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PhD Degree Requirements

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The Ph.D. degree is designed to immerse students into specialized work in a significant area of British, American, and Anglophone literary and cultural studies and/or theory. At Delaware all Ph.D. students are encouraged to develop their coursework around one of the three designated Research Tracks, which focus work on Print and Material Culture, Race and Ethnicity, and Transatlantic/Transnational Studies. Students receive strong teacher preparation and will learn, among other things, the protocols of scholarly research and publishing. Graduate training in our program foregrounds the importance of preparing graduate students for a variety of career paths within and beyond the academy.

All Ph.D. students will be funded on a six-year Teaching Assistantship (five-year if entering the program having already earned an MA) contingent upon successful completion of required coursework, program examinations, reasonable progress towards completion, and satisfactory teaching. After successful completion of the Specialty Exam and Doctoral Project Proposal, students enter candidacy. If funding permits, in the Spring term of the fourth year students will receive a semester-long fellowship with no teaching. The department cannot guarantee teaching after the sixth year of the Ph.D.


​Students are required to take fifteen 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. Every student will be expected to take at least five courses in one of the Research Tracks, and at least one course in British literature and one in American literature. A reasonable balance between 600- and 800-level courses should be maintained, and students are welcome to take courses in other departments and programs with the approval of the Graduate Director. Courses numbered below 600 do not count toward the degree.

M.A. transfers are required to take ten courses (30 credit hours) over two 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

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: a dictionary may be used to read a passage of approximately 1,000 words of critical prose in a foreign language. (Latin and Greek are exceptions: those passages will be of primary texts.) Then the student will answer a set of three or four questions based upon the reading. The questions and answers will be in English. An exam for any given language will be administered only once per year, either in the fall or spring depending on the language choice.

• Submit evidence of completion of an intermediate language course (typically the fourth course in the undergraduate sequence) or equivalent in which the students have received a grade of at least a B during their undergraduate education.

• By making alternate arrangements approved by the Graduate Committee.

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. Some possible topics might include paleography, statistical analysis, and print technology. Because the skills requirement will vary depending upon the student's research specialization, the graduate committee must approve proposals for a skills requirement. Should a student wish to satisfy the skills requirement through past work or volunteer experience, the department will require a contemporary demonstration of the skill, such as a seminar-length paper, a formal presentation, or workshop, as a condition of approval. 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. A supporting statement from the project adviser should accompany the proposal.

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

Teaching Evaluation

​Students' teaching will be monitored by the Director of Composition over the course of their teaching career in the program. A comprehensive review, which all students will complete in the Fall of the third year, will be conducted by the Director of Composition and the Director of Graduate Studies. This comprehensive review requires students to submit a portfolio, described below. In case of a disagreement, the matter will be referred to the Chair. Any student whose teaching is deemed unsatisfactory as a result of this review will not be funded for the last two years of the Teaching Assistantship.

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 

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 Teaching Literature.  This involves "shadowing" a faculty mentor for a semester in a literature 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.

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 second year all students will be required to take a qualifying exam to continue in the program. The exam consists of two parts: first, students will submit a revision of one of their seminar papers in the field of study that they wish to pursue. This essay may also reflect the student's interest in one of the Research Tracks. The second part will be an oral examination in which the student will respond to questions about the essay and demonstrate their mastery of the essential texts in 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. For a more detailed account of the Qualifying Exam procedures see the Graduate Handbook in English. 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 sixth semester of Ph.D. work. All students are required to pass a Specialty Examination consisting of two parts: (1) a 20-page bibliographical essay; and (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. Any student who is not prepared to take the Specialty Exam within this time period must petition the Graduate Director in writing for an extension. Any student who fails to take the Specialty Exam within the extension period will be recommended for dismissal from the program. 

Disseration or Doctoral Proposal and Project

The Proposal

Before being admitted to formal candidacy, the student must prepare a 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 monograph). The proposal should be approximately 10-12 (double-spaced) pages in length. No student should work extensively on the doctoral project until the proposal has been approved by the Graduate Committee.

Once the director and the second reader have approved the student's proposal, they should signify their approval by signing and dating the final draft. The student will submit the signed draft to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will furnish copies to the other members of the Graduate Committee for their review. The final deadline for submission of a proposal to the Graduate Committee is September 1.

In the event the proposal does not receive Graduate Committee approval, the Director of Graduate Studies will write a memorandum to the director, with copies to the student and the second reader, explaining the reason for the negative decision. The Committee may also request modification of the proposal, in which case the Director of Graduate Studies will notify the director, the student, and the second reader in the same manner, explaining the specific nature of the modifications needed. If the student elects to change the topic or if the topic does not receive approval by the Graduate Committee, the student may submit either a new or a revised proposal following these same procedures.

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. The final project should include an introductory essay, in which the student demonstrates its logic, need, and contribution to literary and cultural studies. 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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  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • University of Delaware
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