PhD Program

Our English PhD program offers students a rare combination of close interaction with faculty and personalized courses of study, with the wide array of intellectual, scholarly, and cultural opportunities that define a major research institution such as ours. For a detailed overview of what type of path our students take, see the PhD schedule page.

Our program comprises the following:

In addition to the program elements listed above we also have a language requirement. See our language exam page for more information.

 To learn about our past students, see the recent PhD recipients page.

Graduate Student Handbook

Please consult the English Department Graduate Student Handbook for the most up-to-date requirements of the graduate programs in English, including, but not limited to: field exams, language requirements, teaching pedagogy, and advisor selection.

For rules and regulations concerning graduate-level study at the University of Rochester, see the Graduate Bulletin.

Pedagogical Training

Our PhD students typically receive two types of pedagogical training: one is based in an apprentice model; the other consists of a formal pedagogy course offered through the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program (WSAP).

Apprentice Model Pedagogy Training

In the second year of the program, students are paired with a faculty member with whom they apprentice. In addition to sitting in on one of the faculty member’s undergraduate courses, the apprentice may engage in a variety of tasks. Depending on the nature of the course, the faculty member’s preferences, and the apprentice’s own previous experience the apprentice may

  • Assist in presenting certain material
  • Lead discussions once or twice during the semester
  • Help to devise and/or grade assignments
  • Hold office hours from time to time

In all cases, the apprentice will meet with his/her faculty mentor in order to discuss the course’s design, in-class dynamic, and assessment methods, as well as the pedagogical principles behind these.

WSAP Pedagogy Training

During the summer after the second year, those students who have applied successfully to teach for the WSAP in years three and four will participate in the WSAP’s pedagogy course. Information about the course will be provided to participating students in the spring.

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Qualifying Exam

Students typically take their qualifying exams during their third year of study. At the beginning of the third year, students must submit a Preliminary Scheduling Form.

Students must take exams in two fields - one historical field and one conceptual field.

The lists for both fields will be constructed by the candidate in close consultation with a committee consisting of at least three faculty members from the Department of English, and one faculty member from outside the Department. Historical fields generally include those traditionally recognized within the discipline. Conceptual fields may be critical theory fields, literary history fields, genre fields, history of ideas fields, or thematic fields. Conceptual fields should be designed to cover ground well beyond the student's area of historical specialization.

The Qualifying Examinations are an occasion for students to display their expertise in their chosen historical and conceptual fields; their main function is to help students develop the intellectual and scholarly credentials necessary for success in the profession.

The Dissertation Prospectus (approximately ten pages) should be filed within three months of having passed the exams. 

PhD Historical Field Lists

Each historical field list comprises no less than 80% of the final list compiled by the student in consultation with their committee. This allows students to have a set template and then to work with advisors, based on their interests, to supplement that template. Please keep this final length limit in mind when you consult with faculty about adding items to the list.

Sampling of PhD Conceptual Field

  • Theories of Theater
  • Feminist Theory
  • Literary Cosmopolitanism 
  • Poetry and Poetics
  • Postcolonial Theory
  • Textual Studies and the Digital Humanities
  • Transatlantic Studies
  • Theorizing Film and Media Authorship

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Graduate education in the department extends to both research and teaching. All PhD students participate in a summer-long pedagogy course and are exposed to a variety of teaching environments by:

  • Designing and leading their own composition courses
  • Co-teaching a course with a faculty member
  • Receiving training and experience in English-as-a-Second-Language instruction
  • Teaching core courses during the summer term

Beginning in their third year, students teach one course per semester for the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program (WSAP). Each graduate instructor designs his or her own syllabus, reflecting their own passions, interests, and emerging expertise. Enrollment in writing courses is limited to 15 students.

In addition to WSAP courses, advanced graduate students have the opportunity to teach courses within their fields of specialization through the Teaching Fellowship Program, the Susan B. Anthony Teaching Fellowship, and the department's summer school curriculum.

Campus resources for teaching include:

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Dissertation and Defense

All PhD students must write and defend a dissertation. See the graduate studies PhD defense page for details and deadlines. 

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