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Essex is one of the oldest inhabited areas of the British Isles, a landscape shaped by human history. Our MA Wild Writing allows you to explore this landscape and the wilder landscapes of Britain, as well as those across the world, through a combination of science and literature modules. Our field trips take you outside the classroom, often in sun, sometimes in snow or rain. You gain an understanding of key environmental challenges while building your own ways of approaching writing about the wild: creative, critical, and scientific.

One of only five universities in the UK to offer a taught postgraduate course on literature and the environment, we are unique in our combination of modules on contemporary nature writing, ecocriticism, and psychogeographic literature.

Our full-year focus on writing about landscape, place, and the environment allows you the choice of focusing on developing your scholarly abilities through exploring ecocriticism, or on developing your creative writing practice about the natural world – or you can aim to advance both.

Your core modules cover topics including:

  • the emergent creative non-fiction genre exemplified by figures such as Robert Macfarlane, Kathleen Jamie, and Helen Macdonald
  • 19th – 21st century environmental poetry and prose
  • contemporary ecocriticism and environmental literature
  • psychogeography

An unusual collaboration between the departments of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies and Biological Sciences, we also offer you the opportunity to gain a greater scientific depth of knowledge about the natural world as you develop as a writer. You might want to explore the impacts and management of pollution or the ecology of fisheries.

You will explore the literature of landscape and the environment both within the seminar room and beyond, exploring the wild spaces of Essex and East Anglia through field trips that take you to wonderfully wild worlds in the company of leading experts. We visit inspiring areas including Mersea Island, Orford Ness, Tilbury, and the Norfolk Fens.

Why we're great.

  • Explore the emergent creative non-fiction genre, including work by Robert Macfarlane, Kathleen Jamie and Helen Macdonald
  • Take your studies outside the classroom, exploring the wild spaces of Essex and East Anglia
  • Find out more by reading Wildeasters, a nature writing blog with contributions from current students and alumni

Our expert staff

Teachers on the course include the internationally renowned ecocriticism scholar Dr Susan Oliver, who is a specialist in Romantic and 19th-century studies; the poet and nature writer Dr Chris McCully; and, environmental scholar and writer Professor Jules Pretty.

The MA Wild Writing is led by the nature and travel writer Dr James Canton, author of the critically acclaimed Ancient Wonderings.

Specialist facilities

  • Start to get some publications to your name by writing for our student nature writing blog Wildeasters
  • Access our archives – the University of Essex is home to the notebooks, diaries, maps, letters, and binoculars of J. A. Baker, author of the critically acclaimed The Peregrine (1967)
  • Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
  • Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading literature specialists at the Essex Book Festival – the festival director is based in our department, and loads of events take place on campus
  • Get involved onstage or behind the scenes at our on-campus Lakeside Theatre
  • Learn a language for free alongside your course

Your future

A number of our graduates from the MA Wild Writing have gone on to undertake successful careers as writers; others are practicing artists, scholars or environmentalists. One now works on climate change in Washington, another is a “wild practitioner” who work on the relation between nature and mental health and another now works for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police around Chesapeake Bay!

We work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

We also offer supervision for PhD, MPhil and MA by Dissertation in different literatures and various approaches to literature, covering most aspects of early modern and modern writing in English, plus a number of other languages. Our University is one of only 11 AHRC-accredited Doctoral Training Centres in the UK, which means that we offer funded PhD studentships which also provide a range of research and training opportunities.

Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

See full list of modules

Teaching

  • An emphasis on practice, going outside of the classroom where possible
  • Field trips to the local area
  • Visits from the authors you are studying
  • Seminars may include introductions by your tutor, presentations by you, and discussion based on a programme of reading
  • Training in research skills in the social sciences including practical work in computer labs

Assessment

  • Literature modules assessed by essays of 4,000-5,000 words, usually combining a creative piece and critical commentary
  • Sociology modules include assessed coursework

Dissertation

  • You produce a dissertation of approximately 12,000 words
  • This takes the form either of a critical essay, or a creative piece with an accompanying critical commentary

Visit the MA Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment page on the University of Essex website for more details!

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