PhD in English

Carleton’s PhD program, The Production of Literature, is devoted to the study of the production, circulation, and reception of texts within and across established fields, historical periods, and genres. It addresses questions about what people understand by the idea of literature in different times and places, and why it matters; about who should have access to literature, either as readers or writers; about the power of literature to forge communities, and in doing so, to be a force for change; and about how these issues are mediated by the shaping influence of broader legal, technological, political, and social contexts.

Carleton’s PhD program recognizes the shaping power of cultural context for understanding the production of literature. It accommodates the rich inquiry opened up by book history, an interdisciplinary movement which investigates the book as a sociological object embedded in material practices, technological apparatuses, and everyday narratives. Studying social conditions across the spectrum of manuscript, print, and digital cultures enables us to understand how each historical moment constructs author, text, and reader differently. Carleton’s PhD encourages students to explore issues of literary production, circulation, and reception, and to consider the ways in which readers and writers modify their consumption of texts according to various social circumstances.

And yet, as the title of the PhD program is meant to suggest, literature not only is produced by culture, but also produces culture. Traditional scholarship regarded literature as interacting with the world in a narrowly mimetic fashion. With the advent of critical theory, the discipline of English studies now acknowledges literature’s involvement in producing and reproducing ideology. We cannot divorce the question of literature’s material conditions from its contribution to politics and the social imaginary–the ways in which a culture constructs subjectivity through gender, race, and class. Carleton’s PhD encourages students to interrogate literature’s complicity in and resistance to power relations, whether on a national, colonial, or global level.

For more information about our doctoral program click here.


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