School of English and Drama

Contemporary Writing

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

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 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.

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.