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20th- and 21st-Century Literary Studies

Interested in modern or contemporary literature and culture? You’ll find a variety of ways to pursue your interests within the Purdue English Department.

Students typically choose one of the following concentrations:

  • Transatlantic Modernism
  • Post-1945 Literature
  • Postcolonial Literature and Theory

Our core faculty consists of Marlo David, John Duvall, Wendy Flory, Jennifer Freeman Marshall, Maren Linett, Alfred Lopez, Robert Marzec, Daniel Morris, Nancy Peterson, and Aparajita Sagar.  We have expertise in such well-known writers as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, William Carlos Williams, Toni Morrison, José Martí, Sherman Alexie, Ishmael Reed, and Octavia Butler but are also well-versed in more contemporary writers, including Colson Whitehead, Zadie Smith, and Jess Walter.

Our approaches to the period include the study of race, disability, feminism, the environment, print culture, and gender and sexuality.  Our core faculty’s diversity of thought is signaled by their affiliation with one or more of Purdue’s interdisciplinary programs, such as Comparative Literature, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, African American Studies, American Studies, Film Studies, and Jewish Studies.

Besides our faculty, another reason to come to Purdue is that our English department houses one of the premier journals of modern and contemporary literature, MFS Modern Fiction Studies.  The journal enhances the graduate student experience in several ways:

Graduate Editorial Assistants
Every year, MFS hires an advanced graduate student for a two-year term as an editorial assistant (EA).  EAs learn about academic publishing on modernist and contemporary literature from the inside as they copyedit accepted manuscripts for publication.  The EA position is a 12-month appointment, which means employment in the summer.

Sponsored Assistantship
MFS sponsors a TA line each year for an especially promising student working in the area of 20th and 21st-century studies, thus ensuring that our cohort will always benefit from strong new voices. (Meet our newest MFS TA, Erika Gotfredson)

Book Reviews
All the major university presses send MFS their newly published books for review.  Doctoral students writing their dissertations on modernist and contemporary literature are routinely invited to review a book for the journal during their time at Purdue.