MA in American Literature

American Literature (MA Literature & Culture)

The MA Literature & Culture strand in American Literature focuses on the literature of the United States of America. Students specializing in American Literature will take modules on drama, poetry and fiction that interrogate the cultural meanings of America past and present, combining historical depth and cultural diversity and engaging with key contemporary critical debates surrounding readings of American literature. 

Students will be encouraged to examine how writers challenge definitive representations of American national identity through engagement with a diverse body of literature (novels, short stories, drama, poetry, poetics, essays, graphic novels, cultural manifestos), and through an exploration of the concepts of race, gender and sexuality as expressed in American texts. Students will explore the multiple configurations of national boundaries through close readings and scrutiny of literary forms and their cultural production.

The MA offers an opportunity to pursue original research with expert tuition in a supportive environment.


As well as the MA Literature & Culture core Research Methods and Dissertation modules, students on this strand take ENG41650 Expressions of Modernity And the following specialist modules in American literature: (subject to change) 

ENG41840 American Lyric: Document and Memoir

ENG41670 Contemporary U.S. Genre Fiction: Intersection, Disruption, Protest

ENG40880 The American Body: Race, Gender, Sexuality

These four modules are offered as seminar-style classes, and students may be expected to present papers to the class and participate in discussions. In addition, students are required to develop an independent research project (5,000-word essay) for each module. These elements of the modules provide a framework of structured study in which students define and develop their areas of interest, and learn and apply the conceptual and methodological skills necessary for postgraduate study.


On successful completion of this MA strand, students should be enabled to:

  • Engage with key critical and theoretical concepts such as race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, political activism and the complex and shifting nature of a national identity.
  • Develop an informed and nuanced understanding of the historical and cultural contexts from which American literary texts emerge.
  • Analyse the relationship between cultural theory and critical practice.
  • Make sophisticated links between critical thought and cross-genre writing.
  • Identify key issues in the composition, form, and development of 19th Century – Contemporary literary practices.
  • Develop an awareness of the process of canon formation (its investments and its exclusions).
  • Assert independent analysis informed by an understanding of the existing critical landscape.
  • Demonstrate self-motivation, and appropriate intelligent interaction with sources relevant to their research.
  • Complete a dissertation that showcases their ability and skills to produce scholarly work. 


Testimonial from Nathaniel Doherty, USA 

(PhD candidate and teaching assistant at Stony Brook University, New York) My postgraduate study of American Literature at UCD, provided an excellent immersion in essential texts from every genre, including several topics that I had not encountered despite having studied for my BA in one of the best literature programs in the US. During each module, I found myself in the company of thoughtful colleagues and under the guidance of challenging but approachable scholars. As a PhD student in American literature, my training at UCD has allowed me to teach a broad range of introductory and advanced undergraduate courses, benefiting my department and helping me build a strong teaching portfolio.


More Information and Online Applications HERE

For further information, contact the American Literature strand coordinator Associate Professor Nerys Williams: