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English Ph.D.


The Ph.D. program in English at the University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest and best doctoral programs of its kind. Ranked in the top 20 English Graduate Programs by U.S. News & World Report, our program offers students intensive research mentoring and pedagogical training in the vibrant setting that is Austin, Texas. In addition, all admitted English PhD students receive six years of full funding.

Drawing on the resources of two units, the Department of English and the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, our program has at its center a dynamic and dedicated faculty of over 60.

While the Ph.D. program is housed in and administered by the Department of English, the Department of Rhetoric and Writing is a crucial partner in helping to educate our shared students. The make-up of each cohort of students mirrors our unusual interdepartmental collaboration: each year we accept 10-12 students in literature and 4 in rhetoric and digital literacies.

One of the distinguishing features of our program is its collegiality and sense of shared purpose. Students and faculty work collaboratively on a number of departmental and university-wide committees, participate actively in reading and writing groups, and treat one another with respect.

Our program is engaged not only in meeting the challenges of a complex, rapidly changing academic discipline but also in helping to shape it. Our graduate courses examine relationships between writing and other cultural practices and explore the social, historical, rhetorical, and technological processes by which literature and other discourses are constituted. While we take seriously our responsibility to help train the next generation of the professoriate—that is, to cultivate scholarship, effective teaching, and collegiality—we also encourage our students to think of their training and their futures in the broadest terms possible.


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. These 39 hours must include:

  • E384K Disciplinary Inquiries, which is taken in the first semester. It may not include other courses under the E384 course number.
  • At least one 3-hour seminar on pre-1800 material
  • At least one 3-hour seminar on post-1800 material
  • At least 3 hours, but no more than 9 hours, taken out of department. Out-of-department courses include: undergraduate English courses taken for graduate credit, creative writing workshops or Literature for Writers courses with the New Writers Project, and supervised study conference courses arranged with individual faculty members.

These curricular requirements ensure that students encounter a wide range of courses, faculty, and texts during their time at UT, extending well beyond their specialized area of interest. Students choose coursework in consultation with the Associate Graduate Advisor, who may allow substitutions for English courses in cases where alternate coursework is needed to supplement departmental offerings. This alternate coursework could take the form of the out-of-department courses listed above. Such substitutions may be warranted in cases where a student is pursuing a portfolio in an interdisciplinary unit such as CWGS, MALS, or AADS; where the English department offers few courses in the student’s area of interest; or where the student needs to pursue a foreign language for research purposes. We encourage students to investigate portfolio options early in their career so they can integrate those courses as soon as possible. Some portfolios require 12 hours of coursework; in those cases, the Associate Graduate Advisor will grant an exception to the 9-hour limit on out-of-department courses.

Students who hold the position of AI are also required to take RHE398T, which is usually taken during the fall semester of their third year, or when a graduate student teaches RHE306 for the first time. RHE398T does not count toward the required 39 hours of formal graduate coursework.

Beginning in their third year of the program, students have the option of enrolling in additional seminars inside or outside the department, choosing whether to take these courses for a grade or for Credit/No Credit.  They can also enroll in E384L Scholarly Publication (usually taken in or after the third year) and E384M Professional Outcomes (usually taken in or after the fourth year). Students take these two courses for Credit/No Credit. The graduate program encourages students to continue enrolling in optional courses throughout their years as a PhD student, while 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.

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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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Program Administration

Associate Chair & Graduate Adviser: Gretchen Murphy

Associate Graduate Adviser (Literature): Julie Minich

Associate Graduate Adviser (Rhetoric): Scott Graham

Graduate Studies Chair: Tanya Clement

Graduate Program Administrator: Patricia Schaub