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Postgraduate course

Contemporary Literature MA

Discover exciting new authors and challenge yourself to consider new ideas and concepts in recent writing.

Student reading a book

Contemporary literature is full of innovation, diversity and creativity and we explore this exciting field through a huge range of forms and genres. The texts and topics you study will reflect the most pressing debates informing writers and critics today.

York campus

  • Duration – 1 year full-time | 2 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2021
  • School – School of Humanities

Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:1 undergraduate degree in a related subject

    6.0 IELTS If your first language is not English

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021-22 £6,500 full time

    International 2021-22 £12,750 full time

Course overview

Learn about the complex relationships between texts, theory and contemporary debate. You will study everything from novels and poetry to memoirs and creative non-fiction, engaging with British, American and postcolonial contemporary writing.

York is a great place for book lovers. We take part in York Literature Festival every year – an event which has hosted Margaret Atwood, Michel Faber and many other famous literary names. Workshops, writing sessions and readings are as central to your learning as lectures and seminars.

Classes take place once a week for each module. You can study part-time (taking one module each term) or full-time (two modules each term). Classes are taught during the week and often take place in the early evening.

Want to find out more? Follow us on Twitter at @YSJLit and have a look at our blog: Words Matter.

Course structure

Level 1 


15 credits


This module introduces you both to the study of the contemporary, and to postgraduate level work. As an introduction to an MA with a distinctive focus on the contemporary, Critical Perspectives sets out to establish the crucial distinctions and determinations which will remain important throughout the course. Through your engagement with this study, you will also be asked to extend and develop your thinking, writing, and discussion in ways which you can make use of in other modules.

15 credits


This module addresses current problems and new insights in genre theory, while also introducing you to major genres of the current moment. It is a short module (5 weeks) that begins with theoretical material and ultimately moves towards an examination of paradigmatic texts, published very recently, which permit an analysis of genre in the early twenty-first century. Indicative reading will include prose fiction, poetry, drama, prose non-fiction and spoken word materials.

30 credits


This module interrogates how and why contemporary writers revisit texts from the past, as well how writers engage with and represent the very notion of the past itself. The module posits the relationship and between ‘then’ and ‘now’ as complex. You will be encouraged to complicate and develop your understanding of what the contemporary “means” and how it operates. You  will establish connections between pre-21st century contexts and forms (which you may have already encountered at undergraduate level) and more recent works.

30 credits


This ten-week module is designed to introduce you to the idea (and different theories of) ‘world literature’ as well as key concerns and tropes in current global writing. The latter may include: globalisation, cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, migration and diaspora studies, World Englishes, indigeneity, environmentalism, the sacred, the body, queer theory and global activism and the use (and future) of critical theory in a world context.

15 credits


This module examines speculative fiction and embodiment in relation to questions of contemporaneity. “Speculative fictions” are here defined in broad terms, including fantasy, utopias/dystopias and (post)apocalypses as well as works that blend and disrupt traditional genre boundaries. These texts will be assessed through a range of critical perspectives, including ecocriticism, postcolonial and decolonial theory, gender and queer theory. The module aims to explore how re-configurations of bodies, subjectivity and spatiality are represented in, and constructed by, the selected texts. You will explore key concepts related to post- and trans-humanism. 

15 credits 


The module is positioned at the end of the programme as a point for you to reflect on contemporary literature and on your learning journey. It will include opportunities to debate contemporary issues with both students and colleagues. You will be expected not just to reflect but to actively synthesise the knowledge and skills developed over the course of the taught component of the MA.

60 credits

Compulsory for award

The dissertation comprises an extended piece of independent research on a topic appropriate to graduate-level study and negotiated with a nominated supervisor. The dissertation enables you to demonstrate the accumulated independent research and writing skills you have gained on the MA programme. Skills acquired in research, critical analysis and written expression will be consolidated, demonstrated and evaluated. You will be supported through three review sessions that will identify key techniques and strategies at relevant points within the research and writing process.

Teaching and assessment

The aim of all our teaching is to help you become a better writer and literary critic, to challenge you to consider new ideas and concepts, and to support you in understanding the complex connections between literature, theory, and contemporary debates. The MA is taught by weekly two hour seminars for each module. You will have the opportunity to discuss the week’s reading with your tutor and with the rest of the group, in a friendly and intellectually stimulating learning environment. We offer special writing workshops to help students make the transition to Postgraduate writing, and students also have the opportunity to work with the Royal Literary Fund Fellow.

You will encounter a range of assessment including essays, annotated bibliographies, reflective writing, and presentations. Assessment opportunities are designed to help you develop your skills as a writer, researcher, and as a literary critic, and also to help you prepare for future employment. Most modules are assessed by one piece of coursework (usually 5,000-6,000 words) and you will have the chance to discuss your ideas and get formative feedback throughout the term. The dissertation is the intellectual culmination of your Postgraduate experience. You will submit your dissertation proposal in January and work with your supervisor during the year, submitting your final piece (12,000 words) in August. This process helps you to become an independent researcher and you will be required to manage your own academic project.

Entry requirements


Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:1 undergraduate degree in a related subject

    6.0 IELTS If your first language is not English

APEL policy

If you can't meet these minimum requirements it may be possible to take into account evidence of Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) as an alternative method of meeting the programme’s entry requirements. In such a case, appropriate references and records of employment might be presented to support the applicant’s case for admission.


Entry onto this postgraduate course requires a minimum of a 2:1 undergraduate degree in English Literature or another related subject. 

If you have a 2:2 undergraduate degree and knowledge English Literature, you may be accepted on to the course following an interview. You may also be required to submit a piece of written work to support your application. 

International Students

International students will need to demonstrate that they have equivalent experience /qualifications as home students (ie the same entry criteria as above).

If their first language is not English they must show evidence of English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

We are happy to arrange interviews via Skype for overseas students.

Fees and Funding

UK & EU 2021 - 22

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this postgraduate course is £6,500 for full-time UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

For UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students studying part time, the tuition fee for 2021 entry to this postgraduate course is £3,250 per year.

Postgraduate loans are available to help you pay for your master’s course. Find out more about postgraduate funding opportunities.

International (non-EU) 2021 - 22

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this postgraduate course is £12,750 for international students.

Due to immigration laws, international students on a Student Visa must be studying full-time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

More information about funding your studies is available on our International Fees and Funding page.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021-22 £6,500 full time

    International 2021-22 £12,750 full time

Alumni Scholarships

If you are an alumni of York St John University we have scholarships available to help you continue your studies.

Scholarships for Alumni

Additional costs and financial support


Whilst studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.


View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Apply for this course

You can apply directly to the course via our Apply Now links. Please select the variant of the course that you intend to undertake (e.g. full-time or part-time) as the link will take you to a customised form for the specific course. You will need to create a login and password and complete the online form. Please contact two referees in advance of submitting your application as an automated request will go out as soon as you submit, and your application will not be reviewed until both references are in place.

Apply Now: Full-time

Apply Now: Part-time


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