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.