Undertaking doctoral research allows you to develop in-depth knowledge, while making a meaningful contribution to your chosen field.
The Institute of English Studies (IES) provides a unique scholarly community in which to pursue doctoral research. We offer research supervision in a number of literature-related subject areas, ranging from book history to contemporary writing. With guidance from our expert supervisors, you'll carry out extensive independent research culminating in a thesis of up to 100,000 words.
This degree presents the opportunity to gain expertise in your area of interest while also honing a range of transferable skills. On completing this course, you'll be well prepared for specialist career paths both within academia and beyond.
Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study to discuss your proposal. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found here.
Contact the Institute
The Institute of English Studies
The Institute of English Studies (IES) occupies a position at the heart of the academic study of English in the United Kingdom. The Institute offered the world’s first degree in Book History and was founded to help establish it as a discipline.
Today, the Institute 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.
The Institute’s core activities include providing supervision for postgraduate research students in specialist areas of English studies and related disciplines; delivering the long-established Masters’ degree in the History of the Book; hosting major collaborative research projects; providing essential research training in book history and palaeography; and facilitating scholarly communities in all areas of English studies. It specialises in the history of the book, manuscript and print studies, textual scholarship and digital editing.
Full-time study for the PhD degree entails three or a maximum of four years' independent research, culminating in the writing of a thesis of not more than 100,000 words. Part-time students complete the same programme in five, or a maximum of six years.
After submission of the thesis, you'll attend an oral examination conducted by an internal examiner, from the University of London, and an external examiner, normally from another British university.
There is no formal coursework, but you'll be expected to participate in a weekly seminar on Work in Progress and to present a paper every year from their second year onwards. In your first year you are required to attend a weekly class on Techniques of Scholarship. You are also encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year.
The School of Advanced Study offers 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.
The Institute of English Studies' holds a number of collections, which are mainly integrated within Senate House Library. Central to our collections are the History of the Book teaching collection, the Museum of Writing and the T. Sturge Moore Collection.
The Institute also aims to make available a number of its publications in SAS-Space, an online library for humanities and social sciences research outputs,. Items including the documentary outcomes of research projects, University Trust Lectures (e.g. the John Coffin and the Hilda Hulme Memorial lectures), papers from presentations given at or in association with the Institute, including selected research seminar papers, and outstanding dissertations at Masters and Doctoral level are available and regularly updated.
The Institute also has a number of helpful key networks. For example, the Institute administers the day-to-day business of the Bibliographical Society (BibSoc), a world-renowned leader in the study of the book and its history. We also have connections with London's Palaeography Teachers’ Group, a group of experts in palaeography from across the federal University of London and beyond. Many of the teachers run courses as part of the London Palaeography Summer School and are also involved in some of the courses on the London Rare Books School.
The School of Advanced Study is also home to the previously mentioned Senate House Library, the central library for the University of London. The art deco building, which the School and Senate House Library are part of, is a literary landmark in the heart of Bloomsbury, located next to the British Museum. The Library occupies the fourth to the nineteenth floors of the building, with a range of historic library reading rooms and collections.
You can also take advantage of a varied and challenging research training programme, with general research skills training and research methodologies courses provided through the School and subject-specific training provided within the institutes
How to apply
Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study to discuss your proposal. You can find contact details and areas of expertise from our academic staff here.
Candidates will normally receive an initial response to their application within 28 working days. Those who have been formally interviewed will normally be informed within one week as to whether they are to be offered a place.
Note: in accordance with regulations research you'll be registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. Upgrading to PhD will be considered in the second year for full-time students and in the third or fourth year for part-time students
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)
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).
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.
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
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
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 marktwainproject.org. 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
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
Dr Elizabeth Savage
Lecturer and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in Book History and Communications
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
I would be happy to supervise on topics which fit with my research interests around the book as a material object in the early modern period: ways in which books have been owned, marked, read, sold or bound, and the deductions we can make from that evidence. This could encompass book collecting, bookbinding, or any aspect of provenance studies.
David Pearson is Director of Culture, Heritage & Libraries for the City of London Corporation, and has previously worked in various major libraries and collections. He has lectured and published extensively on aspects of book and library history, particularly around the ways that books have been used and bound, and has taught at Rare Book Schools in America and New Zealand. He was President of the Bibliographical Society 2010-12.
Private or institutional library history between the 16th and 19th centuries
Marginalia, annotations, signs and marks of the reading and use of books
Patterns of book ownership or collecting
Bookbinding history and development, and its application to book history
I am a medievalist who works mainly in early medieval literature from the perspective of contemporary Medieval Studies.
Clare A. Lees FEA, FKC is Professor of Medieval Literature and Director of the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Select, recent publications include: The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature, ed. Lees (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2013; paperback 2016); ‘Women Write the Past: Medieval Scholarship, Old English and New Literature’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 93.2 (2017), 3-22 (the Toller Lecture for 2016); ‘Women and Water: Icelandic Tales and Anglo-Saxon Moorings’, with Gillian R. Overing, GeoHumanities 4.1 (2017), 97-111; and ‘In Three Poems: Medieval and Modern in Seamus Heaney, Maureen Duffy and Colette Bryce’, American/Medieval: Nature and Mind in Cultural Transfer, ed., Gillian R. Overing and Ulrike Wiethaus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprech, 2016), pp. 177-201.
Clare has worked collaboratively during her career, often with Gillian R Overing, Wake Forest University: forthcoming with Gillian is The Contemporary Medieval in Practice (London: UCL Press, 2019). In 2016-18, she held a Leverhulme Major Research Fellow, for ‘The Contemporary Arts and Early Medieval Culture in Britain and Ireland’ to work on a poetry anthology for Bloodaxe Books and related monograph. She was the founding Director of the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), an AHRC-Doctoral Training Partnership.
I supervise research into the trade in manuscripts and rare books in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and into illuminated manuscripts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Dr Laura Cleaver is interested in the art and architecture of the High Middle Ages and its reception in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Her research concentrates on medieval manuscripts, encompassing their production, circulation, and reception. In 2019-2024 she will be leading an ERC funded project (CULTIVATE MSS) to assess the significance of the trade in medieval manuscripts for the development of ideas about the nature and value of European culture in the early twentieth century.
Medieval illuminated manuscripts
The rare book trade in the 19th and 20th centuries
Manuscripts as didactic tools.
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