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Creative Writing PhD and MLitt 




2 years Full-time/4 years Part-time - 70,000 words in length 


3 years (FT) / 6 years (PT) - 100,000 words in total 

It is expected that most Creative Writing PhDs at Durham will have a 50:50 weighting between a creative portfolio and a literary-critical dissertation; however, this ratio is negotiable as particular projects may require a different weighting, or the emphasis may change after the completion of initial research. 

During your three years of supervision you will produce a complete and coherent creative writing project in your chosen form, plus a literary-critical dissertation of a high academic standard. The nature and form of the creative project will vary from student to student, and the literary-critical dissertation may focus on any writer(s), and/or aspect(s) of creative literature and/or theoretical writing. It is expected that the literary-critical dissertation will be informed by your personal creative practice and process, but will not focus on it primarily. The creative and critical elements of your thesis should be viewed as complementary, in dialogue with one another, and forming a coherent whole that you will be asked to defend at the viva (oral examination) after submission. 

The research interests of the Creative Writing team within the department of English Studies lie in a broad range of nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first-century writing from English-language traditions and from literature in English-language translation. We welcome CW PhDs in poetry, the short story, innovative fiction, narrative non-fiction, memoir and life-writing, and hybrid forms of writing (the lyric essay, autofiction, conceptual poetry). Recent publications by members of the Creative Writing department include works exploring identity and self-expression; affect in writing, including manifestations of shame in contemporary poetry; feminist writing and theory; activist texts; musicality and orality in poetry; form in performance and form on the page; race and lyric subjectivity; hip hop studies; elegy; epistolary writing; uncreative writing, repurposing and appropriation. 

Creative Writing at Durham is housed in the English Department, which usually has about 75 PhD students at any one time. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 90% of the department’s research activity was judged to be ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent.’ As a teaching department, we are the highest rated department overall in the Complete University Guide 2018. The research expertise of the English Department includes the Reception of Classical Texts; Medieval Literature and culture; Renaissance Literature; Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century English literature; Romantic poetry, fiction, political writing and aesthetic theory; Victorian fin-de- siècle and Edwardian writing; Postmodernism, literary hermeneutics and ideas of authorship. 

  • You will be assigned principal and secondary supervisors with whom you will work out your research programme. We will be pleased to discuss your interests with you before you apply. 
  • You will be expected to meet with one of your supervisors every two weeks in term-time and every month out-of-term. 
  • Within eight months of your start date (or within sixteen months for part-time students) you will produce a piece of critical writing of 3,000 words, plus a portfolio of creative writing (3,000 words of prose, or six pages of poetry) which will be read by members of staff other than your supervisor(s) as a check on progress. 
  • Each July you will submit a joint annual progress report with your supervisor(s). 
  • You will submit either a PhD thesis (consisting of a portfolio of creative work of up to either 50,000 words of prose or 2,000 lines of poetry, plus a critical dissertation of up to 50,000 words) or an MLitt thesis (consisting of a portfolio of creative work of up to either 35,000 words of prose or 1,400 lines of poetry, plus a critical dissertation of up to 35,000 words). 
  • You will be examined by an internal and external examiner after you have submitted your thesis.

Entry requirements 

  • You will normally require a good honours degree (at least a 2:1) or its equivalent, and a Masters degree from a recognised University. 
  • A piece of recent written creative work approximately 4,000 words in length (for prose writers) or a sample of eight pages of poetry. The quality of each student’s Creative Writing (whether published or unpublished) will be evaluated on an individual basis, and may be considered in lieu of a Masters degree in some cases. 
  • Two positive academic or equivalent professional references. 
  • We welcome applications from overseas students, who should be proficient in spoken and written English: normally a minimum of 7.0 in IELTS (with no component less than 7.0) or equivalent in other language tests accepted by Durham. 
  • Application forms must be completed online.