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Pathway 5: Writing in the Modern Age

Writing in the Modern Age examines how modernism and modern writing interact with politics, art history, philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, postcolonialism, and critical theory.

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This pathway offers a historically wide-ranging, theoretically rigorous, and generically diverse grounding in twentieth-century literary culture. It examines modernism alongside non- and post-modernist writing, and situates all three in relation to politics, philosophy, and other artistic media of the twentieth century. The pathway has a global outlook, asking how modernism may look from Cape Town, Dublin, or Kingstown, Jamaica, as well as from London, Paris or New York. It stresses the diversity of modern experience, and of literature striving to express the nature of ‘modernity’ itself

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The compulsory module, ‘Modernism and After’, tracks the central debates that run through modern writing and criticism. What is ‘modern’ and what comes after it? What counts as ‘art’? How have relations between ‘high’ and ‘low’ altered over time? How does writing relate to racial or gendered ‘otherness’? How has writing rethought the politics of freedom and containment? How does literature change with new recording and distribution formats? How can criticism deal with creativity? These questions open up the last 120 years or so of literary and cultural innovation, and frame the other modules you choose to take.

All students take these compulsory modules:


Compulsory modules

• Modernism and After• Resources for Research (non-assessed)
• Researching Modern Culture (non-assessed)
• Dissertation

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.  

• Benjamin and Adorno• Cultural Legacies of the First World War• Forms of Modernism• Literature, Science and Technology• Peripheral Modernities• Queer Theory and Contemporary Fiction
• Reading the Middle East• The State of the Novel• Writing the East End

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.

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