YSJ Lit Interview: Departmental Prizewinner Adam Kirkbride

Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling interviews Adam Kirkbride (he/they). Adam was the 2021 York St John Literature English Literature Undergraduate Dissertation Prize Winner AND the English Literature Undergraduate Programme Prize for achieving the highest degree classification marks in both categories on their programme. Adam has gone on to study on our MA in Contemporary Literature and is completing their second year of part-time study.

Graduates in their robes celebrate outside York Minster
Adam and his friends celebrate graduating with their BA degrees outside York Minster

Adam, tell us a bit about yourself, what you are studying with us and why?

I’ve been at York St John since 2018 when I started my BA in English Literature. Finishing my degree during the pandemic and a lot of personal turbulence meant that I was unsure about what the future would bring. I’d thought about doing an MA for a while and several of the YSJ literature staff encouraged me to do one here, so I applied, and the rest is history! Now I’m in my final year of my MA in Contemporary Literature and I cannot believe that it’s been nearly five years since I arrived here.

Can you tell us about your awards and what they mean to you?

The awards I received on graduation meant more to me than I can express. My final year of undergraduate study was incredibly difficult due to a range of personal circumstances and knowing that I still managed to do well was an amazing feeling.

You are doing your MA as a part-time student. What have been the challenges of part-time study? What have been the benefits?

Truly, the main challenge and benefit has been the same: I get to work full-time in a job that I love alongside my studies. Working for a charity is very demanding, and so is post-graduate study! I don’t think I anticipated how difficult juggling full-time work and part-time study would be in reality, especially around deadlines. Avoiding burn-out has been a challenge. On the other hand, the MA here at YSJ is timetabled so classes are later in the evenings, meaning I can be flexible in my study and get to commit my 9-5 hours to my job working for Foundation UK in their +Choices (Positive Choices) service, and my evenings and weekends to my study.

What have you enjoyed most about your studies so far? What are you looking forward to?

I’ve really enjoyed the broad scope of texts that we have studied on the module. I’ve been able to write on topics such as gender-based violence, trauma narratives, queer Arab writing, and more. In the upcoming semester I’m looking forward to finding more ways to apply the study of literature to ‘real-world’ issues. The service I work for is in the domestic abuse sector, and it has been surprising how well my literature degree has prepared me for a job where I have to be compassionate, evaluative, well-communicated, and understand topics like gender, sexuality, and trauma (most of my colleagues have social work and psychology backgrounds!).

What are the main differences you have noticed as you transitioned from being an undergraduate student to a post-graduate student?


Something that startled me was how literary the focus of the MA was! I spent a lot of my undergraduate degree writing on films and other media, but the MA is very focussed on the written word. Another difference is that the MA in contemporary literature only looks at literature published post-2000, which was a welcome difference for me. The MA course is also a lot more reliant on theory, but since I’ve always enjoyed theory, I haven’t felt there was much of a difference personally!

What advice do you have for people considering doing an MA in Contemporary Literature at YSJ?

Make sure you really love literature, and specifically contemporary literature. It’s tempting to do an MA to prolong your time studying, but with any post-graduate course you need to be sure that your interest is solid, or you’ll get burnt out very quickly. For those considering part-time study, make sure you have a realistic plan for how you will manage your time. People who choose to study part-time most often do so because they have other commitments such as work, childcare, or medical conditions, and you have to be sure you can give these commitments the time you need to give them. For example, I do most of my studying on the weekend as I work Monday-Friday, so it is important that I love what I am doing.

What do you plan to do after you complete?

I’m going to continue working! This is the beauty of part-time study; you have the time in the day to get a job that you love rather than a weekend position which just pays the bills. I definitely think I will stay in the domestic abuse sector. After 5 years of university as well, I think it will be helpful to take a break from study. However, in the future I might be interested in doing some research into literature and abuse.