessions, you will be asked to attend meetings with your adviser and course tutor. You will also need to undertake many hours of independent learning and research in order to progress at the required level. When coursework deadlines are approaching independent learning hours may need to increase significantly.

You will take four assessed modules, an unassessed skills module training module as well as the 15,000-word dissertation. The dissertation is taught through a combination of workshops, supervisions, and offers an opportunity for you to present your ideas at the MA Conference which is held in June.


You will take four assessed modules (two in each semester) and two non-assessed research training modules (one in each semester) before proceeding to the 15,000-word dissertation.


We understand the need for flexibility for part-time students. In your first year, you take the compulsory core module, an unassessed skills module, and one optional module. In your second year you take two optional modules and the dissertation. The dissertation is taught through a combination of workshops, supervisions, and offers an opportunity for you to present your ideas at the MA Conference which is held in June. Teaching takes place during the day.

Compulsory modules

  • Writing and the Present
  • Resources for Research (unassessed)
  • Dissertation

Option modules

You choose three modules from a list of options that changes from year to year (one can be from the range of modules offered across the MA English Studies curriculum). If members of our specialist research staff win research funding it will mean that their module won’t run, so for that reason this list is indicative only.  

  • Benjamin and Adorno
  • Cultural Legacies of the First World War
  • Imagining the Caribbean
  • Modernism and After
  • Reading the Middle East
  • The State of the Novel

You may, subject to availability and the approval of the School, take one of your option modules from across a range offered by other Schools in the Humanities and Social Science Faculty, or from other Colleges of the University of London.

In addition to taught modules, we run a range of research seminars to which all MA students are invited. Some of these are linked to our interdisciplinary Research Centres, such as the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, the Centre for Religion and Literature in English and the Centre for the History of the Emotions. Others are collaborations with other institutions, such as the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar. With visiting speakers from across the world, these seminars are an opportunity to meet other postgraduate students and members of staff and to learn about the latest developments in research.

Entry requirements

Most applicants will have an undergraduate degree with a first or good upper second class honours (or the equivalent) in English or such related fields as history, cultural studies and media studies. Where a North American marking scheme is used, applicants should have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.5.

Promising applicants who do not meet the formal academic criteria but who possess relevant credentials and who can demonstrate their ability to produce written work at masters level will also be considered. Applicants may be invited to interview or asked to submit examples of written and/or creative work. We welcome applications from mature and non-traditional students.

International applicants: Students from outside of the UK help form a global community here at Queen Mary. For detailed country specific entry requirements please visit the International section of our website. If your first language is not English, you must provide evidence of your English language proficiency. You can find details on our English language entry requirements here: www.qmul.ac.uk/international/languagerequirements

If you do not meet language or scholarly requirements it might be possible for you to undertake foundation or pre-sessional programmes that will prepare you for the masters programme. For more information, please contact the Admissions Office.

Learning and teaching


Tuition fees for Home and EU students

2019/20 Academic Year

Full time £9,150
Part time £4,575

Tuition fees for International students

2019/20 Academic Year

Full time £16,350
Part time £8,175

Part time fees are charged per annum over two years for a two year programme and per annum over three years for a three year programme. A percentage increase may be applied to the fees in years two and three.

This increase is defined each year and published on the intranet and in the Tuition Fee Regulations. A 3% increase was applied to the unregulated university fees in 2019/20. Further information can be viewed on our University Fees webpage, including details about annual increases.


There are a number of sources of funding available for Masters students.

These include a significant package of competitive Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) bursaries and scholarships in a range of subject areas, as well as external sources of funding.

Queen Mary bursaries and scholarships

We offer a range of bursaries and scholarships for Masters students including competitive scholarships, bursaries and awards, some of which are for applicants studying specific subjects.

Find out more about QMUL bursaries and scholarships.

Alternative sources of funding

Home/EU students can apply for a range of other funding, such as Professional and Career Development Loans, and Employer Sponsorship, depending on their circumstances and the specific programme of study.

Overseas students may be eligible to apply for a range of external scholarships and we also provide information about relevant funding providers in your home country on our country web pages.

Download our Postgraduate Funding Guide for detailed information about postgraduate funding options for Home/EU students.

Read more about alternative sources of funding for Home/EU students and for Overseas students.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 5079
email bursaries@qmul.ac.uk

Other financial help on offer at Queen Mary

We offer one to one specialist support on all financial and welfare issues through our Advice and Counselling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.

Our Advice and Counselling Service also has lots of Student Advice Guides on all aspects of finance including:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8717



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