School of English and Drama

Writing in the Modern Age

The Writing in the Modern Age pathway offers you the opportunity to study British and international Modernist literature and culture with politics, art history, philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, postcolonialism, and critical theory.

Please note for 2019/20 entry:

Our MA English Programmes are currently undergoing a review to ensure the content continues to offer an outstanding teaching and learning experience for our students. 

Your programme will offer specially-designed core modules alongside the opportunity to choose from a range of electives in specialist areas.

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This pathway offers a historically wide-ranging, theoretically rigorous, and generically diverse grounding in twentieth-century literary culture. It examines modernism alongside non- and post-modernist writing, and situates all three in relation to politics, philosophy, and other artistic media of the twentieth century.

The pathway has a global outlook, asking how modernism may look from Cape Town, Dublin, or Kingstown, Jamaica, as well as from London, Paris or New York. It stresses the diversity of modern experience, and of literature striving to express the nature of ‘modernity’ itself.

The compulsory module, ‘Modernism and After’, tracks the central debates that run through modern writing and criticism. What is ‘modern’ and what comes after it? What counts as ‘art’? How have relations between ‘high’ and ‘low’ altered over time? How does writing relate to racial or gendered ‘otherness’? How has writing rethought the politics of freedom and containment? How does literature change with new recording and distribution formats? How can criticism deal with creativity? These questions open up the last 120 years or so of literary and cultural innovation, and frame the other modules you choose to take.

The Department of English has notable research and teaching strengths in the field of Modernist literature and culture, and is a leading centre of Modernist research in London and the UK. Staff working in Modernism at Queen Mary include Suzanne Hobson (author of Angels of Modernism: Religion, Culture, Aesthetics, 1910-1960 [Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011]), Scott McCracken (currently editing the Dorothy Richardson Scholarly Editions Project, a major joint collaboration between Queen Mary, the University of Oxford, the University of Birmingham, and Birkbeck, and author of Masculinities, Modernist Fiction and the Urban Public Sphere [Manchester University Press, 2007]), Morag Shiach (whose extensive and wide-ranging work on the literature and culture of Modernism includes the important monograph, Modernism, Labour and Selfhood in British Literature and Culture, 1890-1930 [Cambridge: CUP, 2004]), and Michèle Barrett (renowned authority on Virginia Woolf and the cultural history of the First World War). Other staff whose work touches upon the period include Sam Halliday, who works on science and technology in culture, and Peter Howarth, an authority on twentieth-century poetry.

Suzanne Hobson and Scott McCracken also co-organise the preeminent Modernist research seminar in London, the Modernism Research Seminar, at the Institute of English Studies.

Compulsory modules

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). In 2017-2018 we hope to offer the following. 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.  

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.

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.

Image: Vassily Kandinsky, 'Composition 7', 1913.