The Department of English at the University of Chicago has played an important role in the transformation of literary studies over the past half-century. Our faculty and students have participated centrally in the rethinking and reshaping of the discipline. Our intellectual work continues that effort, creating a rigorous and exciting intellectual environment for our students.

The PhD program prepares students for independent work as teachers, scholars, and critics by developing their abilities to pose and investigate problems in the advanced study of literatures in English. The program consists of four major components: coursework, teaching, fields exams, and the dissertation. Together, these elements introduce students to a wide variety of textual modes, critical methodologies, and historical/cultural questions; provide extensive practice in research, discussion, argument, and writing; and develop pedagogical skills.

The Joint PhD Program in Theater & Performance Studies (TAPS) allows students to complement their doctoral studies in English with academic and artistic work in Theater & Performance Studies.

Year One Coursework

All students in the first year of the program take six courses for letter grades, as well the PhD Colloquium, which is designed to introduce theoretical and practical questions posed by the student of literature.

Year Two Coursework

In the second year of the program, students who entered the program with an MA in English take at least two courses for letter grades. Students who entered the program without a previous MA take six courses. All students enroll in the Research Paper Proseminar (ENGL 52000) in the Spring of year 2, which counts as one of their required courses for the year.

Foreign Language Requirement:

By the end of their second year in the program, students must meet the Department's foreign language requirement.

Year Three Coursework

All third year students complete the department's pedagogy course, Teaching Undergraduate English. Students also begin to fulfill their fellowship teaching obligations during this year, typically by serving as a course assistant in the department. By the end of year three, students complete their oral fields examinations and form their dissertation committee.

Year Four

In year four, students work to complete their dissertation proposal. Students should meet regularly with members of their dissertation committee, as well as enroll in the Dissertation Proposal Proseminar(typically taught over the Fall and Winter quarters), which is designed to help students compose a strong proposal. Students also gain additional teaching experience during this year, usually as course assistants in the department and potentially as interns or tutors with the writing program. In order to be admitted to candidacy, students must have completed all coursework, including substantial paper requirements, the PhD Colloquium, the Research Paper Proseminar, and Teaching Undergraduate English; have completed their foreign language requirement; have passed their oral fields exam; and have submitted an approved dissertation proposal to the Department.

Year Five

In their fifth year, students continue to work on the dissertation, and to meet regularly with their committee members. (Students must hold annual advisory meetings with their full committee to discuss timelines and progress towards the dissertation defense.) Fifth year students should enroll in the Advanced Writing for Publication Proseminar(offered in Winter or Spring), which is designed to help students prepare an article for publication. In year 5, students also have the opportunity to teach a standalone undergraduate course, work for the writing program, and sometimes mentor English undergraduates writing BA theses.

Year Six and beyond

Students continue to hold annual advisory meetings with their committee as they progress toward completion of the dissertation. (Students must complete one approved chapter per year in order to make satisfactory progress. However, it is expected that most students will complete and receive committee approval for two or more chapters per year.) Beginning in year 6, students should take part in the Job Seekers Proseminar, which is designed to help prepare students to seek full-time professional employment, and to support them as they do so.


More information can be found in our Graduate Student Handbook.