The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

Q320 MA English Literary Studies (Twentieth Century and Contemporary) (1 year)

The MA pathway in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature will enable you to explore the complex cultural histories of literatures in English from the twentieth century to the present, and offers advanced training in the practice of close textual study, history and theory. Individual modules trace the paradoxes of modernity within the intersecting discourses of aesthetics, education, economics, ethnicity, nationalism, legality, science, sexuality and urbanization.


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Introducing your degree

The MA pathway in the long twentieth century will give you the opportunity to specialise in the literature and culture of modernity. It is taught by world-leading experts who are as passionate about the subject as you are, and is linked to the Southampton Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing. It will empower you to conduct advanced-level research and independent thinking in theory, history, and criticism; to make effective use of archives, manuscripts, and research libraries; and examine how modern and contemporary writing influences the public understanding of climate change, economics, conflict, medicine, religion, security, and more. Not only will you emerge with an internationally-recognised masters degree from a top Russell Group university, you will also acquire the critical thinking and writing skills that will give you the competitive edge, either as a future scholar or as a professional in areas such as broadcasting, creative writing, secondary school teaching, librarianship, museums and galleries, publishing and roles in the heritage industry.



Our pathway in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature allows you to specialise in the literary culture and history of the long twentieth century. It is taught by leading experts in the field and has a unique link to the Southampton Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing .

The MA English Literary Studies (Twentieth Century and Contemporary) will enable you to work independently in the field; to explore how genres, authors, and texts participate in wider public discourses concerning race, gender, embodiment, disability, climate change, science, globalization, and sexualities; to examine the interface between literary and visual cultures; and to evaluate unique publications and archival resources specific to the period. It will develop your knowledge and understanding of critical and research methods appropriate to the period; raise your awareness of the historical and critical reception of literature and culture in the long twentieth century; and empower you to explore the nuances of literary meaning in the contested cultural field of twentieth-century public culture.


View the programme specification document for this course.

Entry Requirements

Typical entry requirements


First- or upper second class honours degree or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University in English literature or a cognate discipline

English Language

IELTS 7.0 overall, with minimum of 7.0 in writing, 6.5 in reading, listening and speaking, or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University.

Mature applicants

Studying for a degree later in life can be extremely rewarding and mature students are often among our most successful.

If you are over 21 and feel you would benefit from degree-level studies, we can be more flexible about our entry requirements. For full-time courses, selectors will expect you to demonstrate your commitment by means of some recent serious study, for example, one or two A level passes, successful completion of an Open University foundation course or an appropriate Access course. Your application will be considered on individual merit and you may be asked to attend an interview.

For further information, please contact our Admissions Team:


Selection process

Selection process: Online application

Interview may be required on a case by case basis to assess suitability of course

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.


Typical course content

In the first semester, the MA English pathway in the Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature comprises two core modules –Approaches to the Twentieth Century , Adventures in Literary Research  and two options.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Two further optional modules from the MA Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature pathway and related modules in other MA programmes are taken in the second semester, along with the dissertation (which is completed at the end of the summer).  

The optional modules below are taught as special subjects, where you will meet in smaller groups with your tutor and develop your own research question

Literature and Law      

This special project module examines the interface between literature and law in the following key ways: through the representation of law within literature; the representation of law as literature; the use of literature in law; and laws relating to literature. It will examine a range of literary and legal texts from the nineteenth century to the present.

Modernisms and Modernities    

This special project module aims to provide a cultural history of the dynamic relationship between modernism and modernity in the early twentieth century. It focuses on the political, social, philosophical and technological dimensions of modernity, and the impact that this had on cultural and artistic expression from the Imagists through to Beckett. The course will also introduce you to current debates in modernist studies; indicative topics include the body and technology in modernist literature, the audience and market for modernism, the modernist city, and the importance of interdisciplinary practices in modernist culture.

Race and Literature           

This special project module traces the conceptual trajectory between social Darwinist theories of race and the post-modern refutation of the ‘illusions of race’ by examining how racialised bodies and identities are represented in a range of literary texts in which they linked to various other social constructs and institutions – including slavery, colonialism, Apartheid, Empire and its legacies. Comte de Gobineau’s theories about the inequality of races will be allowed to be interrogated by the narrative of a female slave, W.E.B. Du Bois’ ground-breaking notion of double consciousness will be placed alongside Bildungsromane from both Harlem and the Caribbean, and ideas related to ethnic hybridity and silencing related to narratives of colonial India and postcolonial Australia. We will discuss the interface between race, culture and religion, and there will be sessions on multiculturalism and the framing of Muslims, migrants and asylum seekers in the recent ‘war on terror’.


You may also take modules from other programmes, pathways, and disciplines in the Faculty of Humanities. 

The MA culminates in a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice.

For further details of core and optional modules, see the table below.


Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Fees & funding

Tuition fees

Fees for postgraduate taught courses vary across the University. All fees are listed for UK, EU and international full-time and part-time students alphabetically by course name.

View the full list of course fees


Scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships or grants may be available to support you through your course. Funding opportunities available to you are linked to your subject area and/or your country of origin. These can be from the University of Southampton or other sources.

Explore funding opportunities

Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In some cases you'll be able to choose modules (which may have different costs associated with that module) which will change the overall cost of a programme to you. Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Career Opportunities

An MA in English Literary Studies is excellent preparation for a career in teaching, publishing and arts administration. Graduates of our programme go onto professional careers in writing (from journalism to fiction), education, international PhD programmes, teaching, broadcasting, and varied work in the creative industries. Former graduates and alumni return to give talks throughout the year, and you will help you make the most of the opportunities here.

A number of our graduates have gone on to careers in teaching, journalism, media and found the year-long course invaluable in shaping and developing their voice.

Learning & Assessment

Study locations

Student life

Avenue campus

Only a few minutes walk from Highfield Campus, Avenue campus provides ...Find out more

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