Texas Tech University

American Literature

Marked by the transnational turn in literary studies in the late twentieth century, American literary studies today has undergone a critical reconfiguration, moving from the locus of the Americas and through the transoceanic movements that encompass the evolution of the Atlantic commercial circuit, the formation of the Black Atlantic, and the reimagining of Asia Pacific. Not only has the "New England mind" been reconsidered in relation to "the darker side of Western modernity" and indigenous experiences, but the South, the West, the Southwest, and the American Pacific have also been re-examined in light of critical regionalism, borderland discourse, environmental justice, and critiques of American exceptionalism.

Faculty & Program Strengths

Our American literature faculty at Texas Tech are well-positioned to meet the challenges of teaching and theorizing American literature in the twenty-first century. We not only teach periods, genres, themes, authors, and literary trends that invoke the nineteenth century studies, life writing, American Gothic, Cormac McCarthy, modernism, postmodernism, and transnationalism, but also emphasize methodologies and critical theories that make connections between jazz and African American literary expression, borderland and Chicano/a literary sensibilities, cartography and empire, race and anatomy, environmental justice and Native American literary articulations, globalization and Asian American literary representations. Our faculty members have developed the graduate concentration on Literature, Social Justice, and Environment. Our scholarship includes a wide range of books, edited collections and journal issues, scholarly articles, and encyclopedia entries. We have won multiple university research, teaching, and service awards including the President's Book Award, the President's Excellence in Teaching Award, and the President's Excellence in Diversity and Equity Award. Our faculty members have delivered keynote lectures and public talks nationally and internationally, and received research grants and fellowships from the Huntington Library, the Library of Congress, and the Henry Luce Foundation. We have also been involved in nationally and internationally collaborative projects and programs varying from the Stanford Digital Humanity Project on Chinese American Studies to Dartmouth's Futures of American Studies Institute, from MLA roundtables to symposia on transnational American studies at Hong Kong University and Tsinghua University. Our faculty members have also been active leaders in the field, serving as executive officers for professional organizations from the Western Literature Association to the Popular Culture/American Culture Association. We have been interviewed on television and the National Public Radio.


Students of American literature can take advantage of 5-6 seminars per year, as their MA or PhD requirements permit. (For a list of recent graduate courses in American literature, click the link in the column to the right.) MA students are all required to take two courses (one before 1900 and one after 1900) in American literature as a general requirement, but they may opt to expend some or all of their 15 elective hours in American courses as well, and/or to write a thesis in a particular American field. PhD students may choose to specialize in a particular area of American literature, in which case they must take up to 18 hours of courses directly relevant to the area of specialization, and they must also take qualifying examinations and write the dissertation in that area. The large number of faculty in American literature makes it very easy for MA and PhD students alike to form the necessary advisory committees for the thesis or dissertation.


Texas Tech offers a number of competitive resources for doctoral students doing research in American literature. Doctoral students from Texas are eligible to apply for the Bruce Family Memorial Scholarship, a $20,000 research scholarship awarded annually to a native Texan writing a dissertation in American literature. The award covers all tuition and fees for graduate study and provides the student with a year of study unencumbered by either teaching or research assistant responsibilities. Our library's Southwest Collection hosts the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World, featuring the personal papers of some of the country's most prominent writers on the environment. Students may also benefit from the vast resources held in the university's Vietnam Center and Archives, which support and encourage research regarding all aspects of the American Vietnam experience.

Scholarly Exchanges

Finally, our department and university at large are both sites of notable creative and scholarly exchanges. Recent creative writers to visit our campus have included Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Pam Houston, Garrison Keillor, Tony Kushner, Barry Lopez, Robert Pinsky, Annie Proulx, James McBride, and Karen Tei Yamashita. Recent critics and scholars who have spoken at Texas Tech include Paul Jay, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Walter Mignolo, Robert G. O'Meally, Donald Pease, John Carlos Rowe, Saskia Sassen, Wang Ning, Cornel West, and Rob Wilson.


For more information about the American Literature division, please contact us by emailing Dr. Michael Borshuk or by calling the English Department at 806.742.2500.

For general information about graduate study in English, please contact Dr. Elissa Zellinger, Director of Graduate Studies, by email or by phone at 806.834.8033.