School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, Department of Linguistics & Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies

MA Comparative Literature

Key information

One calendar year (full-time). Two or three years (part-time, daytime only)We recommend that part-time students have between two-and-a-half and three days a week free to pursue their course of study.
Start of programme
September intake only
Attendance mode
Full-time or part-time
Russell Square, College Buildings
Entry requirements

We will consider all applications with a 2:2 (or international equivalent) or higher in social science of humanities subject. In addition to degree classification we take into account other elements of the application such as supporting statement. References are optional, but can help build a stronger application if you fall below the 2:2 requirement or have non-traditional qualifications.

See international entry requirements 

Course overview

The MA Comparative Literarure (Asia/Africa) attracts students who seek an opportunity to move from the familiar Euro-American literary canons into the fresh but less well known worlds of African and Asian literature.

At SOAS, students benefit from the unique expertise in this vast field possessed by the school’s faculty. This expertise is available to students interested in studying these literatures through English - including both original English language literatures of Africa and Asia and literature written in African and Asian languages presented through English translations.

While exploring new horizons and breaking out of the Euro-centric space in which comparative literature has developed so far, the programme covers the major theoretical contributions made by Western scholars. In doing so, it constructs a unique multi-cultural domain for the study of literature and its location in culture and society.

A prior knowledge of an African or Asian language is not a requirement for admission to the MA Comparative Literature.

Why study Comparative Literature at SOAS?

  • SOAS is ranked 1st in London in the Complete University Guide 2021 for Middle Eastern and African Studies, and 6th in the UK
  • Ranked 8th in the UK in the Complete University Guide 2021 for South Asian Studies
  • Modern Languages and Linguistics at SOAS has been ranked 10th in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021
  • we've also been ranked 4th for research environment - with 100% of our research ranked as 'internationally excellent' and 85% as 'world-leading' - and 8th for research outputs in the REF 2021
  • SOAS is specialist in the studies of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia
  • access SOAS’s comprehensive cross-regional expertise and gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of these regions in an increasingly globalised world.


Students take 180 credits, 60 of which are a dissertation and a 120 from taught modules. All students take 30 credits of core modules, 15 credits from List A, 45 credits from List B (which may include up to 30 credits of language acquisition modules at appropriate level), and up to 30 credits from the list of postgraduate module open options. .


Important notice

The information on the website reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. The modules are indicative options of the content students can expect and are/have been previously taught as part of these programmes. However, this information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change.

Core Modules

Students take both of the following modules

List A

Guided Options - select 15 credits from list A below

List B

Guided Options - select modules to the value of 45 credits from List B, this can include 30 credits of appropriate level language aquisition modules. Then select another 30 credits frrom the open options list

Module Credits
725 African and Asian Diasporas: Culture, Politics, Identities 15
African Philosophy (PG) 15
Chinese Cinema (PG) 15
Cinemas of of the Middle East and North Africa 1 15
Cinemas of of the Middle East and North Africa 2 15
Contemporary African Literature (PG) 15
Cultural Studies: New Practices and Widening Horizons 15
Cultural Studies: Origins, Ideas and New Approaches 15
Directed Readings in a South East Asian Language 15
English Literatures of South East Asia 15
Gender in East Asian Literature (PG) 15
Genders and Sexualities in South East Asian Film 15
Intersecting Worlds: Race and Gender in the Contemporary Postcolonial Novel 15
Japanese Cinema (PG) 15
Language, Identity and Society in Africa (PG) 15
Literature, Politics and National Identity in Modern China (PG) 15
Literatures of Resistance in South Asia (PG) 15
Modern and Contemporary Arts in Africa 15
Modern Palestinian Literature (PG) 15
Myths, Legends and Folkways of East Asia (PG) 15
New Taiwan Cinema and Beyond (PG) 15
Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - A 15
Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - B 15
Postcolonial Theory 15
Postcolonial Practices 15
The Afghanistan Wars, 1979 to the Present 15
Trajectories of Modernity in Korean Literature and Film (PG) 15
Translating Cultures 1 15
War, Revolution and Independence in South East Asia Literatures in Translation (Masters) 15
World Literature (PG) 15
Writing from the Margins: Minority and "Outsider" Texts in Modern Japanese Literature (PG) 15

Teaching and learning

One-year Masters programmes consist of 180 credits . 120 credits are taught in modules of 30 credits (taught over 20 weeks) or 15 credits (taught over 10 weeks); the dissertation makes up the remaining 60 units. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

Contact hours

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework and revising for examinations. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary.

More information is on the page for each module.

SOAS Library

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.


Graduates of the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics leave SOAS not only with linguistic and cultural expertise, but also with skills in written and oral communication, analysis and problem solving.

Recent School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics graduates have been hired by:

  • Africa Matters
  • Amnesty International
  • Arab British Chamber of Commerce
  • BBC World Service
  • British High CommissionCouncil for British Research in the Levant
  • Department for International Development
  • Edelman
  • Embassy of Jordan
  • Ernst & Young
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Google
  • Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
  • Middle East Eye
  • Saïd Foundation
  • TalkAbout Speech Therapy
  • The Black Curriculum
  • The Telegraph
  • United Nations Development Programme
  • UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
  • Wall Street Journal

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