English and Humanities (MPhil / PhD)
- Status: Fully Approved
- Start date: October 2015, January 2016 or April 2016
2 years full-time or 3 years part-time (minimum period). In practice, a PhD usually takes 3-4 years full-time or 5-7 years part-time.
At least 3 supervisions (full-time) or 2 supervisions (part-time) a term; weekly research skills classes in the first year; various other seminars, lectures, classes and workshops as appropriate.
- Programme overview
- Apply now
- Why study this at Birkbeck?
- Entry requirements
- Fees and finance
- Careers and employability
- Teaching and assessment
- Our research
- Research resources
- Further details
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).
English and Humanities research students are invited to apply for 2 research internship placements at the Globe Theatre to run from November 2015 to the start of February 2016. Read a blog post by a student who recently undertook a placement at the Globe.
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.
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 one.
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 one person in the department, or between departments, although there will always be one 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.
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.
- Nicola Bown, BA, MA, DPhil: the supernatural in literature and art; nineteenth-century literature and art; nineteenth-century photography; relationships between literature, the visual arts and science; death and the Victorians; Victorian feelings.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Professor Carol Watts, MA, DPhil: eighteenth-century and contemporary literature and culture; gender and writing; contemporary poetry and poetics; cultural theory; American literature; film.
- 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.
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 2015 for entry in October 2015.
Why study this course at Birkbeck?
- With more than 100 students undertaking research for MPhil and PhDs, Birkbeck's Department of English and Humanities has a large and thriving postgraduate community - the largest body of graduate students in English studies in the University of London. Supervision is available in literature from Old Icelandic to contemporary writing, and we are also well regarded for our work on interdisciplinary research topics in cultural history and theory.
- We achieved notable success in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, with 90% of our research being deemed of 'quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour', of which 35% was declared to be 'world-leading'.
- We place great emphasis on ensuring that graduate supervision is thorough, professionally conducted and leads to the successful completion of a thesis. We offer a dedicated research skills course at the start of the degree with the option of a paleography course for those working on early periods. As well as observing strict guidelines on supervision, a senior member of staff acts as director of graduate studies and co-ordinates the monitoring of our students' progress.
- A termly graduate forum allows students formally to discuss issues of graduate provision and resources with staff.
- Opportunity to apply for a research internship placement at the Globe Theatre. Read a blog post by a student who recently undertook a placement at the Globe.
- Watch videos of our students discussing their experience of studying and researching at Birkbeck.
A good honours degree and preferably an MA in literary, historical or other disciplines of cultural studies.
Prior to interview you will need to submit a research proposal of 2000 words.
International entry requirements
If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.
Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.
FeesPart-time home/EU students: £ 2150 pa
Full-time home/EU students: £ 4052 pa
Part-time overseas students: £ 6050 pa
Full-time overseas students: £ 11995 pa
Payment and Fees Discounts
Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.
Fees discounts: If you are a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.
Careers and employability
Teaching and 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.
Birkbeck is one of the world’s leading research-intensive institutions. Our cutting-edge scholarship informs public policy, achieves scientific advances, supports the economy, promotes culture and the arts, and makes a positive difference to society.
Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated ‘world-leading’ or internationally excellent.
Birkbeck is at the geographical centre of London's research library complex, a short distance from the British Library, the University of London Library, the Warburg Institute, the Institute of Historical Research and the Wellcome Institute. The National Archives are easily accessible. The University of London Library has an outstanding collection of literary periodicals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the Fawcett Library and Women's Library are major sources for women's unity and gender history. The poetry library at London's South Bank Centre on the River Thames is rich in twentieth-century poetry.
The Department of English and Humanities has a thriving research culture. It holds a seminar in critical theory, numerous reading groups and a regular programme of major visiting speakers. All postgraduate students follow courses in research skills and other forms of graduate training. We have long experience in the supervision of both full-time and part-time research students and currently have over 100 research students, half of whom are full-time.
The department is well known for its leading international research. It hosts highly active research centres, including the Centre for Contemporary Theatre, the Centre for Contemporary Literature and Culture, the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies and the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre; it initiated the London Renaissance Seminar and the College’s Centre for Medical Humanities; and it runs a number of other research seminars, including the Birkbeck Medieval Seminar, the Material Texts Network, and the Early Modern Philosophy and the Scientific Imagination Seminar. There are also frequent national conferences and symposia, generated by staff and students across the range of our specialisms.
The department's provision is complemented by the work of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, and by interdisciplinary activities in the School of Arts - visit our thriving postgraduate community and ArtLess Group pages, and the Dandelion journal and network. Students can apply for funds for giving papers at conferences, for student-led events, and for extraordinary research expenses from School postgraduate funds.
Read more about our vibrant research culture.
We offer research students the opportunity to teach on our undergraduate courses.
This is subject to financial and other limits, and we try to spread the available hours among as many applicants as is feasible.
Research students who have progressed satisfactorily with their study can apply annually and will be put on a list of available teachers, subject to a satisfactory interview with the graduate teaching panel.
During the spring term we offer all students the opportunity to attend a 10-week course on teaching in higher education; only those research students who have attended are eligible for teaching positions in the department.