Students Staff

Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies

English and Comparative Literature

Wall of colourful books

PhD study

AHRC funding

PhD student in library

Apply for a PhD studentship for your doctoral study funded by the Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Our research is internationally recognised across a wide range of specialisms in English, comparative, and world literature, including American, Caribbean, and European literature, Early Modern and Renaissance literature, Romanticism, translation studies and adaptation, as well as colonial and postcolonial literatures.

As a PhD student in our department, you will be part of an active and interdisciplinary research community in which graduate students and staff work together in a creative and intellectually challenging environment.

We run weekly research seminars with speakers invited from UK and abroad, as well as regularly hosting major conferences. Our research students also organise and present at our annual PhD conference.

A variety of scholarships and funding for postgraduate study are available.

PhD routes

We offer a range of routes for PhD study.

  • PhD Literature

    A PhD in literature allows you to conduct original research on a subject of your choice.

    The minimum duration for our PhD Literature is three years of full-time study or six years part time. Assessment is on the basis of a thesis (80,000 words maximum).

    We normally require a good BA honours degree and a Masters degree, or equivalent, in a relevant discipline. You need to demonstrate a capacity to conduct independent research and are required to submit a detailed research proposal. You attend regular supervisory board meetings throughout your doctoral study where the progress of your work is assessed.

    Read the full course description on our course finder:

  • Other research degrees

    MPhil Literature

    Our MPhil Literature can be taken full-time over two years or part time over a four-year period and is assessed on the basis of a thesis (40,000-60,000 words maximum). We normally require a good BA in a relevant discipline and you must demonstrate your capacity to conduct independent research, and submit a detailed research proposal.

    MA Literature by Dissertation

    Our MA Literature by dissertation is assessed on the basis of a dissertation of 30,000 words, which is submitted at the end of a period of one year full time or two years of part time study. You must have a good first degree in a relevant discipline, demonstrate your capacity for independent research and submit a detailed research proposal. Admission to our MA by dissertation will only be considered if your proposed field of study is not covered by our other taught MA schemes, or if your circumstances make undertaking a taught MA unsuitable.

We accept PhD students in all areas in which our academic staff are researching.

  • Supervision areas

    Our literature staff and research interests include:

    • Dr Sanja Bahun - Modernism, comparative and world literature, psychoanalysis, women’s and gender studies, the arts and transitional justice
    • Dr Leon Burnett - comparative literature, modern European poetry, literary translation, myths and legends, and Russian literature 1820-1940
    • Professor Maria Cristina Fumagalli - Caribbean literatures, art and cinema, border studies, contemporary poetry, Derek Walcott, postcolonial studies
    • Professor John Gillies - Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, the cultural poetics of space and place
    • Professor Richard Gray - US literature, the American south, William Faulkner
    • Professor Peter Hulme - Caribbean literature, history and anthropology, travel writing, postcolonial studies, literature and the environment
    • Dr Karin Littau - film adaptation, intermediality, comparative literature, translation studies, silent cinema, history of reading
    • Dr Roger Moss - self-reflexive fiction, rhetoric, Modernism, turn-of-the-century and modernist representations of the “homosexual”
    • Dr Susan Oliver - Romantic period, Scottish literature, transatlantic literature, nature writing and ecocriticism
    • Dr Jak Peake - Caribbean literature, African American literature, black British writing, postcolonial and colonial writing, ecocriticism
    • Dr Owen Robinson - literature and culture of the American south, contemporary US literature, cultural geography
    • Dr Deirdre Serjeantson - Early Modern literature, Petrarchism, Irish and Scottish writing in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, manuscript studies
    • Professor Marina Warner - fairy tales, myth, gender, comparative literature, the Arabian Nights
    Joint supervision

    Our department offers a broad range of research expertise and we welcome applications for doctoral study involving joint supervision with drama and theatre studies, film studies, and creative writing.

    Current PhD theses

    Our list of current doctoral researchers shows the wide range of critical and creative practice projects being carried out in our department.

AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership

The University of Essex is a member of CHASE: Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England, which has over 375 fully-funded PhD studentships to award over the next five years funded by the Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC) and the seven CHASE partner institutions. Applicants for doctoral study in literature at Essex can apply to CHASE for AHRC studentships through our department and we will work closely with you on your application.

Postgraduate modules

New PhD students often take our Research Methods in Literary and Cultural Analysis module as an introduction to both practical and theoretical aspects of research study in literature, film, theatre studies, and creative writing. You are also welcome to sit in on other MA modules relevant to your research with the approval of the seminar teacher.

Professional teaching experience

We employ many of our research students as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA). These paid positions are valuable opportunities for professional development and give you experience of teaching and marking essays at undergraduate level, a significant advantage when applying for academic positions.

Professional skills development

Our University’s Proficio scheme helps to develop your skills and knowledge and increase your employability potential for careers in academia and industry by providing specialist training across a range of areas including researching and managing your PhD, presenting your work and getting published.

Languages for All

Reading texts in their original language can be a real advantage for postgraduate research. Our Languages for All scheme allows you to study a language alongside your course at no extra cost.

Fees and scholarships

Fees and scholarships

Find about our fees and scholarships. If you would like any further information or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

PG events

Book a place at a postgraduate event to find out about studying at a top 20 UK research university. Staff will be available to answer your questions and you can speak to students about life at Essex.

Our academic staff

Our academic staff

Our academic staff are internationally recognised for their expertise across literature, film, creative writing and drama. Find out more by reading their staff profiles.

Doctoral training


Proficio is our innovative doctoral training scheme. Our University gives you funding to spend on a variety of courses, from research skills to personal development and career management.