Studying the MLitt in Postcolonial and World Literatures

The year-long MLitt in Postcolonial and Word Literatures is an intensive taught degree programme which aims to foster the next generation of scholars in postcolonial and world literary studies.

Building on students’ previous experience, this MLitt aims to develop an in-depth knowledge of postcolonial studies in light of renewed scholarly interest in world literatures, and to encourage the pursuit of new avenues of thought that redefine the interlinked projects of these prominent areas of critical practice.

Covering a wide range of periods, topics and contexts, the programme offers the opportunity to study the theoretical, literary, cultural and historical dimensions of contemporary postcolonialism from colonial encounters to the emergence of the field, and its current articulation in a globalised era of world literature.

Postcolonial literature 1

What you'll study 

Few fields of literary studies are riven with the debates, contestations and counter-arguments that characterise postcolonialism. In order to develop fluency in the theoretical dimensions of the field, in each semester students take a programme of study that encourages thinking about the interconnections between different forms of cultural production and its theorisation.

In Semester 1, Approaches, Theories, Contexts 1 explores the diversity of theoretical positions and historical contexts that inform postcolonial studies across a global range of theorists. In this module, we focus on the evolution of postcolonialism from theories of colonial discourse and an emergent concept of world literature, to decolonisation and the emergence of postcolonial studies in the late 20th-century. Topics studied may include: abolition and empire; orientalism; colonial cinema; Victorian Britain and Empire; Marxist and materialist critiques; and the development of world literature.

Following this module, Approaches, Theories, Contexts 2, studied in Semester 2, focuses on recent interventions that challenge and extend the remit of both postcolonialism and world literature in light of contemporary contexts of globalisation, diaspora and a worlding of literary studies. Topics studied may include: hybridity and diaspora; contemporary Ireland and Scotland; non-Anglophone post-colonial contexts; the global literary marketplace; and indigenous studies.

In addition to developing a sophisticated theoretical knowledge, the core modules featured in this programme introduce students to a historical range of literary texts and films: exploring the breadth of postcolonial and world literary studies from the colonial period through decolonization to globalisation. In Semester 1, the core module Literature and Culture from the Colonial to the Postcolonial traces the global sweep of literary and cultural histories that have shaped the field of postcolonial studies. Reaching across a wide historical period from 18th and 19th-century imperialism and empire, through post-war decolonisation and independence, this module aims to enhance students' understanding of the literary texts, films and cultural products that are the subject of postcolonial critique.

Students will study works drawn from across Africa, the Caribbean, India, Ireland, as well as from the former centres of imperial power. Topics and areas of study may include:

  • orientalism
  • 18th century and empire
  • 19th-century colonial writers
  • modernism and empire
  • surrealism
  • negritude
  • literatures of independence
  • Goethe and world literature. 

Postcolonial literature 2

Postcolonial and World Literatures, studied in Semester 2, extends the literary focus of the programme into the contemporary period. Understood as a mapping of texts as they circulate globally and come into contact with diverse cultures and readerships, world literature criticism shares much in common with postcolonialism, yet it is a relationship that has received little attention to date. In tandem with the theoretical contexts studied on Approaches, Theories, Contexts 2, this module focuses on postcolonial literatures in the late 20th and 21st centuries. Exploring the work of contemporary writers, this module aims to map the dimensions of postcolonial and world literatures through a range of texts drawn from across the globe and which reflect on a new reality of transnationalism, globalisation and post-nationalism. Topics and writers studied may include contemporary Irish writing; globalisation and literature; postcolonial theatre; Roberto Bolaño; J. M. Coetzee; Jhumpa Lahiri; Nadia Mohamed; and Irvine Welsh.

An optional Special Topic gives students the opportunity to develop as researchers within a specific area of study. These modules combine student’s individual interests with staff research expertise. Examples of recent specialist modules have included: 

  • Difference and Dissensus: Postcolonial Studies in-between Literature and Politics
  • W.B. Yeats
  • The Short List: World Lit and International Prestige
  • Caribbean Literature
  • Literature and Environment‌.


School of English
Castle House
The Scores
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2668

School of English website

Academic staff

The staff teaching on the programme will vary in any one year, but will always include some of the following: