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PhD in English

The PhD in English at UT combines breadth of study throughout the field of English with a range of options for advanced work in various specialties. Students choose to pursue a PhD in one of three concentrations: Literature, Criticism, and Textual Studies; Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics; or Creative Dissertation.

We have a world-class research library with special collections in British and American literary and cultural history, excellent financial support, and a nationally and internationally recognized faculty. Our students have many opportunities for collaboration with faculty on scholarly journals, research assistantships, poetry and fiction readings, and reading groups.

Generous travel funds for research and presentations at scholarly conferences help our students enter the profession and begin to establish themselves in their respective fields within the discipline. The Graduate Students in English organization, area study groups, and other activities draw students together as an intellectual and social community with shared passions and aspirations. Many of our PhD graduates have been chosen for tenure-track positions at research universities, comprehensive universities, and liberal arts colleges, as well as for other postdoctoral fellowships and appointments. For a list of recent placements, click here.

Entrance Profile of Candidates

The admissions deadline is December 1 for admission to all our doctoral concentrations.

All  applicants to the PhD program must hold an MA or MFA degree by the time they begin their coursework in the fall.  We do not admit people directly from the BA program. All admitted applicants begin their coursework together as a class in the fall. While most of our candidates hold master’s degrees in English, we also consider applicants with master’s degrees in related disciplines. Typically, admitted students are able to transfer up to 24 hours of course credit from their MA or MFA degrees. If students arrive with fewer than 24 hours of transferable credit in English, the Director of Graduate Studies may require that they take additional coursework in English.

The Graduate School requires a 3.0 GPA average in all previous coursework at the graduate level for admission to PhD programs, but most of our applicants for the PhD have a much higher GPA in their coursework.

We evaluate all of our degree candidates holistically, based on a portfolio of grades, recommendations, GRE scores (with an emphasis on the Verbal score), a statement of goals, and a writing sample. We are interested in the overall picture of strengths and interests that these materials provide.

We have no specific cutoff numbers for the GRE scores, though our most competitive candidates have Verbal scores of 160 (600 on the old test) or higher.

For information about how to complete your application, click on Admissions.


We strive continually for teaching excellence in the graduate and the undergraduate classroom. Our professorial faculty and our graduate students share in the balance of teaching and research that makes up the academic life.

PhD students with funding at UT are considered teaching associates. During their first year in the program, they teach one section of composition in the Fall and one in the Spring. In subsequent years in the program, the teaching load rises to two courses in the Fall and two in the Spring, but this load may be reduced if students win competitive research assistantships and/or dissertation-year fellowships.

Our graduate student teachers as well as our professorial faculty regularly win departmental, college, and university teaching awards for their superb work in the classroom.

Associateships for PhD students include a tuition waiver and health insurance, and current stipend amounts, paid over twelve months, are $16,497 per year for a maximum of five years. For more information about funding, fellowships, and assistantships, see Fellowships and Assistantships.

Requirements for the PhD in English

This page describes the requirements that are common to all three concentrations of the Ph.D. program in English, as well as the specific requirements for each concentration.

All Ph.D. students in English must complete:

A.         Fifty-four credit hours of coursework beyond the BA level. Students may transfer a maximum of 24 hours from their MA or MFA degrees; the remaining 30 hours must be taken as coursework at UT. The total 54 hours, including any hours transferred from a master’s program must be divided as follows:

  1. At least 21 credit hours at the 600 level.
  2. At least 15 additional credit hours at the 500–600 level. (Only 3 credit hours of English 593 (Independent Study) may be applied toward the MA, and only 3 credit hours of English 593 may be applied after the MA).
  3. Fifteen additional credit hours of courses at any level approved for graduate credit. Students may take up to six of these hours in collateral areas outside the English Department. Doctoral candidates who have completed the MA may not count 400-level courses toward the minimum number of credit hours required for the PhD with the following exception: A maximum of two to four 400-level courses may be transferable to the PhD with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, if those courses are presently creditable toward the MA degree. A student may, with a supporting letter from his/her dissertation advisor, petition the Director of Graduate Studies to count 400-level courses toward the minimum number of credit hours up to a maximum of 12 credit hours.
  4. Three credit hours of English 505 (Composition Pedagogy).
  5. Fulfillment of the core courses for the student’s chosen concentration, as follows:
    Literature, Criticism, and Textual Studies
    At least six hours in literature before 1800.
    At least six hours in literature after 1800.
    At least three hours in theory or methodology
    Creative Writing
    At least nine hours of graduate coursework in creative writing (English 580, 581, or 582)
    At least three hours of graduate coursework at the 600 level.
    Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics
    Three hours of English 585.
    Three hours of English 586.

Three hours of English 682.

(Note: For each concentration, these requirements may be fulfilled with coursework from the MA used to meet the 54 credit hour requirement.)

B.         Twenty-four hours of English 600 (Dissertation Hours). The dissertation will be directed by a faculty member of the department and approved by him or her and three or four other faculty members, including one from a field other than English.

NOTE: Once a student has completed course work and foreign languages, he or she normally registers for English 600 and remains continually enrolled, including during the Summer terms, unless granted a leave of absence from the Graduate School. Requests for such leaves must be endorsed by the Director of Graduate Studies.

C.         Successful completion of the foreign language requirement in one of the following ways:

  1. Two foreign languages approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The requirement for each language may be fulfilled in any of the following ways:
    • Completion of French 302 or German 332 with a grade of B or better.
    • Completion of any two courses at the 300 level or above in the foreign language or literature with at least a grade of B in each course.
    • Passing the regular PhD foreign language examination as administered at UT.
  2. One modern foreign language approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. This requirement must be fulfilled in the following way:
    • Passing the regular Ph.D. foreign language examination as administered at UT, and
    • Completion of two courses given in the foreign language at the 400 level or above, with at least one course at the 500 or 600 level. A minimum grade of B must be received in each course.
  3. One modern foreign language approved by the director of graduate studies and intense study of the English language. This requirement must be fulfilled in the following way:
    • Completion of one of the three requirements in option 1 above, and
    • Completion of English 508 and 509 (offered in alternate years) with a minimum grade of B in each course (one other course in the English language could, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, be substituted for one of these courses, with a minimum earned grade of B). (Note: These courses will not count toward the minimum number of courses for the PhD degree, and anyone electing this language option may not take a special topics PhD examination in English Language and Linguistics.)

D.         Passing the written comprehensive examinations —two field examinations and one specialized examination. For more information about the comprehensive field exams, see the Guide to PhD Comprehensive Field Exams in English as well as the Graduate Handbook 2016-2017.

E.         A one-hour oral defense of the dissertation.

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