Carnegie Mellon University
Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies

Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies

The Ph.D. program in Literary and Cultural Studies (LCS) is distinguished by its energetic commitment to theoretical approaches linking literary and cultural artifacts to the historical and social contexts in which they are produced and consumed.

A small and intensely interactive learning community, we admit a small number of select masters students and no more than 3 Ph.D. students per year. The size of our program assures students of working closely with faculty in small seminars, as well as ample opportunities for mentoring outside the classroom.

Faculty provide professionalization experiences for students, such as workshops on writing publishable articles and preparing for the academic job market. Ph.D. students receive intensive training and mentoring in the teaching of writing and analytical reading skills. The high value we place on interdisciplinary collaboration opens doors for students to take classes and work with faculty and graduate students in other programs, most notably our sister program in Rhetoric. 

Literary and Cultural Studies offers its students a nurturing environment for intellectual exchange and collaboration.  A student-run colloquium series allows us to explore topics that are of keen, present interest within our community. Faculty and graduate students have access to lectures, workshops, reading groups, and performances hosted by the many interdisciplinary associations in which we participate, including the university’s Center for the Arts in Society and the Humanities Center, as well as the Pittsburgh Medieval-Renaissance Consortium, and the Pittsburgh Consortium for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Students in the program are part of a large research university with longstanding strengths in the performing arts, new media, and information technology. Within this context, some of the most pressing questions in the profession today--How are particular cultures organized around particular media or textual forms? To what extent are modernity and post-modernity defined by a particular view of knowledge, the individual and technology?—can be raised in startlingly concrete ways.

The Ph.D. program offers three main concentrations:

(1) Early Modern British Studies (Renaissance to Romanticism)

(2) 20th-and-21st American Literary and Cultural Studies

(3) Globalization and Transnational Studies

Early Modern British Studies

We offer specializations in early modern British literature and culture: the Renaissance, Seventeenth Century, Restoration, Eighteenth Century, and Romanticism are all traditional periods of English study in which students learn about a wide array of print and visual texts, as well as performances and events. The faculty support students in research practices and pedagogies that explore various paradigms for understanding the past and its relationship to the present.

We value historical, materialist approaches that contextualize the literary in the culture, politics, and aesthetics of the time period, but we also encourage students to experiment with different media and modes of representing history to audiences in the present, and to explore and interrogate the concept of a research archive and what goes into it. 

Hence, while we research and teach within the traditional chronological groupings of early modern English literature, faculty research and teaching intersect at points that focus students’ study of traditional, chronological periods on particular objects of study and theoretical frameworks for understanding them.

20th and 21st Century American Literary and Cultural Studies

The LCS program offers extensive investigation of 20th and 21st century literature and culture. We regularly teach courses in modern and contemporary fiction, film, television, and music, as well as in critical fields such as Marxism, media theory, African American studies, theories of modernity and identity, university studies, and working class studies. Overall, we focus on cultural, intellectual, and institutional history and how they make the culture we have.

Our faculty brings together diverse expertise in US literature and culture, film, music, and television, critical and cultural theory, African American literature and culture, postcolonial studies, globalization, working class studies, and critical university studies. Current and former graduates students have done innovative work on the history of American journalism, genre and contemporary American fiction, and radical higher education movements.

From thinking about how celebrity informs American culture, the intersection of globalization and technologies of mobility, student debt, K-12 education reform, and how race might be taught to high schoolers via the novel, each of us works to some degree in “the real world” as well as in the ivory tower.

Global and Transnational Studies

The LCS Program offers students the opportunity to develop expertise in global and transnational studies through interdisciplinary classes that combine literary and visual cultural analysis with historical and theoretical understandings.  Courses are regularly taught in culture and globalization, transnationalism, diaspora, the global renaissance, global feminism, postcolonial studies and colonial discourse studies. 

Students may develop a deeper, more worldly contextual knowledge by studying British and American cultural production within global contexts.  They may also focus on Anglophone texts emerging from the “global south” of South Asia, East Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.  

Faculty offer theoretical expertise in modernity studies, postcolonial studies, gender and sexualities, legal discourses, mobility studies, and immigration studies.  Special areas of expertise include South Asia, the South Asian diaspora, and Global Early Modern British Literature. Current and former graduate students have done exciting work on global human rights discourses, ethno-political discourses, transnational modernisms, 18th century travel literatures, and gender and sexuality in the diaspora

The City

The city of Pittsburgh, once the home of the nation's largest industrial production base, is also attractive to our students because of its remarkable working-class history and affordable cost of living. A number of cultural institutions within the city—such as the Andy Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory, the City and Quantum Theatres, and the Ground Zero collective—offer opportunities for engagement with a vibrant urban community.

Strong university links to local community groups through the Center for University Outreach also make Carnegie Mellon a productive place to think and act on important political and social issues.