English - Literatures of Engagement

We live in a moment where the key discourses which have dominated our understanding of the world of politics, economics and culture at large suddenly seem inadequate to the task of engaging with an allegedly post-truth environment. New discourses are struggling to emerge; some old ones appear once again to be urgently relevant. The political challenges now confronting us are urgent and manifold, and demand serious critical thinking. These include: inequality, migration, climate change, neo-imperialism, neo-nationalism and isolationism, the exploitations and depredations of global capitalism and resurgent misogyny and racism. The MA in English: Literatures of Engagement addresses this sense of crisis by recognising the significant role that literature and the critical discourses associated with the study of literature have in both reproducing and analysing cultural values and ideologies, but also in articulating responses and resistance to those. The programme is underpinned by a conviction that any critique of contemporary culture must be rooted in an informed understanding of historical currents shaping the present.

The faculty in the Department of English at Maynooth is particularly well placed to reflect on our current cultural moment, having an established an international reputation for producing radical and politically-engaged cultural criticism. The programme will equip students to question the governing and normative structures of their society, critically confronting those discourses through which they are guided to think of themselves as entrepreneurial subjects rather than as human beings. It will help students to develop skills in creative critical thinking and argument, promote intellectual curiosity and excitement, and affirm the intrinsic and non-instrumental value of education as a social good.

Students will benefit from the instruction of committed and energetic scholars working at the forefront of their fields, with research specialisms which include Irish Studies, American, African and comparative literature, Renaissance Studies, and digital humanities. Their work addresses questions of: ecology; economy; diversity; gender, sexuality and race relations; borders; citizenship; terrorism; sovereignty; imperialism; migration and refugees. These questions are addressed using an intersectional model, drawing on key currents in literary and cultural theory: postcolonialism, feminism and gender studies, Marxism and ecocriticism. Through their choice of elective modules and a dissertation topic, students will have the opportunity to pursue their specific research interests.

The MA in Literatures of Engagement will develop its students skills in critical analysis, argument, persuasion, and communication, and equip them with the ability and initiative to be engaged, responsible, and informed global citizens.

• Students can apply to complete this programme full-time over one year (September to September) or part-time over two years.
• Full-time students will take two taught modules (10 ECTS each) per semester: one core module and one elective in addition to one Skills mini-module per semester.
• Part-time students will take one taught module per semester (in addition to the Skills mini-module), over 4 semesters.
• Each module (except Skills) will consist of 10 2hour seminars.
• Each module (except Skills) will be assessed through one short assignment (20%) and one research essay (80%), or equivalent.
• Students will be encouraged to attend a series of Department Research Seminars.
• During the second semester and over the summer full-time students will work independently on a dissertation of approximately 15000 words, supervised by a member of staff. The dissertation carries 30 ECTS.
• To be awarded an MA students will complete 90 ECTS; students who do not complete a dissertation will be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma.

Subjects taught

Expected module content to include:
• Engaging Literature (Core module)
• Literatures of Engagement (Core module)

Indicative list of elective modules (please note: not all elective modules will be available in any one year)
• Afterlives: The Presence of the Past
• Literature, Creativity and Society
• Irish Modernism and its Legacies
• Resisting Images
• The Novel in Africa
• A Literature of Their Own: Gender, Literary Authority and Women's Writing
• Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Ireland in a Comparative framework
• Zionism, Palestinian Nationalism and Culture
• The Political is Personal: Radical Contemporary Literatures
• Imagining the Post-Imperial city
• Same-sex Passion, Politics and Literature
• Orating the Nation

Entry requirements

B.A. degree with a subject mark in English, or a cognate discipline, of 2.1 or higher, or international equivalent. Applicants must have a recognised primary degree which is considered equivalent to Irish university primary degree level.

Minimum English language requirements: please visit Maynooth University International Office website for information about English language tests accepted and required scores. The requirements specified are applicable for both EU and non-EU applicants.

Maynooth University’s TOEFL code is 8850

Application dates

Closing Date : 30 June 2024


1 year full-time

Post Course Info

For some students this proposed programme will provide an essential bridge to doctoral studies in English Literature and cultural studies.

For the majority of students it will allow them to acquire valuable research, analytical and critical skills. These skills can then underpin their subsequent careers in various fields, such as: education; public administration; journalism/media; arts policy and administration; editing and publishing; law.

However, these types of analytical skills are essential for almost any modern workplace: assessing a mass of information and extracting the essential from the non-essential; assessing an argument; distinguishing facts from persuasive rhetoric; the necessity for clear and effective communication – especially being able to write concisely, compellingly and elegantly.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Daytime

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