The School of English, renowned for its excellence in research and teaching, offers a masters in creative writing led by published authors and poets.
The MA in Creative Writing brings together creative and critical practices, exploring the writing process within the contexts of publication and professional writing.
Students benefit from:
- workshops in poetry and fiction led by prizewinning writers Matthew Welton and Thomas Legendre
- publication sessions with Writer in Residence, Jon McGregor, winner of the 2013 East Midlands Book Award, 2012 IMPAC Dublin Award and Booker-longlisted author of If nobody speaks of remarkable things
- lunchtime readings by students
- guest sessions with Honorary Lecturers, novelist Alison Moore and poet Ruth Fainlight, and other visiting writers and publishers
- student placements within the new high-profile literary journal based in the School of English: The Letters Page
The School was ranked 7th for English in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2015 and 9th in the UK for 'research power' (REF 2014).
Hear from current students in our School of English Masters student videos.
Read our School of English graduate student profiles, and hear from our alumna Clare Harvey who recently won the Exeter Novel Prize for her debut novel The Gunner Girl.
Submission of Written Work
Applicants to the MA in Creative Writing will be asked to submit an example of their written work.
The first stage of the application process is to submit your application, which you can do online.
Applicants who are asked to provide written work will then be contacted by the University, with full details of how to submit their written work.
The Masters in Creative Writing welcomes writers of poetry, fiction, or a combination of the two. In reading the writing samples, we are looking for work that indicates that its author would be able to succeed on the course. There is no restriction on the subject matter of the writing sample. We only require that it is your own work.
Applicants will be asked for EITHER:
No more than 3000 words of prose fiction (this could be one story, a group of stories, or an extract from a longer piece)
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result, may change from year to year. The following list is therefore subject to change but should give you a flavour of the modules we offer.
This course can be studied part time or full time. Full time students take 120 credits of modules during the year (part time students study 60 credits in their first year of study, 60 credits in their second and then start their dissertation over the summer).
1) Students take the following typical creative writing modules:
Fiction: Form & Context (15 credits, Autumn Semester)
This module explores the structures, techniques, and methodologies of fiction through both creative and analytical practice. Students examine a range of international fiction from a writer's perspective, with an emphasis on craft. Students will produce creative excercises of imitation or modelling, as well as direct responses to works of fiction in ways that demonstrate a practical understanding of their qualities.
Poetry: Form & Context (15 credits, Autumn Semester)
This module is designed to make students familiar both with the craft and practice of using some common poetic conventions, and with the contexts in which poetry is published and read. Students will benefit from lecture-style input, group discussion, and a workshop during which they will share and discuss their draft poems. Students will be supported in their craft and are encouraged to work towards submitting their work for publication.
Creative Writing Workshop (30 credits, Spring Semester)
This module is designed to develop students' skills in writing while developing their awareness of contemporary publishing. Each session includes some lecture-style input, group discussion, and a workshop. Students are encouraged to contextualise their writing with reference to modern and contemporary writers. Students will discuss techniques relevant to both fiction and poetry, such as: beginnings, endings, voice and description.
Creative Writing Conventions and Techniques (30 credits, Spring Semester)
Students are encouraged to develop their own creative practice through an examination of a range of ideas and techniques. Students will develop their creative writing skills through activities, including group discussions, exercises and workshops. Matters such as reviews, publication, public readings, and the teaching of creative writing may be included as ways of examining the context of creative practice. Students will learn how to incorporate the responses of others into their revisions, develop a more productive writing process, and become better editors of their own work.
2) Students then choose modules (30 credits) offered by the School of English from the following representative list:
Dramatic Discourse (15 credits, Spring)
This module explores the relationship between language and drama. Taking a multi-faceted approach, drawing on facets of linguistic analysis from stylistics, discourse analysis and sociolinguistics, the module considers the role of language in moving dramatic scripts from page to stage, exploring aspects of characterisation (such as identity, power and provocation), the role of language in story-telling on stage and the 'management' of performance through stage directions. Working with a range of texts from the early modern period to the present day, the module investigates the role of language in shaping character, dialogue, interaction and staging.
Cognition and Literature (15 credits, Spring)
This module represents a course in cognitive poetics. It draws on insights developed in cognitive science, especially in psychology and linguistics, in order to develop an understanding of the processes involved in literary reading. The module also develops skills in stylistics and critical theory.
Consciousness in Fiction (15 credits, Autumn)
The module will explore in depth techniques for the presentation of consciousness in novels and other fictional texts. Students will learn about the linguistic indices associated with the point of view of characters and the various modes available to a writer for the presentation of characters’ thoughts and perceptions. Alongside detailed examinations of narrative texts which portray consciousness, students will also study different theories put forward to explain the nature of writing consciousness in texts. Our stylistic analyses of fictional minds will also aim to account for historical changes in the techniques used for consciousness presentation.
Research in Literary Linguistics (15 credits, Autumn)
This module explores the use of linguistic frameworks to investigate literary texts. Through a series of practical analyses, students will be introduced to a range of linguistic explorations of poetry, prose, and drama from a wide range of historical periods. The module will invite students to use the analyses as an occasion for the critical evaluation of the various approaches to language and literature, to investigate the notions of literariness and interpretation, and to consider the scope and validity of stylistics in relation to literature and literary studies. The range of key research methods and methodologies in stylistics will be studied.
Literary Histories (30 credits, Autumn)
It has often been suggested that the very idea of literary history – of a narrative that understands, classifies, and explains, the English literary past – is an inherent impossibility. The relationship between literature and the history of the time of its creation is an equally vexed and productive question. This module will look at the various ways in which literature in the last few centuries has combined with the study of history, with significant changes in the ways in which works of the past are viewed, and also how histories of literature began to be constructed (a history of literary histories, so to speak) paying attention to such questions as the development of the literary canon, periodicity, inclusions and exclusions, rediscoveries, and lack of representation. It will also look at the ways in which literary biography, autobiography and life-writing relate to the creation of literary histories. This will be a team-taught module, introducing key topics in the area and apply them to a variety of types of literature from different historical periods, and the myriad critical ways in which such literature has been viewed, retrospectively.
Textualities: Defining, making and using text (30 credits, Autumn)
This module investigates the ways issues in modern editorial theory—the nature of authorship, what constitutes an ‘authoritative’ text, and the inevitably embodied nature of textuality—illuminates our understanding of literary creativity. Students will explore how modern editors describe and theorise the textual transmission of a range of works, drawn from a variety of periods, places and forms. They will examine different concepts of textuality—including copy-texts, plural or ‘mobile’ texts, and digital texts—and different theories of text-editing, such as ‘first’ and ‘final’ intention editing, ‘social’ and ‘eclectic’ texts, and genetic editing. Students will explore how theories of literary creativity are embedded in editorial practices, and so, therefore, how editorial treatment determines the ways we ascribe identity and value to texts. Students of all literary periods will gain a detailed understanding of how literary texts are produced, and why some versions of well-known literary works take precedence over others. Creative writers will appreciate how the editorial process—which may include the choice of illustrations, type-faces, cover designs, and the imposition of a house-style, be that paper-based or digital, as well as changes to the text itself—affects how readers engage with a work, and ultimately how they value it.
Students will be expected to reflect on editorial practice as they have encountered it, and also to undertake practice themselves.
Modernism and the Avant-Garde in Literature & Drama (30 credits, Autumn)
This module will investigate radical strategies of aesthetic presentation and the challenge they offered to prevailing limits of personal, gender and national identity between 1870 and 1960. Through a selection of key literary, dramatic, cultural, and critical texts, the module will examine ways that modernist and avant-garde writings draw their formal, generic and political borders, how they reconfigure ideas of the self, and what the political consequences of that reconfiguration are. The module will also consider the multiple meanings of 'radicalism' in an aesthetic and literary context, relating those meanings to questions of taste, community, and the market. This will be a team-taught module which examines a wide spectrum of literature and drama, including as well the era's cultural criticism and more recent critical and theoretical studies.
Middle English Romance (15 credits, Spring)
This module considers twenty-first century historicized readings of a major English literary genre, and demonstrates that medieval English romance texts can be set in complex and profound critical relationship to each other and to other artistic media. Such an approach is possible largely because of the vibrant and privileged international socio-literary milieu in which many romance tracts were first written and received. Students will be encouraged to explore how reading Middle English romance texts can equip us with vocabulary and concepts to discuss the cultural specificities of the literary representations of romance, love and chivalry in this period, the representations of public and private identities, and the questions regarding individuality and selfhood that arise in literature produced in a volatile period of religious and social uncertainty and dissent. These are all issues that now define “the Middle Ages” for modern scholars.
The History of the Book 1200-1600 (15 credits, Autumn)
This module introduces the study of the book as artefact. Students will learn about methods of construction and compilation, handwriting and early printing techniques, reading marginalia as well as text; they will also be introduced to the benefits and applications, as well as the problems, of applying an understanding of the artefact to the texts contained within.
3) Students take the Dissertation in Creative Writing, which is a major piece of advanced independent work, under the supervision of a specialist in their chosen genre.
More information on the above modules is available on the Module Catalogue.
Please note that modules are subject to availability and may change.