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PhD in Literary Practice

The Warwick Writing Programme is now accepting applications for our new PhD in Literary Practice. Creative writing is beginning to take its place in the academy across Europe as well as in the Anglophone world. Taking a doctorate in a creative practice is a way of qualifying for a teaching and/or research career in higher education in the UK or elsewhere. You might also be interested in this degree if you want not only to complete a novel, short story, poetry collection or work of creative non-fiction with the supervision of well-known writers and teachers, but also to situate your own writing practice in relation to literary traditions, theories and new developments. PhD theses, albeit in creative form, will be founded on rigorous research, reflection and participation in academic life.

The Department of English and the Warwick Writing Programme came first in the UK in the last Research Excellence Framework. The Writing Programme is ‘the national centre of excellence for creative writing’ according to the Times/Sunday Times league table, in which we have come first for the last three years. We offer our PhD students the attention of our best writers and scholars; a place in our real and virtual spaces where writers at all stages of their careers listen and speak to each other; and all the artistic and scholarly resources of a world-leading university located between several exciting cities.

The structure of the PhD:

Over 3 or 4 years (full time) or up to 7 years (part time), you will write a thesis of between 80,000 and 100,000 words, consisting of two parts:

(i) an original creative work (a novel, a collection of stories, a collection of poetry, a work or collection of creative non-fiction) which must have been undertaken during the period of registration. Work undertaken prior to registration on the PhD course cannot be submitted as part of the thesis.

(ii) a critical essay demonstrating the cultural and intellectual context of the creative work. The ratio between the creative and the critical components will vary, but the creative part will in all cases be the longer; the standard ratio of creative to critical work will be 80:20. Variations on the 80:20 ratio may be negotiated, usually by writers of poetry, novellas or short story collections. The essay is a work of non-fiction prose that will be evaluated for its literary form as well as for the research presented. In some cases it may be desirable for a student to write a scholarly essay in academic prose, but generally we prefer the essay to take other forms. In all circumstances the essay should be no less than 20,000 and no more than 40,000 words (excluding references, appendices, and bibliography), according to the appropriate ratio, and must be of doctoral standard.

Parts (i) and (ii) of the research project must be comprehensively and convincingly integrated and the complete submitted project must reach the required standard of a PhD as outlined in the Department and the University’s standard regulations.

Teaching and supervisions:

Each student will have one or two supervisors, at least one of whom will be among the Professors and Associate Professors of the Warwick Writing Programme. You will meet with your supervisors, together or separately, at least once a month during the teaching year (if full time) or twice a term (part time). These meetings should normally be in person but may sometimes be conducted remotely when convenient to both parties. You will also have a personal tutor, whose role is pastoral. There is no taught component of this degree, but each student is invited to a one-to-one meeting with our subject librarian to explore resources for his or her project. Students will participate in the online research skills modules, seminars, talks and events provided for and by research students in the department.

How to apply:

You need a Master’s degree or equivalent in a subject related to your proposed project, with a grade of at least 65 or equivalent. We require two references from people familiar with your work and, if English was not the medium of instruction for your previous degrees, an IELTS score of at least 7.5 or equivalent. In exceptional circumstances we may be able to vary these conditions for applicants able to demonstrate compelling evidence of advanced writing experience and an awareness of the critical requirements of creative writing practice in an academic environment. This would require the submission of both creative and critical writing reaching at least the standards of MA level work.

It is recommended that you approach your preferred supervisor before submitting your application. Primary supervisors are Mr Will Eaves, Prof Maureen Freely, Prof David Morley, Prof Sarah Moss, Dr Jonathan Skinner and Prof Andrew Williams. We welcome interdisciplinary projects and will try to arrange co-supervisions beyond the Writing Programme where it is desirable and possible to do so.

You should prepare a detailed research proposal of 2500 – 4000 words, indicating:

• Research Aims

• Research Questions

• Research methodology and conceptual framework

• Research context

• Proposed outcomes (indicating novel or screenplay length, number of poems in a collection, and the balance of creative and critical components)

• Indicative Bibliography

A sample of creative work (5,000 – 10,000 words of prose or 20 – 25 single-spaced pages of poetry) should accompany all applications and should be in the genre proposed for PhD study. Places on the PhD will be awarded on the basis of the quality of the creative sample submitted, the strength and originality of the proposal (including the critical component), and the availability of suitable supervisors. Places will be offered in line with standard Department and University practice that suitably qualified academics normally act as primary supervisors for no more than a certain number of projects at any time. You can submit your application here:

Sarah Moss is the director and admissions officer of the programme, to whom queries may be addressed.