Modern Literature and Culture (MLC) Area Program

Mrinalini Chakravorty

Program Director


The program in Modern Literature and Culture is designed for students who seek an interdisciplinary approach to the literature and culture of Modernity. The program offers a rigorous approach to two broadly defined periods, the Modern (1789-1945) and the Contemporary (1945-the present), while it situates the study of literature in relation to adjacent fields such as religious studies, history, fine arts, politics, and psychology. Through small-group seminars, courses in literature and non-literary fields and extra-curricular events, members of the program participate in an active and collective intellectual life.

Modern Literature and Culture is a two-year program. Students usually apply in the spring semester of their second year, though some decide to apply at the close of their first year. Transfer students who arrive at Virginia at the beginning of their third year and who wish to apply to Modern Literature and Culture should see the program director within the first week of the fall term.

After being admitted, a student will declare a major in English, which is the departmental home for the interdisciplinary program. The requirements for the program differ sharply, however, from the requirements for a standard English degree.


For a Modern Literature and Culture major, thirty credit hours in the English Department are required. These must include:

  • ENGL 3820
  • Either ENGL 3810 or a pre-1700 (ENMD or ENRN) literature class
  • One course in literature published between 1700-1900.
  • Two ENMC 4530 seminars.
  • Four courses outside the department that relate to the student's designated area of interest.

Students may count one 2000-level ENLT toward their major.

Although English majors normally can use no more than three courses in any single mnemonic category (ENMD, ENRN, etc.), MLC majors may count up to five ENMC courses, which focus on the modern and contemporary period.

Students are strongly encouraged to write a thesis in the ENMC independent study (ENMC 4993) or, if they are qualified, to enter the Distinguished Majors Program (ENGL 4998 and 4999).

Modern Literature and Culture Seminars: Each semester an MLC seminar (ENMC 4530) is offered. Students should plan to take one in their third year or in the fall of their fourth year. Enrollment in the seminar is guaranteed to members of Modern Literature and Culture. Much of the strength of the program derives from the collegiality and intellectual community fostered in these small-group contexts. In addition to offering intensive study of the period and the nature of interdisciplinary work, the seminars provide occasions for students to come to know and to learn from one another. Recent seminar topics include "The Global City," "The Queer Novel," "The Dystopian Novel," and "Postcolonial Modernities."

Interdisciplinary Work: In addition to English courses, students in the program take twelve further hours of courses outside the department. These courses, chosen in consultation with the program director, reflect a student’s particular interests. Occasionally, students will take twelve hours in a single department; more often, though, they will pursue “branching courses” in various fields, with the aim of achieving related multiple perspectives on Modernity. In recent years students have designed programs of study on topics such as "The City in Modern Life," "Gender and Modernity," "Post-Colonial Literature," "Crises of Faith in the Twentieth Century," and "Existentialism and the Modern Novel."

Thesis: Students in the program are encouraged to consolidate their interests by writing a 25-page thesis in an independent study during their final semester. Alternatively, if they are qualified, they may write a thesis in the separate Distinguished Majors Program which requires a 50-page essay written over the course of the fourth year and has its own admission requirements. For more information, please see the Distinguished Majors Program page.

Final Events: Each year in the late spring semester of the fourth year, the program will gather for an annual evening of presentations by the fourth-year students (individually or collectively) that might include a reading, an essay, a performance, or some comparable activity. Food and conversation will interrupt the proceedings.

How to Apply

Application Form

An application should include: 

  • An unofficial copy of your current transcript from the Registrar's home page

  • A Modern Literature and Culture endorsement completed by any faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences

  • Your current address, phone number, and e-mail address 

  • A brief statement (1-2 pp) of what you hope to accomplish in Modern Literature and Culture 

Special care should be given to the personal statement. You should briefly outline your academic goals and indicate why you believe that those goals would be best met in the context of the Modern Literature and Culture Program. Give your proposed concentration a name and list several courses from the COD that would be appropriate to it.

Please return the completed application to Mrinalini Chakravorty, Director of Modern Literature and Culture (mailbox in Bryan 229).

If you think you may apply to the program, you should email Mrinalini Chakravorty. She will inform you of anything you need to think about as you consider your application.

Applications are due by March 19, 2019, at 5 p.m. in Mrinalini Chakravorty's mailbox in the English Department.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at