Department of English

Requirements for the Ph.D., Literature Concentration


All students, regardless of whether they enter with a BA or MA, are required to complete 39 hours of formal graduate coursework taken for a grade before the end of their third year, with at least 3 but no more than 9 of these hours taken out of department. These 39 hours must include E384K Disciplinary Inquiries, which is usually taken in the first semester; in addition, at least one graduate seminar must focus on pre-1800 material and at least one on post-1800 material. These curricular requirements are meant to ensure that students encounter a wide range of courses, faculty, and texts during their time here at UT.

Students choose courses in consultation with the Graduate Advisers, who may allow substitutions for Department of English courses when necessary. Such coursework could take the form of graduate seminars outside the Department of English, undergraduate courses taken for graduate credit, creative writing workshops or Literature for Writers courses, or conference courses with individual faculty members.

Students who hold the position of AI are also required to take RHE398T, usually during their fifth semester. RHE398T does count toward the required 39 hours of formal graduate coursework.

Beginning in their third year in the program, students have the option of enrolling in additional coursework inside or outside the Department of English, on a graded or credit/no credit basis. They can also enroll in E384K: Scholarly Publishing (usually taken in the third or fourth year) and E384K: Professional Outcomes (usually taken in the fourth, fifth, or sixth year). The graduate program encourages students to continue enrolling in optional courses throughout their time as a Ph.D. student, even as they are reading for exams and planning and writing a dissertation.


In the spring of year three, students must pass the Third-Year Examination, which tests their knowledge of and engagement with chosen fields of specialization. Students will be examined on either a fixed reading list or a reading list developed by three faculty members in collaboration with the student. The list will contain 60-80 primary and/or secondary texts. The Third-Year Examination consists of a written and an oral component. The written component consists of: 1) a 1000- to 2000-word intellectual rationale for the list; 2) an annotated version of the list (at least 1/3 of the texts with an annotation of 100 words or more each); and 3) two syllabi based on the list—the first for a survey course, the second for an upper-division seminar. Students will then sit for a two-hour oral examination during which the committee will ask questions about both the written materials and the students’ comprehension of the reading list.

The Prospectus Examination grants students an opportunity to receive formal feedback from three faculty members on their proposed dissertation project. Students work closely with faculty to write and revise a 15- to 20-page prospectus. Once the faculty members are ready to sign off on the document, an oral Prospectus Examination is scheduled. Students are encouraged to pass the Prospectus Examination by the end of the fall semester of their fourth year in the program.

Doctoral Candidacy is achieved when students have successfully completed the Third-Year and Prospectus Examinations; fulfilled the foreign language requirement (see below); and identified a dissertation committee of at least four faculty members, one of whom needs to be from another graduate program or institution. All students must spend at least two long semesters, or one long semester and one summer, in candidacy before earning their degree.

The last milestone for the Ph.D. is the Final Oral Defense, otherwise known as the dissertation defense.  In general, faculty will not schedule a defense until the dissertation is completed and ready for critical engagement.

Foreign Language Requirement

The minimum requirement for any student receiving a Ph.D. in English at UT is two years of college credit for a foreign language, or its equivalent.  This means a sequence of four or more semesters of a language other than English (with a grade of B or better in the last semester) at the college level, or its equivalent.  Students may have completed this coursework as part of a BA or other degree.

If this requirement is not met before enrolling at UT, the student can complete it in several ways.

  1. Completion of a UT 301 translation course with a “Credit.”  (Course may be taken repeatedly.)
  2. Coursework at UT: A sequence of four or more semesters of a language other than English, or intensive foreign language coursework covering the content of a four-semester sequence, passed with a grade of B or better in the last semester.

This foreign language requirement must be met before the student advances to Ph.D. candidacy.

The requirement can also be met with compelling evidence of literate knowledge of a language other than English, such as a high school degree from a school in a non-English speaking country, or course work taught in a language other than English at a foreign university.

Please note that this outlines the minimum requirement for English Ph.D.s.  Some students will need greater language proficiency for their scholarship, and they will need to pursue more credited or uncredited language study to meet those goals.  Students should consult with advisors and faculty in their area early in the program to assess and plan for their foreign language needs.