MPhil in Popular Literature


The M.Phil in Popular Literature at Trinity College Dublin, established in 2005, was the world’s first (and for many years the only) postgraduate course focusing solely on the study of popular literature. The course is based in The School of English at Trinity – the highest-ranked English department in Ireland; it is the 8th-ranking English department in Europe, and 28th in the world.

Over the last decade, The School of English at Trinity has established itself as a major international centre for the academic study of Popular Literature, and the MPhil attracts applicants from all over the world.  In 2015-16, on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the course was revised and relaunched.

This course offers students a unique opportunity for the advanced study of popular literature and its immensely important place within modern culture. It traces the history of popular genres such as horror, science fiction, romance, fantasy and detective fiction, and offers a comprehensive introduction to contemporary theories of the popular.  In our core course we study recent bestsellers, responding to the latest trends in popular literature, alongside a focus on the historical development of popular fiction, concentrating on texts from the Victorian, Edwardian, and early to mid-twentieth century periods. Our optional modules allow students the opportunity to specialize in and deepen their understanding of particular genres and periods.

“The M. Phil in Popular Literature at Trinity isn’t just an extraordinary educational experience that opened up a wider world to me; it is the introduction to a community of like-minded scholars. The connections I made through Popular Literature are both colleagues and lifelong friends, and it remains one of the best experiences of my life”.

Jenny Harwood-Smith, class of 2008/9.

“I was a student on the M.Phil in Popular Literature from 2015-16. The huge variety of texts and genres covered forced me to challenge my own academic perspectives on the popular text, and I credit the M.Phil in Popular Literature with ultimately making me a better researcher. The staff are fantastic – as experts in their field, they are passionate and enthusiastic about sharing that expertise, and seminar discussions are lively and intellectually stimulating as a result. There are ample opportunities to learn outside of the classroom, too; for example, the Pop Lit Lunchtime Lectures are a great way to engage with new developments in the field. All this, and the chance to study at a prestigious university in the heart of Dublin – what more could you want?”

Jess Anderson, class of 2015-16

‘Why should I consider applying for this M.Phil?’

The M.Phil. provides an invaluable starting point for those who wish to do further graduate study, but will also appeal to those wanting to develop their critical skills and knowledge in relation to an important aspect of contemporary culture.  The members of the core teaching team on the M.Phil have all published extensively on specific popular genres, such as detective fiction, Noir, horror and the Gothic, fantasy, sci-fi, romance fiction, Victorian popular fiction, and pulp fiction. They are all extremely experienced lecturers in this subject area (and several others), and between them, have supervised hundreds of M.Phil and undergraduate dissertations on topics related to popular fiction.

The School of English is home to a dynamic postgraduate community of more than eighty PhD students and six taught Master’s courses. Participants in the M.Phil in Popular Literature will therefore find themselves part of a long-established, welcoming, and vigorous academic community. A weekly staff-graduate research seminar and the newly-established Popular Literature Lunchtime Lectures series offer lively forums for debate and the exchange of ideas.

Course Structure:

The course lasts for one academic year (September-September) and requires full-time study. Six contact hours a week from September to April: four for the core course, and two for each option module. Students are also encouraged to attend the Pop Lit Lunchtime Lecture series and any additional lectures and workshops offered by guest speakers and visiting academics.

It comprises three main elements:

(1) a core course meeting twice a week for two hours over two terms;

(2) option courses meeting once a week for two hours – participants will take one per term.

(3) a research dissertation, completed in the summer term (May-August)


Assessment is by a combination of coursework (assessed essays) and dissertation:

  1. A short essay (1000 words) to be submitted in Week 8 of Michaelmas Term;
  2.  an essay (5000 words) to be submitted at the end of each term for both core and optional module (4 essays in total – 2 each term)
  3. a supervised dissertation of 15,000-20,000 words to be submitted at the end of the summer.
  4. Students must pass the dissertation component of the degree in order to be awarded an M.Phil.


Course Administrator: Diane Sadler
Course Directors: Dr Bernice M. Murphy  and Dr Clare Clarke