Studying for a PhD at the Institute of English Studies

The School of Advanced Study is the UK's national research hub in the humanities and offers a world-class research environment to our research students. We run a range of research training programmes, open to all postgraduate students, as well as an active public engagement calendar. The School is part of the AHRC-funded London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), through which we are able to offer a number of studentships in humanities disciplines. Our institutes also offer a range of bursaries and studentships for applicants on our programmes.


The Institute of English Studies (IES) occupies a position at the centre of the academic study of English in the United Kingdom. It is recognised nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence for its research activities, and in the provision of resources to the academic community as a whole. A vibrant, interdisciplinary research culture is fostered within the IES, and more broadly within the School of Advanced Study, part of the University of London, which provides a unique configuration of academic resources for postgraduate and postdoctoral research


How to Apply

Before agreeing to accept you, the School will require you to submit a research proposal, so it is worthwhile having this drafted ahead of a formal application. Guidelines on drafting your research proposal.

Once you have contacted the School, you will be put in touch with a potential supervisor. It is important that you discuss your outline research proposal with them, and that you feel you can work together. Your supervisor will discuss any further development or re-focusing of your proposal before the formal application is taken to the relevant Research Degrees Committee for approval.

Please apply by clicking the links to the appropriate online application form for the October 2020 session. 

Location Mode Duration Apply
London Full Time 3 years Apply
London Part Time 6 years Apply
Distance Learning Full Time 3 years Apply
Distance Learning Part Time 6 years Apply


Distance Learning

From autumn 2017, the School of Advanced Study will offer students with an appropriate topic and level of local resource the opportunity to undertake a PhD by distance learning. These students are required to attend our London campus at set intervals to complete an intensive research training module, for upgrade, and for the viva but will otherwise study at their own location. This option is available to UK, EU and international students on the same basis as our on-campus PhD programmes (three years full time, six years part time). Fees are the same as for our on-campus PhD programmes. Please note that not all institutes and supervisors offer this option, and that some topics are not appropriate to be studied this way.

If you would like to be considered for our Research Degree programme via Distance Learning, please download and fill out the Research Degrees by Distance Learning form, to attach to your online application.



Subject Areas

The Institute of English Studies offers doctoral research supervision in the following broad areas:

  • Bibliography
  • Book illustration
  • History of the book from the medieval period to the present
  • History of authorship
  • History of communication
  • History of printing
  • History of publishing from 1800 to the present
  • History of readers and reading
  • Reception history
  • Modern literary manuscripts and genetic criticism
  • Textual scholarship, scholarly editing and digital humanities
  • Author-focused studies (e.g. J.M. Barrie, Chaucer, Dickens, T.S. Eliot, Scott Fitzgerald, Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Melville, Shakespeare, R.L. Stevenson, Twain, W.B. Yeats)
  • Medieval manuscript studies and palaeography
  • Early modern print culture
  • Victorian literature
  • Twentieth-century literature
  • American literature
  • Anglo-American Modernism
  • Anglo-Irish literature
  • Scottish literature



The Institute registers students for MPhil/PhD study only when principal supervision is offered by the staff listed below. It is, however, possible to arrange co-supervision with particular experts in the Colleges of the University of London, and, on occasion, with experts from institutions outside the University of London (e.g. the British Library) when such experts are also Teachers of the University of London.  In cases where it is more appropriate for MPhil/PhD students to be registered at a College of the University, the Institute is happy to offer informal advice.

Professor Sarah Churchwell

Chair in Public Understanding of the Humanities

Email | Research Profile

I broadly supervise topics relating to the American novel of the long 20th century (Henry James to the present), and my methodologies focus on biographical criticism, reception history and literary history. I am particularly interested in the intersection of biography, authorship, celebrity and the marketplace.


Sarah Churchwell is Professorial Fellow in American Literature and Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She received her MA and PhD in English and American literature from Princeton University, and her BA with honors in English literature from Vassar College. She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby and The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, editor of Forgotten Fitzgerald: Echoes of a Lost America, and co-editor of Must-Read: Rediscovering the American Bestseller.

Her scholarly articles cover subjects including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and the cultural influence of the 1920s  Her literary journalism has appeared widely, including in the Guardian, New Statesman, TLS, New York Times Book Review, Financial Times, Prospect, and many others.

She also comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for UK television and radio, where appearances include Question Time, The Review Show, and Today. She has judged many literary prizes, including the 2008 Orange (now Bailey’s) Prize for Women’s Fiction, the 2014 Man Booker Prize, and was a co-winner of the 2015 Eccles British Library Writer’s Award. She is currently writing a book about Henry James.


  • F. Scott Fitzgerald and his circle
  • Henry James and his circle
  • The American 1920s and 1930s
  • American modernism and the marketplace
  • American cinema in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s
  • Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
  • American bestsellers (from the 18th century to the present)


Professor Warwick Gould

Emeritus, Institute of English Studies

Email | Research Profile

I am happy to supervise on a wide range of late nineteenth and early twentieth century topics, especially in the literature of the Irish Revival, and in the general field of the History of the Book.


Emeritus Professor Warwick Gould FRSL, FEA, FRSA is the Founder-Director of the Institute (1999-2013). He is a well-known scholar of W. B. Yeats, and Irish Literature in English in the late Victorian and early 20th century periods. His current projects include a new Textual Biography of Yeats’s writings and, in collaboration, the standard commentary on Yeats’s poems, while he continues to edit Yeats Annual  (1983—).

He co-wrote (with the late Marjorie Reeves) Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Clarendon: 1987, rev. & enl., 2001), while his co-editions e.g., of Yeats’s Mythologies (2005), The Secret Rose: Stories by W. B. Yeats: A Variorum Edition (1981; rev., augmented edition, 1992); The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats Vol II (1997) gesture to his continuing enthusiasm for supervising editorial theses as well as studies in Victorian Fin de siècle, 20th Century Irish Poetry and the History of the Book.

He has been honoured with the Cecil Oldman Memorial Medal for Bibliography and Textual Criticism and the British Academy President’s Medal (2012).


  • Irish Book History
  • Authors-Publisher Relations,1870-1939
  • Australian Literature (and Patrick White) 
  • Irish Publishing, 1886-1930 
  • Fin de siècle Poetry,
  • 19th Century Irish Radical Verse 
  • 19th Century Occult Publishing
  • 20th Century Literary Theory
  • 20th Century Literary Agenting

Dr Cynthia Johnston

Lecturer in Book History and Communications

Email | Research Profile

My research interests include all aspects of medieval book culture with special interest on the development and transmission of decorative technique in western Europe during the thirteenth century. I am also in interested in the history of collections and collecting.


Dr Cynthia Johnston is the Course Tutor for the MA/MRes in the History of the Book at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study. She has an MA and MPhil from New York University in late Medieval Literature, a Master of Studies from Oxford University in Medieval Studies and a PhD in Manuscript Studies from IES. Professor Michelle Brown supervised her dissertation on the development of penflourished decorative styles in English manuscripts between 1180 and 1280.

Dr Johnston has curated two exhibitions on the industrialist collector of books and coins, R.E. Hart, and she heads the ‘Academic Partnership’ between the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, who hold Hart’s collections, and IES.


  • I am happy to receive inquiries regarding PhD supervisions on late medieval book historical topics.


Dr Andrew Nash

Reader in Book History and Communications

Email | Research Profile

I supervise topics relating to three broad areas: the history of books and publishing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the material contexts of Victorian and twentieth-century literature; and Scottish literature since 1750. My methodologies focus on literary criticism and history, bibliography and book history, and manuscript and archive studies, especially publishers’ and book trade archives.


Andrew Nash is Reader in Book History and Communications. He was formerly Associate Professor and Head of the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. His research interests include book and publishing history from the nineteenth-century to the present, Victorian literature, and Scottish literature and he welcomes proposals from potential research students in each of these broad areas. Specific interests include: author/publisher relations and the history of authorship 1850 to the present; publishers’ archives; the firm of Chatto & Windus; Victorian popular fiction; and nineteenth- and twentieth-century Scottish literature, especially the work of J.M. Barrie, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Muriel Spark.

Andrew’s publications include the monographs William Clark Russell and the Victorian Nautical Novel: Gender, Genre and the Marketplace (2014) and Kailyard and Scottish Literature (2007), as well as several edited and co-edited collections including The Culture of Collected Editions (2003), Literary Cultures and the Material Book (2007), New Directions in the History of the Novel (2014) and Gateway to the Modern: Resituating J.M. Barrie (2014). He has recently contributed essays on the material history of the novel to volumes 4 and 7 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English. He is currently working on a book on Grub Street Authors and the Fiction Market, 1870-1914, and (with Claire Squires and Ian Willison) completing the editing of Volume 7 of the Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, covering the period 1914 to the present. 


  • The history of publishing from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century
  • The history and economics of authorship from the 1850s to the present
  • Victorian popular fiction
  • Nineteenth- and twentieth-century Scottish fiction
  • The firm of Chatto & Windus
  • J.M. Barrie
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Maritime fiction and the history of the sea story
  • Modern literary archives and manuscripts

Dr Christopher Ohge

Lecturer in Digital Approaches to Literature, Institute of English Studies



E-mail | Research Profile


    Christopher Ohge is Lecturer in Digital Approaches to Literature at the Institute of English Studies. From 2014 to 2017 he was an editor at the Mark Twain Papers and Project at the University of California, Berkeley, where his editorial credits included the third and final volume of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, a digital letters edition entitled Mark Twain: April Fool, 1884, and the forthcoming critical edition of the Innocents Abroad. He also participated in the development of other digital texts at He is a contributing editor on two digital projects, Melville’s Marginalia Online and the Melville Electronic Library, for which he is co-editing a digital edition of Billy Budd, Sailor. His published work has appeared in Scholarly Editing, Critical Insights: Billy Budd, Sailor, Literary Imagination, Notes & Queries, and Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies. He is currently working on a digital edition and network analysis of British anti-slavery writings. 

    Christopher would be interested in supervising doctoral projects on:

    • Scholarly editing, digital publishing, textual criticism, and bibliography (particularly of nineteenth and twentieth century literary texts)
    • Studies of Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Transcendentalism, and transatlantic romanticism
    • Literary biography
    • Text analysis and stylometry with the R programming language
    • Using "distant reading" to enhance "close reading" (and vice versa)
    • Network analysis and visualising social and literary networks
    • The impact of digital research on English studies


    Professor Rick Rylance

    Dean of the School of Advanced Study

    Email | Research Profile

    My main research interests are in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and the intellectual and literary history of those periods. I have a particular interest in the history of psychology and the psychology of the reading process.


    Before taking up the post of Dean of the School of Advanced Study, Professor Rick Rylance was Director at the Institute of English Studies, and before that he held the positions of AHRC Chief Executive and Head of the School of Arts, Languages and Literatures at the University of Exeter. Prior to moving to Exeter in 2003 he was Dean of Arts and Letters at the then Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge which he left as Dean of Arts and Letters.

    His own research is in English and he was Chair of the English Sub-panel of the RAE 2008 and a member of Main Panel M (Languages and Literature). He was a founder member of the English Subject Centre's Advisory Board, a past chair of the Council of College and University English (CCUE), and is currently a member of the Higher Education Committee of the English Association. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) in 1998 and a Founding Fellow of the English Association in 1999.


    • TBC


    Dr Elizabeth Savage

    Lecturer and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in Book History and Communications

    Email | Research Profile

    I supervise topics relating to the visual culture of books, historical book illustrations, and historical printing techniques and workshop practices 1400-1600, as well as the history of colour printing. My methodologies are object-based and draw on art history, bibliography, book history, and practical reconstructions at historically appropriate presses.


    Dr Elizabeth Savage is Lecturer and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in Book History and Communications. Her research explores how earliest printing techniques in the West shaped communication, both in text and image, 1400-1600. The early history of colour printing is a special interest. After taking a Gerda Henkel-funded PhD (Cambridge), she was Munby Fellow in Bibliography, Cambridge University Library. She has held fellowships at institutions including the Herzog August Bibliothek, the John Rylands Library, and the Warburg Institute, and she is a member of the Printing Historical Society's Publications Committee. In addition to the Wolfgang Ratjen Prize for distinguished research in the field of graphic art from the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte/Central Institute for Art History, Munich, her research has received awards from the Bibliographical Society of America and the American Printing Historical Association.

    Dr Savage’s recent academic curation includes exhibitions at the British Museum and Cambridge University Library. Her latest book, Printing Colour 1400-1700: Histories, Techniques, Functions and Receptions (2015), which she edited with Ad Stijnman, was recognised at the IFPDA Book Awards. Her next book is under contract with Oxford University Press, and she has published in journals including Apollo, the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, Print Quarterly, Printing History, and Journal of the Printing Historical Society. 


    • Fifteenth-century print culture and incunable studies
    • Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century illustrations
    • Visual paratexts, including printer’s devices and ornaments
    • The history of collecting printed material
    • Colour printing in the hand-press period, 1450-1830
    • Historical materials, techniques and workshop methods, especially in relief 

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