MA Literature and Film

This interdisciplinary programme explores key approaches to film and contemporary literature, from the late nineteenth century to the present day, with an emphasis on their critical, ideological and aesthetic practices. The combination of core and optional modules provides you with a broad knowledge base whilst affording you the flexibility to specialise in areas that interest you the most, so you have freedom to work more on literature or film or equally on both.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Full time, part time

Duration: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

Start date: September


You will gain an understanding of film and literature in their cultural and historical contexts, and as socio-cultural processes engaging with issues of representation, production and consumption.

The programme includes four core modules (full descriptions below):

  •  Contemporary Literary Cultures: Politics
  •  Contemporary Literary Cultures: Performance
  •  Film, Theory, Politics
  •  Research Skills and Methods

You will also take two optional modules – one of which must be on Film – from a selection which includes:

  • Caribbean Fiction
  • Cold War Film
  • Contemporary American and European Cinema: Dialogues and Discourses
  • Modernism
  • Narrative Analysis in Film and Fiction
  • Postcolonial Film

You will complete the programme with an independently researched 15,000-word dissertation on literature or film or a combination of the two. You have the opportunity to draw on a wide range of expertise, as research specialisms among our staff bring a broad range of aesthetic, theoretical and historical approaches to the study of film, literature, spectatorship and reading.


You will complete the following core modules:

Contemporary Literary Cultures: Politics

Focusing on texts written since about 1990, this module explores the production and dissemination of literary texts, as well as recent developments of style and content. You will consider contemporary literary cultures from a variety of perspectives, and to employ a range of methodological, theoretical and critical approaches that enable the appraisal of the literary work within diverse social and artistic contexts.

Contemporary Literary Cultures: Performance

This module investigates key problems in performance history and historiography. You will consider a range of conceptual and methodological issues raised by the historical analysis of theatre and performance. You will focus particularly on the strategies and politics of historical representation in drama and theatre studies, looking at how performance practices have been narrated within theatre studies and how these narratives represent theatre's relationship with other social practices.

Film, Theory, Politics

This module examines the interaction between film, film theory and politics. It will provide you with a solid grounding in some of the critical debates of the discipline, and in related cultural issues central to its development and our focus on North American film. As such, it will enable you to assess the impact of politics on various levels of film analysis and production: from the ideology of the classical apparatus and text to the race or sexual politics of Hollywood cinema, from the censoring of the Production Code era to the attempted radicalism of post-modern film practices.

Research Skills and Methods

This module aims to develop your skills in research practices, including preparation and presentation of dissertations and theses. It supports your research planning for your dissertation.

You will take two optional modules (one must be in Film) from a range which includes:

Caribbean Fiction

This module examines the development of the Caribbean novel in the twentieth-century. Working with texts from Anglophone, Francophone, and Hispanophone territories the course explores the engagement of the Caribbean novel with key issues such as slavery colonialism, postcolonial politics and the construction of nationhood. It examines the progression of these issues through mapping the work of earlier canonised figures against that of a younger generation of writers emerging in the 80s and 90s. Writers to be studied include George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Alejo Carpentier, Juan Bosch, Antonio Benítez Rojo, Maryse Conde and Reinaldo Arenas.

Cold War Film

This module focuses on films of the Cold War era c.1946-1965. The module will explore the political and economic context of the production of film, looking at issues such as political control via McCarthyism and the HUAC, and the economic demands that directed and constrained film production. You will then examine a series of films, in order to assess the extent to which film reflected or engaged with social, cultural and political debates of the time.

Contemporary American and European Cinema: Dialogues and Discourses

Twenty-first century cinema is as subject to global transformations as it is to regional tensions and is characterised by the relationship between the two. Few films, if any, are made in isolation for specific and exclusive audiences, but enter into discourses and dialogues with films and audiences from a great many elsewheres thanks to global distribution strategies, the Internet, and a voracious exchange of influences and legacies at many levels of production, distribution and reception. Beginning with Dogme ’95, the last great film movement of the twentieth century, which also marked the 100th birthday of cinema, this module explores the range and impact of filmmaking in America and Europe in the last twenty years.

Ranging from mainstream movies (e.g. the original Bourne trilogy, Inception, The Lives of Others, The Red Squirrel, Gravity) to art-house cinema (e.g. 4 Months 3 years 2 days, Hidden, Before Sunset, Frances Ha), from experimental films (e.g. The Idiots, En la ciudad de Sylvia, Quiet City, 5x2, Waking Life) to the white noise of the Internet (Lonely Girl, Manic Pixie Dream Girl and many short films and ‘anonymous’ examples), while erasing the boundaries between each, this module seeks to contextualise, structure and examine the dialogues and discourses that make up contemporary cinema. It concludes with an appraisal of contemporary American and European cinema from many angles and incorporates investigation into numerous new ways of understanding, producing and watching films.


This module will enhance your knowledge of a range of key issues within the study of literature in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, introducing some of the more challenging texts written during these years, as well as recent scholarly thinking on the literature of the period more generally. You will be encouraged to rethink mainstream definitions of the literary history of the early twentieth-century, and examine the complexity of the literary and cultural moment of modernism. Major topics to be covered include: literary nostalgia and innovation; narrative and traumatic-memory; the concept of Modernism; High Modernism and its aftermath; and the social and aesthetic politics of the 1930s.

Narrative Analysis in Fiction and Film

This module explores how linguistic analysis can help to identify and interpret the properties of fictional narratives. Drawing on theoretical work from narratology and linguistics, we consider how time, point of view, the presentation of character, and fictional voices, for example, are utilised in the construction and transmission of literary and filmic narratives, and how within these narratives language intersects with other modes, such as sound and image.

Postcolonial Film

This module offers students the opportunity to study postcolonial film from different historical and national contexts and via a range of geopolitical and technological shifts. It will explore the changing relationship between colonialism/imperialism and film through the course of the twentieth century and beyond. The module begins by interrogating cinemas of and as Empire with an emphasis upon Anglo-American history, its ‘imperial gaze’ and neo-colonial Hollywood. It moves on to explore various case studies of colonial, de-colonial or anti-colonial film (for example, Indian cinema, Third Cinema and Palestinian film) and to consider key related themes such as questions of diaspora (via Accented cinema) and of ‘human rights’ (via specialist film festivals and online activist video). 

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £6,210 full-time; £3,105 part-time
  • Overseas: £14,140 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Birmingham Masters Scholarship Scheme

For 2015 entry the University has 224 new £10,000 scholarships available for Masters students from under-represented groups. These scholarships have been jointly funded by the British Government; the allocation of the awards, which is the fourth highest in the UK, further cements Birmingham?s place amongst the very best higher education institutions for postgraduate study. The application deadline is 31 July 2015.

Entry requirements

We ask for a minimum of a 2.1 honours degree in a relevant subject area (Literature, Film Studies, Liberal Arts, American Studies).

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Learning and teaching

You will take three taught modules in each semester. Each module usually has a two hour seminar each week, although the core module in Film, Theory, Politics is also followed by a film screening. You can therefore expect six to eight hours of contact time each week.

We try to schedule postgraduate modules on the same day where possible, to give you flexibility in structuring your personal study around your contact hours.

As a postgraduate on the Literature and Film MA programme, you’ll also become part of – and contribute to – the Birmingham Centre for Film Studies. This multidisciplinary hub for research activities on film at the University coordinates various events like visiting speakers, film screenings and international conferences.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

Related research


The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

Postgraduates in the Department of Film and Creative Writing develop a range of skills including: the ability to lead and participate in discussions; critical thinking, and an appreciation of different theoretical contexts; the ability to develop opinions and new ideas; and an aptitude for thinking and working creatively with others. Such skills can be used in a variety of occupations.

In recent years our postgraduates have made their mark in a variety of careers – for example, in the media, in advertising, teaching, performing arts and in the heritage and cultural sectors.