MA 21st Century Literature

Students on this course have the opportunity to participate in twice-yearly symposia, where students present papers based on their research to current students and staff.

The Course

This Master’s programme is informed by the thriving 21st Century research community at the University of Lincoln.

MA 21st Century Literature provides you with the opportunity to develop a critical understanding of current developments in literature by sampling a diverse variety of postmillennial texts. You will have the opportunity to develop a thorough knowledge of literary genres and advance your research, communication and writing skills.

You can also benefit from engagement with the University’s 21st Century Research Group, which includes strengths in Gothic literature, women’s writing, ecocriticism, American fiction, and utopian literature, and the School’s close relationship with the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies (BACLS).

Presenting papers twice a year at the MA symposium will also provide an opportunity to develop your skills in independent research, public speaking and presentation.

English academics at Lincoln conducting research in 21st Century literature cover a wide range of forms, genres and themes.

Specialist areas of staff expertise include:

  • Contemporary Theatre
  • Postcolonial Literature
  • Ecocriticism
  • Utopian literature
  • Women’s Writing
  • Popular forms
  • Life Writing
  • American literature
  • Science Fiction
  • Trauma Studies
  • Creative Writing
Wednesday. Students should expect 140 contact hours over the course of this programme. Postgraduate level study involves a significant proportion of independent study, exploring the material covered in lectures and seminars. As a general guide, for every hour in class students are expected to spend two - three hours in independent study.
Teaching for each module takes place in two-hourly small-group seminars. There are additional twice-yearly MA symposia where you have the opportunity to present papers based on work undertaken in options. You are also encouraged to attend the English and Journalism Seminar series and the 21st Century Research Group, which also involves lecturers and doctoral students.

All students take core modules, English Now 1: Poetry & Drama and English Now 2: Fiction, Form and Genre. Students then choose two options.

The English Now modules run consecutively in Terms 1 and 2, and the two specialist options concurrently with them in sequence from the beginning of Term 1 to the end of Term 2. The dissertation proposal is submitted towards the end of Term 2 and the dissertation itself is submitted at the end of the academic year in September.

Part-time students take the PG Certificate level English Now modules at Level One and the specialist options at Level Two (PG Diploma), followed by the Master’s dissertation in the summer of Level Two.

21st Century Short Stories (Option)
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21st Century Short Stories (Option)

This module aims to explore the continuing vitality of the short story in the present century via anthologies, single author collections, magazines and web-based writing. The very brevity of the form can allow for an extensive view of recent writing in terms of theme, style, geographical range and genre.

The module begins with problems of definition: is the short story, as some critics have claimed, a relatively recent literary genre, developed in the nineteenth century by writers such as Chekhov and Poe, or is it as old as the folk tale or fable, with roots in popular oral traditions?

Equally important is the question of whether the short story should be regarded as the place where novelists learn their craft or as a creative destination in its own right. These and related questions of form and content are then explored through a series of detailed studies of thematic variety, generic multiplicity, regional claims, formulaic constraints and experimentation.

Above all the module aims to encourage student engagement with a living and rapidly evolving form open to a wide range of theoretical approaches and, importantly, an abiding source of reading pleasure.

Contemporary American Fiction (Option)
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Contemporary American Fiction (Option)

This module offers an opportunity to engage with American fiction and some of its socio-historical, political and ideological contexts from the late 1990s to the present day. An initial concern is to examine critical distinctions between ‘canonical/literary’ texts and so-called ‘popular’ genres. The module explores aspects of canon-formation in American fiction, and examines a selection of texts by both new and established writers, in some cases at the point where they are first published in paperback.

The module will be contextualised by an examination of the ‘Great American Novel’ in the run-up to the millennium, considering the importance of the short story in American fiction, and exploring the impact of recent key events. The module will take a thematic approach, locating American cultural production in regional, national and global contexts, with a particular emphasis on writing in the 21st Century. Authors studied include Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Anne Tyler, Lionel Shriver and Cormac McCarthy.

English Now 1: Poetry and Drama (Core)
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English Now 1: Poetry and Drama (Core)

The principal focus of the this module will be on poetry and drama written since 2000. The poetry section will aim to effectively be the introduction to the course. In each seminar the module will be reading two or three contemporary poems: over the six weeks a small sample of British and Irish poetry since 2000 will be covered, but it is not a survey.

The poems can be studied as examples of poetry as well as examples of contemporary writing, and a principal aim will be to revise and refresh literary skills, to think over assumptions about poetry (and literature) and to practice close and analytical reading. The module will also seek to deepen your understanding of how poetry works by introducing some theoretical concepts and perspectives, and will take an issue to do with contemporary poetry as a focus each week.

Amongst the poets studied will be Don Paterson, John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie, Alice Oswald, Moniza Alvi and Benjamin Zephaniah.

The drama block aims to show how contemporary drama can, as a public art form, respond with particular vitality to the cultural and political moment. Here again you will be asked to consider the relationship of contemporary drama texts to theory and to literary history, and you have the chance to develop an enhanced understanding of dramatic conventions and forms.

The plays currently studied include Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, Gillian Slovo’s The Riots, Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn, Mark Ravenhill’s Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat, Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman and Caryl Churchill’s Love & Information.

English Now 2: Fiction, Form, Genre (Core)
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English Now 2: Fiction, Form, Genre (Core)

‘English Now 2’ engages with fiction published since 2000. The focus of this module is to explore what is innovative and important about creative fiction in the 21st Century.

At first it addresses ‘mainstream’ literary fiction to ask whether it still deserves the immense cultural prestige and readerly attention that the literary novel continues to command. You will have the opportunity to study novels of the 21st Century that have been acclaimed by critics and read by the public in order to discuss what is the basis of their appeal as singular texts, as a genre and as a commodity in contemporary culture. Key themes will be the representation of subjectivity, modernism and postmodernism, 21st Century histories, posthumanism and ecological concerns, national identity and globalization.

The module then considers the question of genre in contemporary fiction. Each year, one genre will be selected for examination; for instance, the genre of romance. We will be asking what defines romance as a genre in 21st Century fiction and whether one can trace a cultural shift in this genre from 20th Century iterations. You can study a variety of romances, some of which could be thought of as challenging generic boundaries. Key themes will be capitalism, gender, cyberfeminism, and postfeminism.

The final part of the module, entitled ‘New Forms?’, will consider whether and to what extent 21st Century writing is formally innovative. By looking closely at the graphic novel, flash fiction, fan fiction, and ‘treated’ texts, you will have the opportunity to discuss notions of originality, literariness, duration, ‘textual poaching’, visuality, accessibility and the digital in the context of recent trends in fiction.

Gothic Spaces (Option)
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Gothic Spaces (Option)

This module explores the representation of haunted locations – of the human experience of environments which provoke, or symbolise, psychological and social disturbances.

Place has always had central significance in the Gothic genre, ‘the literature of nightmare’, which is dominated by desolate landscapes, and claustrophobic interiors. Gothic texts of all periods and cultural contexts use ‘place’ as a trope through which to focalise themes of alienation, repression, monstrosity and mental fragmentation. These locations work as spatial metaphors, giving form to the fear, violence and ideological contradictions which haunt the realms which we would prefer to regard as familiar and safe settings for our lives.

This module considers an exciting range of texts (including novels, short stories and films), from the Victorian era to the present day. We consider the way the Gothic genre dramatises anxieties that centre on the home, the city, the railway, the colony/ex-colony, and the frontier. Issues considered through study of these include childhood, gender relations, urbanisation, technology, mental illness, the sublime, constructions of ‘race’, imperialism, and the phenomenon of Gothic tourism with a focus on Lincoln itself.

Issues in Ecocriticism (Option)
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Issues in Ecocriticism (Option)

One of the subjects that literature documents is the relationship of humanity to its environment. This module looks at literary representations of that relationship from an ‘ecocritical’ perspective—that is to say from a criticism that is influenced by environmentalism and ecological thinking.

The first principle of ecological thinking is that there is more to life and the world than humanity, and that we are neither so separate from, nor so dominant over, the non-human as Christian and post-Christian Humanism has taught us to think. The module explores what difference it makes to read literature from this perspective. The course examines literature as part of our complex interaction with our environment, and in some ways and on some occasions, as a uniquely valuable one.

The module offers an introduction to the interaction between environmentalism and literary criticism in the last fifty years and aims to take you more deeply into the main currents of thought and areas of debate in contemporary ecocriticism. The module will look at texts ancient and contemporary, literary and popular, fictional and factual, including Paradise Lost and Middlemarch, work from the Roman Horace to the Victorian Gerard Manley Hopkins, and from romantics like Wordsworth, Clare and Thoreau, to contemporaries like Rick Bass, JM Coetzee and Iain Sinclair.

Amongst the thinkers and theorists the module examines are Heidegger, Kate Soper, Michel Serres, Peter Singer, Robert Pogue Harrison and John Gray.

Literary Theory in the 21st Century (Option)
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Literary Theory in the 21st Century (Option)

Over the last ten years, literary critics have repeatedly announced that theory is dead. Yet academic publishers continue to produce a substantial number of book-length works that offer original interventions into decades-old debates or establish new approaches to theoretical issues of growing interest. Literary theory is also firmly embedded within the study of English literature and will continue to remain so for the foreseeable future. Indeed, this embedded position and the sense that theory has become 'old news' seem to necessitate a re-evaluation of the field.

This module therefore explores issues in literary theory that have been of particular interest from approximately 2000 to the present. We read new work by old masters as well as the work of new stars on the rise. Seminars aim to explore current theoretical issues, the application of theory to texts, images and objects as well as the reasons behind the formation and proliferation of theoretical movements.

Literature in the Thatcher Years (Option)
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Literature in the Thatcher Years (Option)

This module seeks to explore the literature produced in Britain between 1979-1990, the period of Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher. It will specifically look at the ways in which a dominant political ideology can seep into and influence the cultural context which surrounds it.

The works of novelists, poets and dramatists can be studied as well as the film and television produced over the course of the 1980s. These will be explored against a social and political background of terrorist bombings, the Falklands war, the miners’ strike, poll tax riots, inner-city riots, increased Americanisation and multi-nationalism in corporate business, a royal wedding, England winning the Ashes, and a fatwa.

The huge upsurge of nostalgia against the radical changes occurring in capitalism and the media, the rise of the yuppies and a stress laid on the individual as opposed to a welfare state will also be explored in terms of their effects upon literature and the arts. How responsive literature might be to changes in the political and social environment, both in form and content, and what it might have to say about them, will constitute the focus of this unit.

Authors to be studied include Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Angela Carter, David Lodge, Ian McEwan, Caryl Churchill, Margaret Drabble, David Hare, Tony Harrison and Carol Ann Duffy.

London Now (Option)
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London Now (Option)

This module will aim to examine the continuous reinvention of London as a location by writers since the millennium. London’s identity as an economically, politically and multiculturally changing metropolis has prompted writers to produce a range of texts which construct London as a space in our consciousness as much as a representation of its bricks and stones.

Some 21st Century London texts explore the city’s history and rewrite London as a series of eras including the Tudor and Victorian and in historical contexts such as the revolutionary 18th Century and World War II blitz, while others are informed by geographical agenda, re-writing, for example, the East End, Hackney or Harlesden.

Contemporary London as a site of both confidence and anxiety is taken up by some writers whose departures include the highs of winning the 2012 Olympics bid as well as post-7/7 trauma.

Reading Trauma in the 21st Century (Option)
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Reading Trauma in the 21st Century (Option)

Originating from Freudian psychoanalysis, contemporary trauma theory is at the forefront of developments in 21st Century literary criticism. Since the 9/11 terror attacks, trauma has increasingly been understood as a ‘collective wounding’ in which, and through which, human subjectivity has irrevocably shifted.

According to many trauma theorists, we now exist in a ‘trauma culture’. ‘Trauma’ in canonical theoretical discourse, refers to the violent creation of a psychic wound, and the uncontrollable, repetitive effects of that wounding on the trauma survivor. Literary trauma criticism seeks to explore differing representations of traumatic experience in contemporary texts.

This module will consider individual traumatic experience such as bereavement and rape as well as collective trauma such as war and terrorism. We begin with problems of definition: what exactly is trauma theory?; how has it evolved and developed?; how is it significant to contemporary literary studies?; can language ever accurately represent extreme trauma? and what are its uses for the contemporary literary critic?

Questions of genre, form and content can be explored through a section of detailed studies of trauma narratives (both textual and visual), with the intention of illuminating the varied and often divergent theoretical and critical approaches to trauma.

Finally, the module will encourage you to engage in debates which problematise the nature, not only of traumatic representation, but of the theoretical underpinnings of trauma theory itself.

The Neo-Victorian Novel: History, Theory and Fiction (Option)
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The Neo-Victorian Novel: History, Theory and Fiction (Option)

The Victorian era is a period of British history that seems to demand continual rewriting, especially at the present time. It has been envisioned as a period of unproblematic moral conservatism, most famously by Margaret Thatcher, and it is a rich site for nostalgia for Britain’s imperial past. But it has also been imagined as a time where scientific discovery, technological developments, geographical exploration and transformations in gender politics both shocked and excited the public, promising new modes of living, working and forming relationships.

Recent feminist writers especially have seized on the period as one where women could be imagined to form new gender and sexual identities, acquire new professional roles and begin to formulate alternative lifestyles. Others have looked to the Victorian period in order to write revisionist fictions that do not celebrate the period so much as they critique its class, racial and imperial politics.

The neo-Victorian novel has particularly flourished in the post-millennial moment, and this is partly due to the new interrogations and revisionist histories of the period that were inspired by the literary theory movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Now integrated into popular discourse, these developments continue to inspire new readings of Victorian figures, events and texts.

Some of the guiding questions on this module will be: which aspects of the period continue to fascinate us and why? What do contemporary revisions of Victorian texts and histories reveal about our own historical moment? How do our own anxieties about the present moment come to be imposed into Victorian settings?

Women Writing the 21st Century (Option)
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Women Writing the 21st Century (Option)

This module aims to explore some of the extraordinarily exciting, diverse and abundant range of short stories, novels, life writing, drama, performance and poetry produced by women in the 21st Century.

The module begins firstly with the consideration of the contemporary revival of feminist theory and politics and attempt to think through the variety of ways in which feminism is meaningful in a post-millennial context. Secondly, the module will attempt to trace and examine ways in which women writers engage with and represent the 21st Century, and specifically their negotiation of personal identity, motherhood, ageing, sex and sexuality, as well as local/ global politics, war, race, class, religion, region and nation. Thirdly, you can study ways in which contemporary women’s writing utilises, negotiates and challenges traditions of literary and dramatic form to find new and radical ways of writing the 21st Century.

You will also be invited to consider the validity of approaching women’s writing as a distinct category and can explore the relationship between women’s writing and feminist theory and politics.

Writing Utopia and Dystopia (Option)
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Writing Utopia and Dystopia (Option)

Dreaming of a better world has been part of the human condition for all of human history, but utopian fiction as a separate and identifiable genre began in 1516 with the publication of More’s Utopia, the foundational utopian text.

In this module you have the opportunity to identify key features and characteristics of the literary utopia and trace the development of the genre from More to the trio of late 19th Century classic utopias, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, William Morris’s News from Nowhere and HG Wells’s A Modern Utopia through to the 20th and 21st Centuries.

The module will then aim to consider the classic dystopias of the early 20th Century, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Although dystopia is the dominant form up to this point, a renewal of (feminist) interest in utopianism, both as aesthetic mode, and as political practice, arises in the 1960s and the utopian novel re-emerges in the form of the ‘critical utopia’ (such as Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and Moniq Wittig’s Les Guerilleres).

21st century utopias and dystopias (such as Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army, Will Self’s The Book of Dave and Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood) will then form a focus for thinking about the significance of utopia and utopian writing today.

Plays such as Howard Brenton’s Greenland and Sarah Kane’s Blasted will be considered as stage utopias/dystopias, and the question of utopia and form will be scrutinised.

† Some courses may offer optional modules. The availability of optional modules may vary from year to year and will be subject to minimum student numbers being achieved. This means that the availability of specific optional modules cannot be guaranteed. Optional module selection may also be affected by staff availability.

Assessment involves short essays of 2,500-3,000 words for the core English Now modules; longer project work of 5,000 words for the options; assessed presentations for some of the options, and a 15,000 word dissertation.

Assessment Feedback

The University of Lincoln's policy on assessment feedback aims to ensure that academics will return in-course assessments to you promptly – usually within 15 working days after the submission date.

We currently interview all applicants for this course.
MA Symposia

Students on this course have the opportunity to participate in twice-yearly symposia, where students present papers based on their research to current students and staff. You will have the opportunity to present 20-minute papers in panels in a conference-style setting. This aims to develop your research skills and is designed to prepare you for PhD study as well as other professional work.

 2019/20 Entry*
Home/EU £7,400
(including Alumni Scholarship 20% reduction)**
International £14,300
(Including International Alumni / Global Postgraduate Scholarship** £2,000 reduction)
Part-time Home/EU £41 per credit point
Part-time International £79 per credit point

* Academic year September- July
** Subject to eligibility


Postgraduate Master's Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study. Individuals** will be able to borrow up to £10,906 for the purpose of completing an eligible postgraduate Master's qualification. The amount available will depend on the start date of your course.

- £10,906, if your course starts on or after 1 August 2019
- £10,609, if your course starts between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019


As a postgraduate student you may be eligible for scholarships in addition to those shown above.

Guidance for Part-time Postgraduate Fees

To complete a standard Master's Taught programme, you must complete 180 credit points.

Full time students will be invoiced for the programme in full upon initial enrolment.

For part-time students, tuition fees are payable each credit point enrolled. To calculate your part-time fees, multiply the part-time fee per credit point by the number of credits you intend to complete within that academic year. This is usually between 60 and 90 credit points per year.

For example, if the fee per credit point for your programme is £38, and you enrol on 60 credits, the tuition fee payable for that academic year will be £2280.

Fees for enrolment on additional modules

Tuition fees for additional activity are payable by the student/sponsor and charged at the equivalent £ per credit point rate for each module. Additional activity includes:

- Enrolment on modules that are in addition to the validated programme curriculum

- Enrolment on modules that are over and above the full credit diet for the relevant academic year

- Retakes of modules as permitted by the Board of Examiners

Exceptionally tuition fees may not be payable where a student has been granted a retake with approved extenuating circumstances.

For further information and for details about funding your study, scholarships and bursaries, please see our Postgraduate Fees & Funding pages [].

Other Costs

For each course you may find that there are additional costs. These may be with regard to the specific clothing, materials or equipment required, depending on your course. Some courses provide opportunities for you to undertake field work or field trips. Where these are compulsory, the cost for the travel, accommodation and your meals may be covered by the University and so is included in your fee. Where these are optional you will normally (unless stated otherwise) be required to pay your own transportation, accommodation and meal costs.

With regards to text books, the University provides students who enrol with a comprehensive reading list and you will find that our extensive library holds either material or virtual versions of the core texts that you are required to read. However, you may prefer to purchase some of these for yourself and you will be responsible for this cost.

First or upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject.

If you have studied outside of the UK, and are unsure whether your qualification meets the above requirements, please visit our country pages for information on equivalent qualifications.

International students will be required to demonstrate English language proficiency equivalent to IELTS 7.0 overall, with a minimum of 6.5 in each element. For information regarding other English language qualifications we accept, please visit the English Requirements page

If you do not meet the above IELTS requirements, you may be able to take part in one of our Pre-session English and Academic Study Skills courses. . These specialist courses are designed to help students meet the English language requirements for their intended programme of study.

Learn from Experts

Throughout this degree, students may receive tuition from professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, researchers, practitioners, visiting experts or technicians, and they may also be supported in their learning by other students.

Dr Rupert Hildyard

Programme Leader

Rupert has taught at the University of Lincoln for over 20 years, having previously taught part time for the Universities of Essex, York, York St John, Leeds, Hull, the Workers Educational Association, and the Open University. He currently co-ordinates modules on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses within the School of English and Journalism.


Your Future Career

Career and Personal Development

This programme aims to provide you with the opportunity to develop the transferable skills required for careers in creative industries including publishing, the media and journalism. It also aims to provide preparation for further research at doctoral level or a career in academia. You have the chance to develop high level skills in research, communication, writing, presentation and independent learning.

Careers Services

The University Careers and Employability Team offer qualified advisors who can work with you to provide tailored, individual support and careers advice during your time at the University. As a member of our alumni we also offer one-to-one support in the first year after completing your course, including access to events, vacancy information and website resources; with access to online vacancies and virtual and website resources for the following two years.

This service can include one-to-one coaching, CV advice and interview preparation to help you maximise your future opportunities.
The service works closely with local, national and international employers, acting as a gateway to the business world.

Visit our Careers Service pages here


At Lincoln, we constantly invest in our campus as we aim to provide the best learning environment for our students. Whatever the area of study, the University strives to ensure students have access to specialist equipment and resources, to develop the skills, which they may need in their future career.

Students can study and research in the University's Great Central Warehouse Library, which provides more than 250,000 printed books and approximately 400,000 electronic books and journals, as well as databases and specialist collections. The Library has a range of different spaces for shared and individual learning.

The Media, Humanities and Technology (MHT) building is equipped with industry standard media suites providing specialist broadcast television, radio and sound equipment. The building is also home to television studios, photography studios and radio editing suites. Siren FM, our on-campus community radio station, is also based here.

The University intends to provide its courses as outlined in these pages, although the University may make changes in accordance with the Student Admissions Terms and Conditions.