MA in Black British Writing

  • Length
    1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
  • Department
    Theatre and Performance, English and Comparative Literature

Course overview

This new and unique Masters importantly addresses black writing as a continuum. Its heritage in British culture is considered along a trajectory marked by historical presences as connecting with migratory, indigenous and global perspectives.

This MA is:

  • World first. Nowhere else in the world can you study this field in such a richly, referenced way - in the actual country where the writing is produced.
  • Cross-disciplinary in teaching, studies, research. Writing as perceived in its broadest form on and off the page and screen.
  • Collaborative. It will be taught by Professor Joan Anim-Addo and Dr Deirdre Osborne, who share its vision and will co-teach the modules.
  • Inclusive. We welcome applications from a broad spectrum of people – those seeking academic careers, professionals who are returning to learning, artists who wish to develop their analytic and critical thinking skills.
  • Connected to local, national and international research streams. Both tutors have well-established research profiles with publications, and track records in convening public events in the field.

Why is this an important degree?

"“A Master’s degree programme that enables the serious study of the creative and artistic history and achievement of black British novelists, poets, short story writers, essayists, and playwrights.”
Professor R. Victoria Arana, Howard University, Washington DC

At the end of 2011 it was reported that of over 14,000 university professors in the UK, only 50 were black and overwhelmingly, outside the humanities disciplines. This was followed by confirmations that there are still no black managers in British premiership soccer (despite black footballers’ eminence in the sport), no sustained presence of black cricketers in the national team (despite the long-standing presence of the West Indies team in international competitions), and in turn, by findings that no sustained promotion trajectory exists for black police officers into the higher ranks of the police service, (while black males continue to be disproportionately stopped and searched by white police). In the light of such a broader social context, this MA is timely and necessary.

“It will produce path-breaking research and creative production based on this programme’s design, setting and leadership.”
Professor Lauri Ramey, California State University

Many established scholars of contemporary literature working in Britain, Europe, Africa, and Asia occasionally teach a module or two incorporating Black British writers, do research on Black British texts, and publish articles and books on these interests, However, this Goldsmiths MA in Black British Writing means the University of London will break new ground in preparing and empowering scholar-specialists in this growing and exciting field of study.

“I fully endorse this course because I believe in its intellectual and cultural necessity.”
Kwame Kwei-Armah, playwright and Artistic Director, Centerstage, Baltimore

If the humanities are to serve the indigenous multi-cultures of Britain, the building of a critical infrastructure that retrieves, assesses and articulates a fuller compass of inclusion is vital for intellectual and public awareness. In studying this MA, you will become part of this process.

“A landmark for Black culture.” 
Hannah Pool, journalist

The MA provides opportunities to experience events featuring many of the writers and practitioners studied. It also gives you contact with contemporary Black British writing, drama and performance from within Britain. You will have access to the Black Plays Archive at the Royal National Theatre as part of fieldwork tasks and further research.

“From my hundreds of visits to schools, colleges and libraries in the last ten years or so, I know there is a hunger out there for black British writing. This course will add to the fabric of British literature.”
Alex Wheatle MBE, novelist

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Dr Deirdre Osborne

Modules & structure


The MA draws upon the expertise of literary, drama and theatre specialists from the Departments of Theatre and Performance and the Centre for Caribbean Studies.

The degree is made up of:

  • two compulsory core modules
  • a dissertation
  • two option modules

Full-time students study both compulsory modules and two options and write their dissertation across one year of study.

Part-time students select one compulsory module and one option per year across two years and write their dissertation in their second year of study.

Core modules

Module title Credits
  Historicising the Field 30 credits
  Interculturality, Text, Poetics 30 credits
  MA in Black British Writing Dissertation 60 credits

Option modules

You choose two options from those available in the Department of Theatre and Performance and the Department of English and Comparative Literature

This could include:

Module title Credits
  Genre and Aesthetics 30 credits
  Caribbean Women and Representation 30 credits

Intermediate exit points

It's possible to exit the programme early with a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate if specific learning outcomes have been achieved. These options can be discussed with the course convenor.

Download the programme specification for this degree to find out more about what you'll learn and how you'll be taught and assessed.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.


The Department of Theatre and Performance offers a vibrant interdisciplinary learning environment, supported by distinguished staff and outstanding facilities

Theatre and Performance

Study in a department that fuses theory and practice, where you can study diverse subjects, and benefit from our industry links.

Theory and practice

We balance academic study with creative and technical practice, so you’ll explore hands-on theatre making while developing your knowledge of theatre history and culture.

Diverse subjects

We cover diverse subjects from classical texts and new writing to contemporary writing and performance, and from physical and applied theatres to multimedia/live art.

Distinguished staff

Teaching staff include distinguished researchers and professional theatre-makers.

Industry links

We have international networks in the industry, with regular visits from professionals, and links with associate organisations in London including:


Our excellent facilities include a 160-seat theatre, four performance studios, new scenic workshops, sound studio, and open-access media lab. All supported by an outstanding team of technicians and scenic designers.

Find out more about the Department of Theatre and Performance.

English at Goldsmiths is ranked:
18th in the UK for the quality of our research**
In the world’s top 150 universities for English language and literature***

English and Comparative Literature

Cervantes. Bukowski. Dostoevsky. Self. From classical literature and linguistics, to creative writing and contemporary fiction, we take a critical and creative approach to the discipline.

As a department we’re interested in a field of enquiry that extends from Old English to 21st-century literatures in English, French, Spanish and Italian. So you can study texts and films across a variety of periods and genres.

We’re engaged

We have a dedicated Writers’ Centre that encourages new writing and stimulates debate about all forms of literature. And we award the annual Goldsmiths Prize (for “fiction at its most novel”), which brings critically acclaimed writers like Ali Smith and Eimear McBride to campus.

We’re nurturing

We may be one of the largest departments at Goldsmiths but that doesn’t mean you won’t get personal support. Learn from our approachable team of academic staff and become part of the student-run English Society.

We’re vibrant

As one of the first departments in the UK to offer creative writing, you’ll be part of a hub of literary excellence – our graduates have gone on to win prestigious awards from the Orange Prize for Fiction to the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year.

Find out more about the Department of English and Comparative Literature

**Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings
***QS World University Rankings by subject 2015


Staff who contribute to the programme include: 

Dr Deidre Osborne, Convenor of the MA in Black British Writing

"Although I currently work in Theatre and Performance, my base in the humanities is cross-disciplinary. My love of English literature stems from when I was first read to, and began reading. The harmony between thinking and responding to literature by using its actual medium (writing) means to study literature is to engage directly with a form of the very tools that cretae it. I approach the analysis of dramatic literature with a focus upon language in performance: as printed and read (its poetics), and articulated live on the stage (its dramatisation).

My courses interweave canonical and non-canonical emphases from Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, feminist theory, indigenous studies, African American drama and the emerging field of contemporary Black British writing and performance. I encourage students to explore voices that exist beyond mainstream narratives as underpinned by my teaching of classical critical principles."

Professor Joan Anim-Addo

"I am currently the convenor for the undergraduate option: Caribbean Women's Writing. I also convene the Pathway 'Literature of the Caribbean and its Diasporas' within the MA Comparative Literary Studies programme.

My recent research activities include: Caribbean Literature and diaspora, women’s writing, Feminist perspectives, Black presence in Europe, Caribbean-Scottish Interconnections, Creolisation, Interculturality and humanism.

Previous research includes African-Caribbean women’s fiction, the Black Presence in Britain (sixteenth century to present day), Networking women, Memory and History and Creolistics."

Suggested reading

The modules you study will draw on a wide range of works. Below is a range of texts from which 1-2 would be selected per class. This is for information to show the broad reach of the field and the some key writers, not to suggest these all have to be read!

The aim behind these lists is to indicate the range, richness, and critical mass that exists, and which the MA recognises and celebrates.

For example: 

Genre and Aesthetics

Core texts

  • Adebayo, Mojisola. Moj of the Antarctic in Osborne, Deirdre. ed. Hidden Gems London: Oberon, 2008
  • Agbaje, Bola. Gone Too Far! London: Methuen, 2007
  • Anim-Addo. Joan. Imoinda London: Mango Press, 2010
  • Beadle-Blair, Rikki. Bashment London: Oberon, 2005
  • Booker, Malika. Absolution in Osborne, Deirdre. ed. Hidden Gems Vol. II London: Oberon, 2012
  • Daley, Dona. Blest Be the Tie London: Royal Court Theatre, 2004
  • D’Aguiar, Fred. Bloodlines New York: Vintage, 2001
  • Ellams, Inua. Black T-Shirt Collection London: Oberon, 2012
  • Evaristo, Bernardine. The Emperor’s Babe London: Viking, 2002
  • Ikoli, Tunde. Scrape Off the Black (1995) London: Oberon, 1998 
  • Jumbo, Cush. Josephine and I London: Bloomsbury, 2014
  • Kay, Jackie. The Adoption Papers Northumberland: Bloodaxe, 1991
  • Kwei-Armah, Kwame. Elmina’s Kitchen London: Methuen, 2003
  • Mason-John, Valerie. Sin Dykes in Brown Girl in the Ring: Plays, Prose and Poems London: Get a Grip, 1999 49-90
  • Pinnock, Winsome. One Under London: Faber and Faber, 2005
  • River, Sol B. To Rahtid in Plays London: Oberon, 1997
  • Sissay, Lemn. Something Dark in Osborne, 2008
  • Solanke, Ade. Pandora’s Box London: Methuen, 2012
  • SuAndi The Story of M in 4 For More Manchester: artBLacklive, 2002
  • SuAndi. Mary Seacole in Osborne, 2012
  • tucker green, debbie. born bad London: Nick Hern Books, 2003
  • tucker green, debbie. random London: Nick Hern Books, 2008
  • Williams, Roy. Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads London: Methuen, 2002

Caribbean Women and Representation 

Core texts

  • Allfrey, Phyllis. The Orchid House, London: Virago, 1990
  • Bennett, Louise.  Jamaica Labrish, Kingston: Sangsters Book Stores, 1982
  • Brand, Dionne. A Map to the Door of No Return, Toronto: Doubleday, 2001
  • Brodber, Erna. Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home, London: New Beacon, 1980
  • Chancy, Myriam. The Hills of Haiti. London: Mango Publlishing, 2002
  • Cliff, Michelle. No Telephone to Heaven, New York: Vintage, 1989
  • Collins, Merle. The Colour of Forgetting, London: Women’s Press, 1995
  • Condé Maryse.  I, Tituba Black Witch of Salem,  translated by Richard Philcox, London. Faber. 2000
  • Condé Maryse. A Season in Rihata, trans. Richard Philcox, London: Heinemann, 1988
  • Danticat, Edwidge. Breath, Eyes, Memory, London. Abacus. 1995
  • de Avellaneda, Gertrudis Gómez. Sab: an Autobiography, trans. Nina M. Scott, Univ. of Texas Press, 1993 [1841]
  • Edgell, Zee. Beka Lamb, London. Heinemann Educational. 1982. 1986
  • Ferguson, Moira. ed., The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, London: Pandora, 1987
  • Gilroy, Beryl. Inkle and Yarico, Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 1996
  • Goodison, Lorna. I am Becoming My Mother, London: New Beacon, 1994
  • Kincaid, Jamaica. At the Bottom of the River, London: Pan Books, 1984
  • Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John, New York: Farrar Strauss, 1985
  • Morejon, Nancy. Black Woman and Other Poems / Mujer negra y otros poemas, translated by Jean Andrews, London: Mango Publishing
  • Paravisini-Gebert. L and Carmen Esteves, Green Cane abd Juicy Flotsam, Rutgers University Press, 1995
  • Persaud, Lakshmi. Butterfly in the Wind, Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 1990
  • Philip, M. Nourbese. She Tries Her Tongue Her Silence Softly Breaks, London: Women’s Press, 1993
  • Powell, Patricia. The Pagoda , London: Heinemann, 2001
  • Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea, London: Penguin, 1968
  • Riley, Joan, Waiting in the Twilight): London: Women’s Press, 1987
  • Schwarz-Bart, Simone, Bridge of Beyond, trans. Barbara Bray, London: Heinemann, 1982
  • Seacole, Mary,The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, [1857], 1984
  • Senior, Olive,  Arrival of the Snake Woman, Essex: Longmans, 1989
  • Wynter, Sylvia, Hills of Hebron, Longmans, 1984
  • Yanez, Mirta, ed., Making A Scene: Cuban Women’s Stories, London: Mango Publishing, 2002

Indicative Secondary Reading from which key articles might be taken (1-2 per class):

  • Alexander, Claire E. The Art of Being Black: The Creation of Black British Youth Identities Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996
  • Ali, Suki. Mixed-Race, Post-Race: Gender, New Ethnicities and Cultural Practices Oxford: Berg, 2003
  • Arana, R. Victoria. ed. “Black” British Aesthetics Today Newcastle-upon -Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007
  • Arana, R. Victoria and Ramey, Lauri. eds. Black British Writing New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004
  • Anderson, Lisa M. Black Feminism in Contemporary Drama. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008
  • Back, Les. ‘Voices of hate, sounds of hybridity: Black music and the complexities of racism’, Black Music Research Journal, 20.2: 2000. 127-49
  • Bharucha, Rustom. Theatre and the World : Performance and the Politics of Culture London and New York: Routledge, 1993
  • Black and White in Colour: Black People in British Television Since 1936 Directed by Isaac Julien BFI/BBC2, 1992
  • Black British Style Written and presented by Gigi Morley, directed by Robby Reddy MAP TV/BBC, 2004
  • Brewer, Mary F., Goddard, Lynette, and Osborne, Deirdre. Modern and Contemporary Black British Drama London and New York: Palgrave, 2014
  • Bromley, Roger. Narratives for a New Belonging Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000
  • Chambers, Colin. Black and Asian Theatre in Britain: A History London and New York: Routledge, 2011
  • D’Aguiar, Fred. ‘Against Black British Literature’ in Butcher, Maggie. ed. Tibisiri: Caribbean Writers and Critics Sydney: Dangaroo Press, 1989. 106-14
  • Davis, Geoffrey. and Fuchs, Anna. eds. Staging New Britain: Aspects of Black and Asian British Theatre Practice Oxford: Peter Lang, 2006
  • Donnell, Alison. ed. Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture London and New York: Routledge, 2001
  • Elam, Keir. “Tempo’s Sickle: Rapping, Zapping, Toasting, and Trekking through History in Black British Drama”, The Yearbook of English Studies Vol.25 1995 173-98
  • Eldridge, Michael. “The Rise and Fall of Black Britain” Transition No.74 1997 32-43
  • Gilroy, Paul. After Empire: Melancholia or Carnival Culture? London: Routledge, 2004
  • Goddard, Lynette. Staging Black Feminisms: Identity, Politics, Performance
  • Hampshire, GB and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007
  • Godiwala, Dimple. ed. Alternatives Within the Mainstream: British Black and Asian Theatre  Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006
  • Grabner, Cornelia. “Is Performance Poetry Dead?”, Poetry Review Vol.97 No.2 Summer, 2007. 78-82
  • Griffin, Gabriele. Contemporary Black and Asian Women Playwrights in Britain London: Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • Gunning, Dave. “Anti-Racism, the Nation-State and Contemporary Black British Literature”, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature Vol.39 No.2 2004. 29-43
  • hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992
  • Kean, Danuta. ed. Free Verse: Publishing Opportunities for Black and Asian Poets London: Spread the Word, 2006
  • Low, Gail. and Wynne-Davies, Marion. A black British canon? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  • McMillan, Michael. The Front Room; Migrant Aesthetics in the Home London: Black Dog Publishing Ltd., 2009
  • McLeod, John. “Some Problems with ‘British’ in a ‘Black British Canon’”, Wasafiri Issue 36, Summer 2002. 56-59
  • Mama, Amina. Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender and Subjectivity London and New York: Routledge, 1995
  • Mason-John, Valerie. ed. Talking Black: Lesbians of African and Asian Descent Speak Out London: Cassell, 1995
  • Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies London and New York: Routledge, 1994
  • Mirza, Heidi Safia. ed. Black British Feminism: A Reader London and New York: Routledge, 1997
  • Newland, Courttia. and Sesay, Kadija. eds. IC3: An Anthology of Black British Writing London: Penguin Books, 2000
  • Osborne, Deirdre. ‘Not “in-yer-face” but what lies beneath: experiential and aesthetic inroads in the drama of debbie tucker green and Dona Daley’ in Arana ed. 2007. 222-242
  • Owusu, Kwesi. ed. Black British Culture and Society: a Text Reader London and New York: Routledge, 2000
  • Phillips, Mike. “Re-writing Black Britain”, Wasafiri Issue 36, Summer 2002 62-4
  • Procter, James. Dwelling Places: Postwar Black British Writing Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003
  • Rapi, Nina. and Chowdhry, Maya. eds. Acts of Passion: Sexuality, Gender and Performance New York and London: Harrington Park Press, 1998
  • Reichl, Susanne. Cultures in the Contact Zone: Ethnic Semiosis in Black British Literature Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2002
  • Roberts, Maureen. “Does the Writer Have a Responsibility to Their Community?”, Wasafiri No.41, Spring, 2004. 3-7
  • Sesay, Kadija. ed. Write Black, Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature Hertford: Hansib, 2005
  • Stein, Mark. Black British Literature: Novels of Transformation Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2004
  • Stephenson, Heidi. and Langridge, Natasha. eds. Rage and Reason: Women Playwrights on Playwriting  London: Methuen, 1997
  • Tizard, Barbara. and Phoenix, Ann. Black, White or Mixed Race: Race and Racism in the Lives of Young People of Mixed Parentage London and New York: Routledge, 1993
  • Ugwu, Catherine. ed. Let’s Get It On: The Politics of Black Performance London: ICA, 1995
  • Wisker, Gina. Post-Colonial and African American Women’s Writing London: Macmillan Press, 2000

A selection of useful websites – operative at the time of writing

Skills & careers


You will develop transferable writing and oral skills at a high academic level, demonstrating the ability to think and work in an interdisciplinary manner using a range of methodologies. Your ability to work collaboratively and to facilitate and participate in group discussions will be enhanced. You will also develop skills in identifying the socio-cultural, historical, political and literary issues that shape and impact upon contemporary literary and performance texts.

We are oriented towards serving your individual goals and aspirations for self-development; it will generate an articulable body of transferable knowledge and skills.

Besides developing your knowledge of best current research methods and of facts and concepts specific to the featured field of study, the proposed programme will offer training in:

  • discerning vital literary and dramatic roots
  • recognising how the dynamics of creative and cultural movements interrelate
  • exchanging information effectively within a variety of intellectual, creative arts, and local communities


The MA’s design allows for a diverse range of applications of its contents to careers including education, counselling, community arts, arts practice, social services, cultural organisations, or towards research degrees (MPhil; PhD).

Our courses consolidate the influential presence of contemporary Black British writing. It is recognised as both intrinsic to conceptions of British cultural heritage but also distinctive within the body of British writing.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

Students without BA-equivalent qualifications who have substantial work experience (eg. in literary journalism, creative writing, publishing, arts administration), which can be considered as equivalent to formal qualifications, may be admitted provided they demonstrate analytical and academic writing skills to the necessary level.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 7.0 (including 7.0 in the written test)

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline. 

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Find out more about applying.

Fees & funding

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

Find out more about tuition fees.

Related content links