Since its founding the English Department at the University of Chicago has committed to questioning and reformulating the basic principles of literary study. Once famous for the Aristotelian Chicago School of criticism of the 1950s, today the Department, ranked first among English departments in the US, stands out for its interdisciplinary approach to literature and its commitment to close reading combined with historical and conceptual analysis.
Our coverage of chronological fields extends from the medieval era to the twenty-first century, and includes a wide variety of subfields, media, and genres, including graphic narrative, comics, and video games, theatre, cinema, and visual culture, poetry and poetics, fiction and nonfiction, gender and race studies, literary and cultural theory, global Anglophone writing, animal and posthuman studies, psychoanalysis and affect studies, ecocriticism and climate change. Graduate workshops offer students and faculty opportunities to share work in progress and to read, hear, and discuss current work by scholars from other institutions. The department also supports three distinguished journals, Modern Philology, Critical Inquiry, and Chicago Review, the last of which is run by our graduate students. A vibrant new major in Creative Writing offers students the opportunity to develop their talents in poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, and digital media, as well as to participate in an ongoing program of readings and workshops with visiting writers.
2024-25 Admission Theme: Media Aesthetics
The next area of focus for the University of Chicago’s Department of English is "Literary Worlds and Worldings." This area will be our focus for the next three years, with each year emphasizing a different subset of this broad theme.
For the 2023-2024 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants planning to focus on media aesthetics: literary, aesthetic, and cultural approaches to media and mediation. We are particularly interested in applicants whose intellectual projects engage with one or more of the following: media aesthetics; medium specificity; adaptation and comparative media; new and old media; game studies; literary settings and environments; theatrical scenes, sets and contexts; atmospherics; book history; trans-media; electronic literature; and artistic media including performance. We also welcome hybrid scholars working in creative and critical work in and across media, or public humanities and public facing work that foregrounds mediation.
Future Admissions Themes
Year 2 (2025–26): Environmental, ecological, and/or spatial matters, including eco-aesthetics, built environments and literature, geography and urbanization, and environmental e/affects. Prospective students might also consider connections to the Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization.
Year 3 (2026–27): Transnational literature, migration, and movement, including decolonial literatures, speculative fictions, the movement of cultural meaning, and translation.