Department of English

Requirements for the Ph.D., Literature Concentration

Curriculum

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.

Milestones

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

Students working toward a Ph.D. in English at UT Austin are expected to pursue courses of language study relevant to their individual professional trajectories, as determined in consultation between students themselves; their faculty mentors; and graduate program advisor(s).

Student progress toward appropriate levels of competence will be assessed by means of a four-part Foreign Language Audit according to the following schedule:

  1. Fall semester of the first year: Foreign Language Interview with the associate graduate advisor to review prior training, assess current levels of expertise, and, if necessary, begin developing an appropriate language study agenda.

  2. Spring semester of the second year: as part of the Second-Year Reflection, students complete a first Language Study Check-in with the graduate advisor(s) and their faculty sponsor, to ensure that appropriate progress has been made toward execution of the agenda with alteration or addition in light of subfield expectations and project directions.

  3. Spring semester of the third year (in most cases): as part of the Third-Year Exam, students will complete a second Language Study Check-in, this time with their exam committee, to determine whether satisfactory progress has been achieved on their language study agenda, again with alteration or addition in light of subfield expectations and project directions.

  4. Fourth year (in most cases): as part of the Prospectus Exam, students will finalize their Foreign Language Audit. This will involve discussion with the exam committee, along with presentation of all necessary evidence to demonstrate that the language study agenda has been fulfilled. If, in the judgment of the committee, requisite levels of language competence have not been achieved, student and committee will agree upon a binding plan for fulfillment, during which period the student shall remain on probationary status with regard to the Foreign Language Requirement. Successful fulfillment of the Foreign Language Audit must be achieved before the student advances to Ph.D. candidacy.

Notes: Some students will enter the program with sufficient foreign language skills for their course of study (e.g. either 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 four or more semesters at the college level of a language other than English with a grade of B or better in the last semester, or its equivalent). These students will not need to complete the final three steps of the FLA.