Modernities: Literature, Theory & Culture MLitt

This programme investigates the key texts and concepts that shape our understanding of literature and culture from 1900 to the present. The texts you will study are related to developments in critical theory and other cultural practices such as film, theatre and the visual arts.

Key facts

Why this programme

  • Guided by a team of internationally recognised experts, you will investigate the key texts and concepts which shape our understanding of literature and culture across a period of radical change from 1900 to the present. Throughout, literary texts studied are related to developments in other cultural practices, such as film, theatre and the visual arts.
  • You will have access to world class libraries and museums, as well as the extraordinary diversity of cultural, literary and artistic events that make Glasgow such an enriching place for postgraduate study.      

Programme structure

The programme involves taught sessions plus a period of research and writing over the summer. You will study two core and two optional (special topics) courses, and undertake supervised study of a specialised topic of your choice, researching and writing a 15,000 word dissertation.

You can choose special topic courses from the range of subjects in modern literature, theory and culture; or, with the convenor’s permission, you may select from any MLitt course offered in the College of Arts.

You will also take the school graduate training course which will prepare you to work on your dissertation and to prepare a proposal and funding application for PhD work, should you choose to pursue doctoral research. 

The programme is made up of three components.

  • Core courses: taught over two ten-week teaching periods, from October to December and January to March.
  • Special topic courses: also taught in ten-week blocks. Full-time students usually study one topic course in each semester.
  • A dissertation: written during the final phase of the course, from April to September.

Part-time students take both core courses and the graduate training course in the first year and two special topic courses and dissertation in their second year of study.


Machine tournez vite, by Francis PicabiaThis programmeprovides the opportunity for advanced study of literary modernism and the avant-garde, and postmodern and contemporary developments in culture and theory. It aims to investigate the key texts and concepts which shape our understanding of literature and culture across a period of radical change and pursues this goal in two ways: through an examination of the aesthetic and cultural assumptions of different modern movements; and through an examination of issues in modern writing, particularly those relating to modernity (such as mass culture, revolution, war and empire) and post-modernity (such as simulation, spectacle, performativity and trauma). Throughout, texts studied are related to developments in other cultural practices, such as film, theatre and the visual arts.

Primary reading for the course consists of seminal texts from the modernist, postmodernist, late twentieth-century periods and the present day, including literary texts and theoretical formulations of early twentieth-century modernity and its continuities.  Secondary reading serves as an introduction to a variety of critical approaches drawing on theories of culture, the avant-garde, memory, history, performance, gender, sexuality, technology, and fields such as postcolonialism, Critical Theory and cultural studies.

Academic staff

What our students say

Modernities carries a strong ethos of community, which is of great value both intellectually and personally. The course strikes a balance between individual research and collaborative endeavour; it creates a space to think not only about the texts studied, but about the academic context in which we work and the kind of environment we want that to be. We benefited from interdisciplinary talks by visiting speakers, art gallery and archive visits, reading and film groups, and we were warmly welcomed by an existing community of ex-Modernities students now undertaking PhDs in the department. As a Modernities student, you are part of a wider network spanning ten years (in 2014), comprised not only of scholars but also of artists, writers, teachers, activists, and more. Most of the group from my year have gone on to further study; five of us were awarded scholarships for PhD research at various institutions (three continuing at Glasgow, including myself). This is a testament to the quality of the course and its inspirational teachers. Modernities doesn’t so much open doors as Blast them from their hinges! – and for this experience and the people who made it happen I will always be grateful. (Amy Bromley, 2012-13)

I read more fascinating words about the world in my year on the MLitt Modernities masters course than I ever had to date, and I am forever grateful for it. It's not just the study that I enjoyed. For every late night in the Library, I had plenty of nights out with the class, discussing literature, films, music and more with a relish that, now, I miss. That passion was what I will always remember. I am now the UK editor of THUMP, the electronic music and culture channel for VICE. Going from reading some pretty dangerous and sexy literature in Glasgow to running a vertical of one of the biggest media companies in the world was no small feat, but the confidence that my time at Glasgow instilled in me - in my ability to put my own ideas out into the world, and to believe in what I write - has served me well in the first year of my new role. Postgraduate study has a thorough and profound effect on how you live and work; a Masters may well seem like an undertaking, but it's one entirely worthwhile for your mind and for your friendships. Good luck. (Lauren Martin, 2011-12)

I look back at the MLitt in Modernities as an exciting year of encountering an amazing diversity of cultural and literary responses to modernity. There is a clear passion for modernist studies in the English Department, and the enthusiasm of the tutors and their combined wealth of expertise make this Masters course a challenging and rewarding experience. Doing the course inspired me to stay on to do a PhD, and I continue to feel very lucky to be surrounded by such a rich concentration of resources. (Nina Enemark, 2007-8)

I am pleased to say that my expectations of the course were surpassed. The learning curve was steep and I left the course with a greatly enhanced confidence in my writing abilities. I gained the most from essays where I learnt to analyse literature and attain high standards of academic presentation. The emphasis on original thinking and argumentation was a challenge throughout the course but was also extremely useful in preparing me for doctoral study. Staff on the course always encouraged my ambitions and their criticism was perceptive and helped me improve the quality of my work. I continue to have good relationships with my tutors three years after leaving the course, an indication of how genuinely friendly they are. I remain grateful to my professors who helped me complete the degree. Finally, the high regard in which the course and the university are held has opened doors for me in my post-university life. (Ashok Patnaik, 2007-8)

The Modernities MLitt provides a wide-ranging yet rigorous course of study.  Modernism and modernity is a particularly dynamic area of research in the English Literature department, and the lecturers bring passion as well as expertise to the classes. Furthermore, there is a vibrant postgraduate scene - as, for instance, in the Theory @ Random reading group - which provides creative and critical stimulus, and a network of friendly, like-minded people outside of classes. Many Modernities graduates (myself included) stay on to do doctoral research at Glasgow - proof of the quality of work and strength of the community here. (Henry King, 2009-10)

My first priority when I undertook the MLitt in Modernities was to pursue my interest in modern literature and achieve a significant depth of knowledge in that area. My second priority was to develop the professional academic skills required in order to undertake PhD study. Upon beginning the course, the enormity of both these tasks was made evident to me ­ but what made it possible was a variety of factors: the quality of the course programme in terms of design and options, the intellectual vigour and commitment of all members of academic staff, the warmth and generosity of individual tutors, and the networks of support and professional development offered by the department, college and university as a whole. I have, since my year on the MLitt, completed a PhD thesis focussed around three modernist authors: a success not only shaped by my time on the Modernities  programme but fundamentally determined by it. I, therefore, look back on my MLitt study as a crucial stage in my academic development. More importantly, I remember it affectionately as an inspiring time in my life. (Rex Ferguson, 2005-6)

After my undergraduate degree in English and Art History, I knew that I was a modernist. I chose the M.Litt in Modernities because its thematic and temporal organisation allowed me to pursue my interests in literature, visual art and critical theory simultaneously. I enjoyed the dynamic approach to the core courses in which students and tutors contributed equally—a welcome change from the seminars I had taken in Canada. The tutors were always eager to make critical connections between the materials studied and what was going on in contemporary culture. Whether it was political events, artistic scandals, or media discourse, these types of connections insist on the continued relevance of studying modernism and modernity to global culture more broadly. Upon returning to Canada after the M.Litt, I worked as a freelance editor for two years and won a number of contracts because I had the M.Litt from Glasgow and had worked with eSharp and the Kelvingrove Review. More importantly, perhaps, when it came to applying for doctoral funding, I was successful with both government funding bodies and university scholarships, and I have no doubt that this was as much because of the prestige of the program as from the relationships I developed with tutors during the course. I am certain that had I not taken the Modernist Sexualities and Oulipo special option courses—which allowed me to continue my research in French culture from Surrealism to the present—I would not now be pursuing my doctoral degree in contemporary French literature at Oxford. (Kate Morris, 2006-7)

Core and optional courses

The programme consists of two core course taught by a range of tutors over two terms (2 x 30 credits); special topic courses taught by individual tutors (20 credits each); a graduate training course (20 credits) and a dissertation involving supervised independent study (60 credits).

René Magritte, 'La condition humaine'Courses are taught as weekly 2 hour seminars, two in the Autumn Term (Core 1 + Special Topic 1) and two in the Spring Term (Core 2 + Special Topic 2), making a total of four. The Core Course will be team-taught; the Special Topics will be taught by individual tutors.

The Core Course 1 is assessed by a reflective journal (2,500 words), and an essay (5,000 words); the Core Course 2 assessed by an essay (5,000 words) and a prospectus and annotated bibliography (2,500 words). Special Topics are assessed either by a 5,000 word essay, or by a shorter (4,000) essay plus mid-term exercise or presentation. The topic of the essays are planned in consultation with the course convenor.

These coursework seminars are taught to the extent that the student members meet regularly with a tutor and proceed through a planned sequence of reading and discussion. The working style however is exploratory rather than didactic; students are expected to engage fully with primary sources, to develop, express and take responsibility for their own opinions and to work towards independent argument and expression in their resulting term papers and dissertation.

Core Courses

Fernand Léger, 'Two Women'The Core Course is divided into two parts: part 1 consists of an examination of some of the foundational modernist movements and manifestos, and an investigation of some of the ways in which Modernism and modernity were theorised in the period 1900-1945; part 2 examines the 'fallout' of these movements over the last half century or so. Primary reading consists of seminal texts from the modernist and post-modernist periods, as well as of theoretical formulations of early twentieth-century modernity and its continuities. Secondary reading serves as an introduction to recent critical approaches drawing on fields such as narratology, psychoanalysis, feminism, post-colonialism, and cultural theory.

Topic Courses

Specialist modules may include:

You may also opt for courses from other Masters programmes in the College of Arts (subject to the approval of the relevant convener), such as the MLitts in American Studies; European Studies; Theology & Religious Studies; Twentieth Century Avant-Gardes; Victorian Literature. For further information, contact the Modernities convener.


Yves Tanguy, 'The Look of Amber'The two terms of coursework are followed by one term of supervised work towards a Dissertation of up to 15,000 words for submission at the beginning of September. The topic normally arises out of the work of the previous two terms, but the choice is very much open to the student’s own initiative. The only restrictions are that the topic should be capable of serious scholarly treatment, and that adequate supervision is available. The supervisor helps you to develop the proposal and plan the most appropriate reading and methodology.

Note: In addition, students take seminars in the School Research Training Programme and the College of Arts Graduate School Research Training Course. Topics include: use of library resources, advanced humanities computing, research skills and research management.

Entry requirements

for entry in 2015

We normally expect applicants to have obtained a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent qualification (for example, GPA 3.0 or above) in English Literature or a relevant subject.

We also require a sample of written work (up to around 3,000 words), a  short statement of around 500 words outlining your interest in the programme, and at least one academic reference.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training):

  • overall score 7.0
  • no sub-test less than 7.0
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 22 with Speaking no less than 23
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 185; no sub-test less than 185
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English): 185; no sub-test less than 185
  • PTE Academic (Person Test of English, Academic test): 68; minimum 60 in writing

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses
The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the Language Centre Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:


What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's Language Centre offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office:


For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office:

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2016-17


Home and EU
Full time fee£6950
Part time 20 credits£772
Full time fee£15250

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only

Funding opportunities

Career prospects

The critical and analytic skills you develop and the ability to conduct rigorous independent study make this programme an ideal step towards an academic career.

Other graduates have gone into careers in writing, editing, teaching and the media.

Positions held by recent graduates include Executive Editor, Freelance Copywriter, Manager, and English Instructor and Lecturer.

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU): 22 July 2016 
  • UK and EU applications: 26 August 2016

Classes start September 2016 and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

Apply now