English Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The English PhD program combine the traditional strengths of historically and textually based modes of analysis with modern theoretical approaches. From British, U.S. and postcolonial literature to critical theory, creative writing and media, students will develop key competencies in creative and critical inquiry. Students can discover the convergences and departures of intellectual, writerly, and interdisciplinary interests in one of four concentrations. The complex study of literature and language prepares students for careers in areas such as higher education, editing and publishing.

The doctoral program places emphasis on the making of new knowledge, rather than the extraction of knowledge from existing bodies of work. Students can strengthen their confidence around subjects of study, such as rhetoric, poetics, pedagogy and theory.

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy in English can be completed in four years of full-time academic work (or the equivalent over a longer period) beyond the baccalaureate degree. For those entering with a master's degree or its equivalent, the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree can be completed in three years of full-time academic work (or the equivalent over a longer period). A longer period may, however, prove necessary for some students. Two semesters of full-time work in residence are required.

Requirements for Admission

In addition to meeting the general University requirements for admission to doctoral study, an applicant should present, preferably, an undergraduate preparation in the liberal arts with a major in English. Applicants with preparation in other fields, however, may be considered on the condition that undergraduate deficiencies be made up. Completed applications must include transcripts of all previous undergraduate- and graduate-level work, letters of reference, a statement of purpose, and critical writing samples. Additional creative writing samples are optional.

Program of Study (72 credits, minimum)

The program of study, planned with the Director of Graduate Studies in English, and incorporating no more than 30 credits of previous graduate study, should be directed toward the student's interests and specific career objectives. It consists of the following:

  1. Required Courses (16 credits):
    • Eng 710 Textual Studies I: Survey
    • Eng 720 Textual Studies II
    • Eng 770 Teaching Writing and Literature
    • Eng 771 Practicum in Teaching Writing and Literature
      • Concentration Courses (16 credits):
        • Four courses are to be taken in one of the following areas:
        • Literature, Modernity, and the Contemporary
        • Writing Practices: Poetics, Rhetorics, Technologies
        • Cultural, Transcultural, and Global Studies
        • Theoretical Constructs
      • Elective Courses (40 credits): At least 8 of these 40 elective credits must be taken outside the student’s concentration area and up to 12 credits may be taken in a related discipline with advance approval from the Advisor. Students must seek approval from the Director of Graduate Studies to take courses in other departments that support but also extend their work in English. Expertise developed in a supporting field must be incorporated into doctoral examination areas.

Competence in a Foreign Language:

Either on admission to the Doctor of Philosophy program or before admission to candidacy for the degree a student must demonstrate reading competency in two languages other than English or fluency in one. At the discretion of the Director of the graduate program, this requirement may be met in one of the following ways:

  1. Demonstrate reading-level competence in two foreign languages by 1) earning a C or better for two years (or the equivalent) of undergraduate-level study; 2) earning a B or better in a graduate-level foreign language reading course (or the equivalent); or 3) satisfactorily passing a reading examination administered by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.
  2. Demonstrate fluency in one foreign language by 1) earning a C or better for four years (or the equivalent) of undergraduate-level study; 2) earning a B or better in a graduate-level foreign language course that requires substantial written assignments (e.g., essays, reports, or exams) submitted in the language being studied; or 3) satisfactorily passing a fluency-level examination administered by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

Note: Foreign students whose native language is not English can meet the requirement by demonstrating reading-level competence in one language other than English or their native tongue.

Qualifying Examination:

After the student completes formal coursework, including the Practicum in English Studies, he or she must pass a written and oral examination on a specific area of study. Designed in consultation with an examination committee approved by the Director of Graduate Studies in English, and directed toward the critical, scholarly, or creative project the student plans to pursue in the dissertation, the examination has three parts: Part I situates the project methodologically, focusing on how the student will explore his or her chosen subject matter; Part II situates it topically, in terms of a recognized field or content area of English Studies; while Part III focuses on the intersection of Parts I and II, and is based in particular on a draft prospectus of the dissertation the student aims to undertake.

Admission to Candidacy:

Students are nominated by the department for doctoral candidacy as soon as all program requirements except the dissertation are satisfactorily completed. A student must be admitted to candidacy at least one regular session before submitting a dissertation.


Students will work with their faculty mentor to choose a dissertation form and focus that is relevant to their professional interests and challenging enough to strengthen their expertise. Dissertations may take such forms as critical argument, fiction, poetry, reports of empirical research, or drama; they may also feature some mixture of these. They may focus on the imaginary, the theoretical, the historical, the interpretive, the pedagogical, or the linguistic.

The dissertation will ordinarily grow out of the student's coursework and even more directly out of the qualifying examination, and is designed so that the student can complete it within the academic year following that examination.

Continuous Required Registration:

University regulations require that all doctoral students register for at least 3 graduate credits each fall and spring session until they are admitted to doctoral candidacy. Thereafter doctoral students need only register for 1 dissertation credit until they receive their degree.

Please note: This program offers an internship, field experience, study abroad component, or clinical experience in the course listing as an option to fulfill course requirements. Students who have previously been convicted of a felony are advised that their prior criminal history may impede their ability to complete the requirements of certain academic programs and/or to meet licensure requirements for certain professions. If you have concerns about this matter please contact the Dean’s Office of your intended academic program.