Textual Studies Program

Contact | Introduction | Application | Doctoral Program Requirements | Participating Faculty and Additional Background


Co-Director: Raimonda Modiano (modiano@uw.edu)
Co-Director: Jeffrey Todd Knight (jtknight@uw.edu)


Textual studies encompasses a broad set of disciplines in the arts and humanities concerned with the production, circulation, and reception of texts in material form. From memory to written record, manuscript to book, cuneiform tablet to tablet PC, textual studies comprehends the products of literary and documentary culture in diachronic terms, and meaning as inseparable from the medium of inscription. Its approaches, like texts themselves, cut across historical periods and geographical space. As a field of inquiry, it is at once theoretical and applied, uniting scholars and publics in critical reflection on matters fundamental to higher education: reading, writing, the library, the book.

The Textual Studies Program draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary group of UW faculty, information professionals, and distinguished visitors to provide students with a foundation for advanced archival research and inquiry into the materiality of written culture. The program’s core courses survey the interconnected histories of manuscript, print, and digital texts and acquaint students with theories of textuality that form the basis for literary and cultural study. Seminars incorporate colloquia and public events to expose students to diverse methodologies in the field as well as practical applications in the wider enterprise of editing, translation, publishing, data mining, librarianship, and alternative-academic professions. Graduate students from any UW department or school may enroll in Textual Studies courses. Doctoral students in participating departments may pursue a degree option in Textual Studies concurrently with their Ph.D.


The Textual Studies Program offers a doctoral degree option for students in participating arts and humanities departments. To be admitted to the program, the candidate must be currently enrolled and in good standing at UW.

Application to the Textual Studies Program requires a statement of interest (750-1000 words) outlining your research and plans for developing your work through the program, a CV, and one letter of recommendation. Applications are accepted in email on a rolling basis; prospective students are encouraged to contact the directors for more information.

Doctoral Program Requirements

A doctoral candidate obtains degree-option certification in Textual Studies by completing the program’s four core courses (20 credit hours):

  • English 501/ Comp Lit 551 (Textual Theory and Practice): an introduction to the intellectual foundations of textual studies; historical background in disciplines of philology and textual criticism; theories of textuality from formalism and New Criticism to poststructuralism and medium-specific analysis; current and emerging concerns in the history of the book, media studies, globally comparative philologies, and the digital humanities.
  • English 502/ Comp Lit 552 (Manuscript Studies): an examination of the theoretical and methodological issues attending the study of written texts including literacy, circulation, production, and reception in premodern and modern manuscript cultures; training in paleography, codicology, manuscript genetics, and archival research methods.
  • English 503/ Comp Lit 553 (Print Culture and Publication): an examination of the theoretical and methodological issues attending the study of printed texts; training in bibliography and the history of the book from Gutenberg’s hand press to the machine and periodical presses of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; contemporary book art.
  • English 504/ Comp Lit 554 (Digital Texts and Contexts): an examination of digital textuality from the rise and fall of “hypertext” to contemporary convergence and transmediation in hybrid visual-verbal genres: computer games, digital video, and e-poetry. Coverage of practical issues surrounding digital scholarship and the digital humanities.

Ten additional seminar credits must be obtained in approved courses offered by participating units. Before advancing to dissertation work, the student will demonstrate his or her general knowledge of the field of Textual Studies by completing an examination or writing a critical essay on an assigned topic. A student’s Ph.D. supervisory committee should include at least one member of the Textual Studies Participating Faculty.

Participating Faculty and Additional Background

Textual Studies Faculty

Textual Studies Program History

Textual Studies Resources