Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the Sociology of Literature


  • Do you think there are instances of literary works anticipating future trends, but without there being a causal link?
  • Do you believe literature can be used to influence its own times and perhaps the future?
  • Alternatively, if a given society wants to impose its religious or ideological standpoint on authors, do you believe the latter safeguard and express their independence?

The Warnborough PhD in the Sociology of Literature looks at how literature has shaped and changed society over the ages.

The graduate program in the Sociology of Literature is suitable for students who intend to develop professional careers in a wide range of settings. The rigorous intellectual training that literary analysis provides has value and appeal to employers in areas such as: teaching (most likely at the college level), course development and curricula design, research, civil service, local government, charities, information technology, solicitor’s firms, publishing, journalism etc.

Should we study a society in order to understand literature better or should we study literary works to learn about the society or age in which they were written?

Individual modules may either be combined with those from other programs, or transferred to other institutions with approval. The College does not exclude viable alternative themes proposed by students, subject to mentor and College approval.

Students should submit any six papers (of between 7,000 to 8,000 words each) from the following topic areas. Students may suggest other acceptable topics, subject to the approval of the mentor and the University. The writers or literary works considered may be from different geographical areas or periods.

1. The Impact of Society on Literature (20 credits):

(a) The impact of society on literature.
(b) Literature and the environment from which it emerges.

2. Literature and Symbolism (20 credits):

Literary works, both in terms of style and content, as repositories of:
(a) the symbolism of the collective imagination of a given age,
(b) a society’s changing codes and symbols.

3. Literature as a means of communication (20 credits):

(a) To what extent literature is or has been affected by its role as a means of communication.
(b) The historical, evolving nature of aesthetic value.

4. Literature and national identity (20 credits):

.(a) Literature as a vehicle for defining and spreading national culture/identity and/or political or
religious views..
(b) Literature’s relationship with the prevailing ideology (e.g. political and/or religious).
In each of the above sections, a paper may be written on (a) or (b), or both.

5. Literature and the “spirit of the age” (20 credits) :

Literature as an expression of the Hegelian “zeitgeist” or “spirit of the age”.

6. Literature and causal factors (20 credits):

Literature: (a) a “passive” mirror of past and present,
(b) an “active” contemporary or future influence,
(c) foreshadowing future trends, but without a causal link.
Students may select any one of these options, or any combination.

7. Evaluating Literary Texts (20 credits):

Evaluating a literary text in its historical context or as an autonomous work.

8. Literature and Society (20 credits):

The study of a society in order to better understand literature or the converse.

9. The Social Functions of Literature (20 credits):

10. Dissertation (40 credits):

Of between 30,000 to 40,000 words, on any topic, subject to the mentor’s approval.
Upon satisfaction of all requirements and submissions required, students will be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the Sociology of Literature.

The Program will be conducted by distance learning, through self-paced research under the guidance of a mentor.

Dr Noor Giovanni Mazhar
Dr Mazhar’s degree in Italian (London) was followed by an MPhil(London) on Giacomo Zanella: his poetica, poetry and historical significance. Dr Mazhar’s PhD (Liverpool) on the “Catholic Attitudes to Evolution in Nineteenth-Century Italian Literature” was published, in Venice, by the Veneto Institute of Sciences, Letters and Arts. His research interests include: literary criticism, Science-Faith issues, the History of Ideas in a literary context and the role of literature in relation to society, science, philosophy and theology.