Program of study

The Ph.D. program combines flexibility with structure to help you develop your breadth and depth of knowledge, move smoothly through your dissertation, and acquire a range of professional skills. While your exact path through the program may vary—depending, for instance, on whether you enter with prior graduate experience—you can expect your time here to involve some version of the following:

Year 1: Coursework

By taking an array of courses you will expand your knowledge of literature and enhance your skills in research and analysis while also exploring areas of particular interest.

Fall: Three seminars plus the “Introduction to the Profession” practicum.

Spring: Three seminars plus the “Teaching Writing” practicum (if entering with prior teaching experience)

Summer: Language training, independent reading, possible revision of seminar paper for publication

Year 2: Coursework and Teaching

Coursework will continue building your foundation in advanced literary study, theory, and methods. You will also develop pedagogical skills through classroom experience and, in spring, start planning for qualifying exams by forming a committee and customizing a reading list.

Fall: Three seminars

Spring: Three seminars (unless transferring courses from an MA, in which case you might begin studying for exams)

Service: Teach one section per semester in the Writing and Rhetoric program (if entering with prior teaching experience) or serve as TA each semester.

Summer: Language training, studying for exams

Year 3: Qualifying Exams and Dissertation Prospectus Defense

Working under the guidance of a director and committee, you will demonstrate knowledge of a proposed field of specialization in your qualifying exams and then frame a dissertation project, applying your expertise to the texts and questions that inspire you. You will also continue to expand your professional skills through teaching, research, and editorial opportunities.

Fall: Take qualifying exams before Thanksgiving

Spring: Prepare for and complete prospectus exam

Service: Possibilities include working as a TA or RA, serving on the editorial team of a journal, teaching your own literature course, or teaching Writing and Rhetoric

Summer: Dissertation work

Year 4: Dissertation Writing

You will work on the dissertation throughout this year, developing your ideas in conversation with your committee and possibly sharing a portion of your work at a department area seminar or at a professional conference (or two) in your field. You will receive guidance on writing an article for publication by taking the “Scholarly Publishing” practicum in Spring. You will also enhance your skill set with a service assignment each semester (e.g., teaching your own literature course, serving as TA or RA, editing a journal).

Year 5: Dissertation Completion

Write, write, write! This year is service-free to support completion of the dissertation. The job-search practicum in the Fall will help you prepare the relevant application materials and interview skills in a friendly and supportive environment.

Spring/Summer: Complete and defend the dissertation. 

Year 6: Postdoctoral Fellowship

All Ph.D. students who defend their dissertations within five years of entering the program are guaranteed a sixth-year postdoctoral fellowship and can pursue either a teaching-and-research or internship track.

Degree Requirements

  • At least 60 credit hours, of which 42 are based on course work (equivalent to 14 courses); some transfer credits are permitted
  • At least one course in each of the following fields: Medieval literature, 16th- or 17th-century literature, 18th- or 19th-century literature, 20th- or 21st-century literature, American literature, British literature (the historical and geographic fields can overlap)
  • Proficiency in two languages other than English or fluency in one (demonstrated by coursework or exams offered by the foreign-language departments)
  • Teaching and service in accordance with student and program needs
  • Passing the qualifying examinations (written and oral examinations based on department lists that you customize in consultation with your committee)
  • Successfully preparing and defending the dissertation prospectus (oral exam of the proposal for the dissertation)
  • Successfully completing and defending the dissertation 

For more detail about degree requirements, policies, and deadlines, please consult the Graduate Handbook.