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MPhil/PhD in English Language and Literature
Students accepted for admission are given a principal supervisor with whom the student will work closely during the course of the degree. A subsidiary supervisor is also appointed to provide additional advice. Great importance is attached to matching student and supervisor, and ensuring that students' progress is well monitored. Students meet either one or other supervisor approximately ten times during the academic year. The Department is eager to ensure PhD completion rates within four years, and therefore operates end-of-year interviews as well as offering when possible at least one Fourth Year Fellowship which provides funds for students writing up.
There are normally about 45 students undertaking research degrees in the department. Graduate students initially register for the MPhil degree, but usually in the second year, when a realistic and workable topic has been agreed between student and supervisor, and work-in-progress and a future plan have been discussed, students are upgraded from MPhil to PhD status.
Students are expected to complete the PhD within four years of registration, and the minimum period of registration is two years. Under certain conditions (as set out in the UCL Graduate School site) research can be undertaken on a part-time basis. Students work closely with their supervisors, and also participate in the research seminars run by the Department, the Graduate School, and the Institute of English Studies at the University of London. Research is expected to take students into numerous libraries, archives and databases, not only within London, but also throughout Britain, and indeed further afield. When completed and submitted, the thesis is defended in an oral examination.
The Department places great emphasis on the need to provide opportunities for students to discuss their work and to learn new research methods. New research students attend a weekly seminar on essential skills, ranging from the use of libraries and bibliographies to new database and computing skills. Further introductory research seminars are run by the UCL Graduate School, and by the University of London's Institute of English Studies.
In addition, several other seminars, informal as well as formal, are held within the Department. The main formal seminar series is organised by the Graduate Tutor and the President of the Graduate Society and invites speakers from within and outside the Department to present papers on a wide variety of topics. Other seminar series and discussion groups are run by graduates, and include opportunities to try out early versions of work-in-progress.
The Department also hopes to offer many graduates the opportunity of doing a limited amount of teaching, either of seminars or tutorials or both, normally in the students' second year of research.
The English Department has its own Graduate Common Room where students can meet informally.
Graduate students organise a one-day conference each year; many of the papers delivered at the conference are published in Movable Type, the Department's graduate-led online journal.
Graduate students have organised highly successful summer workshops for Year 12 school students, supported by funding from UCL and the University of London.
Graduate students from the Department have an excellent record
of securing full-time posts in British institutions of higher education.
A number of UCL English graduates regularly publish and review in
journals while completing their research. The Department's complement
of journal and series editors and the contacts of its experienced
faculty are an invaluable asset to students.
UCL English Research Specialisms and Resources
The Department offers MPhil/PhD supervision in a wide range of topics, including English and English-related language and literature from Old English to the present day. Some specialisms among members of staff in which the Department would particularly welcome applications are: the history of the English language; corpus linguistics; world Englishes; London in literature; Old and Middle English manuscript studies;relations between English and insular and continental French writings from the 13th to the 15th centuries; post-medieval bibliography and palaeography; history of the book, textual and editorial theory and practice in all periods; Shakespeare studies, including Shakespeare’s London; the literature of the Elizabethan court; women writers of the 16th and 17th centuries; classicism in 17th- and 18th-century literary culture; literature and science in the 17th and 18th centuries; revolutionary writings in the Romantic period; Anglo-German literary and cultural relations in the Romantic and Victorian periods; 19th-century publishing history; Victorian and Edwardian fiction, including children’s literature; the history and theory of consumer culture; Freud and psychoanalysis in literary culture; homosexuality and literary history; literature and technology in late 19th-century and early 20th-century literature; Victorian and Edwardian writings on sexuality and adolescence; 19th- and 20th-century magazine publishing.
For many of the specialisms listed above, the UCL Library has relevant book and manuscript holdings in its excellent Special Collections department. Among these are the George Orwell Archive; Little Magazines; the Routledge and Kegan Paul Archives (publishing history); the Brougham Papers and papers of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (19th-century liberalism); the Chadwick Papers (19th-century sanitary reform); the Karl Pearson Papers (eugenics). The UCL Library also has superb holdings in London history. For language topics the Department is especially well placed, as it houses the world-renowned Survey of English Usage.
The UCL English Department has entered into a collaborative partnership with colleagues at the Victoria and Albert Museum to encourage the study at graduate level of literary and material resources at the Museum. The National Art Library at the V&A is extremely strong in collections of children’s literature, holds the rich manuscript and book collections of two nineteenth-century writers and editors, John Forster and Alexander Dyce, and has a huge collection of graphic novels, among other holdings. The V&A’s Museum of Childhood has an unparalleled collection of toys and material connected with the history of the subject, while the Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior enhances the study of furnishings and furniture in the Museum. We wish to encourage intending graduate students of the UCL English Department to choose a research topic which has at its heart the study of books, manuscripts, illustrations, and artefacts in the V&A. An introductory tour of the National Art Library’s collections will be conducted by V&A staff and UCL supervisors.
We welcome new applications to do research using archival material in the V&A, in particular the children's book collections and the history of the book.
For details of the National Art Library’s holdings see the V&A’s website.
Other London archives with manuscript and rare book resources relevant to the Department’s research interests include the University of London Research Library Services, British Library, Guildhall Library, London Library, library of the London School of Economics, Dr Williams’s Library, library of the Victoria and Albert Museum, archives of the Royal Society, the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University, and many more.
Selected list of current students' research topics
Depictions of chance in post-war fiction
Modern poetry: the Objectivists and the New York School
The language of advertising: a corpus-based study
Middle English lyric poetry
Tennyson and after
Modernism and the melancholic paradigm
South-Asian diaspora writing in Britain and America
The late non-fiction writing of Henry James
The genealogy of poetry: elegies for poets since 1939
Gift-exchange in Old English Literature
Knowledge and learning in Anglo-Saxon Royal Courts
John Lydgate's Life of Our Lady
Infanticide in Tudor and early Stuart England
Shakespeare's Domestic Tragedies
Milton's Latin and Italian poetry