Modern and Contemporary

The Faculty has particular expertise in the study of Modern and Contemporary Literature, including American Literature, World Literatures in English, theatre and performance, and the relationships between modern literature and visual culture, film and dance.

What do we do?

Our research extends across an impressively diverse range of materials and methodologies, encompassing the full breadth of modern and contemporary literatures. We have particular strengths in modernist and late modernist studies, ranging from major writers such as Woolf, Joyce, T. S. Eliot and J. M. Coetzee, to material print and publishing, and modernist experiments in dance, theatre, fine art and early film.  Textual scholarship, seen in the preparation of both scholarly and mass-market editions, and the study of the material book and publishing history, particularly on censorship, is another area of expertise.  Other areas of specialism include biography and life-writing, literature and the modern state, science and literature, drama and film, and postcolonial and world literatures. In recent years the Faculty has hosted the Leverhulme-funded ‘Planned Violence: Postcolonial Cities and Literature’ international network project on which Professor Elleke Boehmer was Principal Investigator.  We welcome enquiries from potential researchers who want to work in any area of modern and contemporary literature and culture.

Where next?

Please see the webpages of individual Faculty members for more information on recent publications and current research projects. We are happy to answer enquiries from potential graduate students and anyone else who is interested in our work.


At undergraduate level, the ‘Literature in English 1910 to present day’ paper allows first-year students to engage with the variety and richness of Anglophone writing across the world. Many students take the opportunity to develop their knowledge of the period in research essays for the final year papers 6 (Special Options) and 7 (Dissertation). Through a programme of lectures and seminars, we encourage every student to tackle major canonical texts and a wider diversity of writings right through to the contemporary cutting-edge of new writing.

At graduate level, the MSt programmes in English Literature and Language, 1900 to the Present, English and American Studies, and World Literature in English enable students to extend their knowledge of the post-1900 period through a broad choice of specialist courses with world-leading scholars. We also have many graduates studying for the DPhil (i.e. PhD) degree, who enjoy a vibrant research culture supported by Oxford’s unrivalled library resources.

The Faculty has a rich culture of interdisciplinary research and research networks, including ‘War, Literature and Culture’, ‘Writing 1900’, ‘Dance Scholarship Oxford’ (DANSOX), ‘Comparative Criticism and Translation’, and ‘Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’ (funded by a four-year grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council). Facilitated by TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), many of these networks enjoy interdisciplinary links with researchers and research projects in other Faculties. A host of lectures and seminars are organised by faculty members, including the Modern Literature Research Seminar, Literature and Visual Culture, Postcolonial Writing and Theory, the Twentieth Century Poetry Reading Group, and the American Literature Research Seminar. Many of the most influential theatre professionals and playwrights have given lectures, seminars and masterclasses, as Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor or Humanitas Visiting Professor of Drama, including Sir Tom Stoppard, David Edgar, Vanessa Redgrave, Meera Syal, Simon Russell Beale, Athol Fugard, Kevin Spacey and Patrick Marber.  Contemporary writing is also often at the centre of lectures given by the Professor of Poetry, currently Simon Armitage, and by the Weidenfeld Professor of Comparative Literature, a post held by such luminaries as Marina Warner, Ali Smith, Mario Vargas Llosa and Umberto Eco.

There have been many international conferences and symposia hosted by the Faculty, including those on: Edward Thomas; Sylvia Plath; J. M. Coetzee; Modern Book History; Cinema and Modernism; Modernism and Visual Culture; Colonial and Post-colonial Cultures of the Book; Literature and Philosophy; Global Book History; and Writers, Rights and Institutions.

List of site pages