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Creative Writing: Writing the City (MA)

Course Description

This Creative Writing: Writing the City Masters course is the first to focus entirely on the city of London. It will allow you to explore the city as subject matter from a range of perspectives and across all genres. It will also give you a theoretical and practical platform from which to develop your understanding, and become part of the London writing scene.

Taught by professional writers and researchers, the course offers plenty of opportunities to network with other writers, agents, TV producers and performance poets. You will be based in the University's headquarters building at 309 Regent Street, which means you will be writing about the city in the heart of London, with ready access to the capital's excellent academic, social and cultural opportunities, including the vibrant West End theatre scene.

Course content

If studying full-time, you will normally take three modules in Semester One and tree modules in Semester Two. You can begin in January or in September. Part-time students take two modules in each semester. The availability of option modules will depend on overall demand and staff availability, but you will normally told which options are on offer at the beginning of your course. You can choose one 'free choice' option module from other Master courses at Westminster, subject to timetabling constraints and the approval of the project during the first semester an submit it after all other modules have been attempted.

To receive your Masters award, you will need to complete taught modules for a total of 120 credits, and the 60-credit Writing Project (giving a total of 180 credits). If you do not meet the requirements for a Masters award, you will be eligible for the award of a Postgraduate Diploma or a Postgraduate Certificate.

The workshop-based structure of the course will allow you to learn through interactive practice. Modules are taught by one two-hour or tree-hour seminar/workshop per week, depending on your subject. Teaching will also include visits to selected London institution to support certain aspects of writing, and you will be encourage to use various archives, theatres and galleries. Assessment methods include coursework portfolios (allowing you to experiment in a variety of genres, reflective logs, essays, and workshop leadership) as well as the 10-12,000-word writing project. There are no formal examinations.

Core modules

- Conflict and the City (Drama)
This module focuses on the craft of playwriting, with a particular emphasis on drama that exploits the possibilities of the urban environment. You will draft a dramatic work of 60-90 minutes, critique the work of experienced dramatists and develop a shared vocabulary of 'technical' terminology. It will also introduce you to major new-writing opportunities in London and beyond. While contextualising new playwriting within the wider parameters of 20th and early 21st century drama, the module will encourage you to reflect in depth on your own writing and develop an advanced understanding of the elements of a dramatic text, including characterisation, structure, conflict, dramatic irony and subtext.

- Language and the Imagination(Poetic Writing)
You will develop your use of poetic language through a combination of short exercises, close reading of poetry and prose poetry, and critiques of your own work. You will gain a sophisticated understanding of poetic language and its applications to a range of other genres, and enhance your ability to identify imaginative uses of language as a writer and reader of poetry on the city. The module will allow you to develop an advanced understanding of formal poetic structures and of the publishing and performance opportunities for poetry in London

- Tales of the City (Fiction)
This module focuses on Friction Writing inspired by the city. Through a combination of exercises, close reading of established authors and critiques of your own work, you will be challenged to raise your own prose writing to a professional level. As it establishes your understanding of prose fiction and treating the city as a primary source or background presence, the module will nurture your potential to be an innovative and independent writer. You will also examine approaches to writing short and longer prose fiction that either overtly takes the city as its theme or employs it as a significant presence.

- Creative Practice
This module will develop your understanding of the aesthetic, ethical and methodological choices that underpin writing practice. You will learn how to evaluate different theories of writing (including realist, modernist and postmodernist approaches), while widening your knowledge of associated literary styles and practices such as stream of consciousness writing, automatic writing, writing as representation and visual writing. The module will also introduce you to the ways in which place, in particular the urban environment, affects writing and encourage you to interrogate the ethical and political dilemmas arising from literary production.

- How to Write Creatively: Portfolio (January starters)
This module focuses on developing your creative writing skills using a variety of exercises and techniques. The module will allow you to develop a portfolio of creative writing inspired by the city through a combination of practical workshops and close reading of established authors. You will also learn to critique their work, while being challenged to raise your own writing to professional level.

- The Writing Business (year-long)
The module focuses on the development of knowledge, personal and professional skills that will allow you to plan our professional development, with a particular emphasis on the writing business in London. Providing useful and relevant information about working in the creative industries through visiting speakers and workshops, the module aims to develop and nurture advanced and transferable entrepreneurial skills and allow you to network with other professionals with confidence.

- The Writing Project
You will focus on one substantial piece of creative work or portfolio of smaller pieces, with a view to submission for publication. The module aims to provide the support needed for you to prepare a substantial piece of creative writing and develop your individual voice in the genre of your choice. As the module seeks to synthesise the discoveries about the city made during the course, and help you to respond appropriately in your creative work, it will allow you to absorb and process your explorations of the city, and respond through your creative work.

Option modules

- Analysing Spoken and Written Discourse
This module offers a range of different linguistics tools for analysing written text. Texts are analysed for lexical and grammatical cohesion, metonymy and metaphor, and register and thematic progression (Hallidayan functional grammar). Texts are also analysed using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Multimodal Discourse Analysis (MDA). You will acquire a theoretical understanding of the main approaches to Written Discourse Analysis, and the practical skills for carrying out these analyses on real texts. You will also gain a broader awareness of how written discourse is constructed by comparing it to spoken discourse, and by discussing it in terms of more general semiotic and communicating theories.

- Digital London
Digital London explores the ways in which writers can make use of digital technologies to re-imagine the city. The module considers examples of creative practice that exploit tools such as apps, social media, GPS and virtual reality in the creation of, for example, digital literature, creative guiding, game-playing theatre, digital installations, and site-specific interactions with the urban environment.

- Reading Contemporary Culture
This module examines the idea of British literary culture since the 1990s. Beginning with Carlyle, the notion of literature as an 'industry' has been resisted by a strong tradition of cultural criticism in Britain. This module discusses what happened to this tradition, whether it still exists, and what may have replaced it. By focusing particularly on the relationships between writing and film, and writing and the visual arts, the module investigates the state and status of literary writing during this period. Authors studied include A. S. Byatt, Sarah Kane, Zadie Smith, Sarah Waters and Irvine Welsh.

- Reading the Nation
Through this module you will explore ways in which texts can be contextualised and discussed in terms of the concepts and practices of nationalism, and of attempts to understand the nation as a discursive practice. You will address a variety of texts and relate these to theoretical concepts such as nationalism, decolonisation, colonialism and post-colonialism. You will consider how such concepts intersect with issues concerning gender, race and social class. Authors studied include: Howard Brenton, David Hare, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Michael Ondaatje; you will also consider a range of influential theorists, including Benedict Anderson, Homi Bhabha, Michel Foucault and Edward Said.

- Urban Cultures
Using a range of theoretical, historical, literary, cinematic, visual and other cultural texts, you will explore the idea of urban culture as it has developed since the mid-19th century. The module considers a variety of different representations of the city, and the ways in which they understand the specificity of urban experience itself. You will also explore the changing global forms and interrelations of 'western' and 'non-western' urban forms. Key authors, artists and theorists studied include Walter Benjamin, Rem Koolhaas, Fritz Lang, Henri Lefebvre, Georg Simmel, Iain Sinclair, the Surrealists and Dziga Vertov.

Associated careers

The course will enable you to develop sophisticated critical and creative skills and a widely applicable knowledge base that can be adapted to various fields of creative practice and writing business. This course is intended to move you to a new level in your career as a writer by developing your skills as a sophisticated critical practitioner, and your knowledge of literature about the city as well as the writing business. You will be encouraged to network with other writers and identify useful opportunities for career development, partly through the wide range of extra-curricular activities, including writers' events and talks. The critical and practical skills you will acquire by the end of the course will make you a strong candidate in many areas, including arts management, copy editing, education, freelance writing, journalism, media, publishing, theatre and performance-based writing, and research and academia.


At Westminster, we have always believed that your University experience should be designed to enhance your professional life. We place as much emphasis on gaining skills relevant to the workplace as on learning the academic discipline that you are studying.

Obtaining a placement, part-time or vacation job while you study will provide you with extra cash and help you demonstrate that you have the skills employers are looking for.

In London, there is a plentiful supply of part-time work - most students at the University of Westminster work part-time (or full-time during vacations) to help support their studies.

Visit the Creative Writing: Writing the City (MA) page on the University of Westminster website for more details!

Entry Requirements

You are normally required to have a good first degree or equivalent in a humanities-based subject; successful applicants will be expected to have a proven interest in, and commitment to, language and its creative outlets. Candidates without formal qualifications will also be considered on the basis of their professional achievements in relevant areas of the creative industry (theatre, performance, journalism, publishing, etc).

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