English Graduate students at the PhD level can elect to focus their research in Writing History and Theory (WHiT) as part of their degree program. Students pursuing a WHiT doctoral research emphasis work closely with faculty to ensure that their work fulfills the aims of the WHiT Rationale. WHiT students select courses, define exam areas and build reading lists, and design dissertation projects that represent scholarly interventions in the history, theory, and practice of writing in all of its aspects.

WHiT Rationale: The Writing History and Theory (WHiT) doctoral emphasis 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. Students who pursue this emphasis investigate a variety of writing practices, historicizing them in sophisticated ways and relating them to dominant strands in literary, cultural, and rhetorical theory. WHiT projects emphasize the relationships among texts and the larger social, economic, and political contexts in which they are produced and circulated, 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.

The WHiT research emphasis prepares doctoral students for an academic job market that calls on them to teach in a number of areas (composition, literature, linguistics, technical writing) and demonstrate familiarity with digital forms of scholarship. It also anticipates alternative academic and non-academic markets in which graduates will profit from a broad and deep understanding of the history and theory of writing practices.