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Home / Introduction to Graduate Programs / Doctorate in English / Writing, History, and Theory (WHiT) Doctoral Concentration

Writing, History, and Theory (WHiT) Doctoral Concentration

The Writing History and Theory (WHiT) doctoral concentration addresses writing in all of its aspects, including its material bases—its diverse technologies, sites, and economies; its conventions, forms, and pedagogies; and its practices and uses, both contemporary and historical. WHiT thus seeks to bridge the divide between “Literature” and “Rhetoric and Composition” that has traditionally marked advanced study in English. Through coursework and advanced scholarship, students who pursue this concentration investigate a variety of writing practices, historicizing them in sophisticated ways and relating them to dominant strands in literary, cultural, and rhetorical theory. WHiT courses emphasize the relationships among texts and the larger social, economic, and political contexts in which they are produced and circulate, exploring, for instance, the legal infrastructure of creative production; the origins, uses, and revisions of generic forms; the remediation of texts; and the material practices of invention, dissemination, and display.

For further details about the WHiT Concentration, contact Kurt Koenigsberger, Director of Graduate Studies, .

Program of Study

For doctoral students, the WHiT concentration offers preparation not only for an academic job market that is increasingly calling on them to teach in a number of areas (composition, literature, rhetoric, visual studies, and creative and professional writing), but also for professional positions outside the academy.

Graduate students pursuing the Ph.D. who are interested in the Writing History and Theory concentration should consult the WHiT Advisor in the English Department, usually in the first year of study beyond the MA. (Students from Departments other than English should begin by consulting advisors and chairs in their home departments about taking WHiT courses under the Fellowship Tuition option or about pursuing an Individual Multidisciplinary Degree. See pp. 14-15 of the Graduate Student Handbook.)

In addition to general doctoral program requirements (in English, see, students complete a core course in “Writing History and Theory” (English 501) and four additional courses, at least one in each of three focus areas: Theories of Language, Rhetoric, and Discourse; Histories of Writing and Material Culture; and Writing Praxis.


Core Course:

ENGL 501: Writing History and Theory

Introduces general research methods and theories specific to the study of writing.


Elective Courses:

Choose 4 courses, at least 1 in each focus area


Area 1: Theories of language, rhetoric, and discourse

Courses in this area emphasize the in-depth treatment of one or more essential theoretical approaches to writing.

For example:

  • Classical/Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
  • Rhetoric of Science
  • Visual Rhetoric
  • Medical Rhetoric
  • Discourse Analysis/Stylistics
  • Gender & Language


Area 2: Histories of writing and material culture

Courses in this area examine writing and reading as material, historically situated practices. For example:

  • Construction of Authorship
  • New Media Studies
  • History of the Book
  • Digital Media
  • Cultures of Exhibition
  • Print Culture Studies


Area 3: Writing praxis

Courses in this area explore the production of texts in their contemporary cultural, historical, and technological contexts and have a special focus on the intersections of theory and practice, including the teaching of writing.

For example:

  • Professional/Disciplinary Writing: Theory & Practice
  • History of Reading, Writing, & Instruction
  • Editorial and Publishing Practices
  • Writing for New Media
  • Document Design Principles
  • ESL & Basic Writing Pedagogy
  • Advanced Creative Writing Seminars