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Postgraduate Course

Contemporary Literature MA

Discover exciting new authors and ideas, and learn what makes contemporary writing so special. Join us to develop your understanding of 21st century literature.

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Contemporary literature is full of innovation and diversity. It is constantly evolving to reflect what is happening in the world, helping us to grasp the challenges of the era in which we live. Through the texts and topics you study, you will discover the debates that are informing authors, critics and literary professionals right now. This course is your opportunity to become a literary critic in the contemporary writing scene.

York campus

  • Duration – 1 year full time, 2 years part time
  • Start date – September 2024, September 2025
  • School – School of Humanities

Minimum entry requirements

    2:1 honours degree in a related subject

    Interview if your honours degree is in an unrelated subject

Tuition fees

    UK 2024-25 £8,000 full time

    International 2024-25 £11,300 full time

Course overview

Discover the complex relationships between text, theory, and contemporary debate. On this course, you will study everything from novels and poetry to memoirs and creative non-fiction, engaging with a wide range of contemporary literary voices from all over the world. We will encourage you to develop your own areas of interest and expertise, and you will have the space to explore your ideas through a variety of assessments.

York is a great city for book lovers. Every year, York St John University takes part in the York Literature Festival – an event which has previously hosted Margaret Atwood, Michel Faber, and many others. The city is also home to the York Festival of Ideas, featuring public events focusing some of the most pressing issues of our time. You will have the chance to attend various workshops, events and live readings during your time on the course, including an exciting roster of research presentations from across the School of Humanities.

Follow us on Twitter at @YSJLit

Take a look at our blog: Words Matter

Course structure

How you will study

You can study this postgraduate course full time or part time. This allows you to fit your studies around other commitments.

If you choose to study full time, the course will take 1 year to complete. You will study:

  • 7 compulsory modules, including a Dissertation module

If you choose to study part time, the course will take 2 years to complete. The modules will be split across both years.

You can find out which modules are available in each term in the Course Specifications.


Credits: 15

Compulsory module

On this module we will introduce you to the study of the contemporary and to postgraduate level work. You will explore a small number of recent literary texts, which will be chosen on the basis that they invite discussion about existing socially, politically and culturally pressing matters, and allow you to develop your thinking, writing and discussion abilities. Topics may include:

  • Climate change and ecocriticism
  • Contemporary social justice movements
  • Literature and (post) truth
  • Literature and economic inequality

Credits: 15

Compulsory module

On this module you will discuss current genre theory and the critical issues surrounding it, while discovering major contemporary genres. This is a 5 week module on which you will examine recently published texts and analyse genre in the early 21st century. You will have the opportunity to discuss a range of issues that may include:

  • Contemporary genre theory
  • Genre as a publishing and bookselling tool
  • New sub genres emerging in poetry, prose and drama
  • The relationship between innovative form and genre

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

During this module you will investigate how and why contemporary writers revisit texts from the past, as well as how writers engage with and represent the very notion of the past itself. You will consider how we ought to define the concept of ‘the contemporary’ by reading a range of contemporary texts alongside some of their historical precursors. Topics may include:

  • Comedy and satire, past and present
  • Translation and adaptation across historical periods
  • Mythologies
  • Living in the end times

Credits: 30

Compulsory module

This 10 week module will introduce you to key theories surrounding ‘world literature’ as well as important concerns within current global writing. Through it you will become familiar with 'English Literature' beyond England and the UK. Key issues addressed on the module include:

  • Globalisation, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism
  • Migration and diaspora studies
  • World Englishes, indigeneity and environmentalism
  • Global activism and the use of critical theory in a world context

Credits: 15

Compulsory module

On this module you will examine and question speculative fiction within a contemporary context. Speculative fictions include fantasy, utopias, dystopias, and (post)apocalypses, as well as works that blend and disrupt traditional genre boundaries. You will explore how reconfigurations of bodies, subjectivity and spatiality are represented in, and constructed by, the selected texts, through a range of perspectives and contexts including:

  • Postcolonial and decolonial theory
  • Gender and queer theory
  • Afrofuturism and afropessimism
  • Futurology and posthumanism

Credits: 15

Compulsory module

Towards the end of your studies, you will reflect both on contemporary literature and on your learning journey. You will have the opportunity to debate contemporary issues with your peers and colleagues, actively combining the knowledge and skills you have developed throughout the course. Topics examined on the module may include:

  • Affect and post critical reading
  • The relationship between contemporary literature and the Academy
  • Trauma, contemporaneity and futurity
  • Nostalgia and popular culture

Credits: 60

Compulsory module

On this module you will demonstrate the accumulated independent research and writing skills you have gained on the course. Your dissertation is an extended piece of independent research on a topic negotiated with your supervisor. Skills acquired in research, critical analysis and written expression will be consolidated, demonstrated and evaluated. You will be supported through 3 review sessions that will identify key techniques and strategies within the research and writing process.


Teaching and assessment

Teaching and learning

Your modules will be taught in weekly 2 hour small group seminars, during which you will engage in a discussion of the week’s set text. Here you will share and discover new perspectives on literary analysis and criticism.

Classes take place once a week for each module. You can study part time (taking 30 credits each term) or full time (60 credits each term). Classes are taught during the week and usually take place in the early evening.

Throughout the course you will have 1-to-1 formative discussions and feedback sessions with your academic tutors. In these sessions, you will work with the staff member to help shape your ideas and develop your writing process.

Our teaching draws on both our research and professional experience. This means your learning is informed by the most current thinking in the subject area. You can find out more about our research and backgrounds by visiting our staff pages.


You will encounter a range of assessments, including:

  • Essays
  • Annotated bibliographies
  • Reflective writing
  • Presentations

Assessments are designed to help you develop your skills as a writer, researcher and literary critic, and also to help you prepare for future employment. Most modules are assessed as a 5,000 to 6,000 work piece of coursework. You will be able to discuss your ideas and receive formative feedback throughout the term.

The Dissertation is the culmination of your postgraduate experience. You will submit your proposal in January and work with your supervisor during the year, submitting your final 12,000 word piece in August. This process helps you develop into an independent researcher and prepares you for further study and the world of work.

Entry requirements


Minimum entry requirements

    2:1 honours degree in a related subject

    Interview if your honours degree is in an unrelated subject

If you have a 2:2 undergraduate degree and knowledge of 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

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements.

Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our International pages.

If English is not your first language you will need to show that you have 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.

International entry requirements

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

If you do not have traditional qualifications, you might be able to provide evidence of professional experience in the subject as an alternative way to meet the entry requirements. This is called Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). Appropriate references and records of employment would need to be presented to support your case for admission.

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. You can read them on our Admissions page.

Fees and funding

UK 2024 - 2025 entry

  • £8,000 for full time study
  • £4,000 per year for part time study

These costs apply to all UK, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

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

Funding opportunities

International 2024 - 2025 entry

  • £11,300 for 1 year of full time study
  • £5,650 for 2 years of part time study

These costs apply to all students living outside the UK.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a student visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your postgraduate studies.

International Fees and Funding

Tuition fees

    UK 2024-25 £8,000 full time

    International 2024-25 £11,300 full time

Alumni Scholarships

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

Scholarships for alumni

Additional costs and financial support

Course-related costs

While 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.

Accommodation and living costs

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

Career outcomes

Where could Contemporary Literature take you?

This postgraduate degree could lead you to a career directly related to Contemporary Literature, or it could take you in a completely different direction, using the many transferrable skills you will develop.

This will give you an advantage for a career in many employment areas, including:

  • Journalism
  • Marketing
  • The arts and heritage industry
  • Communication services

Stand out from the crowd with postgraduate study.

Far fewer people have postgraduate degrees than undergraduate qualifications. This gives you something extra to set yourself apart in a competitive graduate job market. Those with a postgraduate qualification will earn an average of £7,000 a year more than those with only an undergraduate degree. (Department For Education Graduate Labour Market Report 2020)

Our careers service, LaunchPad, provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice

This support does not end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain the experience and confidence you need to succeed.

Apply for this course

For postgraduate degrees you must apply directly to York St John University using the links below. This will take you to the application form you need to fill out for this specific course. 

To complete the online application form you will need to create login details. 

Please contact 2 referees before submitting your application. An automated request for a reference will be emailed to them as soon as you submit. Your application will not be reviewed until both references are in place.

Fees and key information

Apply now

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