Middle Eastern Literary and Cultural Studies pathway (Modern Languages MLitt) 2023 entry

Deepen your knowledge of classical and modern Arabic and Persian literatures and cultures, including music, drama and film, as a prelude to professional work in the arts and culture of the area or as a sound basis for progression to PhD study.

The teaching is in English, but applicants must be fluent in either Arabic or Persian to be able to engage with a variety of cultural products taught in the programme. Students explore a broad range of subjects in Middle Eastern literary traditions (Arabic, Persian, and occasionally Kurdish) before focusing on a topic, medium or genre of their choice. 

You can take Middle Eastern studies as a single-subject pathway or in combination with another language pathway within theModern Languages MLitt programme

Start date
September 2023
End date
September 2024
One year full time
School of Modern Languages

Application deadline

Thursday 10 August 2023

Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Entry requirements

The qualifications listed are indicative minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé. This should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment to date.
  • personal statement
  • sample of your own, single-authored academic written work (2,000 words)
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates.

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

English language proficiency

If English is not your first language, you may need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. See approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The MLitt is a one-year full-time programme combining advanced study and supervised research. Italian studies may be taken as a single-subject pathway within the MLitt, or you can combine it with one of five other pathways: 

  • French studies 
  • German studies 
  • Italian studies 
  • Russian studies 
  • Spanish and Latin American studies. 

Students from each of the six pathways start their studies with a module in literary and cultural theory. The module provides indispensable training for advanced learning in each pathway and helps students make new academic and social connections. You will explore a broad chronological and national range of seminal literary and cultural thinkers and theories through which texts and cultural productions of all kinds may be conceptualised, analysed and criticised. 

You will apply these skills in the optional modules which make up the remainder of the taught component of the programme. The optional modules you will take will vary depending on whether you take Middle Eastern studies as a single-subject pathway or in combination with another pathway.

Within the Middle Eastern studies pathway, the optional modules allow you to acquire advanced knowledge of classical and modern Arabic and Persian literatures and cultures, including music and film. You may also undertake guided study on a specialised topic drawing on research expertise in the Department of Arabic and Persian. 

The final part of the programme is a supervised research project in which you will explore a topic in depth. Research specialisms within the Department of Arabic and Persian include: 

  • Classical (medieval) and modern Arabic literature 
  • Arab history and culture 
  • Islamic studies 
  • Modern Persian language, literature, and drama 
  • Persian song, cinema, and visual culture. 


  • Study a single-subject pathway or combine two pathways to create a programme that reflects your academic interests and ambitions. 
  • Small class sizes of no more than 20 students provide a close-knit postgraduate community and friendly academic environment. 
  • Teaching is geared towards encouraging and directing independent research. 
  • Students receive training in traditional and new research methodologies and have the opportunity to broaden their language portfolios. 


The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details about each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue, which is for the 2022-2023 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2023 entry. 

Students from each of the six pathways complete a shared module providing a theoretical basis for the programme and an opportunity to make new academic and social contacts. 

  • Literary and Cultural Theory (1): provides research training by exploring a range of literary and cultural theories through which texts may be conceptualised, criticised and analysed. 

The optional modules taken will vary depending on whether Middle Eastern studies is taken as a single-subject pathway or in combination with another pathway. On the Middle Eastern studies pathway, the optional modules are: 

  • Literary and Cultural Theory (2): continues on from part 1 by studying a broad range of seminal thinkers and theories. 
  • Middle Eastern Literary and Cultural Contexts: provides students with a comprehensive knowledge of important elements of classical and modern Arabic and Persian literatures and cultures from pre-Islamic times to the present. 
  • Problems of Culture and Identity: aims to explore major dimensions of cultural identity. Particular topics treated may include: the dialectical relationship between personal and collective identities, the self and alterity, narrative and identity formation, situatedness and corporeality, recognition, transnational identities and problems of autobiography. 
  • Research and Professional Skills: introduces students to a range of skills which are essential to advanced researchers and key to many other non-academic workplaces. 
  • Specialised Research in Middle Eastern Literatures and Cultures: provides the opportunity for postgraduate students to develop their skills of literary and textual analysis through directed reading on a topic of their choice. 

Student dissertations will be supervised by members of the teaching staff who will advise on the choice of subject and provide guidance throughout the research process. The completed dissertation of not more than 15,000 words must be submitted by a date specified in August. 

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MLitt, there are exit awards available that allow suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and, assuming you have attained appropriate grades, receive a PGDip instead of an MLitt. 

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2023 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.


The taught component of the programme is completed over two semesters – September to December and January to June. 

Classes are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, and tutorials.

Class sizes range from individual one-to-one teaching up to 20 students. 

Modules are assessed through coursework; there are no final exams for this programme. 

The period from June to mid-August is used to complete a supervised research project. The project is presented as a written dissertation of no more than 15,000 words. 


The School of Modern Languages is the largest modern languages department in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK. 

The School is distinguished by the breadth of its research which spans language, literary, and cultural studies across eight distinct language areas – Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Persian, Russian, and Spanish – but also a range of cultural-historical epochs from the middle ages to the present day.

This expertise is complemented by the School’s comparative literature scholarship. 

The School hosts a year-round programme of research seminars which postgraduates are invited to attend. Opportunities to engage with the School’s wider research community are also provided through its  four research centres and institutes and its highly successful Byre World series, an annual programme of events bringing modern languages and cultural studies research to the local community. 




More information on tuition fees can be found on the postgraduate fees and funding page.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews is committed to attracting the very best students, regardless of financial circumstances. Find out more about the scholarships and postgraduate loans available.

All taught postgraduate scholarships

After your degree


Alongside your academic learning, you will develop your broader capabilities and employability. All Masters students have access to the Professional Skills Curriculum, a flexible programme of workshops, lectures, and online materials to help you develop your personal and professional skills. 
Graduates have gone on to careers in fields including: 

  • consulting 
  • energy resource management 
  • international development 
  • journalism 
  • UN interpreting 
  • public policy 
  • publishing 
  • the civil and diplomatic services 
  • University academics and administrators. 

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Further study

The MLitt provides academic learning and research skills training for students intending to continue to a doctoral or other research degree.  

As well as the PhD degree, the School of Modern Languages offers supervision for two research-based Masters degrees – the Master of Studies by Research (MSt (Res)) and the Master of Philosophy (MPhil).  

Postgraduate research

What to do next

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We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online visiting days.

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 2961
School of Modern Languages
Buchanan Building
Union Street
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KY16 9PH

School of Modern Languages website