Comparative Literature and Culture

MA course structure and Module Descriptions menu

MA course structure and Module Descriptions

The MA programme consists of 180 credits of coursework and original research. Students take a compulsory module worth 30 credits, 90 credits worth of option modules, and complete a 60-credit dissertation. Full-time students register for 60 credits per semester and complete their dissertations in the summer; part-time students register for 30 credits per semester over two years and complete their dissertations over the summer of their second year of enrolment.

Our module offerings often change to reflect the wide-ranging research interests of our staff, so our option modules may not be available every year. For details of the modules on offer during a given year, you can search the the QMUL Online Module Directory. When viewing the directory, you can filter results by School (School of Languages, Linguistics & Film), level (MA = level 7) and code (Comparative Literature = COM and some SML).

Students may take one option module  offered in another MA programme within the Faculty of Arts provided that the MA convenor agrees that this would be beneficial for your intellectual development and research plans.

Here is a list of the MA modules we have recently offered:

Compulsory Module

This module is offered in Semester 1

Cultures of Comparison (COM7200)

This core module looks at the history of the discipline, important debates during its existence, and recent interventions about its place in the Humanities today. Comparison leads to numerous questions about cross-cultural expression – literary, cultural and theoretical. Issues discussed include the tensions of identity and difference, the nature of texts, the rôle of the author, mythology, post-colonial theory, gender studies, philosophical issues, translation studies, and other art forms such as music and fine art.

Option Modules

A number of different option modules are offered every term. Full-time students select one option module in the fall semester and two options in the spring semester. Options to choose from may include:

Anglo-German Travel Writing (SMLM034)

The module is to explore the mutual perception of identity and culture of Germany and Britain as reflected by the various modes of travel writing (essay, letter, diary, literary journal etc.) since the Enlightenment. It offers a close study of this important means of literary communication and exploration of ‘otherness’. It also addresses the aesthetic and socio-cultural function of Anglo-German travel writing and examines its historical development.

Constellations: Online Anthology Project (COM7002)

Students will begin by analysing existing anthologies in both academic and commercial contexts as well as examining selection processes in a range of other domains such as museum curation. There will be opportunities to meet professionals working in these domains. Having received the necessary IT training, students will then go on to create their own anthology which will include an introduction, a series of extracts in a range of media and commentaries on those extracts. Students will work independently, but will develop their teamworking and leadership skills by mentoring a team of undergraduates working on their own anthology.

Exilic Writing and the Making of World Literature (COM7201)

This module introduces students to exile as one of the foundational discourses of modernity that interrogates memory, identity, and language. Today’s notion of world literature is inseparable from a transnational and cosmopolitan perspective, which is intimately – and in a characteristically contradictory manner – linked to exilic experiences and the practice of exilic writing. In this course, we will analyse artifacts (literature, but also some paintings, two texts which fall in the genre of philosophy of history, a play, and a film) by European, Indian, Japanese, and American authors in order to begin to think about how exile and exilic writing have been inscribed in the very notion of world literature with which we work today.

From the Sublime to Trauma: Representing the Unrepresentable (COM701)

This module explores the centrality of the unrepresentable in modern consciousness and analyses attempts by writers, photographers, film-makers and painters to represent what exceeds human comprehension. Starting with the European response (from Voltaire to Kleist) to epoch-changing natural catastrophes, we will consider theoretical treatments of the sublime (Burkes, Kant, Lyotard, Rancière) and of trauma and witnessing (Freud, Felman and Laub, Caruth, Agamben), along with specific historical case studies, as manifested in literature and the arts (such as the Leningrad Blockade, journalistic accounts of the Nazi camps, Primo Levi, narratives of the Gulag, the two Warsaw uprisings, and 9/11). Specific emphasis will be placed on the intersection between the sublime, trauma, and theorizations of modernity and post-modernity, as well as on the politics and ethics of representing trauma in testimonial literature. 

In Pursuit of Prejudice? Mutual Perceptions of Identity (SMLM039)

Prejudice, stereotypes, and clichés often inform the representation of the Other in the media, publicand private dismodule. This module seeks to identify and assess the impact of such stereotypes on Anglo-German relations. It discusses the meaning of prejudice as Vorverständnis in Nietzsche’s and Gadamer’s terms and analyses the specificity of Anglo-German stereotypes and stereotyping. It proposes to examine prejudice and stereotypes as denominators of Kulturanalyse and discusses the interconnection between prejudice and identity formation. It also considers ways of making prejudice productive and of limiting its negative effects. 

Key Concepts in 20th-Century Literary Criticism (Code TBC)

During the twentieth century, literary studies developed as an academic discipline. As part of this process of development, twentieth-century theorists of literature formalised key concepts which they had inherited from earlier periods. In this module, students will be introduced to five of these key concepts – mimesis, narrative, symbol, metaphor and allegory – in the writings of a range of theorists from the Anglo-American, German, French and Russian critical traditions. Students will also learn to apply these concepts to literary texts chosen in consultation with the course coordinator.

Mapping Twentieth-Century Latin American Fiction (COM7202)

The material covered in this Cultural History course is approached from a trans-Latin American comparative perspective. The module explores the various paths to literary modernisation which the Latin American novel undertook in the second half of the twentieth century, across the historically defined Caribbean, Andean, River Plate and Brazilian cultural regions. Focusing upon major landmarks of modern Latin American fiction, the course provides students with an understanding of these texts in the light of both the specific socio-political processes and the theoretical and aesthetic debates to which they are articulated.

Postcolonial Studies Today (COM7203)

Why, after having such a massive impact on the study of literature, is postcolonial studies now thought by some to be obsolete? This module will consider multiple explanations for the so-called crisis in postcolonial studies today. We will examine the views of scholars who have taken the field to task for its restricted canon and capitulation to the global marketplace (Lazarus, Huggan, Brouillette). In addition, we will study alternative models such as "world literature" and environmental studies (Moretti, Nixon). Are these approaches more suited to address the economic, cultural and ecological disparities thrown up by globalisation? We will meditate these questions with the help of a range of postcolonial literary works by Amitav Ghosh, Derek Wacott, Mahasweta Devi and J.M. Coetzee, among others.

Theory and Practice of Anglo-German Cultural Transfers I (SMLM037A)

The conception ‘cultural transfer’ includes aspects of inter- and intra-cultural relations between (national) cultures that represent essentially hybrids. Research on cultural transfers began in the mid1980s and focused initially on France and Germany integrating research on reception studies, intertextuality, translation studies and language teaching, This module endeavours to apply findings in this field to Anglo-German cultural relations and to engage students in describing these relations in terms of ‘transfer models’ (Michel Espagne). It analyses the theory and history of Anglo-German cultural transfers from the late 18th century to the present day. The second part will bring students into contact with practitioners in this field and will introduce them to the reality of such transfers between cultures.

Thinking Translation (SMLM028)

Interest in translation studies has intensified in recent years, not least because writers and critics return time and again to the implications of transfer between languages, cultures, and different media. At the heart of the debates are the recurring themes of identity and difference, statement and repetition, original and reproduction – at the nexus of postcolonial writing and debates on world literature today. A primary area of inquiry is the exploration of the scope and limitations of translation and of the ambiguous area where the translated text seems to depart from its own nature and become ‘original’ writing.

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