Depending on your particular interests, Michigan may be the single best place in the country to do a Ph.D. in U.S. cultural and intellectual history. Our institutional commitments to these fields are deep and long standing, encompassing the careers of many leading practitioners who helped to build them, including Robert Berkhofer, Bill Sewell, David Hollinger, Robin Kelley, Elsa Barkley Brown, George Sanchez, and Carroll Smith Rosenberg (to name but a few). More recently, we have assembled a truly remarkable group of cutting-edge Americanists across a wide range of periods, media, and specialties. They include Sue Juster, Mary Kelley, Tiya Miles, Phil Deloria, Matt Lassiter, Heather Thompson, Deborah Dash Moore, Greg Dowd, John Carson, Howard Brick, LaKisha Simmons, Marty Pernick, Jason Young, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, Alex Stern, Matthew Countryman, Anthony Mora, Stephen Berrey, Kira Thurman, Jennifer Jones, Henry Cowles, and myself (as well as nationally renowned figures in adjacent geographic fields such as Dena Goodman, Val Kivelson, Scott Spector, Kathleen Canning, Minnie Sinha, Farina Mir, Ken Mills, Derek Peterson, Josh Cole, Paulina Alberto, and Geoff Eley). Our cultural history “bench,” in other words, is very long.
I would really encourage you to spend some time looking at books and articles from some of these scholars. When I was applying to graduate school, it made a big difference to read the actual work of people whose interests dovetailed with my own, both to get a more nuanced sense of their personal styles, as well as a fuller range of their expertise and curiosities. Some of my own recent articles are available on this site (via the “recent articles” tab).
In addition to our extraordinary depth and breadth in History, we are among the most interdisciplinary programs in the country. So if you decide to come to Michigan, you would have easy and congenial access to additional faculty across American Culture, English, Screen Arts, Art History, Music, Anthropology, Sociology, and so forth. Every one of my cultural history courses is cross-listed with other departments and attracts an exciting mix of talent from different corners of the humanities. We have a truly vibrant culture here, with more talks, symposia, conferences, and reading and writing groups than any one person could possibly attend. Most people I know describe Michigan’s intellectual life as unequalled anywhere (and certainly that was my own experience coming here following stays in Princeton, Berlin, Berkeley, and Indiana). For my own part, I have been centrally involved in our Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies (http://www.lsa.umich.edu/eihs), and serve as faculty advisor for the “New Materialisms Working Group,” a high-powered collective of U.S. cultural, social, and intellectual history dissertators that meets multiple times each semester.
In short, this is an amazing place to train in U.S. cultural and intellectual history, and I strongly encourage you to apply. If things work out with admissions, I would be delighted to talk at much greater length about your emerging interests, as well as any aspect of our own program, UM, or Ann Arbor that seems helpful.