Course information

Length

3-4 years full-time or 4-6 years part-time

Course overview

Explore critical theory in its historical and contemporary modalities on the Goldsmiths MPhil/PhD in Literary and Critical Theory.

The Department of English and Comparative Literature offers a stimulating environment for undertaking postgraduate research in critical theory and, more broadly, the relationship between philosophy, literature, and other cultural forms. 
 
Originally designating a group of thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School, "critical theory" has expanded to encompass a range of approaches committed to reflecting on the premises and categories employed in disciplines ranging from literary studies and political science to history and film studies. By nature interdisciplinary, critical theory has become an integral part of literary theory and cultural analysis, as well as the study of philosophy and political thought. 
 
The MPhil/PhD Pathway in Literary and Critical Theory enables postgraduate researchers to explore topics in any aspect of critical theory, from its emergence in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the work of Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche, to the critiques of modern capitalism and fascism developed in the twentieth century by the Frankfurt School and others, to contemporary modes of critical theory including critical race theory, postcolonial theory, feminist theory, gender studies and queer theory, eco-criticism, psychoanalysis, and various approaches developing out of structuralism and post-structuralism. 
 
Undertaking research in critical theory at Goldsmiths enables postgraduate researchers to take advantage of the unique resources available in the Department of English and Comparative Literature as well as in the College at large. 
 
The Department is home (together with Sociology) to the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought (cpct.uk), which runs an annual research seminar, and hosts numerous public lectures, workshops, and conferences throughout the year. CPCT also hosts the Annual Goldsmiths Philosophy Lecture. Pathway researchers have the opportunity to become CPCT affiliates and lead workshops related to their research. 
 
Through CPCT, the Department is also the base for the Walter Benjamin London Research Network, which regularly organises international conferences and supports student-led initiatives on all aspects of Benjamin's work.
 
Researchers also have the opportunity to play an active role in other aspects of the Department's research environment, including the Richard Hoggart Lectures in Literature and Culture, the Goldsmiths Literature Seminars (GLITS), and the e-journal, GLITS-e, and the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies; and to take advantage of the many public events run by  research units elsewhere in the College such as the Centre for Postcolonial Studies and the Political Economic Research Centre. 
 
Recent and current PhD projects include: "uncriticizability" from Goethe to Benjamin; critique of "journalistic reason" in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Benjamin; the liminal image in Warburg, Benjamin, and Didi-Huberman; Surrealism and the "secret society" in the history of political thought; Foucault and Zen Buddhism; Günther Anders and critique of technology in early critical theory; theories of the non-place in language and psychoanalysis; Kafka and language mysticism.
 
Assessment is by thesis and viva voce.
 
Find out more about research degrees at Goldsmiths, and about our staff and their specialisms and expertise. 
 
North American applicants especially should note that the British system does not include preparatory taught classes or examinations as part of the MPhil/PhD programme, except for an initial course in research methods.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Maria Macdonald

Entry requirements

You should normally have (or expect to be awarded) a taught Masters in a relevant subject area. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

International qualifications

We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 7.0 with a 7.0 in writing to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

Fees, funding & scholarships

To find out more about your fees, please check our postgraduate fees guidance or contact the Fees Office, who can also advise you about how to pay your fees.

Additional costs

In addition to your tuition fees, you'll be responsible for any additional costs associated with your course, such buying stationery and paying for photocopying. You can find out more about what you need to budget for on our study costs page.

There may also be specific additional costs associated with your programme. This can include things like paying for field trips or specialist materials for your assignments. Please check the programme specification for more information.

Funding opportunities

Find out more about postgraduate fees and explore funding opportunities. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

AHRC studentships

The Department of English and Comparative Literature sometimes offers fee waivers for this programme.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you'll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • Contact details of a second referee
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online

          Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)
  • Details of your research proposal

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

Before you apply for a research programme, we advise you to get in touch with the programme contact, listed above. It may also be possible to arrange an advisory meeting.

Before you start at Goldsmiths, the actual topic of your research has to be agreed with your proposed supervisor, who will be a member of staff active in your general field of research. The choice of topic may be influenced by the current research in the department or the requirements of an external funding body. 

If you wish to study on a part-time basis, you should also indicate how many hours a week you intend to devote to research, whether this will be at evenings or weekends, and for how many hours each day.

Research proposals

Along with your application and academic reference, you should also upload a research proposal at the point of application. 

This should be in the form of a statement of the proposed area of research and should include: 

  • delineation of the research topic
  • why it has been chosen
  • an initial hypothesis (if applicable)
  • a brief list of major secondary sources

How detailed a research proposal are we looking for on the application form? 
Obviously what you put on the form and exactly what you end up researching may be rather different, but in order to judge whether or not to offer you a place, the Department needs to know whether you have the broad outlines of a viable project. This means:

  • a project that is both worthwhile and interesting, but not over-ambitious
  • a project that can realistically be achieved within the confines of PhD on a full-time (4 years typically) or part-time (6 years maximum) basis
  • we need to be sure that you have thought about it carefully and are fully committed to the research
  • we need to be sure that you understand what is involved in doing a PhD
  • your research proposal should give us enough information to be able to interview you (if you are in the UK) or reach a decision as to whether to admit you if you are not based in the UK

When to apply 

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for external funding from one of the Research Councils, make sure you submit your application by the deadline they've specified. 

Selection process 

If your degree is in an unrelated field, you may be considered subject to a qualifying interview and/or submission of sample essays.

Find out more about applying.

Careers

Skills

You'll develop transferable skills, including:

  • enhanced communication and discussion skills in written and oral contexts
  • the ability to analyse and evaluate different textual materials
  • the ability to organise information
  • the ability to assimilate and evaluate competing arguments

Careers

  • Publishing
  • Journalism
  • Public relations
  • Teaching
  • Advertising
  • The civil service
  • Business
  • Media

Research training programme

Training in research methods and skills is provided both by the department and Goldsmiths' Graduate School. This begins with an intensive week-long induction in the first week of enrolment and continues later in the first term with a series of seminars focussing on the specific challenges of literary and linguistic research projects. The department will also inform you about any research training seminars or study-days offered elsewhere in the University of London (for exmaple, by the Institute of English Studies or the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study) or beyond, such as at the British Library. The specific training requirements of your project will be assessed, and guidance provided on specialist seminars and conferences to attend, which can be supported where possible by assistance from departmental funds.

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