Department of English

Dana Nelson teaches a graduate English class as students sit around a table in the department library

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Requirements for the ph.d. in english.

The Ph.D. is designed to be completed by a full-time student in six years. All students complete 72 credit hours for the degree: 52 hours of coursework and 20 hours of dissertation research. The Department of English does not accept transfer credit for course work completed prior to enrollment at Vanderbilt University.

Note: the department does not typically offer a terminal M.A. degree; doctoral students earn an M.A. en route to the Ph.D. All students must complete requirements for the M.A. by the fall semester of their second year. In cases where an exception is warranted, the Graduate Studies Committee may decide to admit a qualified candidate to the two-year M.A. This course of study requires a full course load (52 credit hours), a master’s thesis, and full external funding.

Course Requirements

  • Students complete 12 hours (or three courses) per semester while in coursework.
  • All students are required to enroll in ENGL 8110 (Proseminar) during their first term and in ENGL 8120 (Pedagogy Seminar) in the spring term of their third year.
  • Students may take up to three courses outside of the English Department. Further outside coursework is allowed with Graduate Studies Committee approval.
  • Students are required to pass a foreign language translation exam before sitting for the Written Comprehensive Examination at the end of their fifth semester. Tests are offered in September and January of each year.
  • Students take their comprehensive examinations in their third year. They consist of a written exam, a dissertation prospectus, and an oral exam. Approval of the final dissertation proposal marks entrance to doctoral candidacy.
  • All fourth year students are required to participate in Project Publish.
  • Students are expected to earn a minimum grade of B in all courses.
  • Students are required to complete RCRG 6308 - Responsible Conduct of Research in the Humanities during their first year of coursework. This requirement will be fulfilled through the required ENGL 8110 Proseminar.

The Dissertation

The English Department expects a dissertation to demonstrate breadth of familiarity with the scholarship in the field; a well-defined and sharply focused approach to a problem in that field; a high level of effectiveness in scholarly discussion; and clear potential for the candidate’s independent research in the field after graduate school. The Department considers the dissertation to be a book-length thesis (200-300 pages) of original, independent scholarship that seeks to make a key contribution to the life of the scholarly community in our fields and in the world. The Department does not accept dissertations in Creative Writing.

The Dissertation Committee : The Graduate School requires each student to form a Dissertation Committee. For most students, the dissertation committee is the same as the committee they use for their exams (dissertation chair, two additional ENGL faculty, and an outside reader).

The Dissertation Defense : Students are required to sit for an in-person defense of their dissertation during the late spring term or early summer term of their fifth year. The in-person requirement will be waived by the Graduate Studies Committee only if attendance would create significant hardship for the student. The Department will not usually schedule a dissertation defense with less than a month notice.

Doctoral Students and Faculty Handbook

Doctoral Program Timeline Overview

This is the typical Six-Year Schedule for most students. View a printable version HERE.

Fall Semester

  • Enroll in 12 hours of coursework (3 courses), including ENGL 8110 Proseminar

Spring Semester

  • Enroll in 12 hours of coursework (3 courses)
  • Mid-May : M.A. Thesis Registration Form due
  • Mid-August : Preliminary M.A. Thesis due
  • Attend longer summer institutes, such as IWL or SCT
  • September/October : Participation in 2nd Year Conference
  • Early November : Final M.A. Thesis due
  • End of October : Submit all M.A. paperwork for December graduation to DGS office
  • Mid-May : Preliminary Comprehensive Reading Lists due
  • Read for Exams
  • Attend a shorter summer institute
  • Enroll in 4 hours of coursework (ENGL 8120 Pedagogy Seminar) and 5 hours of ENGL 8999 (non-candidate research) with the DGS
  • September : Comps/Ph.D. Committee Appointment Forms due to DGS
  • Mid-October : First Tiered Comprehensive Exam Reading Lists due to committee
  • Enroll in 5 hours of ENGL 8999 (non-candidate research) with the DGS
  • Teach one undergraduate course as Instructor of Record
  • End of January : Final Tiered Comprehensive Exam Reading Lists due to committees and DGS
  • Spring Break : Written Comprehensive Exams
  • Mid-April : Preliminary Dissertation Prospectus due to committees and DGS.
  • May : Complete Oral Exams. Begin the dissertation phase; attend shorter summer institute if desired.
  • Mid-June: Final Dissertation Proposal and approval form due to committees and DGS office.
  • Enroll in 5 hours of ENGL 9999 (dissertation research) with dissertation chair
  • Beginning of September : Preliminary First Chapter Draft due to committees
  • Project Publish
  • Teach Second Undergraduate Course as Instructor of Record
  • Mid-December : Final version of First Chapter due to committees and DGS (deadline for Myers First Chapter Awards)
  • Teach Third Undergraduate Course as Instructor of Record
  • End of April : Second dissertation chapter due
  • Continue to work on dissertation
  • Attend shorter summer institutes if doing so is useful for the dissertation.
  • End of August: Third dissertation chapter due
  • Enroll in 0 hours of ENGL 9999 (dissertation research) with dissertation chair
  • Instructor of Record teaching option (one course)
  • Mid-December : Fourth dissertation chapter due
  • Revise dissertation chapters and write introduction
  • June 1 : Draft of complete dissertation due to committees and DGS office
  • Attend all meetings of the Job Placement Committee in preparation for entering the job market in the fall.
  • Start revising full dissertation draft and work on materials for jobs and post-doctoral fellowships.
  • Please note: While your stipend is guaranteed, any student who fails to meet these conditions will be ineligible for supplementary departmental funding (such as the Myers Travel Grant) in year six .  
  • Enroll in 0 hours of ENGL 9999 (dissertation research) with dissertation chair 
  • Revise the dissertation for submission and to turn it either into articles or a book manuscript.
  • Teach fourth undergraduate course as Instructor of Record
  • Conduct a full-scale job search with the assistance of your committee and the Job Placement officers.
  • Continue with dissertation revisions as needed and focus on turning it either into articles or a book manuscript.
  • Teach fifth undergraduate course as Instructor of Record (optional)
  • May/June: Defend dissertation (check deadlines for Intent to Graduate and other needed forms) and submit all materials for graduation by mid-July (check exact deadline).

*For students admitted prior to 2023, you can reference your old timeline here while you transition to the 6-year timeline:  Doctoral Program Timeline Overview

Ph.D. Courses

2020-2024 course offerings, engl 8138.01: seminar in critical theory: dispossession, the environment, and capitalism's endgame .

Ben Tran 

R 12:30 - 3:30 PM 

This graduate seminar examines the territorialization and enclosure of land and sea as imperialism, nationalization, and primitive accumulation. We will study this dispossession through three interconnected manifestations: 1) a history of ideas enacted through imperial and state forces; 2) the advancement of racial capitalism; and 3) environmental destruction and climate change.

Our readings and discussion will consider how scholars have approached this development in the humanities and social sciences. By engaging with interdisciplinary scholarship across literary studies, critical theory, black studies, history, environmental humanities, and settler colonial and postcolonial studies, this seminar will introduce students to some of the most significant concepts of modern theoretical discourse, useful for research across different time periods, genres, and subdisciplines.

After familiarizing ourselves with historical contexts, methodologies, and theoretical frameworks, we will interrogate the possible endgames of capitalism’s dispossessipn. Has capitalism yielded something worse, if not ended? Why has the atmosphere eluded thorough theorization and territorialization, yet it is now, more than ever, an imperative medium and resource of dispossession, from chemical warfare and drones to air pollution and wireless networking technology (such as 5G) extracting the data of our personal lives? How have global geopolitics and empires been reconfigured, such as the rising tension between China and the US as a new Cold War or competing infrastructure and economic systems?

ENGL 8351.01: Studies in 20th and 21st Century American Literatures: Aesthetics and Politics (Honors Seminar)

Mezzanine with ENGL 3898.03

Candice Amich

TR 11:00 - 12:15 PM 

What happens when the line between art and life becomes blurred? When bodies in the street become aestheticized or poems become acts of political protest? In this course we will study the relationship between poetics, politics, and performance across the 20/21 century Americas. We’ll begin with a survey of foundational debates in Marxist criticism in literature and art, which later theoretical readings will build upon. Aesthetic-political touchstones will include Black Surrealism, Conceptualism in Latin American Art, Brechtian theater, postcolonial poetics, and the performance of witness. [3] (HCA)

Spring 2024

Engl 8440.01 studies in comparative literature: literature in dark times .

Allison Schachter  

TH 12:00 – 3:00 PM   

What does it mean to create literature in dark times? How do we know when we are living in such times? What does living mean and for whom? These are pressing concerns for our own historical moment. In this class we will examine how writers register the rise of authoritarian regimes, the varieties of state violence, and the breakdown of everyday life that ensues. We will read theoretical works written during and in the aftermath of the rise of fascism and totalitarianism in the twentieth century by writers such as Hannah Arendt, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Husrton, and Svetlana Alexievich. We’ll consider experimental attempts to document state violence and its effects on everyday life. We’ll also read twenty-first century works navigate the complex boundaries between aesthetics and politics; representation and documentation; and realism and experimental form. Much of the writing about midcentury state violence has focused on male intellectuals and writers, so for the purpose of this class we’ll give special attention to women writers and intellectuals to consider the ways that they approached these historical and aesthetic concerns.  

ENGL 8138.01 Seminar in Critical Theory and Methodology: Postcolonial Methods 

Akshya Saxena  

T 2:45 – 5:45 PM  

This course introduces the broad field and methodologies of postcolonial studies. It asks: What is the relationship between anti-colonialism, decolonialization, and postcolonialism? How have these theoretical and political positions shaped contemporary academic debates about postcoloniality? 

While postcolonial studies is not a unified field of theoretical inquiry, we begin by tracing key moments, thinkers, and texts in its academic disciplinarization. We examine the emergence, institutionalization, and enduring “crisis” of postcolonial studies today. Along the way, we develop frameworks to think broadly about the cultural production in the Global South by those subjects whose identities and histories have been shaped by colonial encounters. How might we stage a conversation between postcolonial studies (historically focused on modern colonization in South Asia and Africa) with American, Hemispheric, and Ethnic Studies? Centering “method” as a question, we will explore the overlaps and disjunctures between postcolonial theory, globalization studies, and theories from the margins that draw on the Black radical tradition, Marxist critiques of imperialism, and indigenous critiques of settler colonialism. 

The course consists of three units: 1) Mapping the field—key thinkers (January) 2) Postcolonial vs Decolonial, settler colonialism/Indigenous studies (February) 3) a series of guest lectures by faculty members (mid-March-mid-April). The last two weeks focus on developing your final research paper. 

ENGL 8370.01: Studies in Eighteenth Century British Literature: The Novel and the Philosophy of History: From the Polis to the Planetary

Scott Juengel  

M 3:00 – 6:00 PM  

The novel is frequently cast as the quintessential bourgeois form, complicit with liberal norms, capitalist striving, and imperial planning.  That story is certainly familiar and true, but this seminar opens the conceptual aperture wider to consider how the novel participates in modern ideas about historical time and historical consciousness.  To what degree is the novel hero a historical subject, and how does the ‘prose of the world’ advance a sense of history’s emplotment?  In a contemporary moment when certain reactionary forces are attempting to ban our histories, and discount our futures, why is historical fiction flourishing?  To be clear, this is not a course on historicism as a method, or the historical novel as a genre; instead, it focuses on literary works that function as meditations on historical time (e.g. deep time, conjectural history, insurgent futurities, catastrophe, genealogical archives, collective memory, etc.).  The seminar will be anchored by 6-8 works of fiction stretching from Defoe to our contemporary moment, but our week-to-week deliberations will be quickened by short readings in narrative/novel theory, and modern philosophy of history from Vico to Arendt and beyond. 

ENGL 8110 Proseminar

MW 10:00-11:15am

The proseminar provides an introduction to graduate studies through attention to practical, structural, and theoretical issues.  We will consider various accounts of the university as an institution, with emphases that range from its status as a corporate entity, to its disparate investments in futurity, to its history as a locus of dissent.  We will look closely at specific aspects of professionalization, drawing on the experience of invited guests to discuss such processes as the development of research questions, methodologies, and archives; preparation for comprehensive examinations; steps that lead to a dissertation project; and the stages through which an essay moves toward publication.  We will also expand our inquiries outward, to consider paradigms with implications not only for how we practice our academic work, but for how we inhabit the social world: ideology and cultural capital, discipline and precarity, community and consent.  As we move through the semester, students will have opportunities to assign texts – fictional, historical, critical, and/or theoretical – that represent the periods, forms, and approaches with which they are most concerned. (This course fulfills the RCRG 6308 requirement). [4]

ENGL 8120 Pedagogy

TR 11:00am-12:15pm

This is a learning-intensive workshop where you will plan your spring 2024 1000-level “W” class.  We will emphasize a learning-centered, student-oriented approach to teaching, and a revision-based approach to writing instruction.  You will learn how to plan your class holistically, to backward design from clearly defined learning goals.  You will design assignments from assessment models that connect organically and transparently to your learning goals for the class.  You will get ideas for interacting with and managing classroom affect to produce better learning for your students.  You will learn, in tandem with your observation of another course, to design and run fruitful class discussions with your student’s learning outcomes in mind.  You will learn to evaluate and comment productively on student papers.  You will finish with a fully designed class, with plans for each day, with discussion plans, forward and backward quizzes, writing and recall exercises, and other classroom activities. [4]

ENGL 8351 Studies in 20th and 21st Century American Literatures: Black Worlds and World-Making

Anthony Reed / Brandon Byrd

M 12:20-3:20pm

This seminar is about Black people and the modern world. With canonical and contemporary readings, it attends to historical and contemporary thought and the subjective experiences of people who have claimed Blackness as a political, social, and cultural identity. By working across disciplinary and activist modes of scholarship both recent and foundational, this seminar will establish a common ground and a foundation on which students and scholars from a variety of backgrounds can collaborate for the mutual purposes of study and struggle. On certain weeks, we will join our class meeting with the Black Worlds Seminar at the Robert Penn Warren Center. This Seminar invites scholars from Vanderbilt and beyond to share new and in-progress research on topics such as interrelated struggles for racial justice, practices of resistance, and dreams of freedom across Africa and its Diaspora. [4]

ENGL 8410 Studies in Romantic and Victorian Literatures: British Literature and the Afterlives of Race

Rachel Teukolsky

W 12:00-3:00pm

How did notions of race, embodiment, and human difference inflect nineteenth-century British literatures? The course begins with the truism that the British empire established contact zones in India, Africa, and the Caribbean islands (among others) where the quest for profit on foreign lands contributed to racist hierarchies of self and other. Yet British aesthetic embodiments were complicated and at times unpredictable. We’ll pursue the question with an open-ended, multiform approach. One crucial focus will be the cultural and literary effects of the diaspora of African peoples around the world during an era of mass enslavement. The course will explore not only works of 19th-century British literature but also contemporary rewritings and adaptations, especially those by writers of color. Classic nineteenth-century texts have been an extraordinary crucible for twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers, who have used them to meditate on the founding conditions of racial modernity.

Potential pairings will include: Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847) with Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966); Dion Boucicault’s stage melodrama The Octoroon (1859) with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s stage rewriting, An Octoroon (2014); JMW Turner’s notorious painting of a slave ship (1840) with David Dabydeen’s long poem “Turner” (1995); documents surrounding “the Hottentot Venus” alongside Suzan Lori-Parks’s contemporary stage play Venus (1996); and a sequence beginning with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1898), followed by Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart (1958), Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now (1979), and the recent documentary film African Apocalypse (2020). Other readings may include Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point”; essays on slavery by Thomas Carlyle and John Stuart Mill; and Mary Seacole’s The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), a Jamaican woman’s war memoir. We’ll also study a selection of theory, from the nineteenth century to the present. The course welcomes both novices and experts.

Spring 2023

Engl 8138 critical theory & methodology.

Alex Dubilet

Tuesday 2:45pm - 5:45pm

This class investigates the interrelation of three nodes in contemporary theoretical discourse: civil war and its genealogies as explored in critical and political theory (e.g. Foucault, Tiqqun, Agamben), theories of antagonism and general antagonism as articulated in contemporary Black studies (Wilderson, Harney & Moten), and the imaginary of insurgency and counter-insurgency in colonial modernity. It will pursue such questions as: What is the role of civil war and antagonism in our theorizations of modernity? How are genealogies of civil war as a counterweight to sovereignty and the state transformed if we understand political modernity centrally through the prism of coloniality and the (after)lives of slavery? What is the relation between theorizations of permanent civil war constituting society (e.g. Marx) and general antagonism as “a constant and ongoing rebellion and insurgency against identity” that emerges out of the Black radical tradition? The course will touch upon questions of destituent power, the undercommons, sovereignty and the unsovereign, insurrection and justification, as well as the figures of the partisan, the insurgent, and the terrorist. Other authors read may include Arendt, Bargu, Benjamin, Clastres, Deleuze, Devji, Esposito, Fanon, Gago, Gordon, Hartman, Loraux, Losurdo, Nietzsche, Mao, Marx, Mufti, Owens, Robinson, Schmitt, Tomba, Tronti, Vardoulakis. [4]

ENGL 8351 20th and 21st Century American Literature: Exploring the Environmental Humanities

Carlos Nugent

Thursday 2:45pm - 5:45pm

Climate scientists have come to a consensus that the planet has passed into the Anthropocene—a geological epoch in which human societies have a dominant and even determining influence on their nonhuman environments. As these scientists have analyzed the Anthropocene’s material traces, humanists have started studying its cultural causes and consequences. Drawing on and developing such efforts, this course invites Ph.D. students, M.A. students, and advanced undergraduates to explore the “environmental humanities.” Most abstractly, the course meditates on its own conditions of (im)possibility: how, it asks, have environmental problems (from local pollution to global warming) become (un)intelligible to academic disciplines (especially ecocriticism, or environmental literary criticism). More concretely, the course attends to our collective pasts and futures: how, it asks yet more insistently, have our more-than-human realities (from plants and animals to chemicals and machines) shaped and been shaped by our all-too-human identities (such as gender, race, and class)?   [4]

ENGL 8440 Studies in Comparative Literatures: Caribbean Singularities

Vera Kutzinski

Wednesday 12:20pm - 3:20pm

What makes the Caribbean, which some have described as an “American Mediterranean,” so singular? One answer might be creolization (Glissant), another might be place (Harris), a third one might be revolution (James). Starting with these and other answers, we will explore examples of geocultural thinking about the Caribbean and its history in a range of literary and critical works from the second half of the twentieth century. This Caribbean is of course an extended Caribbean— the Caribbean archipelago, its rimlands, its diaspora. Our focus will be on the lived and (dis)remembered/imagined experiences tied to this world of interconnected islands, going all the way back to the Middle Passage and the Plantation. How has the specificity of the Caribbean land with its histories of (neo-/post-) colonialization across different colonial languages shaped how writers represent ways of being (including racial and sexual identities), disrupt literary aesthetics and engage with cultural politics? To get a precise sense of what it means to write not just about a place but also in a specific place at a particular time , we will anchor our conversations in  selections from the work of four key twentieth-century figures: Wilson Harris (Guyana), Edouard Glissant (Martinique), Antonio Benítez Rojo (Cuba), and C.L.R. James (Trinidad). Their writings are fulcrums for a host of earlier and later texts; we will read some of those (most likely the novels; more on this later) and not others. I will map these relations for you for future reading. [4]

Courses of Interest in other Departments

Gss 8304 gender, power, and justice.

Kathryn Schwarz

Wednesday 1pm - 3:30pm

What is the relationship between theory and practice? It’s an old question; still, as I write a course description amidst our current cultural dynamics, it strikes me with new force. We invest much energy to create theoretical paradigms for social experiences: theories of gendered, racial, economic, and sexual inequities; of discipline and ideology; of separatism, coalition, and community; of vulnerability, interdependence, oppression, and resistance. At what points do theory and practice meet to produce effective action, and to facilitate the pursuit of social justice?

As we consider the complicated nexus of gender, justice, and power, we’ll engage thinkers who interweave the conceptual with the experiential: feminists of color; queer activists; radical separatists; advocates for interrelation and coalition; creators of manifestoes and polemics. I’ll set some of these texts, but our archive will be a collaborative project. Each of you will have opportunities to share resources, drawn from your own disciplines, from contemporary popular discourses, and from other contexts that add depth and vitality to our conversations. We’ll work together to bring individual insights and experiences into conversation with one another. And we’ll approach theories of social justice not only on their terms but also on our own, with a degree of enthusiasm, a measure of skepticism, and at least a flicker of hope. 

AMER 8000 The Rhetoric of Inquiry in American Studies

Wednesday 3:10pm - 6pm

American Studies is an interdisciplinary field that links scholars from such disciplines as history, English, philosophy, sociology, religious studies, communication studies, and more. This course will explore the past, present, and future of American Studies through the language, symbols, and discourse that shape its interdisciplinary inquiry. Beginning with a brief history of the field, the course will feature the scholarship of (and discussions led by) Vanderbilt faculty from across the university. In addition, the course follows a workshop model, which will offer students the chance to work on their own projects (including those begun in their home departments) in the context of peer-led, interdisciplinary writing groups. [4]

Tuesday 2:45 - 5:45 PM

Tuesday & Thursday, 10:00 - 11:15 AM

This is a learning-intensive workshop where you will plan your fall 2020 1000-level “W” class.  We will emphasize a learning-centered, student-oriented approach to teaching, and a revision-based approach to writing instruction.  You will learn how to plan your class holistically, to backward design from clearly defined learning goals.  You will design assignments from assessment models that connect organically and transparently to your learning goals for the class.  You will get ideas for interacting with and managing classroom affect to produce better learning for your students.  You will learn, in tandem with your observation of another course, to design and run fruitful class discussions with your student’s learning outcomes in mind.  You will learn to evaluate and comment productively on student papers.  You will finish with a fully designed class, with plans for each day, with discussion plans, forward and backward quizzes, writing and recall exercises, and other classroom activities. [4]

ENGL 8331 Studies in Medieval and Early-Modern British Literature: What is Lyric

Jessie Hock

Thursday 3:35 - 6:35 PM

This seminar will do three things: first, it explores contemporary theorizations of lyric poetry by scholars of several different fields and historical periods. Second, it offers an in-depth introduction to English lyric poetry from the mid-sixteenth through the mid-seventeenth century. While the course is not a survey (Spenser, for example, gets short shrift), we will cover many of the important lyric genres and poetic movements of the period, including Petrarchism, metaphysical poetry, cavalier poetry, pastoral, devotional lyric, and more. Finally, the seminar aims to support students’ development not just as readers and critics of Renaissance poetry, or even lyric poetry in general, but as teachers of poetry. It will thus function as a practicum of sorts in reading, analyzing, teaching, and writing about verse. Throughout the course, we will look both backwards and forwards in time, attending on the one hand to the classical forbearers of Renaissance lyric, and on the other to the payoffs those lyrics have today, in terms of influence but also in terms of theories of lyric. In the last weeks of class our focus on the latter will take us beyond the Renaissance to later poets, almost certainly Emily Dickinson, a poet who has come to be vital to contemporary theorizations of lyric, and perhaps others according to class interest. [4]

ENGL 8351 Studies in 20th and 21st Century American Literatures: Diaspora, Poetics, Empire

Anthony Reed

Monday 12:20 - 3:20 PM

Despite but also powerfully shaped by the imposition of race as a pre-organizing grid through which the dominant culture frames Black being, Black political organization depends on formulating forms of solidarity, however contingent. Forms of solidarity—social, political, ethical, and aesthetic—are this course’s topic. We start from the understanding that conflicts within and between movements and actors inflect theories of “consciousness,” “subjectivity,” “identity,” “social construction,” or “ontological predicament” of the past half century. How have those working alongside the sign-complex of the “Negro,” “Colored,” Black,” “African American,” etc., imagined and enacted collectivity and freedom? How does this imagining register in and as literary form?

The transition from colonial and related modalities of direct domination to contemporary forms of more indirect domination has an aesthetic corollary in what is represented, how literary texts capture and negotiate the dynamic nature of the discourses, laws, and conventions that reproduce racial difference, and how those texts imagine community and freedom. In this seminar, we will read a range of theoretical and literary texts (without treating those terms as opposing or mutually exclusive) to interrogate matters of representation and poetics. Poetics does not refer to poetry alone, but to the genre- and form-specific ways texts produce the effects that mark them as literary within and against the grain of the power relations that shape the literary. This means we will also attend to the relationship between official narratives of history and the representations of discrete practices of time-keeping that shape the relationship between sites of the African diaspora. Focusing on key 20th century and contemporary texts and debates, this course will track Black responses to empire, its dissolution, and the limits of sovereignty alongside shifting understandings of race and solidarity. Abiding questions include the relationship of literature to its context, alongside time as theme and formal concern—e.g., progress, stasis, and recursion—in literary and theoretical texts. [4]

Spring 2022

Engl 8351 studies in 20th and 21st century american literatures: narratives of black love and kinship.

Emily Lordi

Wednesday 12:20 - 3:20 PM

This course will examine well known works of African American fiction, nonfiction, and theory that thematize Black love, desire, intimacy, and the intricacies of domestic life. Reading across the shifting literary, legal, social, and critical terrains of the 20th and 21st centuries, we will ask how and to what extent the legacies of enslavement continue to shape and inspire Black kinship. How are the dynamics of patriarchy and anti-Black racism reproduced and resisted in Black domestic spaces? How do certain genres (e.g., passing narratives) speak to the imbrications of Blackness and whiteness, and how might marriage plots—what critic Ann du Cille called “the coupling convention”—signify hope as well as anxiety regarding female mobility, Black diasporic alliance, queer desire, and reproductive futurity? Grading is based on respectful participation, regular attendance, one presentation, and a final paper. [4] 

ENGL 8441 Studies in Anglophone World Literatures: Literature Across Media

Akshya Saxena

Thursday 12:20 - 3:20 PM

We seldom think of literature as a hybrid medium. However, the proliferation of digital technologies has intensified the interrelation of media everywhere. This course focuses on how contemporary global Anglophone literature invokes and interacts with film, sound, performance, digital, and the visual arts. Building upon interventions in sound studies, film and visual media, and reading practices, it explores the interplay of the textual, aural, and figural in contemporary global Anglophone literature.

The term Anglo-“phone” invokes both the people who speak and the technology that makes them heard. As literary scholars, we are used to asking “who speaks” but rarely “who listens?” and “how?” How does literature not simply represent the sounds of non-Anglophone worlds but emerge in the space between sound and silence, orality and writing?  What materialities, surfaces, and soundscapes does literature occupy most urgently, and to what end? With a mix of literary and critical readings, this course introduces contemporary global Anglophone literature, and imagines a critical reading practice that is attentive to their trans-medial and post-lingual character. [4]

ENGL 8442 Media Studies: Cinema and the Problem of Work

Jennifer Fay & Iggy Cortez

Monday 3:35 - 6:35 PM

How do the rhythms, cadences, and bodily affects of work lend themselves to cinematic figuration? What difference does cinema make to the form and aestheticization of labor? How does the medium register shifts from industrial to post-industrial culture and from Fordist regimentation to the neoliberal gig economy?  

This seminar considers work in relation to theories of the subject as made manifest on film and in dialogue with affect theory, critical race studies, performance studies, gender and sexuality studies, and unfolding debates on the distinction between nonwork and leisure, 24/7 capitalism, and data surveillance. Attentive to how work has historically buttressed notions of belonging and futurity, we will interrogate how labor—and its potential alternatives—shape evolving configurations of intimacy, identification, and desire. It will also consider cinema as a commodity and therefore, itself, as a product of labor. [4]

Thursday 12:00  – 3:00 PM

The proseminar provides an introduction to English graduate studies through attention to both practical and theoretical issues. We will preview the arc of progress through the PhD program, from the art of the seminar paper to developing a dissertation project. Special attention will be paid to developing the writing skills necessary for professional success; we will draft and exchange conference abstracts, conference papers, and book reviews. We will also examine the stages through which an essay, that begins as a conference or seminar paper, may move toward publication. Together we will read a host of theoretical and critical essays that cover established and emerging approaches across historical periods, geographic areas, and genres. [4]

Dana Nelson 

TR 10:00 - 11:15 AM

ENGL 8138 Critical Theory: Psychoanalysis and Materialism: Love Books

Lynn Enterline and Jessie Hock

Thursday 3:10 – 6:00 PM

This team-taught seminar explores questions of critical methodology at the intersection of two theoretical paradigms, psychoanalysis and materialism. Some would consider pairing psychoanalysis and materialism perverse: contemporary turns to materialism (the “new materialisms”) are generally understood as a reaction against deconstructive theory’s emphasis on language, but psychoanalytic thought (both in Freud and the “French Freud”) puts theories of language at the center of any discussion of what it means to live in a body that speaks. In order to think psychoanalysis and materialism together, this class will return to ancient texts that refuse crude distinctions between psyche, soma, and discourse. Ancient materialism, which has deeply informed every later materialist turn (for example, Marx wrote his dissertation on the ancient atomists) puts poetry at the heart of its enterprise; and ancient semiotics, as well as the French theorists who turned to it, understand discourse to be a material event. Leaning both backward and forward in history, our study and conversation will look at the ways in which classical thinkers such as Lucretius and Ovid anticipate, inspire, and resonate in contemporary theoretical writing. Questions of sex, desire, and gender will be central. Most of the ancients gendered matter feminine to subordinate it (to form, to the idea), but Lucretius’s association of matter with the goddess Venus gives an extraordinarily positive valence to the body, desire, and the feminine. And psychoanalysis, which is opposed to teleological accounts of the sexed body’s biology, nonetheless takes biology into account in order to offer an anti-foundational theory about what it means to inhabit a gendered, sexualized body over time—the experience of which varies from culture to culture . Key theorists will include Althusser, Anzieu, Bersani, Butler, Deleuze, Derrida, Freud, Lacan, Laplanche, Lucretius, and Kristeva. Additional sites through which we explore the conjunction between psychoanalysis and materialism will include literary texts by Margaret Cavendish, Andrew Marvell, Ovid, and John Webster. [4]

ENGL 8351 Studies in 20th & 21st Century American Literatures

Tuesday 12:10 – 3:00 PM

When Frank Dery coined the term “Afro-Futurism” in 1993, he was not especially thinking of women writers—even though Octavia Butler had been publishing her novels and stories since the late 1970s and who was to receive a MacArthur Fellowship in 1995. Even a 2007 special issue on Afro-Futurism of the journal Science Fiction Studies included only two of the many Black women SF writers who, following in Butler’s footsteps, have emerged the 1990s to much popular acclaim. Among them are Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Karen Lord, Jewelle Gomez, and N.K. Jemisin whose fictions we will read in this seminar in connection with selections of Butler’s work. Doing so will give us a precise sense of Butler’s enduring literary legacy across the African diaspora—notably in the Caribbean, West Africa, Canada, and the USA.

I am using the more flexible “SF” in my title to avoid boxing in the above authors by imposing on their work terms such as “science fiction,” “speculative fiction,” “postcolonial fiction,” or “fantasy.” These literary genres or modes intersect in their work to an extent that makes them virtually indistinguishable, which largely obviates their analytical usefulness. I have also avoided the designation “Afro-futurist” because of its masculinist emphasis. Rather, I want to suggest that there are salient differences between the imaginative work that Black SF women writers have been producing and that of their male colleagues. To put some of these differences in perspective, we will read Samuel R. Delany’s Babel 17 . We will also address the geo-cultural differences to which Nnedi Okorar alludes in her 2019 coinage of “Africanfuturism” as an alternative to “Afro-Futurism.”

Among the questions we will explore are the following: What are Black women writers’ creative strategies for surviving anti-black racism, along with persistent sexism and gender discrimination? What alternatives to raced and gendered violence, oppression, and exploitation become thinkable in other geo-temporal locations? How have Black women writers imagined the possibilities and the limits of humans living respectfully with so-called others? Who are those others in their fictions? What is the half-life of the institution of slavery? What forms of enslavement continue to surface in the work of Black women writers? How do they imagine the future of humans in relation to the environment? [4]

Provisional list of literary readings:

  • Butler, Octavia E., selections from Lilith’s Brood (1987-89): Dawn and Adulthood Rites .
  • -----. Fledgling (2005). 
  • Delany, Samuel R. Babel 17 (1966)
  • Gomez, Jewelle, The Gilda Stories (1991)
  • Hopkinson, Nalo, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)
  • Hopkinson, Nalo and Uppinder Mehan, eds. So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy (2004)
  • Jemisin, Nora K., selections from The Broken Earth Trilogy (2018)
  • Lord, Karen, The Best of All Worlds
  • Okorafor, Nnedi, Binti: the Complete Trilogy (2015-17)
  • Talabi, Wole, ed., Africanfuturism: An Anthology (2020)
  • Lewis, Sharon, dir., Brown Girl Begins (2018)

ENGL 8441 Studies in Anglophone World Literatures: The Long Poem

Colin Dayan

Tuesday 3:10 - 6:00 PM

The seminar adopts a “workshop” approach: a few students (depending on class size) each week will make available their interventions. These writings will be the basis of our discussion.  

The long poem—or “poetic sequence”—is a hybrid genre, a compound of lyric “immediacy” and epic “inclusiveness.” We will discuss this genre-marriage of the form, as well as ask what happens when history becomes part of poetry, recalling Pound’s idea of the epic as a long poem that “contained history.” Studying the interplay between politics and poetry, racial or racially inflected poetic practice and cultural production, we begin with Whitman’s 1855  Leaves of Grass , then turn to Eliot, Pound, William Carlos Williams, John Berryman, Adrienne Rich, Derek Walcott, and N. NourbeSe Philip.  

Other readings include: Hart Crane ( The Bridge ), Wallace Stevens ( Auroras of Autumn ), Charles Olson  (Maximus ), and Harryette Mullen ( Drudge ). [4]

Spring 2021

Dana Nelson - Hybrid Attendance

ENGL 8138 Seminar in Critical Theory and Methodology: Literature in Dark Times

Allison Schachter - Online Synchronous

R 12:10 - 3:00 PM

What does it mean to create literature in dark times? How do we know when we are living in such times? What does living mean and for whom? These are pressing concerns for our own historical moment. In this class we will examine how  writers register the rise of authoritarian regimes, the varieties of  state violence, and the breakdown of everyday life that ensues. We will read theoretical works written during and in the aftermath of the rise of fascism and totalitarianism in the first half of the century, including works by Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Svetlana Alexievich. We’ll consider experimental attempts to document state violence and its effects on everyday life in works like Charlotte Beradt’s Third Reich of Dreams and Victor Klemperer’s  Language of the Third Reich. Finally, we’ll read  twentieth and twenty-first century novels and memoirs that aim to represent this violence. We’ll trace how writers such as Octavia Butler, Colson Whitehead, China Mieville, Adania Shibli, and Valeria Luiselli,  navigate the complex boundaries between aesthetics and politics; representation and documentation; and realism and experimental form. [4]

ENGL 8351 Studies in 20th & 21st Century American Literatures: 21st Century American Climate Fiction

Teresa Goddu - Online Synchronous

M 12:10 - 3:00 PM

Climate fiction is a rapidly emerging genre within contemporary literature that addresses urgent environmental, social, psychological, political, affective, and ethical issues stemming from climate change through an imaginative lens. Named as “cli-fi” by the blogger Dan Bloom in 2008 and transformed into a cultural buzzword by the popular press, climate fiction has become over the last decade a focus of literary production, readerly interest, scholarly criticism, and academic teaching.

This course surveys contemporary American fiction that addresses the climate crisis. We will address two large questions: 1) how the climate crisis is provoking a new literature genre and 2) how fiction in turn shapes understandings of and responses to this crisis. Hence, we will focus on questions of genre (how new genres coalesce, especially within new media environments), motifs and methods (both thematic and formal), and literature’s value to the climate conversation. In short: how is climate fiction defined? what does it say? and why does it matter? 

Texts may include: Ben Lerner, 10:04 ; Cormac McCarthy, The Road ; Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles ; Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation; Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones ; Lauren Groff, Florida ; and others, including short stories, films, and critical works. Students will participate in weekly short exercises as we build our own sense of the genre (book reviews, motif library, etc.) and write a final seminar paper. Students will also have the opportunity to choose our final readings for the course. [4]

ENGL 8370 Studies in 18th Century British Literature: Radical Feelings: 1750 - 1850

Scott Juengel - Online Synchronous

W 12:10 - 3:00 PM

“The passions are what we could call monarchical states of being,” writes Philip Fisher in The Vehement Passions (2002), “Impassioned states seem to drive out every other form of attention or state of being.”  This seminar might be characterized as a short history of strong feeling (before, during, and after the revolutionary decades).  By focusing on a period defined by what James Chandler calls “hot chronologies”—a historical sense of accelerating eventfulness and periodizing condensation—we will explore the connections between political sentiment and (in)operative feeling in an age of world historical upheaval.  Beginning in the mid eighteenth century with the cult of sensibility and its pedagogies of exquisite feeling, the syllabus will reconsider how the subsequent history of revolution, reaction, emancipation, and rights discourse produced new modes of thinking about impassioned states and mass affect.  What new subjectivities can be felt in times of social unrest and governmental suppression?  Which emotions bind one to social collectivities, and which compel withdrawal?  How are outsized passions—e.g. terror, rage, guilt, shame, ecstasy, enthusiasm—at odds with moral sentiment and bourgeois propriety, and how might they translate into political action?  While the seminar will be transatlantic in its geopolitical coordinates and thus quickened by revolutionary campaigns and freedom movements in the U.S., France, and Haiti, the bulk of the primary materials will be British and American.  Primary texts might include selections from Hume, Adam Smith, Sterne, Sancho, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine, Blake, Godwin, Hays, Radcliffe, Sansay, Baillie, Sedgwick, Wedderburn and others, likely ending with Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 . [4]

ENGL 8410 Studies in Romantic & Victorian Literature: Science and Science Fiction in Nineteenth-Century Literature

Jay Clayton - Online Synchronous

T 12:10 - 3:00 PM

This course focuses on British and transatlantic writing during two moments in which both genre distinctions and disciplinary boundaries between science and literature were being recast in decisive ways—one in the decades just prior to the Victorian age, when science and technology were very much a part of the larger culture, not a separate sphere reserved for specialists; the other at the fin de siècle , when “racial science,” eugenics, and imperialism were closely intertwined. In each period, we will read foundational works of scientific culture alongside British and American popular fiction, which powerfully shaped public attitudes toward science and society. We will also read some neo-Victorian fiction from the late-twentieth century to explore how alternative history can revise our understanding of the past.

The course begins by contrasting two iconic works of SF and realism published in the same year—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1818)—then turns to the 1830s, the crucible in which scientific disciplines were being forged, to read fantastic exploration narratives: Poe’s “Ms. Found in a Bottle” (1833) and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), and Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle (1839).

We then fast-forward to the second half of the century when disciplinarity was more securely established and mass market fiction was similarly being cordoned off from serious literature, developments that I argue are closely related. Texts will be drawn from utopias such as Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872) and William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890); SF and horror stories such as Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897); H. Ryder Haggard’s imperial romance, She (1887) and Pauline Hopkins’s inversion of colonial romance, Of One Blood (1903); two early examples of black science fiction, Martin Delany’s Blake; or The Huts of America (1859-62) and M. P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud (1901); and early SF from India, Jagadish Chandra Bose’s “Runaway Cyclone” (1896) and Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein’s “Sultana’s Dream” (1905). Neo-Victorian fiction will include Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979), stories by Andrea Barrett and A.S. Byatt, and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016) .  [4]

R 12:00  – 3:00 PM

The proseminar provides an introduction to English graduate studies through attention to both practical and theoretical issues. We will preview the arc of progress through the PhD program, from the art of the seminar paper to developing a dissertation project. Special attention will be paid to developing the writing skills necessary for professional success; we will draft and exchange conference abstracts, conference papers, and book reviews. We will also examine the stages through which an essay, that begins as a conference or seminar paper, may move toward publication. Together we will read a host of theoretical and critical essays that cover established and emerging approaches across historical periods, geographic areas, and genres.

ENGL 8138 Critical Theory: Race and (Dis)Possession

Alex Dubilet & Ben Tran 

W 3:10 – 6:00 PM

How do we theorize the relation between race and the operations of possession and dispossession in modernity? What is the role and significance of capitalism and modern regimes of property to the processes of racialization? What theoretical tools are necessary for understanding the nexus and legacy of possession and dispossession that emerge from the discovery of the New World and subsequent settler colonialism? How do we think of possession and dispossession in slavery and its afterlives? This graduate seminar will explore these and related questions from multiple theoretical angles and through various historical and geographic sites. By engaging with diverse scholarship across Marxism, critical theory, literary studies, black studies, and settler colonial critique, this seminar will introduce students to some of the most significant concepts of modern theoretical discourse, useful for research across different time periods, genres, and subdisciplines.

Possible authors will include (in part, with the input of the participants): Karl Marx, W.E.B. Dubois, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Sylvia Wynter, Cheryl Harris, Moishe Postone, Patrick Wolfe, Silvia Federici, Saidiya Hartman, Glen Coulthard, Brenna Bhandar, Frank B. Wilderson III, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney. In exploring such topics as primitive accumulation, the struggle for the commons, colonial modernity and decolonial imaginaries, and the realities of and resistances to slavery and its afterlife, the seminar will explore key theoretical perspectives in the critical humanities, unpack the concepts entailed by them, and trace the requisite historical frameworks informing them. Throughout, we will ask after the different ways race has been theorized in relation to and in ambit of liberal capitalist modernity.

ENGL 8351 Studies in 20th & 21st Century American Literatures: Diaspora, Poetics, and Empire

M 3:10 – 6:00 PM

Focusing on key texts of the twentieth century, and emphasizing the contemporary, this course will track black responses to empire, its dissolution, and the limits of sovereignty alongside shifting understandings of race. Abiding questions include the relationship of literature to its context, alongside the interrelated temporal contours of literary form and the rhetoric of progress in literary and theoretical texts.

We’ll consider Négritude, 20th century pan-Africanisms, and various configurations of black nationalism and internationalism. I’ll arrange it so that it provides good field coverage, and lets me get a rolling start to my next project.

General Course Information

See below for general information about Ph.D. courses, including timing for specific courses and common topics for seminars.

ENGL 8110: Proseminar [4]

Students are required to take this course during their first term in the Ph.D. program.

ENGL 8120: Pedagogy Seminar [4]

Students are required to take this course during the fall term of their third year in the Ph.D. Program. Learning-intensive workshop where students design and plan the courses they will teach in subsequent semesters. Students will be introduced to a learning-centered, student-oriented approach to teaching, a revision-based approach to writing instruction, and a holistic strategy for course design.

ENGL 8137: Introduction to Literary Theory [4]

May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic.

ENGL 8138: Seminar in Critical Theory and Methodology [4]

Topics include gender and sexuality studies, critical race studies, visuality and/or spectrality, postcolonial studies, disability studies, archival research and editorial practices, digital and public humanities, and environmental humanities. May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic.

Previous Topics:

  • F2012: Shakespeare & Theory (Lynn Enterline)
  • F2013: Things (Jonathan Lamb)
  • F2016: Narrative/Theory (Kathryn Schwarz)
  • S2018: Postcolonial Theory (Ben Tran)
  • S2019: Capitalism & Racialization (Alex Dubilet & Ben Tran)
  • F2020: Race and (Dis)Possession (Alex Dubilet & Ben Tran)
  • S2021: Literature in Dark Times (Allison Schachter)

ENGL 8150: Independent Study [4]

Engl 8303: queer theory [3].

History and development of queer theory. Key intellectual antecedents, significant theorists, and current trends. How sexuality intersects with gender, race, class, nationality, ability, and religion.

ENGL 8331: Studies in Medieval and Early-Modern British Literature [4]

Topics include modernisms, African American, Asian American, Latino/a, and Caribbean American literatures. May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic.

  • F2017: Renaissance Lyric (Jessie Hock)
  • S2019: Subject to Sexuality in the Early Modern Period (Lynn Enterline)
  • F2019: Firing the Canon (Jessie Hock)
  • F2022: What is Lyric (Jessie Hock)

ENGL 8351: Studies in 20th and 21st Century American Literatures [4]

  • F2010: James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, & Langston Hughes (Vera Kutzinski)
  • S2011: The Troika Plus One (Hortense Spillers)
  • S2012: Subjectivity & Suppression in African American and Caribbean Autobiography (Ifeoma Nwankwo)
  • F2013: American Classics & their Afterlives (Cecelia Tichi)
  • F2016: Performance & Precarity in the Neoliberal Americas (Candice Amich)
  • F2016: African American Poetry & Poetics, 1950s to the Present (Vera Kutzinski)
  • S2018: The Idea of Black Cultures (Hortense Spillers)
  • S2018: 20th Century American Political Fictions (Cecelia Tichi)
  • S2019: African American Poetry (Vera Kutzinski)
  • F2019: Narratives of Black Love & Kinship (Emily Lordi)
  • S2020: Diaspora, Poetics, & Empire (Anthony Reed)
  • S2021: 21st Century American Climate Fiction (Teresa Goddu)  

ENGL 8370: Literatures of the 18th Century [4]

  • F2015: The Enlightenment & Its Literary Connections (Scott Juengel)
  • F2015: Fiction & Fictionality (Jonathan Lamb)
  • F2017: Experiments in Narrative in the Long 18th Century (Jonathan Lamb)
  • S2018: Performing Persons & Places in the Long 18th Century (Bridget Orr)
  • F2018: Satire, Roman, Novel 1600-1800 (Jonathan Lamb)
  • F2019: The Book of Worlds (Scott Juengel)
  • S2021: Radical Feelings 1750 - 1850 (Scott Juengel)

ENGL 8410: Studies in Romantic and Victorian Literatures [4]

  • S2014: Law, Narrative & Romantic Literature (Mark Schoenfield)
  • S2017: Race, Embodiment, and the Victorian Imagination (Rachel Teukolsky)
  • F2017: Science Fiction in 19th Century Literature (Jay Clayton)
  • F2018: Law, Theatricality & Romantic Literature (Mark Schoenfield)
  • S2020: New Approaches to 19th-Century Studies (Rachel Teukolsky)
  • S2021: Science and Science Fiction in 19th Century Literature (Jay Clayton)

ENGL 8430: Studies in Modern and Contemporary British and Irish Literatures [4]

Topics include British and Anglo-Irish modernisms, Black British writers.  May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic.

  • S2015: Framing Modernism in the 20th & 21st Centuries (Mark Wollaeger)

ENGL 8440: Studies in Comparative Literatures [4]

Topics include classical or ancient legacies; hemispheric American literatures, Caribbean literatures in different languages; translation studies; studies of literary genres and forms; global modernisms; transatlantic and transpacific studies.  May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic.

  • F2014: Caribbean Fiction & Poetry (Vera Kutzinski)
  • S2016: Secularism & Minority Culture (Allison Schachter)
  • S2016: Colonial Modernity (Ben Tran)
  • S2017: Countering Colorblindness Across the Disciplines (Marzia Milazzo)
  • F2017: Idioms of Servility (Colin Dayan)
  • F2018: Theories of the Vernacular (Akshya Saxena)

ENGL 8441: Studies in Anglophone World Literatures [4]

Topics in global colonial and global postcolonial Anglophone literatures, including Asian, African, and Caribbean writers; global modernisms. May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic.

  • S2013: Atlantic & Hemispheric Studies (Vera Kutzinski)
  • F2021: The Long Poem (Colin Dayan)
  • S2022: Literature Across Media (Akshya Saxena)

ENGL 8442: Media Studies [4]

Topics include new models of science and the humanities; modes of reality and representation in the age of cyberculture; American literature and the cinema; early cinema (1893-1920). May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic.

  • F2011: The Distracted Subject of Cinema (Jennifer Fay)
  • S2015: Technoscience to Nanoculture (Jay Clayton)
  • S2015: Modes of Reality & Representation in the Age of Cyberculture (Helen Shin)
  • F2016: On Sincerity & the Media of Appearance (Jennifer Fay)
  • S2019: Media Studies (Helen Shin)
  • F2019: Archives & End Times (Jennifer Fay)
  • S2022: Cinema and the Problem of Work (Jennifer Fay & Iggy Cortez)

ENGL 8450: Studies in Early and 19th-Century American Literatures [4]

  • S2012: Herman Melville (Colin Dayan)
  • S2014: Early African American Print Culture (Teresa Goddu)
  • F2014: The Long Poem (Colin Dayan)
  • F2018: Rituals of Belief & Practices of Law in the Americas (Colin Dayan)

How Long Does It Take to Get a Ph.D. Degree?

Earning a Ph.D. from a U.S. grad school typically requires nearly six years, federal statistics show.

How Long It Takes to Get a Ph.D. Degree

english phd course duration

Caiaimage | Tom Merton | Getty Images

A Ph.D. is most appropriate for someone who is a "lifelong learner."

Students who have excelled within a specific academic discipline and who have a strong interest in that field may choose to pursue a Ph.D. degree. However, Ph.D. degree-holders urge prospective students to think carefully about whether they truly want or need a doctoral degree, since Ph.D. programs last for multiple years.

According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, a census of recent research doctorate recipients who earned their degree from U.S. institutions, the median amount of time it took individuals who received their doctorates in 2017 to complete their program was 5.8 years. However, there are many types of programs that typically take longer than six years to complete, such as humanities and arts doctorates, where the median time for individuals to earn their degree was 7.1 years, according to the survey.

Some Ph.D. candidates begin doctoral programs after they have already obtained master's degrees, which means the time spent in grad school is a combination of the time spent pursuing a master's and the years invested in a doctorate. In order to receive a Ph.D. degree, a student must produce and successfully defend an original academic dissertation, which must be approved by a dissertation committtee. Writing and defending a dissertation is so difficult that many Ph.D. students drop out of their Ph.D. programs having done most of the work necessary for degree without completing the dissertation component. These Ph.D. program dropouts often use the phrase " all but dissertation " or the abbreviation "ABD" on their resumes.

According to a comprehensive study of Ph.D. completion rates published by The Council of Graduate Schools in 2008, only 56.6% of people who begin Ph.D. programs earn Ph.D. degrees.

Ian Curtis, a founding partner with H&C Education, an educational and admissions consulting firm, who is pursuing a Ph.D. degree in French at Yale University , says there are several steps involved in the process of obtaining a Ph.D. Students typically need to fulfill course requirements and pass comprehensive exams, Curtis warns. "Once these obligations have been completed, how long it takes you to write your dissertation depends on who you are, how you work, what field you're in and what other responsibilities you have in life," he wrote in an email. Though some Ph.D. students can write a dissertation in a single year, that is rare, and the dissertation writing process may last for several years, Curtis says.

Curtis adds that the level of support a Ph.D. student receives from an academic advisor or faculty mentor can be a key factor in determining the length of time it takes to complete a Ph.D. program. "Before you decide to enroll at a specific program, you’ll want to meet your future advisor," Curtis advises. "Also, reach out to his or her current and former students to get a sense of what he or she is like to work with."

Curtis also notes that if there is a gap between the amount of time it takes to complete a Ph.D. and the amount of time a student's funding lasts, this can slow down the Ph.D. completion process. "Keep in mind that if you run out of funding at some point during your doctorate, you will need to find paid work, and this will leave you even less time to focus on writing your dissertation," he says. "If one of the programs you’re looking at has a record of significantly longer – or shorter – times to competition, this is good information to take into consideration."

He adds that prospective Ph.D. students who already have master's degrees in the field they intend to focus their Ph.D. on should investigate whether the courses they took in their master's program would count toward the requirements of a Ph.D. program. "You’ll want to discuss your particular situation with your program to see whether this will be possible, and how many credits you are likely to receive as the result of your master’s work," he says.

How to Write M.D.-Ph.D. Application Essays

Ilana Kowarski May 15, 2018

english phd course duration

Emmanuel C. Nwaodua, who has a Ph.D. degree in geology, says some Ph.D. programs require candidates to publish a paper in a first-rate, peer-reviewed academic journal. "This could extend your stay by a couple of years," he warns.

Pierre Huguet, the CEO and co-founder of H&C Education, says prospective Ph.D. students should be aware that a Ph.D. is designed to prepare a person for a career as a scholar. "Most of the jobs available to Ph.D. students upon graduation are academic in nature and directly related to their fields of study: professor, researcher, etc.," Huguet wrote in an email. "The truth is that more specialization can mean fewer job opportunities. Before starting a Ph.D., students should be sure that they want to pursue a career in academia, or in research. If not, they should make time during the Ph.D. to show recruiters that they’ve traveled beyond their labs and libraries to gain some professional hands-on experience."

Jack Appleman, a business writing instructor, published author and Ph.D. candidate focusing on organizational communication with the University at Albany—SUNY , says Ph.D. programs require a level of commitment and focus that goes beyond what is necessary for a typical corporate job. A program with flexible course requirements that allow a student to customize his or her curriculum based on academic interests and personal obligations is ideal, he says.

Joan Kee, a professor at the University of Michigan with the university's history of art department, says that the length of time required for a Ph.D. varies widely depending on what subject the Ph.D. focuses on. "Ph.D. program length is very discipline and even field-specific; for example, you can and are expected to finish a Ph.D, in economics in under five years, but that would be impossible in art history (or most of the humanities)," she wrote in an email.

Kee adds that humanities Ph.D. programs often require someone to learn a foreign language, and "fields like anthropology and art history require extensive field research." Kee says funding for a humanities Ph.D. program typically only lasts five years, even though it is uncommon for someone to obtain a Ph.D. degree in a humanities field within that time frame. "Because of this, many if not most Ph.D. students must work to make ends meet, thus further prolonging the time of completion," she says.

Jean Marie Carey, who earned her Ph.D. degree in art history and German from the University of Otago in New Zealand, encourages prospective Ph.D. students to check whether their potential Ph.D. program has published a timeline of how long it takes a Ph.D. student to complete their program. She says it is also prudent to speak with Ph.D. graduates of the school and ask about their experience.

Online Doctoral Programs: What to Expect

Ronald Wellman March 23, 2018

english phd course duration

Kristin Redington Bennett, the founder of the Illumii educational consulting firm in North Carolina, encourages Ph.D. hopefuls to think carefully about whether they want to become a scholar. Bennett, who has a Ph.D. in curriculum and assessment and who previously worked as an assistant professor at Wake Forest University , says a Ph.D. is most appropriate for someone who is a "lifelong learner." She says someone contemplating a Ph.D. should ask themselves the following questions "Are you a very curious person... and are you persistent?"

Bennett urges prospective Ph.D. students to visit the campuses of their target graduate programs since a Ph.D. program takes so much time that it is important to find a school that feels comfortable. She adds that aspiring Ph.D. students who prefer a collaborative learning environment should be wary of graduate programs that have a cut-throat and competitive atmosphere, since such students may not thrive in that type of setting.

Alumni of Ph.D. programs note that the process of obtaining a Ph.D. is arduous, regardless of the type of Ph.D. program. "A Ph.D. is a long commitment of your time, energy and financial resources, so it'll be easier on you if you are passionate about research," says Grace Lee, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is the founder and CEO of Mastery Insights, an education and career coaching company, and the host of the Career Revisionist podcast.

"A Ph.D. isn't about rehashing years of knowledge that is already out there, but rather it is about your ability to generate new knowledge. Your intellectual masterpiece (which is your dissertation) takes a lot of time, intellectual creativity and innovation to put together, so you have to be truly passionate about that," Lee says.

Curtis says a prospective Ph.D. student's enthusiasm for academic work, teaching and research are the key criteria they should use to decide whether to obtain a Ph.D. degree. "While the time it takes to complete a doctorate is an understandable concern for many, my personal belief is that time is not the most important factor to consider," he says. "Good Ph.D. programs provide their students with generous stipends, health care and sometimes even subsidized housing."

Erin Skelly, a graduate admissions counselor at the IvyWise admissions consulting firm, says when a Ph.D. students struggles to complete his or her Ph.D. degree, it may have more to do with the student's academic interests or personal circumstances than his or her program.

"The time to complete a Ph.D. can depend on a number of variables, but the specific discipline or school would only account for a year or two's difference," she wrote in an email. "When a student takes significantly longer to complete a Ph.D. (degree), it's usually related to the student's coursework and research – they need to take additional coursework to complete their comprehensive exams; they change the focus of their program or dissertation, requiring extra coursework or research; or their research doesn't yield the results they hoped for, and they need to generate a new theory and conduct more research."

Skelly warns that the average completion time of a Ph.D. program may be misleading in some cases, if the average is skewed based on one or two outliers. She suggests that instead of focusing on the duration of a particular Ph.D. program, prospective students should investigate the program's attritition and graduation rates.

"It is worthwhile to look at the program requirements and the school's proposed timeline for completion, and meet current students to get their input on how realistic these expectations for completion are," Skelly says. "That can give you an honest idea of how long it will really take to complete the program."

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COMMENTS

  1. Ph.D. Program

    6) a course organized in terms other than chronological coverage. 7-12) Elective courses. (A thirteenth required course in pedagogy can be taken later.) Students who have done prior graduate course work may transfer up to three courses for credit toward the 12-course requirement. Up to five of the 12 courses may be taken in other departments ...

  2. Graduate Program Overview

    Course of Study. The graduate program in English is a five-year program (with multiple opportunities for funding in year six) leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Students may not enroll for a Master of Arts degree. During the first two years, students prepare for the General Examination through work in seminars, and directed or ...

  3. PhD Program in English Language and Literature

    A graduate student may also serve as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate lecture course taught by a member of the Department of English faculty. Language Requirements Each student and special committee will decide what work in foreign language is most appropriate for a student's graduate program and scholarly interests.

  4. Ph.D. Program

    Any substitution of a language other than one for which Stanford offers a competency exam must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Other requirements. All candidates for the Ph.D. must satisfactorily complete the following: 135 units, at least 70 of which (normally 14 courses) must be graded course work

  5. Ph.D. Degree Requirements

    Requirements for the Ph.D. in English. The Ph.D. is designed to be completed by a full-time student in six years. All students complete 72 credit hours for the degree: 52 hours of coursework and 20 hours of dissertation research. The Department of English does not accept transfer credit for course work completed prior to enrollment at ...

  6. Program Description

    A minimum of 14 courses must be completed no later than the end of the second year. At least ten courses must be at the 200- (graduate) level, and at least six of these ten must be taken within the department. Graduate students in the English department will have priority for admission into 200-level courses.

  7. Ph.D. Program Overview

    For 8-10 students in their third year, one semester of University Writing will be replaced with a seminar section of the department's introductory course, Literary Texts and Critical Methods. Literary Texts and Critical Methods. This one-semester course is a required introduction to the undergraduate major.

  8. Doctoral Program

    Brown's doctoral program trains graduate students to become teachers as well as researchers. Thus we require that, with some exceptions, our students teach for three years as assistants to members of the English Department faculty and as instructors of sections of ENGL0900 (formerly ENGL0110) Critical Reading and Writing I: The Academic Essay, and ENGL0200 Seminars in Writing, Literatures ...

  9. PhD Program

    A course in literary criticism (English 8050, 8060, 8070, or an equivalent graduate course at another institution) English 8020, The Theory and Practice of Teaching in English (for students who want to teach literature classes) PhD students in the creative writing program are required to take: 9 workshop hours at the 8000 level

  10. Graduate

    Our graduate students come from across the globe, with a huge range of life experiences, tastes, and talents. Graduate education in the Harvard English Department is about helping each of our unique students become the scholar, teacher, writer, reader, mentor, and citizen they want to be. To that end, we have rigorous requirements: exams ...

  11. English, PhD < University of Pennsylvania

    2023-24 Catalog. English, PhD. The Department offers full-time M.A. and Ph.D. programs. Comprehensive in their range of specializations, these programs are intellectually dynamic and rigorous. Our M.A. program offers students a solid foundation in the professional study of literature and culture, and our Ph.D. program prepares students for full ...

  12. Ph.D. in English

    Kathy Psomiades Director of Graduate Studies Department of English Duke University Box 90017 Durham, NC 27708-0017 Phone: (919) 684-5538 Email: [email protected]

  13. PhD English Course, Admission, Fees, Eligibility, Entrance Exams

    The fees for the PhD English course varies across the universities in India. University of Mumbai has a fee of INR 2,500 per year. Students have to pay INR 10,000 for submission of synopsis. Thus in total for a PhD English through University of Mumbai, the student incurs INR 20,000 to 30,000.

  14. How Long Does It Take to Get a Ph.D. Degree?

    Kee says funding for a humanities Ph.D. program typically only lasts five years, even though it is uncommon for someone to obtain a Ph.D. degree in a humanities field within that time frame ...

  15. How Long Does It Take To Get a PhD?

    Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on Jan 31, 2024. A PhD program typically takes four to seven years, but a variety of factors can impact that timeline. A PhD, or doctorate degree, is the highest degree you can earn in certain disciplines, such as psychology, engineering, education, and mathematics. As a result, it often takes longer to ...

  16. PhD in USA

    In general, however, the typical annual tuition fee for a PhD in the US is between $12,000 and $45,000 per academic year. As with any doctoral degree, additional costs may include travel for collaborations, bench fees, accommodation and living expenses. A PhD in USA takes 5-6 years, costs between $12-45k per year and has a different structure ...

  17. PhD Program

    All PhD students are required to take the Research Methods course, ENGL 500B. This pass/fail course introduces students to the forms and protocols of PhD research. It counts towards the 15 credits required for admission to candidacy. PhD programs are individually planned in consultation with the Chair of the Graduate Program.

  18. How Long Does A PhD Take?

    In the UK, a full-time PhD will typically take you 3 to 4 years. You will usually spend the first three years on the technical aspects of your doctorate. This includes undertaking independent research, designing your research methodology and collecting and analysing data. You will then spend an additional academic year on writing up your PhD ...

  19. PhD in English: Courses, Fees, Syllabus, Eligibility, Top Colleges

    What is the duration of PhD in english course? The duration of PhD course is between 3 to 5 years. Does IGNOU offer PhD in English? Yes, IGNOU offers PhD in English. Similar College. Apply Before Dec 16. ICFAI Business School (IBS) Mumbai - Maharashtra. Course Offered MBA. Fees for 2 years ₹ 909000. Avg. Package ...

  20. Find Online Ph.D. Programs

    A doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D., is a specific type of doctorate focused primarily on academic research. Ph.D. students are expected to conduct original research and add to their field's discourse. Most Ph.D. programs also require you to write and defend a dissertation. All Ph.D.s are doctorates, but not all doctorates are Ph.D.s.

  21. PhD: Full Form, Admission 2024, Courses, Degree, Entrance Exams

    The full form of PhD is Doctor of Philosophy derived from the Latin term Philosophiae Doctor. PhD is the highest degree or doctorate awarded for research in a particular subject. The duration of PhD course is 3 years but can vary from college to college. PhD Eligibility requires students to have pursued a master's degree or an MPhil with a ...

  22. PhD English Literature: Course Details, Eligibility ...

    PhD English Literature duration of three to five years. The course involves the study of the English language and Literature from all parts of the world, their origin, their analysis etc. ... PhD English Literature courses in India is a three years full-time doctorate programme within the field of English. This course includes various types of ...

  23. Doctor of Philosophy

    A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin: philosophiae doctor or doctor philosophiae) is the most common degree at the highest academic level, awarded following a course of study and research. The degree is abbreviated PhD and sometimes, especially in the U.S., as Ph.D. It is derived from the Latin Philosophiae Doctor, pronounced as three separate letters (/ p iː eɪ tʃ ˈ d iː ...

  24. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, MA (Online)

    Program at a Glance. The online Master of Arts in clinical mental health counseling is designed to put your goals within reach. Three start dates each year and a manageable course load of just two classes during each accelerated session enables you to earn your degree in as few as two years — all while maintaining an ideal work/school/life balance.