Modern and Contemporary Literature (MA)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2018


Central London


Fully Approved


One year full-time or two years part-time


Two evenings a week full-time or one evening a week part-time, October to September

This Master's degree in modern and contemporary literature begins with an investigation of literary and theoretical conceptions of modernity in early 20th-century literature, focusing on topics such as urbanisation, technology, mass culture, individualism and subjectivity.

You will also have the chance to analyse the historical transformations of literature and cultural thought from 1945, using the contexts of post-war reconstruction, decolonisation, the fate of avant-garde art, and theories of postmodernity and globalisation.

The emergence of international literary paradigms during the 20th century is reflected in the choice of texts from British, American and post-colonial contexts.

This exciting MA programme has been running successfully for over 30 years, with staff committed to constantly changing and updating the course to reflect changes in literary culture.

To find out more, read our programme handbook.

Read more


  • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 13th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2016-17 World University Subject Rankings.
  • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), English Language and Literature at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment conducive to producing research of the highest quality, while 91% of eligible staff submitted research, of which 75% was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • Enables you to gain a thorough grounding in the key concepts of modernism, modernity and the contemporary.
  • You will be introduced to key texts and paradigms that shape our conception of literature from the early 20th century to the present.
  • Opportunities to join a number of graduate seminars and reading groups, and occasional discussions with practising novelists and poets.
  • Birkbeck is at the geographical centre of London’s research library complex, a short distance from the British Library, Senate House Library and the Institute of Historical Research.
  • Senate House Library has an outstanding collection of literary periodicals of the 19th and 20th centuries, while the nearby University College London Library also has an important James Joyce archive. The Poetry Library at London’s South Bank Centre is rich in 20th-century poetry.
  • Birkbeck's School of Arts hosts the internationally acclaimed Contemporary Poetics Research Centre, which regularly features visiting poetic practitioners.
  • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
  • Find out more about our range of world-class research resources.
  • Find out what our students say about studying English and humanities at Birkbeck.
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Course structure

You take two core modules and choose two option modules, which vary from year to year.

You also complete a dissertation on any aspect of 20th-century and contemporary literature, written from Easter to September in your final year.

To find out more, read our programme handbook.

Read more about modules
Visit the Department of English and Humanities