MA English Literature and American Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course description

Our MA English and American Studies postgraduate taught course prepares you for further research in the discipline while also broadening and deepening your critical engagement with English and American literature and culture.

The structure of the course is flexible, which means you can choose to combine your interests in English and American literature and culture, or focus exclusively on English Literature.

Our department provides vibrant research environment with close links to the Centre for New Writing, involvement in the Manchester Literature Festival and access to the world-class John Rylands Library.

While this course offers you a range of units that are chronologically or geographically specific, all are informed by recent theoretical and historical developments that allow you to think about categories like literature, culture and history in nuanced and fresh ways.

Special features

Literature events

Manchester Literature Festival holds literary events across Manchester throughout the year, many in partnership with the University. The Centre for New Writing also hosts a regular public events series, Literature Live, which brings contemporary novelists and poets to the University to read and engage in conversation.

Unique collections

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library on Deansgate is part of the University and offers the rare opportunity to see a Gutenberg bible, Shakespeare folios and other archival treasures.

Teaching and learning

Depending on the units you take, you will learn through a variety of teaching methods, including seminars, film screenings, research workshops and online activities.

You will also attend seminars on topics such as how to study at MA level, how to research and write a master's thesis, and career options.

Coursework and assessment

Depending on the units you take, you will be assessed through methods such as written assignments and presentations, as well as the dissertation.

Course unit details

Students undertake units totalling 180 credits. Core and optional units combine to make 120 credits, with the remaining 60 credits allocated to the dissertation.

Semester 1

You will choose two of the three core units on offer. Each core unit is worth 30 credits, and will lay the groundwork for your further coursework, as well as preparing you to think about your dissertation. The current core units are: 

  • Approaches to Literary Study: Historicism and the Archive
  • Space, Place and Text (Ecocriticism)
  • American Studies: Theory, Methods, Practice

These units address questions that are at the heart of literary and cultural studies, and will give you conceptual tools relevant to all of the units offered in the second semester. 

Semester 2 

You will choose 60 credits worth of course units. Semester 2 units are primarily weighted at 15 credits, thus allowing you to choose from a wider variety of options and to diversify your engagement with the field. Semester 2 course units explore a range of periods, approaches, and literary cultural productions. Some offer special activities, like the chance to engage with the holdings in the John Rylands Library. 

When your coursework is complete, you will write a 12-15,000-word dissertation, worth 60 credits, supervised by an academic member of staff.

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Dissertation (MA) ENGL60000 60 Mandatory
American Studies: Theories, Methods, Practice AMER60091 30 Optional
Radical Subcultures AMER60112 15 Optional
Race, Gender and Power in the American South: From Slavery to Segregation AMER62002 15 Optional
The AIDS Crisis: American Cultural Representation AMER62032 15 Optional
Historicising the Contemporary: Literature and Politics 1970-2000 ENGL60081 30 Optional
Modernisms ENGL60451 30 Optional
Postcolonial Literatures, Genres and Theories ENGL60462 30 Optional
Shakespeare: Theory and the Archive ENGL60492 15 Optional
Space, Place and Text ENGL60782 30 Optional
Wondrous Transformations: Translating the Medieval Past ENGL60872 15 Optional
Critical Thinking in Gender and Sexuality Studies ENGL60971 30 Optional
Old English: Writing the Unreadable Past ENGL61161 15 Optional
Vital Matters ENGL64111 15 Optional
Key Issues in Literary and Critical Theory ENGL70032 30 Optional
Literature and the Contemporary Literary Industry ENGL71212 30 Optional
Approaches to Literary Studies: Historicism and the Archive ENGL71821 30 Optional
Global, Cultural and Creative Industries SALC60402 15 Optional
Critical Ecologies SALC61082 15 Optional
Displaying 10 of 19 course units


You will have access to a wide range of facilities to enhance your studies at Manchester, including the University Library and John Rylands Library.

You will also have the opportunity to enjoy Manchester's many other cultural assets for both study and recreational purposes, including the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum.

Find out more on our  Facilities  page.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: