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PhD in English Language and Literature

The doctoral program in English Language and Literature is designed to lead to the PhD in six years of post-baccalaureate study.

Students can specialize in diverse fields of British, American, or Anglophone literatures and explore a wide range of critical, theoretical, and cultural perspectives on those literatures.

The program assures that students gain broad literary and cultural knowledge along with the research skills that will allow them to make innovative contributions to the world of ideas.

We are committed to the idea that learning is a social process, and that one can learn a great deal from one's peers when lodged in a community that encourages students to share ideas. Such a community is impossible to establish when students are made to compete for funding with one another, however. To foster a collective enterprise, we guarantee six years of funding to all admitted students. During the first and fifth years of graduate studies, all students in English Language and Literature receive a full fellowship which consists of a living stipend, tuition costs, and health care benefits. In later years, students receive tuition, health care, and living expenses as part-time graduate student instructors (GSIs). The department, in conjunction with the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, is also committed to supporting students' professional activities and pays many of the expenses for research travel and for participation in academic conferences. The second year of fellowship support is provided by a number of annual dissertation fellowships, awarded to deserving students by the graduate program, the graduate school, and the Institute for the Humanities. 


The department strongly recommends for applications to the doctoral program to hold a bachelor's or master's degree in English.For more information on how to apply to the PhD in English Language & Literature, please review the How to Apply: PhD in English Language & Literature page.

Program Requirements

Foreign Language Requirement: Satisfied by coursework or departmental examination in the first two years of the doctoral program.

  • 2 basic languages, equivalent to 2 years of college study
  • 1 advanced language, equivalent to 3 years of college study

Specific Course Requirements:

  • Introduction to Graduate Studies
  • 3 upper level seminars
  • 2 cognate courses (graduate level coursework outside of the English Department)
  • 992, directed study with the dissertation chair

No other specific coursework is required, but students are expected to devote the first year to a broad, well-balanced coverage of the discipline. Subsequent coursework in the second and third years should be directed primarily toward the student's special areas of interest.

Third-Term Review: In the first term of the second year, each student's career will be reviewed to provide direction, counseling, and an early professional orientation. If the review is favorable, the Graduate Committee will recommend that the student continue to work for the PhD.

Preliminary Examination: During the second year, each student chooses three faculty members to serve on his or her Examinations Committee. During the third year, each student must successfully complete one oral examination administered by the Examinations Committee.

Dissertation Prospectus: A prospectus outlining plans for the student's dissertation must be approved by the Graduate Chair by the fall of the fourth year of the PhD program. Future fellowships and other support are contingent upon the timely completion of the prospectus.

Candidate Status: In order to be nominated for candidacy, a student must complete two years of coursework, including cognates; meet the foreign language requirement; and receive a favorable third-term review.