MA in Critical and Cultural Theory
This programme takes a philosophical, theoretical and historical approach to cultural studies, exploring the work of cultural criticism, reception and production through new critical perspectives, interdisciplinary insights and a vast spectrum of applications and opportunities.
We study the major traditions of cultural theory, including semiology, deconstruction, feminism, psychoanalysis, and Frankfurt School theories of the aesthetic, the media and technology. This training enables you to shape your thinking critically and develop your interests in a rigorously analytical context.
These theoretical and historical perspectives allow us to tease out the critical charge embedded in the notion of culture itself, and the transformative potential of creative and critical work in the arts and humanities.
Close reading and textuality are at the heart of the course, encouraging you to think critically about issues of modernity and postmodernity, the postcolonial, subjectivity and sexuality.
Diverse and dynamic
This course began in 1987, when an interdisciplinary MA in Cultural Studies was founded at Leeds. From the outset, the course emphasised the theoretical, philosophical and historical aspects of work in cultural criticism, reception and production. The name was changed to better reflect this approach, and it continues to draw students from across the humanities who are thinking about and working with a broad range of objects and genres including literature, film, visual arts, performance, music and philosophy.
Cultural studies emerged as a discipline in the mid-20th century as a critical, scholarly response to the social movements of the time – anti-colonial struggles, the civil rights movement and feminism – and as a rigorous study of the relations between culture and class.
The MA is housed in a School with an ambitious interdisciplinary project, an active fine art community, a critically and politically engaged history of art degree and a dynamic museum studies course. While this rich context is one of its defining characteristics, the MA is not limited to a consideration of art and aesthetics. Our approach is also informed by other cultural forms, such as text, music and popular culture and critical traditions – from literary criticism and semiology to sound studies and new thinking on technology, gender, and the posthuman.
The University incorporates world-class library resources and collections. The Brotherton Library holds a wide variety of archive and early printed material in its Special Collections which are available for use in your independent research. Our other library resources are also excellent, and the University Library offers a comprehensive training programme to help you make the most of them.
The School houses Parallax, published by Taylor & Francis, an internationally distributed journal of cultural theory and analysis.
The two modules that sit at the heart of this course will develop your understanding of cultural theory over time.
A core module in Cultural Theory offers an introduction to key paradigms, focusing on theories of the commodity, language, discourse, subjectivity and sexuality.
The second core module, Cultural History, explores the genealogies of contemporary theory in relation to a longer tradition of cultural criticism that emerged, with modernity itself, in the 18th century. Emphasis is given to practices of close reading, the question of textuality and the case study.
You will develop an understanding of the ideas of ‘commodity’ and commodity fetish’ that are central to the study of consumer culture, as well as issues around language, sign and discourse and subjectivity. You will put this into the context of the development of cultural studies, focusing on thinkers from Rousseau to Kant and Homi Bhabha. You will use film and other texts to explore these ideas.
In each semester, you will also have the chance to specialise when you choose from a range of optional modules.
We provide an integrated course of training in advanced level research. The skills you will develop, combined with the specialist knowledge built through your optional modules, will ultimately be focused in your dissertation ― an independent and self-devised research project, which you will undertake with the guidance of your supervisor. In Semester 2, you will present some of your own research at the annual MA Symposium.
If you choose to study part-time, you will study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.
These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.
- Cultural Theory 30 credits
- Advanced Research Skills 1 5 credits
- Advanced Research Skills 2 5 credits
- Cultural History 30 credits
- Cultural Studies: Dissertation 50 credits
- Derrida and Deconstruction 30 credits
- Making Sense of Sound 30 credits
- Capitalism-Criticism-Contemporary Art 30 credits
- Unfinished Business: Trauma, Cultural Memory and the Holocaust 30 credits
- Aesthetics and Politics 30 credits
- Encountering Things: Art and Entanglement in Anglo-Saxon England 30 credits
- The Origins of Postcolonial England 30 credits
- Humanity, Animality and Globality 30 credits
- Individual Directed Study 30 credits
Learning and teaching
To help you benefit from the expertise of our tutors, we use a range of teaching and learning methods. These include seminars, film screenings, lectures, online learning and tutorials. Independent study is also a crucial component, allowing you to form your own ideas and develop your research and critical skills.
Assessment methods will vary depending on the modules you choose. However, among others they may include essays, in-course assessment, group and individual presentations, poster presentations and portfolio or e-portfolio work.
This programme will develop your critical and cultural awareness and expand your subject knowledge in theories and histories of culture. In addition, it will equip you with sophisticated research, analytical, critical and communication skills that will put you in a good position to succeed in a variety of careers.
Many of our graduates have also continued with their research at PhD level and secured external funding to support them – including AHRC scholarships. A large proportion of our former research students are now developing academic careers in the UK, Europe, Asia, USA and Australia.
Some have taken up posts working as curators and education staff in museums and galleries, as well as in journalism, publishing, arts marketing, public relations, university administration and teaching.
We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. Thats one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.
The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.