Poetics of Imagination

MA, PGDip, PGCert
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Poetics of Imagination

MA, PGDip, PGCert
Full time and part time*
Starts September 2021
Deadline for applications, second round: 1 July 2021**

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?

*We are not accepting new part-time applications for a September 2021 start as we have a large number of part-time students already pursuing the course. We expect to reopen part-time applications for September 2022.
**We are working to accommodate as many students as is right for our programmes and will begin interviewing and making offers very soon. Applicants who applied before our initial preferred deadline will be given priority. In the meantime though, in recognition of the complexity of the global situation and the difficult decisions posed to many prospective students by the pandemic, we’re extending our application deadline as above.

Key Info

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 there is an emphasis on oral literary traditions and narrative field trips. 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

Application form

Click below to apply for this course online(form opens in new window/tab)..
Deadline for applications, second round: 1 July 2021

We are working to accommodate as many students as is right for our programmes and will begin interviewing and making offers very soon. Applicants who applied before our initial preferred deadline will be given priority. In the meantime though, in recognition of the complexity of the global situation and the difficult decisions posed to many prospective students by the pandemic, we’re extending our application deadline as above.


Please ensure you submit your supporting materials (see below) after completing your application form.

Additional Documentation in Support of your Application

After you have submitted your application, please send all necessary supporting information listed below as soon as possible to allow us to process your application. As our staff are mostly working from home at present, please send scanned copies or electronic versions of the below to: admissions@dartington.org


1) Certificate(s) or transcript(s) of first degree or equivalent qualifications: these can be Original or certified copies:

Photocopies MUST be certified by a public notary or solicitor (with contact details provided for them).

Any documents which are not in English MUST be accompanied by a full translation then certified by a public notary or solicitor. All translations must be accompanied by the certificate or transcript in the original language.

Important notes for students requiring a Student Visa

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will only accept original copies of your documents during the visa application process. We are happy to accept originals, but it is safer to post certified photocopies which meet the above guidelines. Please bring the originals with you to enrolment if offered a place.

UKVI also require a full translation of any documents that are not in English.

Dartington Arts School is licensed under Dartington Trust as a Student Visa Sponsor. To comply with our sponsorship duties, we are required to check other aspects of your application in addition to your academic achievements. We will look at previous studies in the UK and other aspects outlined in UKVI guidance for sponsors. Information you provide on your application form will be passed on to the UKVI once you have been offered a place and Dartington Arts School agrees to sponsor you.

2) A recent passport-size photograph

3) A copy of the front cover and information page of your current passport (inform us immediately if you get a new passport before you come to the UK to study).

4) A copy of any previous or current UK visa.

Translations of documents which are not in English

The original translation must contain:

  • confirmation from the translator/translation company that it is an accurate translation of the original document
  • the date of the translation
  • the translator/an authorised official of the translation company’s full name and signature, and
  • the translator/translation company’s contact details.

Documentary requirements for Student Visa applicants can be found here (gov.uk). Please read the Guidance and Appendix at the bottom of the page.

TERM DATES AND teaching dates

2021-22 Academic Year

Autumn Term: Monday 13 September – Friday 17 December 2021
Winter Term: Monday 10 January – Friday 1 April 2022
Spring Term: Monday 25 April – Friday 1 July 2022
Dissertation Deadline: mid-August 2022

Taught Dates

14–17 September 2021: Welcome Week
20 September–1 October 2021: Module 1
8–19 November 2021: Module 2
7–18 February 2022: Module 3
21 March –1 April 2022: Module 4

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.

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.

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.

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.

entry requirements

Qualification(s) required for entry to the MA

BA (Honours) Degree: A first degree in a humanities subject. Where the first degree is not humanities-related, a portfolio of work in support of the application or experience that is equivalent.

Other non-standard awards or experience: A willingness to engage with the field of Poetics of Imagination. Candidates will be considered with prior credited learning and prior experiences subject to interview. *

Interview requirements: All applicants are required to attend an interview, either at the School or online.

*For further information please contact our admissions team

remote learning

All our low-residency degree programmes are available as online only pathways from June 2021 onwards. Following a year of successful online and hybrid delivery, we have now developed an online distance learning model that allows you to attain your postgraduate qualification even if you are unable to physically travel to Dartington. The online pathway joins existing modes of studying with us, such as the residential pathway (two weeks on site per module) and a hybrid pathway that allows you to combine online and on site learning to suite your circumstances. (Please note that international students taking online only pathways do not need to apply for a Student Visa.)

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