Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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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.

You’ll 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. Then you’ll put this into the context of the development of cultural studies, focusing on thinkers from Rousseau to Kant and Homi Bhabha. You’ll use film and other texts to explore these ideas.

In each semester you’ll also have the chance to specialise when you choose from a range of optional modules. From Derrida and deconstruction to medieval art, representations of the Holocaust, technology and the media, Jewish culture and aesthetic theory, you’ll be able to focus on topics that suit your personal interests.

At the same time, you’ll build your knowledge of research methods and improve your own skills. To demonstrate all you’ve learned, you’ll work towards presenting your research at a symposium in Semester 2 and complete a dissertation on a topic of your choice.

If you choose to study part-time, you’ll study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.


Course structure

These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.

Year 1

Compulsory modules

  • 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

Optional modules

  • 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

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.


Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons).

We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For more information please contact the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies admissions team.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component.. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

If English is not your first language, you may be able to take a pre-sessional course before you begin your studies. This can help if you:

  • don't meet the English language requirements for your course or
  • want to improve your understanding of academic language and practices in your area of study.

Our pre-sessional courses are designed with a progression route to the degree programme and are tailored to the subject area. For information and entry requirements, read Language for Arts and Humanities (6 weeks) and Language for Social Science and Arts: Arts and Humanities (10 weeks).

How to apply

This link takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.
 
If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Documents and information you need

  • Your degree certificate and transcripts, or a partial transcript if you’re still studying
  • Two academic references
  • A personal statement
  • Evidence of your English language qualifications if English is not your first subject.
  • You may also choose to submit a CV.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Taught Postgraduate Admissions Policy

Fees

UK/EU: £7,250 (total)

International: £17,500 (total)

Read more about paying fees and charges.

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Part-time fees are normally calculated based on the number of credits you study in a year compared to the equivalent full-time course. For example, if you study half the course credits in a year, you will pay half the full-time course fees for that year.

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more about additional costs

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.


Career opportunities

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.

Careers support

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.


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