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Undertaking doctoral research allows you to develop in-depth knowledge, while making a meaningful contribution to your chosen field.

With guidance from our expert supervisors, you'll carry out extensive independent research culminating in a thesis of up to 100,000 words. Broadly speaking, the area covered by the Institute’s expertise is within the fields of French and Francophone, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, and Latin American/Caribbean studies; Literature; Cultural studies; and, Comparative and interdisciplinary studies are also available in a number of subject areas.

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.

The Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies provides first-class PhD supervision and guidance from academics who are leaders in their field, in collaboration with specialists at other institutions where appropriate. You'll have access to networks associated with the Centres for German and Austrian Exile Studies, Contemporary Women’s Writing, Cultural Memory, Ernst Bloch and German Thought, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Austrian Literature and Culture.

Graduates are awarded a University of London degree.

Subject Areas and Supervision

The Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies offers doctoral research supervision in the following broad areas:

  • French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese studies
  • Literatures in a Modern Language
  • Cultural studies (especially migration and 'belonging' or translingual and transcultural creative practice)

Comparative and interdisciplinary studies are available in:

• Cities and cultures
• Comparative/world literature
• Digital Humanities
• Exile writing
• Film and cultural studies
• French and Francophone studies
• Gender and sexuality
• German philosophy
• German studies
• German-Jewish writing
• Iberian, Latin American and Caribbean studies
• Italian Studies
• Memory studies
• Multilingualism
• Translation studies
• Women’s writing

Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Institute's 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

Key Information

The Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies

The Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies provides first-class PhD supervision and guidance from academics who are leaders in their field, in collaboration with specialists at other institutions where appropriate.

You'll have access to networks associated with the Centres for German and Austrian Exile Studies, Contemporary Women’s Writing, Cultural Memory, Ernst Bloch and German Thought, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Austrian Literature and Culture.

The School of Advanced Study

The School of Advanced Study at the University of London brings together eight internationally renowned research institutes to form the UK's national centre for the support of researchers and the promotion of research in the humanities.

Course structure

The degree can be taken full time over three years (or a maximum of four) or part time over five years (or a maximum of six), with entry in October and January. You'll initially be registered for our MPhil and, providing your progress has been satisfactory, will then be upgraded to our PhD programme.

The primary activity of the PhD programme is the writing of a thesis of up to 100,000 words. There is no formal coursework, but you are encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year. An extensive research training programme is on offer, with sessions provided from leading scholars and practitioners.

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 university in the UK.

Distance Learning

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.

Opportunities and facilities

As part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, you will benefit from a collaborative, interdisciplinary research environment. You’ll learn from leading specialists in your field; hone your research skills in our sector-leading training programmes; expand your knowledge through an extensive calendar of events, conferences, and seminars and become part of a worldwide network of humanities scholars. The Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies enjoys close links with other SAS members and is home to a diverse, international, and vibrant community of scholars covering its major language and culture areas. Throughout the academic year it is host to a lively programme of events, conferences and seminars that is at the heart of the functioning of the disciplinary area.

In addition to publishing the Journal of Romance Studies, the Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies also has an outstanding Germanic Studies Collection, located on the fourth floor of Senate House Library. With holdings devoted principally to German language and literature from their beginnings to the present day, the collection comprises a substantial number of books, journals, microfiches, theses and archives.

Because of its function as a centre for academic interest in a very extensive range of topics, the Institute has national and international contacts with researchers in all of the fields that it represents. It is therefore particularly well placed to offer supervision for projects that cross national and disciplinary boundaries.

How to apply

Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Institute's 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.

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.

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 students will 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.


Professor Charles Burdett

Director of the Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies



The principal areas of Professor Burdett’s research are literary culture under Fascism; travel writing; the Italian colonial presence in Africa and its legacy; theories of inter-cultural contact; the representation of the Islamic world in recent Italian culture. An important part of his work concerns the theoretical frame through which we consider transnational representations. This research interest lies at the heart of the AHRC beacon project of which he was Principal Investigator, Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures (2014-2017). The project explored a series of critical instances of linguistic and cultural translation embedded within the histories of Italian mobility. He is the co-editor of the volumes, Transnational Italian Studies (2020) and Transcultural Italies: Mobility, Memory and Translation (2020). His book, Italy, Islam and the Islamic World: Representations and Reflections from 9/11 to the Arab Uprisings (2016) examined some of the most significant voices in defining Italy’s relationship with Islam and the Islamic world over recent years. His monograph, Journeys through Fascism (2007, pbk 2010), drawing on a wide range of theoretical work on travel and cross-cultural exchange, examined representations by Italian writers of travel to Africa, the Middle East, Russia and the United States.

Dr Godela Weiss-Sussex

Reader in Modern German Literature and Acting Director of the Institute of Modern Languages Research




Dr Weiss-Sussex's main research interests lie in the German culture and literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the representation of the city in literature, women's writing and modernism.

Her current research project investigates concepts of Jewishness and femininity in the work of German-Jewish women writers in early 20th-century Berlin. It builds on the conference volume 'Not an Essence but a Positioning': German-Jewish Women Writers (1900-1938) (co-edited with Andrea Hammel, 2009).

Her other publications include the monograph Metropolitan ChroniclesGeorg Hermann’s Berlin Novels, 1897 to 1912 (2001) and the edited volumes BerlinKultur und Metropole in den Zwanziger und seit den Neunziger Jahren (2007, with Ulrike Zitzlsperger) and The Cultural Identities of European Cities (2011, with Katia Pizzi).

Professor Catherine Davies

Professor Emerita of Hispanic and Latin American Studies​

Catherine Davies photo



Professor Davies has published widely on 19th- and 20th-century Spanish and Spanish American literature, history and culture. She specializes in the following fields: women's writing; historical fiction; intellectual history; gender studies; the political essay, and poetry. She is particularly interested in the cultures, histories and literatures of Spain, Galicia, Cuba, Argentina and Colombia. Professor Davies has successfully supervised a large number of PhD theses on, for example: Rosa Chacel, Diamela Eltit, Silvia Galvis, Spanish Romantic literature, Galician women's writing, Cuban crime fiction,  African-Cuban poetry, Colombian literature, Women novelists in 20th-century Spain, and Latin American women's Testimonio. She has also examined many PhD theses in the UK and internationally. Her recent co-authored book, South American Independence: Gender, Politics, Text (2006)  is on the literature and culture of the Independence period in early 19th-century Spanish America and Spain explored from a gender inflected perspective.

Dr Joseph Ford

Lecturer in French Studies; Director, Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory​​

Joseph Ford



Dr Ford specialises in 20th- and 21st-century Francophone Literature and Culture, with specific interests in Algeria and what has become known as the Algerian Civil War or 'Black Decade' of the 1990s. His wider research interests are in postcolonial studies, the theory and practice of world literature and literary translation, and French and Francophone intellectual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. His first book, Writing the Black Decade: Conflict and Criticism in Francophone Algerian Literature (forthcoming in January 2021 with Lexington Books), studies how literature – and the way we read, classify and critique literature – impacts our understanding of the world at a time of conflict. He has published articles on Mustapha Benfodil, Maïssa Bey, Salim Bachi and Kamel Daoud, translated a book-length collection of poems by Mustapha Benfodil (Hesterglock Press, 2018) and is completing an article on the theory and practice of 'world literature' in the work of the Algerian writer Kaouther Adimi. Dr Ford is Director of the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory (CCM), co-General Editor (with Catherine Davies) of the Journal of Romance Studies and convenor of the Convocation Seminars in World Literature and Translation (co-convened with LINKS).

Dr Naomi Wells​

Lecturer in Italian and Spanish with Digital Humanities​​



Dr Wells specialises in the area of multilingualism and migration in Spanish- and Italian-speaking contexts, with her current research focusing on digital spaces of communication and representation. She has conducted fieldwork in Spain, Italy, Chile, and the UK, and her research incorporates transdisciplinary methods and approaches drawn primarily from applied and sociolinguistics, translation and cultural studies, migration studies, and digital humanities and digital culture studies. She has recently published articles in the journals Modern Italy, Modern Languages Open and Language Policy, and has contributed to Liverpool University Press’s forthcoming Transnational Modern Languages book series. She is also joint Section Editor of the Digital Modern Languages Section on Modern Languages Open, and provides postgraduate research training on qualitative and online research methods. Dr Wells is able to supervise research in the areas of: Hispanic and Italian Studies, multilingualism, cultures of migration and diaspora studies, minority and regional languages, social media and internet research, (digital) discourse analysis and (digital) ethnography.

Dr Johan Siebers

Associate Fellow



Dr Johan Siebers (Associate Fellow, IMLR/Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Middlesex University) is available for dissertation and thesis supervision in the area of post-Kantian German philosophy.

His own work investigates the possibilities of metaphysical thinking today and he is committed to the idea that the purpose of philosophy is the liberation of the mind. His research interests include critical theory; German idealism; metaphysics; being and speculative philosophy; aesthetics; philosophy of language, dialogue and communication; religious experience; temporality and futurity; existentialism and psychoanalysis.

He is also interested in the relations between German and classical American thought (Transcendentalism, Emerson, pragmatism, Whitehead and process philosophy). He has a special, but not exclusive, interest in the philosophy of Ernst Bloch and lead the Ernst Bloch Centre at the IMLR.

Dr Katia Pizzi

Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies (on leave of absence)




Dr Pizzi specializes in modern Italian studies, with particular interest in the literature of the inter-war years, memory studies, Futurism and technology. Her books A City in Search of An Author: The Cultural Identity of Trieste (2001), Trieste: triestinita`, italianita` e male di frontiera (2007) and Cold War Cities: History, Culture and Memory (2016) explore the cultural identity of key cities and regions during the Cold War and beyond, especially Trieste and the north-eastern borders of Italy. Pizzi's recent research interests lie in Modernism, the European Futurist avantgarde, industrial cultures and technology, and she is writing the monograph Italian Futurism and the Machine. Pizzi has further published several chapters and articles on children’s literature and nationalism, the interface between text and illustration, Antonio Rubino and comics. Her volume Pinocchio Puppets and Modernity: The Mechanical Body (2012) was awarded with the prestigious Best Edited Book Prize by the Children's Literature Association. Pizzi has supervised doctoral theses on modern and contemporary Italian writers, women writers, Holocaust memory, writing and migration and Pinocchio.

Dr Andrea Hammel

Andrea Hammel



Andrea Hammel's research interests include exile literature, especially by German-Jewish women writers; the social and cultural history of refugees from National Socialism, especially the Kindertransport; autobiography; the translation of Holocaust writing and comparative studies of refugee groups. She is a member of the editorial board of the Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies and co-edited two volumes on Gender and Exile in 2016 and 2017. Her exploration of second generation trauma and of identity and belonging among Kindertransportees have been published in German Life and Letters and Shofar. An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies. Reaching audiences beyond the academic is important to Andrea Hammel: in 2018 she contributed to an open-air exhibition on the Kindertransport in Berlin and she is also involved in an exhibition on the subject in 2021 in Frankfurt/Main,Germany. 

Dr Anne Simon




Dr Simon specialises in German Studies in the mediaeval and Early Modern periods, with particular reference to the impact of these periods on subsequent eras. Her main interest is the city of Nuremberg from the Middle Ages to the present. Her book The Cult of Saint Katherine of Alexandria in Nuremberg: Saint and a City draws on a wide variety of textual and visual sources to explore the shaping of urban space through this cult; the saint’s role in moulding and advertising patrician identity and alliances through cultural patronage; and the use of Katherine to showcase the city's political, economic, cultural and religious importance at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. Dr Simon’s research and publications also encompass pilgrimage and travel literature; nuns’ letters (Pepper for Prayer: The Correspondence of the Birgittine Nun Katerina Lemmel, 1516‒1525, edited by Volker Schier, Corine Schleif and Anne Simon); the history of the book; didactic literature for women; and the relationship between text and image. Dr Simon has supervised work on a wide range of topics from the Middle Ages to the present, including artistic and cultural patronage; the Reformation; Hans Sachs; travel literature; publishing history; marginal groups; the National Socialist use of the Middle Ages; and Nuremberg’s contemporary self-marketing.

The School of Advanced Study is a unique environment in which to study the humanities.  The School strives to reflect the latest developments in thinking across the humanities disciplines it supports and to ensure that its programmes reflect this.   We are also aware that the needs of our students are constantly changing.  With that in mind, the School continually reviews the its programmes and, as part of that process, reserves the right to alter or discontinue them. 

We assure you that we carry out these exercises at no detriment to any enrolled students. Students enrolled on any programme that we discontinue will be able to complete that programme within a reasonable timeframe and with all the necessary resources at their disposal. The School will communicate any anticipated changes with students as early as possible.