English and Humanities (MPhil / PhD)

Birkbeck, University of London
In London

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Important information

Typology PhD
Location London
  • PhD
  • London

Programme overview The Department of English and Humanities offers committed, enthusiastic and dynamic research-based teaching, with a constantly evolving curriculum sensitive to developments in contemporary culture. We actively foster the creation of a lively graduate intellectual community and our students' professional development. A large number of our recent PhD graduates have successfully obtained permanent academic posts in leading universities in Britain, the United States and other countries. We welcome applications for research in all areas of English, cultural studies and related areas, including: Old English, Old Norse, medieval literature and culture, the Renaissance and early modern periods, the Enlightenment, Romantic and Victorian studies, the modern and contemporary periods, literary and cultural theory, gender studies, theatre studies, poetics and creative writing (including practice-based research). Find out more about our current MPhil/PhD students and their areas of research .


Where and when

Starts Location
On request
Malet Street, WC1E 7HX, London, England
See map
Starts On request
Malet Street, WC1E 7HX, London, England
See map

What you'll learn on the course

Creative Writing
Part Time
Full Time
Professor Training

Course programme

What to do before you apply

If you are considering applying for MPhil/PhD research in any of these areas, you are advised to contact the department about your research plan before making an application.

For information about applying as a research student, read our guide for applicants.

Formal requirements

Students are required to attend seminars on research skills and seminars on theory throughout the first 2 terms in the first year of study. Subsequent attendance is optional. You are also required to participate in some of the seminars or other activities put on by the department, School of Arts, or other institute of the university in each year you are a registered student.

The department does not lay down a specific timetable for meetings with your supervisor, although all supervisors will agree a personal timetable of consultation with their students. But we do expect as a minimum that all full-time research students will meet with their supervisors 3 times a term, and part-time students twice a term. If no formal timetable of meetings has been arranged, it is up to you to take the initiative in arranging supervisory meetings.

In a similar way, the School requires all full-time students to submit at least 2 substantial pieces of written work in every academic year and part-time students to submit at least 1.

In addition, all students will be required to submit annually to the department's Graduate Panel a detailed written report on their progress through the year. Supervisors will in turn be responsible for submitting to the panel annual reports on students' progress; every student will be interviewed annually by a member of staff who is not their supervisor after the reports have been received.


Your supervisor's responsibilities include:

  • Advising you on the formulation and following through of your research and advising you about work already published in your area.
  • Discussing with you questions of approach and methodology.
  • Guiding you in the use of primary and secondary literature, as well as historical, archive and other source materials.
  • Commenting in detail and in a reasonable time upon the written work that you submit.
  • Advising you on how to acquire skills and techniques necessary for your research (for example, learning another language, or editorial or bibliographical skills).
  • Advising you where to go or whom to consult if you have difficulties which your supervisor cannot herself or himself resolve.
  • Putting you in touch with students and teachers with whom you may share research interests.
  • Keeping you informed about how far your work meets the standards required by the university and about university regulations and requirements regarding the organisation and submission of your thesis.
  • Providing pastoral advice and support.
  • Writing references as and when these may be requested.


You in turn have a responsibility, in addition to those more formal responsibilities specified above, to keep your supervisor informed at all times about the progress of your work, and to take part in the academic life of the department.

Every research student is appointed a primary supervisor who is the person, or one of the persons, in the department best suited to give the advice and direction that he or she needs. Sometimes students will be supervised jointly by more than 1 person in the department, or between departments, although there will always be 1 principal supervisor responsible for formal and administrative arrangements. In the case of joint supervision, both your supervisors should specify clearly the ways in which the sharing will operate.

During the course of your degree, your supervisor may be absent for a prolonged period. You will be assigned a deputy supervisor who will look after your work in the same way as the supervisor until she/he returns. Your supervisor should give you good warning about planned absences and organise alternative supervision.

Although a student's principal point of contact at Birkbeck is his or her supervisor(s), the department as a whole has responsibility for each student's academic progress and well-being. It exercises this responsibility through its Graduate Panel, which monitors the progress of all research students and approves transfers from MPhil to PhD status. The annual interview you have with a staff member is an opportunity for you to report on, and discuss, your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your research progress, your supervision and other aspects of the School's provision for graduate study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link below. Please note that online application will open in October 2016.

Finding a supervisor

  • Anthony Bale, MA, MA, DPhil: medieval English literature; medieval popular culture and popular religion; affect and emotions; book history, marginalia and histories of reading; medieval Jewish history, Jewish-Christian relations and the history of anti-Semitism; medieval pilgrimage culture, the Holy Land, travel writing and Mandeville.
  • Heike Bauer, MA, PhD: nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and culture; gender studies; history of sexuality; sexology and literary culture 1800-1950; modern discourses and representations of hate; translation and cross-cultural exchange; women's writing; contemporary lesbian and queer theory and literature.
  • Julia Bell, BA, MA: creative writing; publishing.
  • Joe Brooker, BA, MA, PhD: Irish writing; modernism; contemporary British culture.
  • Carolyn Burdett, BA, MA, DPhil: fin-de-siècle literature, culture and society; Victorian emotions; the Victorian novel; nineteenth-century feminism; science (especially Darwinian evolution and psychology) and literature.
  • Luisa Calè, Letters Degree Rome, PhD, DPhil: Romantic period literature, culture and public sphere; visual culture and theory; cultures of collecting; visual forms and sites of textual transmission; translation; reader response.
  • Professor Russell Celyn Jones, BA, MA: creative writing.
  • Stephen Clucas, BA, PhD: sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and European intellectual history; the history of Renaissance magic; Renaissance philosophy; Renaissance mythography; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century philosophical poetry.
  • Isabel Davis, BA, MA, PhD: late medieval and Renaissance literature and culture; sexual domestic ethics.
  • Caroline Edwards, BA, MA, PhD: twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature; critical theory; utopianism; women‘s writing; modernism; postmodernism; Marxist aesthetics; science fiction.
  • David Eldridge: creative writing.
  • Martin Eve, BA, MA, PhD: literature; technology; publishing; contemporary American fiction; digital humanities.
  • Peter Fifield, BA, MA, PhD: modern literature; illness in modernism; Samuel Beckett; ethics; modernist archives; neuroscience.
  • Professor Alison Finlay, BA, BPhil, DPhil: Old Icelandic sagas and skaldic poetry; Old English poetry.
  • Professor Hilary Fraser, BA, DPhil: nineteenth-century literature and cultural history; Victorian art criticism; history and aesthetic of women's writing; the Victorian periodical press.
  • Richard Hamblyn, BA, MA, PhD: creative writing; environmental writing and history.
  • Anna Hartnell, BA, MA, PhD: twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature and culture, with a special focus on race, nation and religion; postcolonial and diasporic literatures; literary and cultural responses to 'the contemporary', particularly perceived moments of rupture and crisis.
  • Professor Esther Leslie, BA, MA, DPhil: critical theory and the Frankfurt School, especially Walter Benjamin; European modernism and avant-garde; Marxism; science, technology and material culture; animation; situationist theory and psychogeography.
  • Toby Litt, BA, MA: creative writing; science fiction; crime fiction; literary fiction; ghost stories; the short story; Continental philosophy; popular music.
  • Professor Roger Luckhurst, BA, MA, PhD: late nineteenth-century literature and pseudo-science; modernism; science fiction; literary theory; contemporary literature and culture.
  • David McAllister, BA, MA, PhD: early to mid-nineteenth-century literature and culture; the Victorian novel; Victorian non-fiction prose writing; death in Romantic and Victorian literature and culture; Victorian discourses of masculinity.
  • Mpalive Msiska, BA, MA, PhD: postcolonial theory and literature; postcolonial life-writing; African literature; cultural identity; reception theory; popular culture; Wole Soyinka.
  • Louise Owen, BA, MA, PhD: contemporary theatre and performance; histories of community art, theatre and performance in Britain; cultural policy; globalisation and culture; performance and public space; feminism and gender.
  • Ana Parejo Vadillo, PhD: Victorian and fin-de-siècle London; fin-de-siècle literature; Victorian travel and technologies; any aspect of Victorian poetry; women and Victorian cities; the country and the city; omnibuses; railways; Amy Levy, Alice Meynell, Michael Field, Christina Rossetti, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Symons; decadent and aestheticist writing by both men and women.
  • Emily Senior, BA, MA, PhD: eighteenth-century and Romantic literature and culture; Atlantic literatures; travel and exploration; colonialism and intercultural encounter; literature, science and medicine.
  • Liane Strauss: creative writing; poetry.
  • Robert Swain, BSc: theatre directing; training of directors, producers, writers, actors and new writers.
  • Colin Teevan: playwriting; screenwriting.
  • Fintan Walsh, BEd, MPhil, PhD: the performance of subjectivity and cultural identity; performance affects and therapy cultures; performance and psychosocial phenomena; performance and community, including queer arts, theatre in education and theatre for young audiences.
  • Luke Williams BA, MA: creative writing; the novel; the avant-garde, theories of 'The Contemporary'; colonial and postcolonial literature; the document in fiction; collaborative writing.
  • Joanne Winning, MA, PhD: modernisms, especially female and lesbian modernism; critical and cultural theory in the twentieth century; theories of gender and sexuality; lesbian subjectivities and cultural production; psychoanalysis and its theories; twentieth-century and contemporary Australian and Scottish literature and culture; relations between illness, language and the clinical encounter; medical humanities.
  • Professor Susan Wiseman, BA, PhD: literature and culture 1500-1700, particularly the English Civil War; gender and writing (including women's writing); Renaissance drama; early modern colonial encounters.
  • Benjamin Wood MFA: creative writing.
  • Gillian Woods, MA, MST, DPhil: Renaissance theatre and drama; post-Reformation religion; visual arts; nostalgia; representations of space.

Application deadlines and interviews

You can apply at any time during the year. Students who wish to be considered for funding, both full College studentships and Arts Research Scholarships, need to apply by the end of January 2017 for entry in October 2017.

Online application

English and Humanities (MPhil / PhD) (Part-time)

English and Humanities (MPhil / PhD) (Full-time)

Additional information

Teaching and assessment Assessment The MPhil thesis is not more than 60,000 words; the PhD thesis is not more than 100,000 words. Both the MPhil and the PhD are assessed by a viva voce examination. The thesis requirements for a practice-based project vary according to the nature of the research and can be discussed with the admissions tutors. ...

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