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Book Studies Specialization

PhD in English with Book Studies Specialization

Book studies scholars study the history of the book as a cultural form, how texts are materially composed, how they are published and marketed, and how they circulate among communities of readers. At Iowa, students with an interest in material texts have the rare opportunity of working with a number of English department faculty who have made important contributions to the field.

The University of Iowa Center for the Book is a community of distinguished faculty, staff, students, and local book specialists. Its unique program combines training in the technique and artistry of bookmaking with research into the history and culture of books.

Students with the specialization are positioned to achieve in traditional academic appointments and in allied cultural work at museums, libraries, publishing houses, and educational venues. Admitted students benefit not only from Iowa’s unique book studies resources but also from the pioneering graduate programs in studio art and creative writing.

This specialization streamlines English PhD requirements so that students may attain in a timely manner both their PhD in English and a Graduate Certificate in book arts, studies, and technologies from the University of Iowa Center for the Book.

Through both their coursework and their dissertation, graduates with this specialization will attain and demonstrate mastery in

  • the history of literature and the culture of books
  • literary criticism
  • book arts practice and technique


All Ph.D. students in the English department must complete 51 s.h. in graded courses at the 3000-level or above. At least 24 of the 51 s.h. must be in English courses at the 5000-level or above. All distribution, seminar and language requirements apply to this track. At least 15 of the 51 s.h. must be in Center for the Book courses at the 4000-level or above. Of courses in the Center for the Book, 3 s.h. must be in studio practice; 3 s.h. must be in material analysis; and 3 s.h. must be in scholarly inquiry.

That leaves the possibility of 12 additional s.h. in graded courses at the 3000-level or above which may be taken in other departments or in English (5000-level).

After finishing 51 s.h. in graded courses, students take 9 s.h. of independent study courses with the directors of their Comprehensive Exam areas (see the section on Comprehensive Examinations below). Once they pass their Comprehensive Exams, students must be continuously enrolled in the independent study course ENGL:7999 during the semesters that they are working on their prospectuses and dissertations. Their cumulative hours in ENGL:7999 bring students to the 72 s.h. that the Graduate College requires of all Ph.D.


Studio practice: art and craft courses in printing, binding, papermaking, calligraphy, and digital design Material analysis: courses in the anatomy and physique of books, often in concert with Special Collections Scholarly inquiry: research- and writing-based courses on the history and culture of books (from English, History, Art History, and Library Sciences departments)

Book Studies Expectations