PhD in Criticism and Culture

Cambridge offers remarkable libraries and special collections, above all through the copyright library resources of the University Library. Along with such resources, the research environment for PhDs in Criticism and Culture offers a context for dialogue across the range of interests in the Faculty of English, and in dialogue with other Faculties. Building on the innovative and conceptually original MPhil in Criticism and Culture, the research culture for the Ph.D in Criticism and Culture offers a supportive environment for different kinds of research. The M.Phil in Criticism and Culture offers an unusual and ground-breaking taught graduate programme with a diverse, outward looking range of inter-disciplinary and theoretically-inflected approaches. The M.Phil works towards building a research culture that recognises the ways in which individual researchers often thrive on exploring concepts and problems across boundaries, disciplines and historical periods. The PhD research culture grows out of the MPhil, with a number of the exceptional graduates staying on to do PhDs whose methodology and thinking have grown out of their MPhil work. Research projects in Criticism and Culture characteristically bring different areas of writing or thinking into new juxtapositions, or pursue conceptual or theoretically-inflected problems that generate new kinds of research and thinking. The range of interests in research projects associated with Criticism and Culture allows students to work through and across conventional period boundaries and literary categories, offering an environment that supports comparative and theoretically-inflected research projects, including such fields of study as poetics, visual culture, post-colonial studies, and a range of interdisciplinary topics and approaches, from literature and science, to screen media and the digital humanities. The characteristic virtues of Cambridge research – historically-grounded close reading along with innovative archival and philological research – often generate conceptual and theoretical problems that necessitate reconsiderations of disciplines, methods and historical categories. The research environment for PhDs in Criticism and Culture is, accordingly, lively, critical and diffuse. Research in Criticism and Culture accordingly welcomes research proposals that cross conventional historical and disciplinary boundaries, recognising ways in which research into areas as diverse as eco-poetics and global literatures, screen media and performance, often involve inter-disciplinary or theoretically-inflected research. There is no research imperative to be or become inter-disciplinary, comparative or theoretical, and much of the work in Criticism & Culture remains firmly within the traditional range of modern English studies. Criticism and Culture nevertheless seeks to support and nurture critical and cultural research that might need to explore the boundaries of disciplines and traditional categories. One dynamic and developing context for supporting such research is provided by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH for short). Graduates and teaching Faculty involved in the Criticism and Culture research environment have been closely involved with CRASSH, and the inter-disciplinary emphasis of CRASSH is shared by Criticism and Culture. PhDs in Criticism and Culture have also been closely involved in the Centre for Material Texts, the Cambridge Performance Network, and the Centre of African Studies, and across the many different research groupings alive in the University of Cambridge.

The group of PhD students in Criticism and Culture is numerous and diverse. The committee looking at research applications are just as interested in conventional and historically-grounded scholarship as in innovative or new research methods, and all are looking, above all, to provide a supportive environment for new and original research projects to be developed at the highest levels. Faculty members who supervise and advise for doctoral dissertations (an indicative but not exhaustive list is given below) work across a wide array of topics and approaches. Proposals of all kinds are welcome. Faculty members welcome approaches and questions about their research interests and willingness to supervise, but the committee considering research applications will also seek to match appropriate supervisors to research projects that might suggest several supervisors. In addition to the training offered as part of the PhD, the research environment for Criticism and Culture includes a number of fortnightly graduate research seminars (Literary Theory; Drama, Postcolonial and Related Literatures; Screen Media Research, Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature; and American), along with a number of informal networks and reading groups. Students and Faculty from Criticism and Culture are involved in a number of research groups, such as The Centre for Material Texts; Contemporaries; Literature Technology Media; Performance Research Group.

2. Faculty Members who act as PhD supervisors or Criticism and Culture topics include:

Professor Peter de Bolla, Dr Deborah Bowman, Professor Steve Connor, Dr Sarah Dillon, Dr Priyamvada Gopal, Dr David Hillman, Dr Michael Hrebeniak, Dr Alex Houen,, Dr Robert Macfarlane, Dr Shamira Meghani, Dr Drew Milne, Dr Chana Morgenstern, Dr Zoe Svendsen, Dr Christopher Warnes, Professor Clair Wills, Dr Ross Wilson


3. Current and Recent PhD students' topics include

  • Metaphysics in Exile: Mathematics, War and Off-Modern Ontology in Western European Fiction and Philosophy
  • Facing the Obscene: 1930s Fiction Writers and the Engagement with History
  • Epistolarity and Encounter in the Novel, 1978-2008
  • Late Modernist Composition and Aesthetic Experience: Frank O'Hara, Barbara Guest, John Ashbery
  • Epistolarity and Encounter in the Novel, 1978-2008
  • Wordsworth and Animal Life
  • Testimony Performed: the Legacy of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the Stage
  • Cosmopolitanism in post-independent Indian writing in English
  • Race, Genetics and British Fiction Since the Human Genome Project
  • The Poetry of Stephen Rodefer
  • William Morris's Utopianism and the Politics of Mundane Intervention
  • A Critic's Surmise: Tone in Anglo-American Poetry and Criticism from Frost to Ashbery
  • A Study of Edward Dorn's 'Gunslinger'
  • Swinburne's Style
  • First-hand non-fictional accounts of war from the Vietnam to the present day
  • A Private Poem and a Hidden Nation: Nature, Providence, and Romantic History in 'Hiroona'
  • Contemporary Fiction of Islam in Britain, 1988-2007
  • Aesthetics and Politics in the Recent South African Short Story
  • Difficult now to speak of poetry:'Objectivism' and the question of 'free-verse'
  • Early 20th century queer fiction
  • Aboutness and Abstraction in Early-to-late Modernist English Poetry