The Guide to Graduate Studies in English (Fall 2011-2015)


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Description of the Graduate Program in English

The graduate program in English is a six-year course of study leading to the Ph.D. degree.  We offer no separate M.A. program.  We welcome applicants with B.A.s and/or M.A.s to the PhD only program.  Students who enter the program with an M.A. degree may transfer in up to 9 hours of graduate course work. 

Doctoral students specialize in a particular field grounded in extensive coverage of British and American literature.  During the first two years of the Ph.D. program, students advance general knowledge of that literature while defining their scholarly interests.  By the end of their second year, they begin intensive work in their special fields of interest, which may include a historical period, a genre, composition studies, or literary theory and criticism.  By the end of the third year, they complete the greater part of course work.  They ordinarily take written and oral examinations in their major and minor fields in their seventh semester.  Students present a dissertation prospectus the semester following their Ph.D. exams, and devote their fifth and sixth years to writing the dissertation.


Majors and Minors

For the Ph.D., many students choose a major in one of seven literary periods or in African-American Literature, Southern Literature, Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, or Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy, and a minor in one of these specified areas of specialization:


I.     The English Language

II.    English Literature from the Beginning to 1485

III.   English Literature from 1485 to 1660 (including Milton)

IV.   English Literature from 1660 to 1789

V.     English Literature from 1789 to 1900

VI.   American Literature to 1900

VII.  American Literature from 1900 to the Present

VIII. British Literature from 1900 to the Present

IX.   Critical Theory and Cultural Studies

X.    Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy

XI.   African-American Literature

XII.  Southern Literature

XIII. Poetry and Poetics

XIV. Film

XV. Multiethnic literature


Students may also elect to create an alternative major or minor, organized by a different chronology, geography, or category than the areas described above.


Alternative Major:

With the support of three faculty mentors, students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to allow an alternative major.  They should submit that petition with the form they submit when declaring their intention to take the Ph.D. exams (see PhD Examinations).  In order to petition for an alternative major, students should fill out the Alternative Major/Minor Form found on the department website and include:

  • A description of the alternative major/minor field (between 300-600 words), justifying its necessity in terms of the candidate's projected teaching and research. How might it further future dissertation work? In what ways will it prepare the candidate for the job market?
  • Descriptions of all courses taken or expected to be taken that emphasize this field. Candidates should also indicate how they will satisfy the required two seminars in the major field.
  • A reading list for the alternative major/minor, which the candidate has compiled through consultation with appropriate faculty.
  • The signatures of three faculty members.


Alternative Minor:

With the support of two faculty mentors, students may petition the DGS to allow an alternative minor within the English department. No petition is needed for minors in the novel or drama. They should submit this form when they declare their intention to take the PhD exams (see PhD Examinations). In order to petition for an alternative minor, students should fill out the Alternative Major/Minor form and include:

• A description of the alternative major/minor field (between 300-600 words), justifying its necessity in terms of your projected teaching and research. How might it further your future dissertation work? In what ways will it prepare you for the job market?

• A reading list for the major/minor, which you have compiled through consultation with appropriate faculty.

• The signatures of two faculty members.

For many minors, such as American Studies, Renaissance Studies, or Women’s Studies, established programs outside the department have their own set of requirements.

If a student elects to pursue a minor in an area of study outside of English in a program that does not set its own minor requirements, students can still minor in that area if they take at least fifteen credit hours of approved work (listed outside of or cross-listed with English) and are tested in this minor via the standard three-hour written PhD examination followed by an oral examination in conjunction with the Major. Two members of the faculty representing the outside minor must serve on the student’s written and oral examination committee.


A Year By Year Description of the Doctoral Program’s Course of Study

First Year



*During the first year, students will devote their course work to the exploration of various areas of study. Students will be encouraged to take courses outside their proposed major.

*For students who are not teaching, the recommended load is 3 courses a semester, including English 606 and the Intro to Graduate Study.

*Students who are teaching (who enter with an MA) can transfer up to 9 hours.  Teaching students should take no more than two courses per year (including English 606 and the Intro to Grad Study)

*Most students will take English 606 in preparation for teaching.

*At the end of February, students will submit a tentative “course of study plan” that reflects on their emerging interests. (See description below)

*Students will meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss their progress once a semester.

*Students will take an “Introduction to Graduate Study” Course


Second Year


“Beginning to Focus”

*Students will begin to focus on an area of interest, taking courses (4 courses) in that field or allied fields. 

*Students will submit a “course of study plan and meet with the DGS to discuss their progress, usually in the Spring semester. Students will be encouraged to visit with particular faculty in their fields of interest for further advising.

*In their second semester they may identify a potential major and minor and speak to the faculty about serving on their exam committee.

*In the summer after their second year, students will begin to compile their exam reading lists

*Students should fulfill their first foreign language requirement by the end of their second year.


Third Year


“Learning One’s Field”

*Students will register in the fall semester to take their examinations in their fourth year.

*Students will submit a course of study plan that reflects on their emerging interests.

*Students will continue to take courses (4 courses) in their field or allied fields as they study for their exams.

*Students will identify their potential dissertation adviser--this should happen at the beginning of the third year at latest.

*In the second semester of their third year, students will meet once a month for the “Third Year Colloquium”: these meetings will give students the opportunity to share their work and discuss the current issues in their particular fields.


Fourth Year


“Becoming an Expert”

*Students will continue to take courses (from 2 to 4 courses)

*Students will take their written and oral examinations

*Students will write a prospectus and hold their prospectus meeting in the same semester or no later than the semester following their examinations.

Fifth Year


“Producing an Original Contribution”


*Students will write their dissertation

*Students will sign up for dissertation credit hours.

*Students will be encouraged to belong to a dissertation writing group.

*Students may wish to audit classes of interest.

*Students should fulfill the requirements for their second language by the end of this year.


Course of Study Plan.  

For every year that they are still taking courses toward the PhD, graduate students enrolled in the English Department are required to submit a course of study plan for approval to his or her advisor and/or to the DGS; it is due when you meet with the DGS in February to discuss your plan. The plan should provide a narrative account of the student’s intellectual and professional rationales for courses taken up to that point in the program as well as for those courses proposed to be taken in the coming semesters, including independent studies and other projects (including summer language study). Although not a contract, the plan does need to be reviewed and approved each year by the advisor, the GAC and the DGS. The course of study plan can be found on the department website.


Course Requirements for the PhD:

--A minimum of 14 courses (42 credit hours) required (including English 606 and the Introduction to Graduate Study) with auditing and more course work encouraged.

--Can earn up to 9 hours of transfer credit for graduate work done in a degree program. However, none of the below requirements (with the exception of ENGL606) may count towards one of your course requirements; transfer credit is purely elective credit. Please see the Transfer Credit FAQ on the department website

--3 seminars in the major field (no more than 1 may be fulfilled with a directed reading, except in extraordinary circumstances and with the DGS’s approval)

--1 seminar in the minor field

--an Introduction to Graduate Study course: This course will provide an orientation to graduate study and will be useful to students doing historical as well as theoretical work. Students will gain familiarity with research resources, faculty resources, and critical resources (mandatory for all students regardless of previous graduate training; offered every Fall)

--English 606: Rhetorical Theory & Practice

-- “English Language” requirement (depending on the student’s major and the adviser’s support, some students may substitute a theory course)

--2 Foreign Languages (fulfilled by course work, testing, transfer credit, or undergraduate major; these languages should be appropriate to the student’s area of study). Courses taken to fulfill this requirement do not count among the minimum 14 courses required for the Ph.D.

--2 courses in Allied Fields depending on the students’ area of interest, these courses may be historically, thematically, or methodologically related to student’s proposed “major.” The student will choose these courses in consultation with the DGS or his/her adviser and he/she will submit a written justification of the relevance of the course.

--Third year colloquium (led by the Director of Graduate Studies): Third-year students meet to revise previously written essays or to work on research related to their anticipated dissertation topic. This will not be a regular course that requires registration, but a required monthly meeting set up in the second semester of the third year.

For more information, please read the Course Requirement FAQ.



The English Department considers a reading knowledge of foreign languages essential to the educational and professional aims of its degree programs. Ph.D. candidates must show proficiency in two foreign languages. (For students entering with an M.A., the language used to satisfy M.A. requirements can count as one of the two required for the Ph.D.) The Department recommends Latin, French, German, Italian, or Spanish, with the choice to be made on the basis of scholarly appropriateness and in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies or a faculty advisor. The use of other languages to fulfill the requirement must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Ways to satisfy this requirement are:

• An undergraduate major in an approved language automatically satisfies the requirement.

• By passing an examination supervised by the Graduate School and administered by the foreign language departments

• For non-Western languages, four semesters of undergraduate language classes may fulfill the requirement. Please consult with the Director of Graduate Studies on this issue.

• By completing the second of two special reading courses for graduate students offered by the Classics, German, and Romance Languages Departments (601 and 602) (Please note: the Graduate School will not count credit earned in 601 or 602 toward the residence credit requirement)

• By completing with at least a grade of an undergraduate literature course in a foreign language taken after the B.A. is awarded.

Students whose native tongue is not English may use English to fulfill the foreign language proficiency requirement.

The foreign language requirement must be satisfied by the semester in which a student intends to earn the PhD.