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PhD Degree Requirements

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Educational Goals

​Prof. Carroll's "19th Century Ocean Cultures" seminar fulfilled both the Transatlantic and Print and Material Culture Research Tracks. Pictured: graduate students visiting the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia to learn about the oceanic life represented by authors like Jane Austen, Olaudah Equiano, and Charles Dickens

Our program's mission is as follows: 

  1. To facilitate student’s specialized work in a significant area of British, American, and Anglophone literary and cultural studies and/or theory
  2. To teach students to protocols of scholarly research and publishing in their respective fields
  3. To prepare students to be effective teachers of writing and analysis in their respective fields and/or to facilitate their preparation for other forms of public engagement beyond the academy

​Students entering with a B.A. are required to take 15 courses (45 credit hours), including the Introduction to Literary Theory, Composition Theory and the Teaching of Writing, and the one-credit Introduction to Graduate Studies in English. Students are welcome to take courses in other departments and programs with the approval of the Graduate Director. 

M.A. transfers must take 10 courses (30 credit hours) over 2 years and may be required to take ENGL600 (Introduction to Graduate Study in English) and ENGL684 (Introduction to Literary Theory) if they have not had such courses. M.A. transfers who are Teaching Assistants are typically required to take ENGL688 (Composition Theory and the Teaching of Writing) unless they have already received specific training in E110 teaching.

Language/Skills Requirements
Student analyzing manuscript item

​Pictured: Frank Desiderio reading a manuscript journal in the J. Welles Henderson archive. Students are encouraged to learn skills such as paleography, which can help them decipher historical manuscripts. 

All Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate either (1) an ability to read and work in one language other than English; or (2) the acquisition of a skill or body of knowledge important to the student's doctoral project. 

Students may fulfill the language requirement in one of the following ways:

• Pass a comprehension examination administered by the English Department 

• Submit evidence of completion of an intermediate college-level language course in which the students have received a grade of at least a B during their undergraduate education

The "Skills" option may take many forms, such as relevant work experience, volunteer service, or coursework at the University of Delaware or elsewhere directly related to the doctoral project. 

Students will be required to submit a formal proposal to the graduate committee explaining in detail how their skill or body of knowledge will contribute to their scholarly, intellectual, and professional development. 

The language/skills requirement must be fulfilled in order for a PhD student to move to candidacy status.

Teacher Training and Evaluation

One of the unique strengths that each of our graduate students enjoys on the job market is the depth and diversity of their teaching portfolios. Rather than serving as a grader or an assistant to a professor's class, the courses that our graduate students teach are emphatically their own: they design the syllabi, choose the reading lists, set the calendar, create the assignments, and do the grading.

We also guarantee each graduate student the opportunity to teach at least one literature class related to the student's area of specialization. In order to prepare students for teaching in the literature classroom, we require that they complete a Graduate Apprenticeship in their area.  This involves "shadowing" a faculty mentor for a semester in a literature or media course, from syllabus design to the end of the semester. Among the literature courses that our students have taught are survey courses in British and American Literature, Introduction to Shakespeare, Biblical and Classical Literature, and Approaches to Literature.

Students' teaching will be monitored by the Director of Composition over the course of their teaching career in the program. A comprehensive review, which  students typically encounter in the Fall of the 3rd year, will be conducted by the Director of Composition and the Director of Graduate Studies. This comprehensive review requires students to submit a teaching portfolio, described below.

The Teaching Portfolio

​Our students also seek out teaching opportunities in the public humanities. Pictured: Megan O'Donnell on a paid speaking engagement for the Marple Public Library 

Each student must submit a teaching portfolio as part of the PhD teaching review. This portfolio will include:

1) A 250-500 word statement of teaching philosophy

2) Sample syllabi and sample assignments

3) A direct observation report

4) A summary of and reflection on numerical teaching evaluations

5) A letter of support from at least one faculty member other than the student's faculty advisor

Qualifying Exam

​During January and February of the 2nd year all students will be required to take a qualifying exam to continue in the program. 

The exam consists of 2 parts:

1) a revision of one of a student's seminar papers that demonstrates their ability to write and revise a scholarly argument

2) an oral examination in which the student demonstrates their familiarity with the essential texts of their chosen field.

A field can be constituted as a historical period, national literature, genre, or other broad framework that the student wishes to continue to study.

Students may not continue their Ph.D. studies if they do not successfully complete the Qualifying Exam. Instead, they may submit a Portfolio to be considered for an MA

Specialty Examination

​The Specialty Examination must be taken at the conclusion of the 6th semester of Ph.D. work. 

All students are required to pass a Specialty Examination consisting of two parts: 

(1) a 20-page bibliographical essay

(2) a 90-minute oral field examination

The student must submit the bibliographical essay for approval by the examiners no later than May 1st of the academic year in which the exam will be taken. 

Disseration or Doctoral Proposal and Project

The Proposal

Before being admitted to formal candidacy, the student must prepare a doctoral project proposal for approval by the Graduate Committee in consultation with a director and a second reader (both of whom must be tenure-track faculty members). The proposal should be a thorough document, including a statement of the subject, its exigency and audience, a survey of the significant primary and secondary materials, and an outline of the sections or chapters (in the case of a traditional dissertation or monograph). The final deadline for submission of a proposal to the Graduate Committee is September 1.

The Project

The doctoral project could take any number of forms including a traditional dissertation (monograph), a digital or public humanities project, a new edition of a text, a series of thematically related essays, or an interdisciplinary project

Regardless of the form that it takes, the project should draw on the student's training and coursework to incorporate the skills of textual interpretation and/or formal analysis to explore a specific cultural, political, or social question.  

We invite students to develop new kinds of projects that will serve them in a variety of possible careers upon completion of the Ph.D. (see Appendix G of the Graduate Handbook).

Upon completion, and in accordance with the university requirements, students will defend the doctoral project. The defense will be a 90-120 minute discussion with the student's committee members of the major methodological, conceptual, literary historical, and formal questions addressed by the project. The defense will be open to the public.

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PhD Degree Requirements
  • Department of English
  • 203 Memorial Hall
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • University of Delaware
  • Phone: 302-831-2361