Department of Modern Culture and Media

Ph.D. Program

The Department of Modern Culture and Media (MCM) is committed to a broad spectrum approach to the study of media and culture.

We study machine-enabled media alongside flesh-based media, media ecologies, elemental media, and media infrastructures. A medium may beany means, mode, or material of making, transporting, transmitting, transforming, producing, preserving, collecting, selecting, or deselecting for sound, image, gesture, affect, text and information broadly conceived. Alongside histories and theories of photography, film, television, print, and digital media, we engage decolonial methods and speculative means for the innovation of livable futures. We are sensitive to entanglements among genres, forms, mediums, and materialities of human and nonhuman. We consider modes of extraction, redaction, abstraction, diffraction, interpellation, and circulation as well as habits, ceremonies, or architectures of access involving a broad range of media practices. Our graduate program is a Ph.D. program aimed at: (1) Preparing students to engage in quality scholarship and teaching in the theory, history, and critical analysis of one or more media, in ways that encompass diverse cultural contexts, practices, and historical periods, within a methodological framework that includes awareness of modern textual, cultural, political, social, and performance theory; (2) Preparing students to seek academic appointments in a market that offers positions to media and culture specialists in media-specific disciplinary units (e.g., Film Studies, Television Studies, Digital Studies); in amalgam fields (Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Visual Studies, Performance Studies); and also in programs with expanded concerns (American Studies, Black Studies, Comparative Literature, English, and foreign language Departments). Plans of study in MCM are individualized, based on the student's own particular areas of interest. Students are encouraged to take courses throughout the University, and many take advantage of courses in the broader Humanities as well as in the Arts, the Sciences and the Social Sciences. Many of our Ph.D. students include faculty from outside the department on their preliminary exam committees and on their dissertation committees.

Coursework and Qualifying Reviews

For students entering the program with a B.A., courses are normally completed in the first three years of the program — six courses are taken in the first year, four in the second year and three in the third year. During this period, the student also fulfills the foreign language requirement. After completion of 8 courses in the second year, there is a qualifying review, and the candidate is awarded an M.A. in Modern Culture and Media.

After completion of all coursework in the third year, the candidate takes a three-hour oral preliminary examination. Passing the preliminary examination authorizes her or him to proceed to the doctoral dissertation, which is written during the fourth and fifth years.

Students entering the program with an M.A. from another institution take courses at the same rate as those entering with a B.A. Such students may apply to accelerate their coursework and, if they receive approval, may take their preliminary examination as early as the end of the fourth semester.

Students entering with an M.A. will have their qualifying review after they have completed 6 courses, which is normally at the end of the second semester.


Teaching is considered a vital part of graduate education in this program. We believe that a variety of pedagogical experiences not only contributes to the candidate's professional qualifications but also to her or his intellectual development. A minimum of two years of teaching is required for the degree, but a doctoral student will normally teach more.

A candidate typically begins holding a teaching assistant position in a large introductory course during the second year in the program and continues teaching in various classroom contexts through the fifth year. We try to provide all senior doctoral candidates with at least one opportunity to teach a small, autonomous class on a subject directly related to their dissertation research.


Brown offers five years of guaranteed support for graduate students, including for international students. First-year students are on fellowship. Students in their second and third years work as TAs (one course per semester), leading a discussion section of a large lecture. Students in their fourth year design and teach their own section of MCM 0900 “Undergraduate Seminars in Modern Culture and Media.” Students in their fifth year usually are supported through a combination of TA-ships (again, one course per semester) and university fellowships.

Job Placements

Most, if not all, of our students in the Ph.D. program go on to work in academia, in positions as professors, teaching and doing research. This does not mean it would be impossible to go into some other profession -- curating or working for a non-profit agency, for instance; however, we train students for work in academia.

An annual collection of data pertaining to the employment of Ph.D. alumni one, five, and ten years after graduating.
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