Science Fiction and Fantasy MA

Postgraduate ( full-time, part-time, distance learning)

Cambridge

May 2018

Intermediate awards: PG Cert, PG Dip

Course duration and delivery: this course starts in May and runs until the following May (1 year full-time, 2 years part-time). It is delivered by blended learning, meaning much of your study time will be spent online and in preparatory reading, with an intensive week of on-campus attendance for each module.

Overview

Combine the literary theory of science fiction and fantasy with the study of their language and rhetoric, their various forms and subgenres and their place in the publishing industry on the first interdisciplinary Masters course of its kind in the UK.

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Full description

Careers

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Our MA Science Fiction and Fantasy is developed with working professionals in mind. It will help you develop the critical skills and the industry know-how for a career working with literature, film and art in roles such as publisher, agent, writer, teacher or librarian.

Once you graduate, you might also be interested in taking a research degree, such as our MPhils / PhDs in English Literature, Creative Writing or Publishing.

Modules & assessment

  • Critical Theory: Science Fiction and Fantasy
    This module will introduce you to major critical and theoretical debates in these two fields. Genre theory is a key context for this module, and you will examine how the boundaries of science fiction and fantasy have been established, policed, challenged and extended, and also gain an understanding of the development of key subgenres, for example post-apocalyptic fiction, space opera and urban fantasy. You will gain familiarity with a range of terms, tropes and processes particularly associated with these genres, such as the novum, the multiverse and primary/secondary worlds. The module will chart significant developments in science fiction and fantasy; these include the British ‘New Wave’, Cyberpunk and magic realism. These genres have increasingly become a battleground for different ideological perspectives, and you will explore the way in which science fiction and fantasy have negotiated issues such as sexuality, gender identity, race, colonialism, disability, posthumanism, politics and religion. You will first be required to carry out independent preparatory reading, which will be supported by tutorials using email and Skype. You will then attend an intensive study week, before working independently on your assignment with guidance from tutors via email and Skype. Upon successful completion of the module you will have gained an extensive knowledge of the history of science fiction and fantasy, and of the theoretical debates most relevant to a study of the genres. The module is assessed through a 1000-1500-word critical review and a 5000-word essay.
  • The Languages of Science Fiction
    The genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy not only make use of genre-specific language and rhetoric but also of specially designed languages. Such artificially designed languages are called constructed languages (or conlangs) and contribute to the characterisation of the protagonists and their culture. These cultures are also often constructed (i.e. constructed cultures, or concultures) and are closely related to their conlangs and the characters they are designed to represent. In this module, we will look at both the genre-specific rhetoric used in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and at conlangs and the way they contribute to the genre. We will start by looking at choices for names in the genre (which is possibly the most common area where specific sound patterns are used to describe a character) and analyse existing conlangs (such as Klingon, Dothraki or Tolkien’s Elvish languages) to understand why conlangs are used and to get an idea of the design process involved. Finally, you will start to create your own conlang (and possibly conculture) as part of the assessment. Constructing languages requires some level of knowledge of linguistics in the form of grammar, sound patterns and meaning relations. While some of this knowledge will be provided as guidance in the module, it will be necessary for you to independently consult sources on linguistics and the structure of various languages when designing the conlang. The module will run as a seminar with lecture and workshop elements; students are required to undertake the key reading with support based on our virtual learning environment between January and May in preparation for the face-to-face component in summer. Your assessment will consist of a proposal for a personal conlang, with accompanying examples of the conlang as worked out (1500 words), and a 3500-word essay (to be written after the summer) which presents a fully referenced description, analysis and report of your conlang.
  • Visual Media and Science Fiction
    Science Fiction and Fantasy are as much visual arts as they are written arts. Many of the early fantasy writers originated in the pre-Raphaelite school of art. Many modern sci-fi artists are authors and many authors are artists. The conventions host art shows, and the visual “look” of a science fiction or fantasy movie, of a graphic novel, a computer game or oil painting are as distinctive in their aesthetic as science fiction and fantasy writing is in its rhetoric. Cosplay is also an element of the visual in science fiction that will be considered. In this module you will have the opportunity to explore the ways in which science fiction and fantasy art have developed from the oil paintings of the pre-Raphaelites through surrealism; the expression of science fiction in futurism, the ideas exchange in architecture and design; the development of a distinctive 'cover art' aesthetic in the magazines and on book covers; through the development of comic, superhero and graphic novel art into TV and movie aesthetics and technologies and into the visual world of gaming from the 1980s to the present, with the development of science fiction narratives for interactive digital technologies. You will consider interactive science fiction (hypertexts, video games), the participative fan cultures it spawns (cosplay, fan conventions, transmedia fan works, independent game development), and cross-media adaptation, developing comparative analyses of shifting science fiction narrative modes across print-media, film, TV, and video games: impact of visual/digital/non-linear storytelling technologies on the deployment of classic sci-fi themes (time travel, translation, speciation, utopian political systems). You will be asked to explore both the inter-relationship with the written form and the degree to which science fiction and fantasy art develop and maintain their own argument of genre. Your assessment will consist of an annotated catalogue (2000 words) and a negotiated research essay on any aspect of science fiction and fantasy art (4000 words).
  • Publishing: The Making of Genres
    This module presents and explores the unique sector of science fiction publishing, an anomaly within the industry which conforms to its own set of traditions and expectations. You will explore the history of science fiction publishing whilst considering and investigating key industrial issues in effectively developing and distributing this genre of fiction. The first half of the course will be structured chronologically to provide an historical context beginning in the 19th century, including consideration of key individuals who were internationally important in the development of the genre. Then you will consider the 20th century up to the 1970s, covering the emergence and rise of science fiction magazines and their prominence in developing the market and establishing key voices of the genre, along with the rise and then fragmentation of 'fandom' with its implications for publishers. You will then explore the contemporary market for science fiction literature and consider aspects of contemporary publishing practice including digital media and marketing, and the tie-in market. You will also consider different types of format for publication and how these have been marketed internationally. With each topic, you will also be presented with archetypal case studies which place critical issues in context. A different theme will be explored each year through the use of this case study element. Your assessment will consist of an historical case study of one science fiction publishing enterprise (to be submitted in June) (1500 words) and a comparative essay evaluating the marketing and sales strategy of two selected science fiction titles or imprints (3500 words).
  • Special Topic in Creative Writing/English Literature
    This Special Topic module will allow you to study a particular genre or topic taught by a practising writer with current or recent work in this area. You might study a particular genre such as writing for children, or creative non-fiction, or historical fiction or crime writing, or a particular topic such as adaptation. The topic will vary from-year-to-year, so you must ask your tutors which ones you can take. This will be made public in good time for you to make an informed choice. You'll be assessed by means of a final 4,500-word portfolio of creative writing appropriate to the special topic and a critical commentary of 2,000 words.
  • Major Project
    This module will support you in the preparation and submission of a Masters dissertation, allowing you to explore in-depth a particular topic that reflects your academic interest.

Assessment

You will show your progress primarily through written work, including traditional methods such as critical essays and original creative writing, but also through reviews, book proposals and marketing plans, helping you to develop the relevant skills for your future career.

Your formative assessment will including creating an online reading portfolio that can be shared with other students using our online learning environment.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

The Department of English and Media is a community of more than 800 students, exploring subjects that further their understanding of culture and communication in the global age, from film studies to applied linguistics. We focus on skills and knowledge valued by employers, and provide our students with valuable industry insight through our links with creative partners.

Our students take part in many activities to help prepare them for the future, like work placements, study abroad opportunities, talks by internationally acclaimed guest speakers, and research conferences. They even have the chance to get writing advice from our Royal Literary Fund Fellow.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Where can I study?

Cambridge
Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Our Department of English and Media has substantial experience with Distance Learning at postgraduate level, having run the MA Applied Linguistics and TESOL by Distance Learning since 2012.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2017/18 (per year)

£7,100

UK & EU students, 2017/18 (per year part time)

£3,550

International students, 2017/18 (per year)

£11,900

Important fee notes

The part-time course fee assumes that you're studying at half the rate of a full-time student (50% intensity). Course fees will be different if you study over a longer period. All fees are for guidance purposes only.

Entry requirements

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

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English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

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