The Gothic Imagination (MLitt)

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The Gothic Imagination (MLitt)
  • Type Part-time, Full-time
  • Duration Full-time; MLitt-12 months, Part-time: MLitt-27 months,
  • Start date September

Dr Dale Townhend Division of Literature & Languages
English Studies
School of Arts & Humanities
University of Stirling
+44 (0) 1786 467512

Contemporary culture is characterised by nothing if not a reawakened interest in the Gothic, be that in the form of the current vogue for horror film, in the heightened preoccupation with terror and monstrosity in the media, the extraordinary success of writers such as Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer, or in manifestations of an alternative Gothic impulse in fashion, music and lifestyle.

As the countless adaptations and retellings of texts such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818; 1831) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) in our own day attest, the Gothic, though once relegated to a dark corner of literary history, has assumed a position of considerable cultural prominence. 

The MLitt in The Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling provides students with the unique opportunity to steep themselves in the scholarly appreciation of this mode, providing a rigorous and intensive historical survey of its literary origins and developments, and charting its dispersal across a broad range of media and national contexts. In so doing, the course equips its graduates with the necessary theoretical vocabulary to address, and critically reflect upon, the Gothic as a complex and multi-faceted cultural phenomenon, while also preparing them for further postgraduate research in the rich and vibrant field of Gothic Studies. In addition to these subject-specific objectives, the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination also provides its graduates with several invaluable transferable skills, including critical thinking, theoretical conceptualisation, historical periodization and independent research. 

Course objectives

  • The MLitt in the Gothic Imagination consists of four core modules, two option modules, and a dissertation. Across these components, the course aims to provide students with a rigorous grounding in the work and thematic preoccupations of the most influential Gothic writers, both historical and contemporary. Supplemented by relevant historical and theoretical material throughout, the course aims to provide as rich and varied an exposure to the academic study of the Gothic as possible. 
  • The first two core modules seek to provide a searching historical overview of the genesis and development of the Gothic aesthetic, taking students systematically from the circulation of the term ‘Gothic’ in the political and aesthetic discourses of the late seventeeth and eighteenth centuries, through the late eighteenth-century writings of Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis and Charlotte Dacre, and into the nineteenth-century fictions of writers such as Charles Maturin, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde. 
  • The second and third core modules, on Gothic in modern, modernist and postmodern writing, include texts by authors such as Gaston Leroux, Algernon Blackwood, H.P. Lovecraft, Djuna Barnes; Mervyn Peake, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison and Patrick McGrath.
  • Option modules vary from year to year, depending on student interest and demand. Recent option topics have included the Gothic on the Romantic Stage; Nineteenth-century American Gothic; Transmutations of the Vampire; The Gothic in Children’s Literature; Monstrosity; The Female Gothic; Queer Gothic; and Gothic in/and Modern Horror Cinema.
  • At the dissertation stage, students are encouraged to undertake independent, supervised research on any particular interest within Gothic studies that they might wish to pursue. Subject to the agreement of the course director, a creative writing dissertation may be undertaken at this stage. 

Entrance requirements

A minimum of a second class Honours degree (2.1 preferred) or equivalent in a relevant subject. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

A sample of work (e.g. English Essay) is required.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 (5.5 in all bands).

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard.

Our range of pre-sessional courses.

Course start date


Structure and content

The teaching year at Stirling is divided into two semesters, which run from mid-September to late December, and from January to the end of May respectively. Both full-time and part-time students take four Gothic core modules over two semesters. For part-time students, these core modules are completed in year 1. The core modules in the Autumn semester are as follows: Early British Gothic, 1764-1820 (20 credits) and Victorian Gothic, 1820-1900 (20 credits). The core modules for the Spring semester are Twentieth-century British and American Gothic (20 credits) and Twenty-first-century Gothic (20 credits).

In parallel with the core modules, students are required to take one optional module in each semester, each weighted at 20 credits. Part-time students take one optional module in each semester in the second year of study. In addition to allowing for the development of a range of subject-specific skills, these two optional modules are also designed to provide students with a rigorous training in research and employability skills. These modules vary depending on teaching staff, but in the past have included the following:

  • American Gothic: An examination of the emergence and development of Gothic in 19th-century American fiction with particular attention to the ways in which these texts transform the optimistic narratives of the new American republic
  • Gothic in Contemporary Film: An analysis of the ways in which Gothic tropes have been appropriated and reworked in a selection of contemporary films
  • The Female Gothic: A study of selected contemporary texts as reworkings of the female Gothic tradition of Ann Radcliffe
  • Transmutations of the Vampire: An investigation into the cultural significance of the vampire over the past 50 years

The most significant piece of work on the course will be a dissertation of 15,000 words, written during the summer, on a subject of your choosing, in consultation with a member of English Studies. You may choose to develop work initiated on one of the modules you have studied. Those who do not embark on the dissertation may be awarded a Diploma. The work of the best students completing the course may be deemed worthy of an MLitt with Distinction.

Delivery and assessment

Two hours of seminars per module per week, plus individual consultations and supervisions with members of staff. Assessment is by means of a 4,000-word essay for each core module, and a variety of skills-based assessments (such as presentations; portfolios; blog-entries) for optional modules. All students complete a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of their choice once optional and core modules have been completed.  

Module titles

2015/16 Structure



Early British Gothic, 1764-1820 (20)

Victorian Gothic, 1820-1900 (20)

One of:

  • The Female Gothic (20)
  • Nineteenth-century American Gothic (20)
  • (training skills embedded in option) 


  • Twentieth-Century British and American Gothic (20)
  • Twenty-first-century Gothic (20)

One of:

  • Scottish Gothic (20)
  • Transmutations of the Vampire (20)
  • Transnational Cinema (20)
  • (training skills embedded in option) 


  • Dissertation (60)



  • Early British Gothic, 1764-1820 (20)
  • Victorian Gothic, 1820-1900 (20)


  • Twentieth-Century British and American Gothic (20)
  • Twenty-first-century Gothic (20)


One of:

  • The Female Gothic (20)
  • Nineteenth-century American Gothic (20)
  • (training skills embedded in option)


One of:

  • Scottish Gothic (20)
  • Transmutations of the Vampire (20)
  • Transnational Cinema (20)
  • (training skills embedded in option)


  • Dissertation (60)

Why study The Gothic Imagination (MLitt) at Stirling?

Course Director

Dr Dale Townshend


In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

More information

RAE rating

Over half of our submissions in the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) were found to be ‘Internationally Excellent’ or ‘World-leading’.


The MLitt in The Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling is one of the few taught Master's degree courses worldwide that is devoted exclusively to the academic study of the dynamic, ever-expanding field of the Gothic. While aspects of the Gothic feature prominently on undergraduate and graduate university curricula across the globe, the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination at Stirling is unique in the advanced levels of specialisation and expertise with which it equips its graduates. 

Long acknowledged as a centre of excellence for the study of the Gothic aesthetic worldwide, the division of English Studies at Stirling has historically been the home of leading Gothic scholars for the last two decades; students on the course thus have the opportunity to work closely with some of the leading researchers in the field.

As recruitment patterns reveal, the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination enjoys a strong international reputation, and Stirling in the past has been proud to welcome students from as far afield as Argentina, Canada, Greece, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the USA. 

With high levels of choice and flexibility built into it, the course structure allows students to develop their own critical interests, though always under the specialist guidance of recognised experts in the broad and exciting field of Gothic Studies.

Our students

Carolina Abello

After checking out different universities where I could do a Master’s degree in Gothic literature, I chose to do the Master of Letters in the Gothic Imagination at Stirling, graduating in August 2009. It was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have ever made, and one of the best experiences of my life.

The programme fulfilled all my expectations because it is so well and carefully designed. I made an unforgettable journey from the 18th century origins of the Gothic to the most updated literary trends of this mode, while enjoying a very coherent selection of readings. I also took some optional modules and participated in the reading club, which allowed me to explore specific authors, tropes and other cultural expressions that deal with the Gothic aesthetics.

Classes are taught in a friendly atmosphere in which you can really learn by actively participating in the sessions and discussing your points of view with your teachers and your partners. And I had the privilege of taking courses with Professor Glennis Byron and Doctor Dale Townsend, who are two of the most important lecturers and researchers in the Gothic field. They were always very warm, supportive and willing to guide me; not only in the process of writing my papers and my dissertation, but also in the process of coping with my new life there!

During that year I met lovely and interesting people, made great friends, travelled around Scotland and participated in intercultural activities that allowed me not only to grasp the local essence but also to discover many world views.

Since returning to my country, I have been teaching Gothic literature in different universities and working as a freelance editor. As I love doing research, I always dedicate time to my own projects, so I have travelled to Mexico and Germany to read papers at conferences where Gothic issues are explored.

To put it in a nutshell: I am delighted with the decision I made, as studying at Stirling was absolutely worthwhile; definitely an extraordinary and unforgettable experience.

Carolina Abello, MLitt in Gothic Imagination, graduated November 2010


Our staff

The MLitt in The Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling offers students the opportunity of working closely with world-leading scholars in the field of Gothic studies.The primary tutor on the course, Dr Dale Townshend is an active researcher, and regularly attends conferences and academic symposia both abroad and in the UK. 


With course-work assessed solely by means of independently devised, researched and executed essays, the MLitt in The Gothic Imagination equips students with a number of the skills and abilities that are prized and actively sought after by employers across the private and public sectors. These include the ability to process and reflect critically upon cultural forms; the ability to organise, present and express ideas clearly and logically; the ability to understand complex theoretical ideas; and the ability to undertake extended independent research.    

Previous graduates of the course have gone on to pursue successful careers in such fields as teaching, publishing, research, academia, advertising, journalism and the film industry.

The 15,000-word dissertation that is submitted towards the end of the course allows students to devise, develop, support and defend their own academic ideas across an extended piece of written work; addition to the skills of independence, organisation and expression fostered by this exercise, the dissertation also provides an excellent point of entry into more advanced forms of postgraduate research, including the Doctoral degree. 


2016/17 Overseas £12,450
2016/17 Home/EU £4,500
2015/16 Overseas £11,900
2015/16 Home/EU £4,500

You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.


information on possible sources of funding

The University of Stirling is offering any UK or European Union student with a First Class Honours degree (or equivalent) a £2,000 scholarship to study full-time on any taught Master's course or £1,000 for part-time study. Further information on scholarships is available here.