Degree Requirements


In the first two years of the program, students take six graduate courses each year. All first-year students also participate in a one-quarter PhD colloquium, which is designed to introduce theoretical and practical questions posed by the study of literature. Students entering with an MA in English from another institution take the full load of courses in their first year and a minimum of two courses during their second year.

There are distribution requirements for graduate course work for all students (one course in medieval or Renaissance literature, one course in 18th- or 19th-century literature, and one in 20th- or 21st-century literature). We believe that both intellectual and professional progress depend on encounters with historical, national, and generic difference as well as competence in an area of specialization. We therefore advise students to become well-grounded in more than a single area of interest and to attend to the different problems of at least one field relatively remote from their major interest. Some of the courses during the first and second year may be taken outside the department.

Foreign Language Requirement

By the end of their second year in the PhD program, students must meet the Department's foreign language requirement by successfully completing one of the following courses at this university: a one-quarter graduate course, or two undergraduate courses, in the literature of one language; a year of elementary-to-intermediate Latin or Greek; or a Language for Research Purposes course. Students often fulfill the language requirement through intensive summer language courses, which they can take as early as the summer preceding matriculation in the program.

Advanced Writing Workshop

In the winter of third year, students will participate in an Advanced Writing Workshop, in which they will take a paper from a previous course, learn the process of revision toward publication, and receive feedback from multiple sources, including both peers and faculty. The goal of the Advanced Writing Workshop is to sharpen students’ analytical thinking and writing skills and to prepare them for writing for publication and writing a dissertation.


In the autumn of their third year, students take a one-quarter pedagogy course, which introduces them to various approaches to the teaching of literature and composition.

In their third, fourth, and fifth years, students have the opportunity to gain a range of important teaching experience. Students initially teach as course assistants in departmental courses for undergraduates, once in their third year, twice in their fourth year; then as instructors in courses of their own design in their fifth year. Other opportunities for teaching are also available for advanced graduate students: students may serve as writing tutors, BA paper supervisors, or course assistants in the College's introductory Humanities and Social Sciences core courses.  Some students also become instructors in the College Writing Program course in expository writing (which provides its own training in the teaching of composition).

Oral Fields Examination

By the end of their third year, students take the oral fields examination. In consultation with faculty specialists, students specify two fields for the examination. A field consists of either a historical period or an otherwise-constituted domain of literary practice, defined by generic, theoretical, or methodological parameters. The choice of fields should be sensitive to potential areas of dissertation research. After the exam, students will compile a bibliographical list, to be read in consultation with a faculty member, that should help guide the student toward a dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Proposal Workshop

In the fall of their fourth year in the PhD program, students attend a peer-run Dissertation Proposal Workshop and begin to craft a dissertation proposal.


In the winter or spring quarter in their fourth year of the program, students submit a dissertation proposal to potential faculty readers and secure approval of the proposal. At this point, students should be eligible to enter into PhD candidacy. With the support and direction of their faculty committee, students then focus on the writing and research of the dissertation, a project that should constitute a significant contribution to literary study as it is currently practiced. When the dissertation is completed and approved by the committee, the dissertation defense may be scheduled. 

For more information on the graduate program, please e-mail