The recent online dispute concerning white-nationalist appropriation of medieval symbols, in particular the harassment, threats against, and demeaning of an untenured scholar of color during that dispute, serves as a stark reminder that our academic pursuits do not exist in isolation from the hate, racism, and violence that continue to play a powerful role in US politics and in the social and legal arrangements that endanger the safety and well-being of people of color throughout the country. We wish to reaffirm that our role as scholars and educators centrally includes the fostering of a culture of inclusiveness and mutual respect that prizes our diversity rather than seeing it as a threat. Such a culture depends on a willingness to listen carefully to other viewpoints, and to engage critically with them, in ways that respect norms of reasoned argument and the use of evidence. Particularly in the context of emotionally and politically charged issues, it is crucial to respect the right to freely express and argue for one’s views, especially when they are controversial or run counter to popular opinion. But when disagreement takes such forms as bullying, racially charged attacks, and the glorification of violence against those with whom one differs, then speech is no longer primarily a matter of the expression of ideas, viewpoints, or opinions, and an invocation of the right to free speech is a distraction from the real issue. There is a crucial difference between speech that makes claims and articulates ideas, and speech that demeans, intimidates, or harms others. Such hostility has no place in academic life. It is our responsibility as scholars not only to condemn and repudiate hatred expressed in speech and other forms of action, but to model forms of discussion that manage criticality in a spirit of open inquiry, committed to acknowledging and thinking through the difficult histories and difficult present in which we are all embedded.
Lauren Berlant, Adrienne Brown, Bill Brown, Timothy Campbell, James Chandler, Rachel Cohen, Rachel DeWoskin, Maud Ellmann, Frances Ferguson, Rachel Galvin, Edgar Garcia, Elaine Hadley, Baird Harper, Timothy Harrison, Patrick Jagoda, Heather Keenleyside, Janice Knight, Loren Kruger, Ellen MacKay, Mark Miller, W.J.T. Mitchell, Benjamin Morgan, John H. Muse, Deborah Nelson, Sianne Ngai, Julie Orlemanski, Srikanth Reddy, Lawrence Rothfield, Lisa Ruddick, Benjamin Saltzman, Zachary Samalin, Jennifer Scappettone, Joshua Scodel, David Simon, Eric Slauter, Christopher Taylor, Sonali Thakkar, Vu Tran, Kenneth Warren, John Wilkinson, Lynn Xu
The Department of English at the University of Chicago has played an important role in the transformation of literary studies over the past half-century. Our faculty and students have participated centrally in the rethinking and reshaping of the discipline. The intellectual horizons of our current work continue that effort, creating a rigorous and exciting intellectual environment for our students.
The PhD program prepares students for independent work as teachers, scholars, and critics by developing their abilities to pose and investigate problems in the advanced study of literatures in English. The program consists of four major components: coursework, teaching, fields exams, and the dissertation. Together, these elements introduce students to a wide variety of textual modes, critical methodologies, and historical/cultural questions; provide extensive practice in research, discussion, argument, and writing; and develop pedagogical skills.
The Joint PhD Program in Theater & Performance Studies (TAPS) allows students to complement their doctoral studies in English with academic and artistic work in Theater & Performance Studies. Please visit the TAPS graduate program website for additional information on the joint program.