MA (Res) Modern and Contemporary English

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  • Objectives
    The new MA in Modern and Contemporary English explores in depth some of the key authors, ideas, and canonical structures of literature in English from 1890 to the present. It covers a wide range of issues, such as theoretical and conceptual debates over "modernity," the defining characteristics of Modernism, and writing in relation to nation, race, and sexuality.This MA allows for extended research into established figures from Samuel Beckett to Irvine Welsh, and to emergent areas from the "literatures of diaspora" to Anglo-Caribbean narratives.
  • Academic title
    MA (Res) Modern and Contemporary English
  • Course description
    Students on the full-time course will take the two compulsory taught modules in the autumn term:

    Materiality and Textuality will introduce you to the methods of advanced study and research; this will include issues such as manuscripts and archives, palaeography, bibliography, databases, editorial practice, and how to choose and define a dissertation topic. The University of Reading is home to world-renowned collections – most notably the Beckett Archive – and this module will involve working with rare and valuable cultural documents of various kinds.You will have the opportunity to create your assessment for this module in line with your particular interests: this might involve, for instance, tracing the circulation and print history of an early modern text, or editing a Virginia Woolf letter.

    Modern English Studies  will focus on some of the key terms, ideas, and events that have been used to conceptualise English Studies in recent times. The module begins with thinking about the organisation of study into periods: what are the implications of organising study around such terms as "Renaissance," "Victorian," or "Modern"? What happens if we try to think around or against such categories, and how do these categories sustain or otherwise interact with ideas of class, sexuality, nation, race, or form? After a series of plenary debates on these issues with students taking other MAs, students on the Modern and Contemporary MA will take further seminars on histories and theories of modernity, postcolonialism, and trans- and post-nationalisms. The final seminar of this module takes the form of a study-visit to the Tate Modern.

    In the spring term, you will choose two options from:

    -Samuel Beckett 
    -Contemporary American Fiction
    -Caribbean Narratives
    -Contemporary Poetry in English
    -Configurations of Scottish Literature and Culture in the Twentieth Century
    -Diasporas of the Mind
    -Urban Visualities - New York 

    We cannot guarantee that all modules will be available in any given year; availability will be determined to some extent by student choice. If you have a strong, longer-term research interest in a topic that is not available as a taught course in your year of study, you may be able to take the option as a "guided study" module.

    The final element of the MA is the Dissertation module. At the start of the summer term, and in consultation with the programme director, you will be assigned a dissertation supervisor. Your supervisor will guide you in researching and framing your dissertation project.

    Part-time students are also strongly encouraged to apply for this MA. On the part-time schedule, you will take Modern English Studies in your first term, and Materiality and Textuality in your third term. You will take specialised options in your second and fourth terms.

    Teachers on this MA

    Nicola Bradbury has published on a wide range of British and American topics of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She was for many years editor of The Yearbook of English Studies, and is author of Henry James: The Later Novels (1979). Nicola contributes to the nineteenth century options, and also to Representing the Modern City.

    David Brauner specialises in post-War English and American fiction, and he has a particular interest in the work of Philip Roth. His publications include Post-War Jewish Fiction (Palgrave, 2001), and he teaches the option on Contemporary American Fiction.

    Bryan Cheyette works on twentieth-century topics, with a special emphasis on configurations of "the Jew," "race," and modernity. His book, Diasporas of the Mind, is forthcoming from Yale University Press in 2008, and he offers the option, Diasporas of the Mind.

    Alison Donnell's main research interest is postcolonial writing and theory. She is a founding editor of the journal, Interventions, and her book, Twentieth Century Caribbean Literature: Critical Moments in Anglophone Literature and Critical History, was published by Routledge in 2006. Alison offers the option on Caribbean Narratives.

    Ronan Macdonald's research interest is in Irish writing and modernism. He has written a book on Irish tragedy, and is also author of The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett (2006). Ronan teaches on Modern English Studies, and on the Beckett option.

    Andrew Nash is an expert on Scottish literature and on publishing history. Among his many projects, he is currently working on Volume VI of The Cambridge history of the Book in Britain. Andrew is leader of the Materiality and Textuality module, and he teaches the option, Configurations of Scottish Literature.

    Mark Nixon is a specialist in modern European literature, with a particular emphasis on Beckett. He is, with Ronan Macdonald, Co-Director of the Beckett International Foundation. Mark teaches the Beckett option and on the Materiality and Textuality module.

    Pat Righelato works for the most part on twentieth-century American poetry. She wrote Understanding Rita Dove (University of South Carolina Press, 2006), and is now working on Ashbery. Pat teaches on Contemporary Poetry and Representing the Modern City.

    Peter Robinson is an acclaimed poet who has also published several books on modern poetry. His most recent critical study, Twentieth Century Poetry: Selves and Situations, was published by Oxford University Press in 2005. Peter offers the module on Contemporary Poetry.

    Peter Stoneley works on the literature and culture of the United States. He has written books on Mark Twain and on women's fiction, while his most recent project, A Queer History of the Ballet, was published by Routledge in 2007. Peter teaches on Representing the Modern City

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