British and Irish Literary Studies

PhD Concentration in British and Irish Literary Studies

Our concentration in British and Irish Literary Studies (BILS) offers concentrations in four areas:

  • Medieval Literature
  • Early Modern Studies
  • British and Irish Eighteenth and Ninteenth Literary Studies
  • Modern British Literature

The PhD in Language and Literature degree with a concentration in BILS requires 54 hours of coursework, comprehensive exams in three areas, a Foreign Language requirement, and a doctoral dissertation. Typically, PhD students have recently completed a Master’s degree in English with something in excess of 30 semester hours. The English department accepts up to 24 of those hours toward the PhD degree, leaving students 30 hours of regular course work to complete from the time of matriculation.  The PhD requires a minimum of four years of extended study to master a specific subject completely and to extend the body of knowledge about that subject. Applicants should already possess a Master’s degree in English or a related discipline. 

Note: Students who did graduate work in a discipline other than English likely will not transfer the full 24 hours to the PhD program. Such students will need to complete more than 30 hours of regular course work before moving on to the dissertation. The Associate Chair of Graduate Studies (ACGS) and the Committee on Studies (COS) determine the number of hours students are able to transfer to the PhD.

Required Coursework (for complete requirements, see the Graduate Handbook)
As explained above, PhD students must take 54 hours of course work before taking the Comprehensive Examinations and moving on to the dissertation. These hours must be distributed as follows:

Core Course (3 hrs)
Engl. 500:
Introduction to the Professional Study of English (3 hrs) (Must be taken in the first semester of graduate study)

Distribution Requirements (15 hrs)
Students must take 15 hours of coursework in Language, Theory, and Pedagogy, as described below.
Language and Theory (9 hrs) Students must take a total of nine hours from Language and Theory courses, at least three of which are from Language and three from Theory courses.
Language (at least 3 hrs from the following)
Engl. 541: English Grammar (3 hrs)
Engl. 545: History of the English Language (3 hrs)
Engl. 547: Old English (3 hrs)
Engl. 548: Beowulf and Other Topics (3 hrs)
Engl. 549: Middle English Language (3 hrs)

(at least 3 hrs from the following)
Engl. 510: Criticism and Theory (3 hrs)
Engl. 511: Special Topics: Criticism and Theory; Literacy and Cultural Movements (3 hrs)
Engl. 540: Topics in Language or Rhetoric (3 hrs)
Engl. 542: Major Texts in Rhetoric (3 hrs)
Engl. 543: Contemporary Texts in Rhetoric (3 hrs)
Engl. 610: Studies in Criticism and Theory (4 hrs)

Pedagogy (6 hrs)
Students must take six hours of pedagogy courses from the following or from approved substitutions in other departments. (All new Teaching Assistants, including those who have previous teaching experience or similar course work elsewhere, are required to take Engl. 537, which is offered every Fall semester, in the first semester they begin teaching at UNM.)
Engl. 535: Teaching Creative Writing (3 hrs)
Engl. 537: Teaching Composition (required of all new TAs) (3 hrs)
Engl. 538: Writing Theory for Teachers (3 hrs)
Engl. 539: Teaching Professional Writing (3 hrs)
Engl. 592: Teaching Literature (3 hrs)

Seminars (12 hrs)
All PhD students must take at least three four-hour seminars offered in the English Department; these seminars are often, but not always, in their fields of study.
Engl. 610: Studies in Criticism and Theory (4 hrs)
Engl. 640: Studies in Language and Rhetoric (4 hrs)
Engl. 650: Studies in British Literature (4 hrs)
Engl. 660: Studies in American Literature (4 hrs)
Engl. 680: Studies in Genre, Backgrounds, Forces (4 hrs)

Electives (24 hrs)
The required courses above total 30 hours; students who have transferred 24 hours from the MA into the PhD will have fulfilled the minimum course requirements, excluding dissertation hours, required for the degree. Students who need more course credits, should fulfill their remaining hours with approved graduate courses in English or related disciplines under the advisement of the COS and the ACGS. All 54 regular course requirements must be completed before enrolling for dissertation hours, Engl. 699.

Dissertation (no fewer than 18 hrs)

Engl. 699: Dissertation (3-12 hrs, no limit).

Foreign Language Requirement
With the approval of the ACGS and COS, PhD students may satisfy the language requirement in one of three ways.

  1. By demonstrating competence in two foreign languages. “Competence” can be demonstrated in one of several ways with a grade of B or better: through the second semester, second-year level in a language other than English; through a graduate-level reading course I in a language other than English; or through the second semester of a one-year sequence in Old English.

  2. By demonstrating fluency in one foreign language. “Fluency” can be demonstrated in one of several ways with a grade of B or better: through the second-semester, third-year level in a language other than English; or through a graduate-level reading course II in a language other than English.

  3. By combining competence in one foreign language with a similar competence in a research skill such as Computer Science or Statistics. Competence in the research skill can be established by the completion of a second-semester, second-year course with a grade of B or better.

Competence and Fluency can be demonstrated through course work from previous institutions, course work at UNM, and CLEP or UNM-administered language tests. The decision as to which research skills courses such as Computer Science and Statistics will satisfy the Department’s language requirements will be negotiated between the ACGS, COS, and appropriate faculty from other departments; other research tools may be approved in exceptional cases in which similar provisions must be made for rigorous academic study in the subject.

Note: Course credits for classes used to complete the language or research requirement cannot be counted toward the 54-hour requirement for regular course work.

Comprehensive Examinations
To ensure a thorough and broad knowledge of English as a discipline, the Department of English requires PhD students to take comprehensive examinations in three different fields. Under the advisement of the COS, PhD students should select their three fields of study early in the course of their doctoral program, so that they can take course work that enhances their understanding of their three fields.

Dissertation Prospectus and Its Defense
After passing the Comprehensive Examinations, PhD students must organize a Dissertation Committee, write and submit a Dissertation Prospectus, and successfully defend the prospectus before the Dissertation Committee. The prospectus defense must be completed no later than six calendar months after passing the Comprehensive Examinations.

The PhD Dissertation
A dissertation is a formal, scholarly document, seldom less than 150 double-spaced pages and often much longer, which makes an original contribution to its field and shows a professional mastery of academic methods and materials. Few dissertations are written in less than a calendar year. PhD students who are also Teaching Assistants commonly find that the process takes two years. UNM requires that students must complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation and defense, within five years of advancing to candidacy (i.e. passing the Comprehensive Examinations).

Between the ascension of the first Hanoverian king, George I (1714) and the death of Queen Victoria (1901), England underwent a series of cultural and literary transformations, marked by revolutions in science, politics, agriculture, industry, philosophy, and aesthetics. Georgian, Romantic, and Victorian literary forms and poetics underwent significant changes to meet the unique needs of a growing middle-class and eventually working-class reading public. The economy of literary production changed, so that writers such as Alexander Pope and Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Smith and Sir Walter Scott, and Charles Dickens and George Eliot could make a living by writing. New venues for the performing arts and new means of dissemination for prints, texts and eventually photographs made possible a vibrant popular culture. The new popular forms joined works by writers such as Samuel Johnson and Jane Austen, Lord Byron and Felicia Hemans, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, among many others. And new forms of literature were generated, such as musical comedy; amatory, gothic, and realist fiction; the Romantic lyric; the national tale; and the sensation novel.

This group provides a combination of current cultural studies approaches with traditional, generalist coverage of eighteenth- to nineteenth-century British/Irish literary periods. BIEN provides coverage of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British/Irish literary periods on the graduate level in survey courses and topics courses that provide thematic coursework based upon cultural studies and feminist/gender studies models. In particular the BIEN faculty specialize in the following genres: poetry of the Romantic Period, fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and theatre of the Georgian period.  We offer theory grounding in cultural studies, feminism, and space/place.  Topically, our areas of specialization include race, class, gender, women writers, popular culture, performance, the Gothic, economics and literature, empire, culture and revolution, and place/space/environment.  Recent graduate courses have included: “Passion and Danger, 1714-1814,” “Theatre and Jane Austen,” “Literature, Nature, Ecology,” “Writing Nature,” “Scandalous Victorians,” “Character and Crisis in Victorian Culture,” “Victorian Research Methods,” and “Dickens and the Deranged.”

BIEN faculty and graduate students have been active in organizing scholarly events around the department and on campus. Our activities have included hosting the national Aphra Behn Society Conference and the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers Conference. In 2011 we will help host the interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies Association conference. Since 2007 graduate students and BIEN faculty have participated jointly with Americanists in the department’s Nineteenth Century Group. We have sponsored speakers and lecture series, along with presentations of our own works-in-progress.

BIEN Faculty:

Professor Gary Harrison                              British Romanticism
Professor Gary Harrison, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, Professor of English and Presidential Teaching Fellow, began teaching at the University of New Mexico in Fall 1987, after graduating from Stanford University with a Ph.D. in English, specializing in British Romanticism. Gary has taught courses in British Romanticism, World Literature, Literature and Ecology, Literary Theory, and Literature and Medicine. Gary is the author of Wordsworth's Vagrant Muse (Wayne State 1994), a monograph on Wordsworth's poetry and the politics of poverty in the late eighteenth century, as well as several articles on literature and culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including essays on John Clare, William Wordsworth, Arthur Young, and Thomas Malthus, among others. He has published articles on pedagogy in literary studies, as well as on literature and ecology. He is co-editor of Western Literature in a World Context (St. Martins, 1994) and The Bedford Anthology of World Literature 2004, and The Bedford Anthology of World Literature Compact Edition (2009). He is working on a monograph on the nineteenth-century laboring class and self-taught poet John Clare, as well as on a manuscript on Romanticism and the Poetics of Acknowledgment.

At UNM, Gary has been involved in innovative pedagogy, and in collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching and curriculum development. In the early 1990's Professor Harrison helped design the curriculum for the Comparative Literature/Cultural Studies Program; and as Director of Undergraduate Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in English he has overseen several major curricular changes in English. Currently he serves as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.

Professor Gail Houston                                Victorian Literature and Culture
Currently Chair of the English Department, Gail Turley Houston received her Ph.D. from UCLA in 1990, specializing in Victorian Literature. She has written three books: Consuming Fictions: Gender, Class, and Hunger in Dickens's Fiction (SIUP: 1994), Royalties: the Queen and Victorian Writers (University Press of Virginia: 1999), and From Dickens to Dracula: Gothic, Economics, and Victorian Fiction (Cambridge UP, 2005) and numerous articles on Victorian topics, including, most recently:

“‘Pray don’t forget me my sweet little thing’: Charlotte Brontë’s Relationship with Ann Cook.” Brontë Studies. Forthcoming spring 2011.

“’Pretend[ing] a little’: The Play of Musement in Dickens’s Little Dorrit.Dickens Studies Annual 41. AMS Press, 2010.

Response to “Eating, Feeding, and Flesh: Food in Victorian Spiritualism” by Marlene Tromp. The Religion and Culture Web Forum September 2009. The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion. Divinity School of The University of Chicago. 10/01/09.

Review of The Pleasures of Benthamism: Victorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy. By Kathleen Blake. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Journal of British Studies, forthcoming 2011.

“Young Victoria.” Victorian Literature and Culture. Forthcoming, spring 2011.

Professor Houston’s teaching interests include the Brontës, Dickens, Victorian Fiction, 19th century women writers, and feminist and cultural studies approaches to literature. She has been a nominee for UNM Presidential Teaching Fellow and OSET Teacher of the Year and was named the Outstanding CASTL Teacher at UNM (one of only two awards given campus wide) in 2001. In 2009 she was named Outstanding Faculty Member by the English Department Graduate Students at the first annual English Graduate Student Association Award Ceremony.

Professor Aeron Hunt                                  Victorian Literature and Culture
Aeron Hunt joined the faculty in 2005 after completing her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Her publications include "Calculations and Concealments: Infanticide in Mid-Nineteenth Century Britain," which appeared in Victorian Literature and Culture in 2006, and "Open Accounts: Harriet Martineau and the Problem of Privacy in Early-Victorian Culture," which appeared in Nineteenth-Century Literature in 2007. She is currently at work on a book manuscript, "Personal Business: Character and Commerce in Victorian Literature and Culture." Her teaching interests include Victorian studies, gender studies, popular and mass culture, and historical approaches to literature.

Professor Carolyn Woodward                     Literature and Culture of the Georgian Period (1714–1800)
Professor Woodward has been teaching courses in Enlightenment, the early development of fiction, Jane Austen, and women writers since 1987, when she came to UNM from the University of Washington, where her doctoral work centered in the eighteenth century, narrative and feminist theory, and the writers Sarah Fielding, John Milton, and Jane Austen. Two recent articles deal with problematics of authorship as noted in certain eighteenth-century texts: "Sarah Fielding, The Modern Figure of the Author, and the Case of The Histories of Some of the Penitents of the Magdalen House" published in English: Journal of the English Association, and "Crossing Borders with Mademoiselle de Richelieu: Fiction, Gender, and the Problem of Authenticity" which appeared in Eighteenth-Century Fiction in 2004. Another article, "Jane Collier, Sarah Fielding, and the Motif of Tormenting" (The Age of Johnson, 2005), is part of her current book project, in which she considers the friendship, writing endeavors, and urban life that Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier shared in mid-eighteenth century London. In 2010 Professor Woodward will be one of thirteen featured presenters at the conference Sarah Fielding and Eighteenth-Century Women’s Writing, Chawton House Library, Chawton, Hampshire, U.K, with her presentation,“Sarah Fielding’s Adventures in Metafiction.”  Professor Woodward has been the recipient of an NEH Award. In 1992 she was a National Teaching Award Finalist from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and in 1989 she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year, receiving the Burlington Northern Award, at UNM.

Recent graduate student achievements and placement:

Robin Runia.  Dissertation:  "Hearkening to Whores: Reviving Eighteenth-Century Models of Sensible Writing."  2009.  San Angelo State, Texas (tenure track).

Johanna Cummings. Dissertation: "Entertaining Science: Innovation and Popular Politics in the Plays of Elizabeth Inchbald." 2006.

Mary Rooks.  Dissertation: “Clarissa’s Lessons: Space, Class, and Other Moral Matters in Richardson’s Eighteenth Century.”  2004.  Kent State University/Stark (tenure track)

Scott Rode. Dissertation: “Reading and Mapping Hardy's Roads." 2004. Texas A&M, Kingsville (tenure track)

Kristen Hague. Dissertation: “John Locke and Eighteenth-century Education for Women: the Didactic Novel as Lockean Education in the Fiction of Sarah Fielding and Charlotte Lennox." 2001. Mesa State College, Colorado (tenure-track)

SueAnn Schatz. Dissertation: "'I would not be a woman like the rest': Aurora Leigh and British Women's Domestic-Professional Fiction of the 1890's." 1999.  Lock Haven University, Pennsylvania (tenure-track)

Susan Cannata. Dissertation: "The Rhetoric of Middle-Class Sympathy in Dickens and His Imitators." 1999. Recipient of UNM's dissertation fellowship, 1997. University North Carolina, Pembroke (tenure-track)

Jan Wellington. "The Poems and Prose of Elizabeth Moody." 1997.  Utah Valley State College (tenure track)

English Department Graduate Handbook