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American Literatures

Course overview

(MA) Master of Arts
American Literatures
University of Essex
University of Essex
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
MA T72012

A mid 2.2 degree in Creative Writing, Theatre/Drama Studies, Literature, Film and Media Studies, Modern Languages or Art History.

Applications from students with a 2:2 or equivalent will be considered dependent on any relevant professional or voluntary experience, previous modules studied and/or personal statement.

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.5 in writing

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.

LT937 African-American Literature and LT946 Sea of Lentils can be taken as options that complete the MA, and have great relevance to the core and compulsory modules; however, students can also choose to take another LiFTS module or a module from another humanities discipline in their place.

External Examiners

Dr Rebecca Katherine Tillett
The University of East Anglia
Senior Lecturer

External Examiners provide an independent overview of our courses, offering their expertise and help towards our continual improvement of course content, teaching, learning, and assessment. External Examiners are normally academics from other higher education institutions, but may be from the industry, business or the profession as appropriate for the course. They comment on how well courses align with national standards, and on how well the teaching, learning and assessment methods allow students to develop and demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills needed to achieve their awards. External Examiners who are responsible for awards are key members of Boards of Examiners. These boards make decisions about student progression within their course and about whether students can receive their final award.

eNROL, the module enrolment system, is now open until Monday 21 October 2019 8:59AM, for students wishing to make changes to their module options.


Core You must take this module You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study
Compulsory You must take this module There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study
Optional You can choose which module to study

Year 1 - 2019/20

Exit Award Status
Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits PG Diploma PG Certificate
01 LT981-7-FY Dissertation Core 80
02 LT901-7-FY Research Methods in Literary and Cultural Analysis Compulsory 20 Compulsory Compulsory
03 LT906-7-SP War, Violence and Conflict in the American Tropics Compulsory 20 Compulsory Compulsory
04 LT936-7-AU United States Nationalism and Regionalism Compulsory 20 Compulsory Compulsory
05 LT965-7-AU Continental Crossings: Caribbean and US Literature and Culture Compulsory 20 Compulsory Compulsory
06 Option from list Optional 20 Optional Optional

Exit awards

A module is given one of the following statuses: 'core' – meaning it must be taken and passed; 'compulsory' – meaning it must be taken; or 'optional' – meaning that students can choose the module from a designated list. The rules of assessment may allow for limited condonement of fails in 'compulsory' or 'optional' modules, but 'core' modules cannot be failed. The status of the module may be different in any exit awards which are available for the course. Exam Boards will consider students' eligibility for an exit award if they fail the main award or do not complete their studies.

Programme aims

1. To enhance (to deepen and extend) students' acquaintance with literary texts.

2. To provide nuanced and intellectually rigorous ways of thinking about interconnected American literatures.

3. To provide modules opening paths to areas of current scholarly and critical specialisation, particularly in American literatures.

4. To deepen the knowledge and to refine the skills which students bring with them from their first degrees.

5. To give students a structured introduction to advanced material and advanced perspectives in their fields of specialisation.

6. To encourage students to work independently as scholars in specific fields of investigation and to formulate and present a coherent and reflective view of their findings.

7. To provide a choice of courses to suit individual interests and needs.

8. To enhance students' career prospects.

9. To prepare qualified students for progression to doctoral research with a view to entering the academic profession.

Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods

On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:

A: Knowledge and understanding

A1 A range of literature in special subject areas
A2 Contexts for the study of the writers and writing taught
A3 Critical opinion and significant critical debates
A4 The interrelation of the writing studied with literary/critical thinking about it
A5 Advanced methods of critical analysis and argument
A6 Appropriate research techniques and methodologies
A7 Major cultural domains, literary contexts, & theoretical parameters within the following areas: U.S. Literature, Caribbean Literature, Postcolonial Studies, Migrant Literature, Translation and Comparative Literature, Modernism and Postmodernism, Literary and Cultural Theory.
A8 Advanced perspectives for the analysis and theorisation of relevant cultural domains, literary contexts & theoretical parameters
Learning Methods: A1-8 are addressed in seminars and oral and written comments on essays and draft dissertations.

A6 is additionally addressed in special seminars.

Students are expected to pursue their understanding of course content and special topics through independent study and wide reading.

Tutors are available to offer advice in the adaptation of generic research techniques (6) to individual needs

Assessment Methods: Formal assessment is by coursework (four essays - one for each module apart from LT901; a Secondary Literature Review + Dissertation Plan for LT901), and dissertation, the latter constituting the most significant form of assessment of the knowledge and understanding acquired. Essays are 4000-5000 words apiece. The dissertation is 20,000 words.

B: Intellectual and cognitive skills

B1 Question received thinking
B2 Think independently
B3 Analyse and evaluate data at advanced levels
B4 Reason critically in an environment of complex ideas
B5 Argue coherently and persuasively
B6 Adopt critical positions in reading complex texts and in writing on them
B7 Analyse and evaluate theoretical concepts at advanced levels
B8 Develop and sustain a critical argument over a sustained period of research
Learning Methods: These skills are developed in:-

1. seminars

2. class presentations (which may form the basis of essays)

3. oral and written comments on essays

4. guided reading of secondary sources

Individual guidance is provided in close supervision of essays, of dissertation proposals, and of dissertations.

Assessment Methods: Essays and dissertation. As well as being important pieces of work in themselves, the former are regarded as a form of progressive assessment leading to the writing of the dissertation.

C: Practical skills

C1 Organise, structure and present an argument in writing, putting forward clear critical positions
C2 Deploy an advanced vocabulary of special literary and critical terms
C3 Use basic theoretical terms
C4 Compile and present extended bibliographies
C5 Provide complex references according to accepted conventions
C6 Use libraries and IT to gain access to a variety of scholarly sources
C7 Write in a scholarly manner
Learning Methods: This range of practical skills (1-7) is taught in seminars and developed through tutors' comments on essays, and in supervision of written work.

Guidance on skills 4-7 is provided on the module LT901 Research Methods.

Advice on writing essays and dissertations is given in the MA guide

Assessment Methods: Essays and dissertations are assessed for all these skills

D: Key skills

D1 Clear, focused, relevant and effective written expression and oral communication
D2 Typing and word-processing skills; use of electronic library catalogues and email
D3 Use of relevant data and statistics in appropriate research contexts
D4 Management of projects and timetables. Finding, understanding and organising information.
D5 Ability to interact with others and to understand and grasp different perspectives
D6 Finding, understanding and organising information
Learning Methods: This range of key skills (1-6) is developed during the preparation of coursework, and developed through tutors' comments on essays, and in supervision of written work.

1 and 5-6 are developed during seminar discussion.

Assessment Methods: Essays and dissertations are assessed for all these skills


The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

Should you have any questions about programme specifications, please contact Course Records, Quality and Academic Development; email: