Poetics of Imagination

MA, PGDip, PGCert
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Poetics of Imagination

MA, PGDip, PGCert
Full time and part time

The Poetics of Imagination course explores orality, story and culture, examining how we have conjured stories from the earliest times to the present day.

The course is centred around oral telling but opens to a broader spectrum of the arts, examining the work of ancient to contemporary storytellers, writers and artists.

From physically tracking folktales across the wilds of Dartmoor to three day tellings of myths that form much of the crucible of modernity, we will explore the reality that when humans imagine, they tend to imagine in story. What is trying to be told right now?

Key Info

Due to the coronavirus crisis, we have had to make adjustments to the delivery of Modules 1 and 2 of this course, with some elements delivered online at a discount to our usual course fees. Please see ‘Programme structure and modules’, below, for details.

  • £8,000 UK and EU, £15,000 International full time
  • £4,500 UK part time
  • Emphasis on oral literary traditions, narrative field trips and creative practice

A full-time (1 year) or part-time programme (2 years) with 4 x 30 credit modules and 1 x 60 credit dissertation or major project module. The taught (30 credit) modules are six weeks’ long. Teaching at Dartington is concentrated into two-week periods for each of the first four modules, with supported e-learning and independent learning inbetween.

The core of the course is focused on literary study, and the oral tradition in particular. There are opportunities to engage in creative practice (creative writing or another creative practice) alongside and in dialogue with your literary studies. Students have access to bookable studios and workshops at Dartington.

Programme information / apply now

IMPORTANT: Please ensure you consult the Applicant Information page for full information on tuition fees and other key information about our courses.

You can then return to this page for programme-specific information and to make your course application.

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how to apply

Closing dates for applications

We currently closed for applications as the 2020/2021 programme has now started. We will be accepting applications for 2021/2022 soon. Please register your interest via the form at the bottom of this page to receive updates about the course, news of applications windows, student funding and more. 

TERM DATES AND teaching dates

Term Dates, Academic Year 2020 – 2021

Autumn Term: 14 September 2020 – 11 December 2020
Winter Term: 11 January – 1 April 2021
Spring Term: 19 April – 18 June 2021
Summer Term: 21 June – 10 September 2021

Teaching dates on-site at Dartington

15 – 18 September 2020: Welcome Week

21 September – 23 October 2020: Module 1 – fully online

26 October – 6 November 2020: Module 2 

18 – 29 January 2021: Module 3

1 – 10 March 2021: Module 4

Contact us at admissions@dartington.org for details of part-time programme patterns.

programme structure and modules

MA Poetics of Imagination is a full-time (1 year; UK, EU or international residents) or part-time programme (2 years; UK residents only) with 4 x 30 credit modules and 1 x 60 credit dissertation or major project module. The taught (30 credit) modules are six weeks’ long.

This MA programme consist of 5 modules (4 taught and 1 dissertation module). The first 2 weeks of each taught module are timetabled teaching periods, where you must live on site (or nearby) and participate in the learning community. So there are 4 two-week periods, spread across 7 months. Please note that due to the coronavirus crisis, there are some exceptions to this for the 2020-21 academic year. Look for the notes in red below for details.

The remaining 4 months are the dissertation or major project period. You may choose to return home for the duration of this final module, and will no longer be sponsored by us for your Tier 4 visa.

Outside of the two-week periods, international students (only) may request accommodation and full board onsite at Dartington for terms 1 and 2: this would require you to participate in the learning community activities. Alternatively you can opt to live nearby or anywhere in the UK and travel to and from Dartington when required.

We have a limited number of residential places available for international students. Apply as early as possible and select the accommodation option on the application form.

Module One: Oral Thought (30 credits)

This module explores Western and non-Western creation myths. Storytellers have suggested that words were once like magic. We began in an animistic universe where thought took place in speech rather than on paper. Focusing on stories of creation, place, and nomadism, attention is paid to the roles of mischief and desire in the making of culture and understanding of region. Students explore how place is formed.

Please note this module will be delivered online. There will be a discounted fee of £1,250 for this module.

We are looking at ‘enrichment’ opportunities for students for later in the academic year so that you don’t miss out due to online delivery (for examples, extended studio/library time/additional fieldtrips).

Module Two: Negotiating Fables (30 credits)

This module considers the arrival of literacy and tracks a divide between the ambitions of state and shaman. It explores how cultures reveal their attitudes to the unknown, the exiled, and the Otherly through the stories they tell. It contemplates the monsters invented by particular cultures, and what happens when the gods start to carry appearances rather like our own.

Please note we plan to deliver this module with 2 weeks of intensive face to face, socially distanced teaching followed by 4 weeks online learning. We will also offer a fully online option for this module for those who are unable to attend. There will be a discounted fee of £1,250 for fully online attendees.

Module Three: Glorious Distortions (30 credits)

This module considers the historical move to an internalised position. In a hunter-gatherer culture we dwelt within psyche, but by the 12th century, psyche frequently dwelt within us. We trace this move and consider the influence of Islamic thought on the Arthurian Grail romances, and cultural cross-pollination in the courtly schools of Eleanor of Aquitaine. We consider how these influences have shaped us today.

Module Four: Contemporary Romanticism (30 credits)

Romanticism is underpinned by a love of myth, nature, and individuation. Harold Bloom has insisted that the historical Romantic movement was an internalising of the quest motifs of ancient mythologies. This module poses the questions: is there a place for romanticism in contemporary culture, and if so, what does it look like. It asks if it is still credible to fetishise the lone hero or if it is time for something else.

Module Five: Dissertation/Major Project (60 credits)

This module enables students to pursue a creative practice-led research project, or an academic essay interrogating the further evolution of poetics of imagination theory and practice, or a combination of both (50/50). The outcome might be presented in the public domain in an end of year event (reading, performance etc.) or a publication.


Dr Martin Shaw, Programme Lead, Poetics of Imagination

Martin Shaw is a writer, storyteller and mythologist. He has been awarded the Price, Bretherton, Elgood Award for outstanding achievement in the arts, and the Summerfield Scholarship to the British School in Rome. His first book, A Branch From The Lightning Tree won the Nautilus Book Award. His conversation with and essay on Ai Weiwei was recently published by the Marciano Arts Foundation. His translations of Gaelic and Welsh folklore (with Tony Hoagland) have been published in The Mississippi Review, Poetry International, Kenyon Review, Orion, Poetry Magazine and the New England Review.

His PhD is from the University of Plymouth, and examined the relationship between rites-of-passage and myth, with specific attention placed on the role of metaphor. His particular interests include Siberian and Irish folklore, the poetry of Lorca, contemporary Romanticism.

He designed and leads the Oral Tradition and Mythic Life courses at Stanford University. He created The Mythology of Leadership (with Harry Burton) for Desmond Tutu’s leadership programme at Templeton College, Oxford. He co-designed, with Dr. Carla Stang, the MA Myth and Ecology programme at Schumacher College. He is director of the Westcountry School of Myth. He is artistic director at Robert Bly’s Great Mother conference, and has lectured at many US universities.

Dr Tracey Warr, Reader, Poetics of Imagination

Tracey Warr is a fiction and non-fiction writer. Her most recent books on contemporary art are The Midden (Garret, 2018) and Remote Performances in Nature and Architecture (Routledge, 2015) and her recent fiction includes the future fiction, The Water Age (Meanda Books, 2018) and historical fiction, The Drowned Court (Impress, 2017). She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize for Fiction and is currently working on a biography of three medieval sisters, entitled Three Female Lords, which received an Authors Foundation grant. She was awarded a Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary and a Santander Research Award. She is currently Head of Research at Dartington and has previously held academic posts at Dartington College of Arts; Oxford Brookes University; Glasgow School of Art; Bauhaus University, Weimar; Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam and Surrey Institute of Art and Design. 

Emma Bush, Associate Lecturer, Poetics of Imagination

Emma works in the field of art and ecology, making performance, site-specific walks, writing and workshops. Her practice maps processes of exchange between ourselves and others, including animals, weather systems, oceans, forests, villages, cities, countries. Her work makes spaces for interdisciplinary dialogue through a series of small-scale research gatherings with a low-key intimate atmosphere that encourages reciprocal learning and teaching. She studied BA Theatre and MA Art and Ecology at Dartington College of Arts. Emma is also a Doctoral Teaching Assistant at the University of Plymouth where she is working on a PhD.

Dr Bram Thomas Arnold, Associate Lecturer, Poetics
of Imagination

Bram is an artist who started with walking and kept going into performance, drawing, installation, writing, broadcasting and academia, making work that is ecological in disposition whilst being romantic in its methods and conceptual in its outcomes. His transdisciplinary practice was instigated through studying Social Sculpture alongside ecology under Shelley Sacks at Oxford Brookes University before undertaking an MA in Art and Ecology at Dartington College of Arts, following which he completed a practice-based PhD in walking, writing and performance with Dartington alumnus Professor John Hall at Falmouth University. He lectures in Fine Art at Falmouth University and is currently a Creative Fellow at the Environment & Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter in Cornwall.

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