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The MA in Renaissance Studies explores the question of what the Renaissance was and what approaches are best suited to understanding it.
From the start, you will undertake training in postgraduate research skills. For example, in the second term of your degree you are offered practical study of palaeography. The summer core course is based around the materials of Renaissance evidence: objects, painting, manuscript and print. We explore a range of methodologies.
The programme considers different aspects of Renaissance culture, particularly the social and intellectual histories of England, France, Italy and Spain. You will study with Birkbeck's internationally recognised experts in Renaissance English literature and culture, history of art, French, history and Spanish, tailoring your module
Read more about this course
A second-class honours degree or higher, preferably in a subject relevant to Renaissance studies (for example, classics, history, history of art, literature and languages, philosophy or political science).
We also welcome students with backgrounds in other disciplines too (e.g. medical, commercial, scientific).
If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.
Fees & funding
Start dates & study options
'Deciding to undertake an MA in Renaissance Studies was one of the wisest things I have ever done. It gave me huge intellectual satisfaction and insight into curatorial and research skills that are essential to my role in running a national museum.' (Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group).
'I thoroughly enjoyed my course in MA Renaissance Studies, especially researching on the theme of women and Islam during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I am very appreciative of all the help I was provided with during the MA and couldn't have developed my career without doing this course. When applying for jobs as an English teacher, my MA helped immensely during the application process, as well as continuing my professional development in this field.' (Maarya Desai, English teacher).
'Deciding to do the MA Renaissance Studies course at Birkbeck was one of the best decisions I could have made, especially as a student coming from the USA. The evening modules allowed me to explore London to its fullest during the day and to use the British Library for my research.'
Eva says: ‘I primarily chose the course in Renaissance Studies due to my passion for the heritage sector in which I began to volunteer shortly after completing my undergraduate studies. I liked the variety of modules offered by the Birkbeck Renaissance Studies MA – it covered literature, art history and philosophy and wasn’t restricted to just one short period of history. It offered enough scope for us to find our own niche interest.
‘The MA course was very hands-on from the start. We learned how to write a critical bibliography and literature review, and the core module sets up your skills in writing essays and doing research. A lot of the work I was doing at the time was project based and relied on good presentation skills. It helps a lot to have those tools – they are transferable and very useful skills.
‘We had lots of contact with the academic staff, who are all highly qualified in their field. The cutting edge research that was going on in so many different fields actively influenced our seminars. You also get to know your peers, which at Birkbeck is a really important factor; the majority have established careers in the industry and the networking just happens.
‘Some people on my course just wanted to study that period of history, while others were teachers building their knowledge, or already working in heritage or related areas such as publishing or writing. There’s a very vibrant postgraduate community – there were always different reading groups being established, or film screenings happening – and the busy environment is great as it just makes you more ambitious!
‘Studying in this part of London is also excellent – you have the British Museum, the British Library, Senate House library – it’s all just there!
‘Doing such a relevant MA helped get ahead in my career but made me ambitious for more. I’ve now started a PhD at Birkbeck in the Dept of English and Humanities and am very fortunate to have this funded by a Birkbeck Anniversary Scholarship.
‘I am striving towards an academic career, but ideally I’d like to combine it with the applied work in the heritage industry that I have come to love. There are so many career paths that you can follow in this field, I’m keeping my options open!’
David says: ‘I’d greatly enjoyed the intellectual stimulation and social interaction which Birkbeck promotes, and having just completed the four year BA in English Literature, I was reluctant to go without this.
‘I wanted to construct a sort of Art History course, perhaps with a literature module, under the umbrella of the Renaissance Studies MA. In particular I wanted to turn a passive, ill-informed response to art into something more active and articulate. As I researched more deeply into selected areas, I believe I found new things to say about them.
‘Just as with my BA, it was vital that I could combine my full time teaching job with my studies. The big reading and essay writing tasks were able to be done within my end of term holidays – and the long school holidays in general helped in coping with the pressures of studying! My family and colleagues were supportive – some even read my essays!
‘Birkbeck is full of really good teachers – as a teacher myself, you know when someone has or hasn’t prepared themselves properly! The MA course also gives the lecturers a chance to share some of their own research interests: ‘cutting edge’ is a cliché, but it’s true! The lecturers were never less than good, and were sometimes outstanding. For my dissertation they invariably found the right blend of criticism and encouragement.
‘I have also very much enjoyed studying in the heart of academic London. Birkbeck itself has a very good library, but it is also close to resources such as the Warburg Institute – a wonderful place to work.
‘I would recommend Birkbeck and the MA Renaissance Studies unreservedly. Just as my BA has opened the door to some English teaching where I work, so my (effectively) Art History MA may make it possible to run an Art History course for sixth formers.
‘In the immediate short term, I’m planning a holiday in Italy, to visit some of the places and pictures I encountered on the MA course. I said when I finished my BA that I wanted to put my English knowledge to use and in the long term possibly even write a book. My supervisor thinks that elements of my dissertation might be worked up for publication – we’ll see! And who knows, I may even end up doing a PhD at Birkbeck.’
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