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MLitt in The Gothic Imagination

Course Description


Contemporary culture is characterised by nothing if not a reawakened interest in the Gothic, be that in the form of the current vogue for horror film, in the heightened preoccupation with terror and monstrosity in the media, the extraordinary success of writers such as Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer, or in manifestations of an alternative Gothic impulse in fashion, music and lifestyle.
As the countless adaptations and retellings of texts such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818; 1831) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) in our own day attest, the Gothic, though once relegated to a dark corner of literary history, has assumed a position of considerable cultural prominence.
The MLitt in The Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling provides students with the unique opportunity to steep themselves in the scholarly appreciation of this mode, providing a rigorous and intensive historical survey of its literary origins and developments, and charting its dispersal across a broad range of media and national contexts. In so doing, the course equips its graduates with the necessary theoretical vocabulary to address, and critically reflect upon, the Gothic as a complex and multi-faceted cultural phenomenon, while also preparing them for further postgraduate research in the rich and vibrant field of Gothic Studies. In addition to these subject-specific objectives, the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination also provides its graduates with several invaluable transferable skills, including critical thinking, theoretical conceptualisation, historical periodization and independent research.

Key information

- Degree type: MLitt, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
- Study methods: Part-time, Full-time
- Duration: Full-time; MLitt-12 months, Part-time: MLitt-27 months,
- Start date: September
- Course Director: Dr Dale Townshend

Course objectives

- The MLitt in the Gothic Imagination consists of four core modules, two option modules, and a dissertation. Across these components, the course aims to provide students with a rigorous grounding in the work and thematic preoccupations of the most influential Gothic writers, both historical and contemporary. Supplemented by relevant historical and theoretical material throughout, the course aims to provide as rich and varied an exposure to the academic study of the Gothic as possible.

- The first two core modules seek to provide a searching historical overview of the genesis and development of the Gothic aesthetic, taking students systematically from the circulation of the term ‘Gothic’ in the political and aesthetic discourses of the late seventeeth and eighteenth centuries, through the late eighteenth-century writings of Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis and Charlotte Dacre, and into the nineteenth-century fictions of writers such as Charles Maturin, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.

- The second and third core modules, on Gothic in modern, modernist and postmodern writing, include texts by authors such as Gaston Leroux, Algernon Blackwood, H.P. Lovecraft, Djuna Barnes; Mervyn Peake, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison and Patrick McGrath.

- Option modules vary from year to year, depending on student interest and demand. Recent option topics have included the Gothic on the Romantic Stage; Nineteenth-century American Gothic; Transmutations of the Vampire; The Gothic in Children’s Literature; Monstrosity; The Female Gothic; Queer Gothic; and Gothic in/and Modern Horror Cinema.

- At the dissertation stage, students are encouraged to undertake independent, supervised research on any particular interest within Gothic studies that they might wish to pursue. Subject to the agreement of the course director, a creative writing dissertation may be undertaken at this stage.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:
- IELTS: 6.0 with 5.5 minimum in each skill
- Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
- Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade C
- Pearson Test of English (Academic): 54 with 51 in each component
- IBT TOEFL: 80 with no subtest less than 17

For more information go to English language requirements https://www.stir.ac.uk/study-in-the-uk/entry-requirements/english/

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard. View the range of pre-sessional courses http://www.intohigher.com/uk/en-gb/our-centres/into-university-of-stirling/studying/our-courses/course-list/pre-sessional-english.aspx .

Delivery and assessment

Two hours of seminars per module per week, plus individual consultations and supervisions with members of staff. Assessment is by means of a 4,000-word essay for each core module, and a variety of skills-based assessments (such as presentations; portfolios; blog-entries) for optional modules. All students complete a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of their choice once optional and core modules have been completed.


With course-work assessed solely by means of independently devised, researched and executed essays, the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination equips students with a number of the skills and abilities that are prized and actively sought after by employers across the private and public sectors. These include the ability to process and reflect critically upon cultural forms; the ability to organise, present and express ideas clearly and logically; the ability to understand complex theoretical ideas; and the ability to undertake extended independent research.
Previous graduates of the course have gone on to pursue successful careers in such fields as teaching, publishing, research, academia, advertising, journalism and the film industry.
The 15,000-word dissertation that is submitted towards the end of the course allows students to devise, develop, support and defend their own academic ideas across an extended piece of written work; addition to the skills of independence, organisation and expression fostered by this exercise, the dissertation also provides an excellent point of entry into more advanced forms of postgraduate research, including the Doctoral degree.

Visit the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination page on the University of Stirling website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Sarah Anderson

Before coming to Stirling I had never even thought of studying Gothic literature. But once I had spoken to lecturers Dale and Glennis, I couldn’t resist coming to a Department that was so friendly, quirky and willing to help me pursue my own research interests.

The thing to remember about a Masters is, it’s not all about the classes. (Although those were awesome, obviously – and made particularly so by the selection of yummy biscuits which were always on offer!) It’s also about the people you study with.

We spent many hours planning ridiculous and wonderful activities; including making papier-mâché castles and organising Buffy the Vampire Slayer sing-alongs. Admittedly we didn’t ever get round to doing most of these things – which is probably for the best...

I have never felt so confident and happy in my academic work – and a lot of that is down to the support of my tutors, who were always happy to help cultivate my academic style and research interests.

A postgraduate course is only ever what you make it, but studying the Gothic at Stirling has the potential to make it awesome, as you immerse yourself in the activities of the Department. For example, the Gothic MLitts can contribute to the Gothic Imagination website, which is a great experience.

I chose Stirling over some really prestigious courses at other universities and I haven’t regretted it. I really felt like I was part of the academic world during my time here and feel more than ready now to continue on to my PhD.

(Student Profile)

Carolina Abello

After checking out different universities where I could do a Master’s degree in Gothic literature, I chose to do the Master of Letters in the Gothic Imagination at Stirling, graduating in August 2009. It was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have ever made, and one of the best experiences of my life.

The Programme fulfilled all my expectations because it is so well and carefully designed. I made an unforgettable journey from the 18th century origins of the Gothic to the most updated literary trends of this mode, while enjoying a very coherent selection of readings. I also took some optional modules and participated in the reading club, which allowed me to explore specific authors, tropes and other cultural expressions that deal with the Gothic aesthetics.

Classes are taught in a friendly atmosphere in which you can really learn by actively participating in the sessions and discussing your points of view with your teachers and your partners. And I had the privilege of taking courses with Professor Glennis Byron and Doctor Dale Townsend, who are two of the most important lecturers and researchers in the Gothic field. They were always very warm, supportive and willing to guide me; not only in the process of writing my papers and my dissertation, but also in the process of coping with my new life there!

During that year I met lovely and interesting people, made great friends, travelled around Scotland and participated in intercultural activities that allowed me not only to grasp the local essence but also to discover many world views.

Since returning to my country, I have been teaching Gothic literature in different universities and working as a freelance editor. As I love doing research, I always dedicate time to my own projects, so I have travelled to Mexico and Germany to read papers at conferences where Gothic issues are explored.

To put it in a nutshell: I am delighted with the decision I made, as studying at Stirling was absolutely worthwhile; definitely an extraordinary and unforgettable experience.

(Student Profile)

Laura Kremmel

Stirling’s Gothic Imagination Programme is known to be one of the best and is taught by Glennis Byron and Dale Townsend, two of the most knowledgeable scholars in this field. The Mlitt course takes you through the history of Gothic literature, right up to the present and its tight-knit student groups benefit from in-depth modules, one-on-one meetings, Gothic outings and the fun and informal Gothic reading group.

Our tutors made the environment both intensive and nurturing. So that discussing the details of The Monk or American Psycho over coffee and biscuits became the standard class format, balancing the lecture with discussion of texts and ideas.

Now that I’ve returned to the US and am doing a PhD in English, I often contact both my fellow students and professors at Stirling for advice, recommendations, and to continue my connection with Gothic studies. They are always eager to reply to my emails and still help me, even though I am no longer their student.

I attended the recent IGA conference – not really as a representative of my current institution, but as an adopted Stirling student and I felt right at home with my old friends and instructors.

The experience made me understand how significant Stirling has been in the progress of Gothic studies, simply by the reputation it has in that field and the number of conference participants. Clearly, the Programme has made a lasting impression on me and on the subject I study!

The connections and friends I’ve made at Stirling will prove invaluable for my future studies in the Gothic, while giving me a core knowledge and understanding of the field that my current institution could never provide. It seems that, even though I have left Stirling, it will always feel a little like home.

(Student Profile)

Keiti Pierce Pierce

While the general attitude towards education in the United States is that it is simply a means to advance your career, I view higher education as another way to learn. Also, the darker nature of society is something that has always appealed to me and Gothic literature as a whole is a fantastic way to explore it.

Since most of what I've been reading for years falls under the moniker, I was sure it would be interesting to study. However the University of Stirling was the only place I found that offered Gothic Literature as a particular focus, which is why I chose The Gothic Imagination Programme for my MLitt.

Spending a year in Stirling was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Not only did I glean a wealth of information from my tutors Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend – who were far more patient with me than I probably deserved – but I also made great friends who will be a part of my life for years to come.

Since my heritage stems in part from Scotland, I was also able to connect with a culture that feels like home – and I’d happily go back there any time!

Prior to my time in Scotland, I was living in Florida and have since returned there. I’m currently working on a contract basis as an Administrative Assistant in the nuclear power industry and spend as much time as possible writing creative non-fiction in the form of personal essays. Since some of these delve into the darker parts of the human experience, Gothic themes certainly play a part and my Stirling course has proved very worthwhile.


Entry Requirements

A minimum of a second class Honours degree (2.1 preferred) or equivalent in a relevant subject. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply. A sample of work (e.g. English Essay) is required.

Course Fees

2015/16: Home/EU £4,500; Overseas £11,900

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