PhD Program

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 Fields

  • 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