Master of Arts in Cultural Studies

The Master of Arts in Cultural Studies provides opportunities to explore culture and the arts as part of a social, economic and political environment. The educational objective of the program is to train graduate students to conduct research that reflects an interdisciplinary understanding of culture.

The M.A. in Cultural Studies is a degree with two currently approved specializations: 1) Texts and Cultures and 2) Curatorial Practices.

Students in both specializations will have an opportunity to take courses drawn from six related areas:

Cultural Theory
Cultural Studies is an important site for the fostering of critical thinking about the social and political significance of cultural objects, forms, and processes. Studies in this field question dominant assumptions and engage with important cultural controversies, especially around questions of value and the distribution of power and authority. Materialist and inter-art theories provide important lenses for work in the field and focus critical questions about the production, consumption, and distribution of texts. The study of theory facilitates an understanding of the dynamics between text and culture, individual and society, and generates insight into how social differences such as race, ethnicity, class, and gender shape and unsettle cultural production and consumption. Such study also inevitably raises the question of the relationship between “cultural theory” and “critical theory,” variously argued to be aspects or allies of one another, occupying different spaces of critique and practice.

Cultures of Childhood
The subject category of “the child” has been central to cultural discourses in Europe and European settler societies since at least the Enlightenment, and has been variously used to secure definitions of class, family, nation, history, and the modern individual. Discourses of childhood provided terms and figures through which colonizing nations represented and constructed their others, at the same time as colonial encounters challenged and shaped understandings of the child. In contemporary culture, the idea of “the child” is employed in debates about sexuality and gender, ethnicities and race, consumerism and citizenship. These discussions are intensified by the increasing connectivity of a world linked by information technologies. The study of Cultures of Childhood in a department of literature investigates these historical and contemporary cultural discourses through consideration of texts that use the figures of “the child,” “the boy,” and “the girl” as important rhetorical strategies; texts directed to children and adolescents; and texts produced by young people. Such texts include not only print texts, but also Internet texts, films, TV texts, texts of material culture such as toys and video games, as well as oral texts such as family stories and schoolyard games. Studying texts designed for young readers, in particular, allows for theoretical investigations into the manufacture of consent in liberal democratic cultures. 

Gender, Sexualities, and Culture
Gender and sexuality are foundational to our understanding of self and world, private and public, and personal and political. Over the past three decades, feminism, gender studies and queer theory have had a profound impact on the way in which we analyze literature, film and other forms of cultural production. Feminist and queer theorists have played a central role in the continued development of cultural theory, especially in the areas of psychoanalysis, film theory and visual culture, semiotics, phenomenology, and discourse analysis. Students in this area of study will explore the relationship between feminist theory, queer theory, and literary and cultural production; the impact of queer theory on contemporary understandings of sex, gender and sexuality; the continued relevance of feminism and feminist theory to questions of gender and sexuality; and the development and circulation of terms such as “homosexual” and “heterosexual” and concepts such as “masculine” and “feminine,” categories that have a fundamental impact on how we organize and understand cultures, subjectivities, and knowledges.

Local, National, and Global Cultures
Canada has been profoundly affected by transnational and post-national cultural discourses, particularly post colonialism and globalization theories. At the same time, there has been a burgeoning academic interest in Canadian and Aboriginal literatures, which are often local in their context and production, and sometimes nationalist in their perspectives and concerns. Paradoxically, then, English literary and cultural studies today are global as well as national and local. Topics of enquiry include the implications of globalization for Canadian and Aboriginal texts and identities; the potential for dialogue and collaboration across nations and cultures; the ways in which local histories and contexts engender different relations to the global; and the language of human rights. This area of focus involves the study of literary and cultural production, circulation, and consumption, and will draw on perspectives developed by diasporic theory, postcolonial theory, anti-racist theory, and others. It takes an approach to the study of literature and culture that bridges human rights and citizenship studies, globalization studies, environmental studies, Aboriginal studies, labour studies, media and communications studies, women’s and gender studies, and peace and conflict studies, among others.

Manuscript, Print, and Digital Cultures
In recent years, an explosion of digital media and the resulting shifts in cultural paradigms have ignited a popular and scholarly interest in the complex relationship between manuscript/print and cultural production. The modes of producing and transmitting written texts – manual, typographic, and electronic – have profoundly influenced a wide range of cultures, subcultures, and communities. Not surprisingly, an enquiry into the nature and constitution of manuscript, print, and digital culture drawing on methodological approaches from different disciplines has already established itself as its own dynamic field of study. This field now encompasses a wide research terrain, including theoretical debates over aesthetics and culture, archiving and public memory, oral texts and writing, popular cultures and reading publics. The study of manuscript, print, and digital cultures encourages approaches from a variety of fields to consider legal questions about copyright and censorship; technological practices of manual, industrial, and digital publishing; sociological analyses of book production, distribution and consumption; and communications studies of media institutions. This area of focus will enable students to investigate the development of manuscript/print media as culture-forming technologies and also consider the emergence and influence of related media such as photography, film, radio, television, and the internet. It will develop a heightened awareness of how manuscript, print, and digital cultures are shaped by historical and contemporary struggles over technologies and marketplaces, aesthetic value and cultural authority, and various local, national, and global contexts.

Visual Cultures
Among the various forms of inquiry that Cultural Studies has impelled in recent years is the area of visual cultures. A central interest in the field of visual cultures is the study of images and representation, drawing on approaches from art history and film studies, cultural and literary studies, and theories of performativity. The field of visual cultures examines the cultural construction of the visual in the arts, media, and everyday life, and encourages critical engagement with various theories of seeing. Possible topics of investigation include comics and graphic narratives; illustrated books; film, television, and internet narratives; historical and contemporary visual and/or performing arts; and the history of collecting and museums.

This MA program will enable graduates to pursue further studies and careers in teaching, public service, communications, and cultural industries.

MA in Cultural Studies: Texts and Cultures Fact Sheet

MA in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices Fact Sheet

Fee Information

For scholarship information and opportunities in the Cultural Studies program, please click here.

For more information about the Cultural Studies program, please visit the program website or contact Dr. Doris Wolf, Department of English at 204.789.1473 or For information about the Curatorial Practices specialization, please contact Dr. Serena Keshavjee at 204.258.2993 or

To learn about the Cultural Studies Research Group, please visit their website here.