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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department

Graduate Studies

See where our graduate program alumni are working nowWith a distinguished faculty of scholars and writers, a diverse and energetic cohort of graduate students, a rich array of resources in the Five College community, and an unusually strong commitment to job placement and professionalization, the Graduate Studies Program at the Department of English draws outstanding students from every state and from around the world. We place a high value on diversity, actively recruit and support minority applicants, and work hard to create an environment in which all colleagues are treated with the respect and given the support every person deserves. This page provides an overview of the program as a whole, with links to particular areas of interest and to our different degrees and fields of concentration.

Degrees Offered

The program offers a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing and a Masters (MA) or a Doctorate (PhD) in English and American Literature. Within the PhD, we also offer concentrations in American Studies and in Composition and Rhetoric.


Our graduate faculty has a strong commitment to both research and teaching; indeed, we believe that the faculty of a first-rate graduate program must contribute actively and visibly to their fields if they are to provide graduate students with the knowledge, skills, and resources demanded by the profession today. Our faculty have been winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, and have won distinction as holders of ACLS, Bunting, Fulbright, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships. We have served the profession as the editors or contributing editors of such publications as Melus, ELR, Boston Review, Sidney Journal, Old English Newsletter, Journal X, and Theater Topics, and as the officers of numerous organizations, including the National Council of Teachers of English and the New England American Studies Association. In addition, our department has a long-standing tradition of commitment to public service and outreach, providing community-based internships for our graduate students and founding such programs as the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.  We believe that a faculty with these varied kinds of professional distinction can offer graduate students an exceptionally broad array of professional interests, resources, and contacts.

Our Student Community

Our students hail from all over the United States and around the world, and they are wonderfully diverse with respect to age, race, sexual orientation, and professional interests. They regularly present papers at both regional and national conferences, and many leave with at least one publication at the time of their doctorate. Our students also compete successfully for University Fellowships, national fellowships, and the university’s distinguished teaching awards. Students play an active role in program policy and governance, and they organize an annual conference. They have also frequently held leadership positions in the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO).  Please visit the English graduate organization website for important information, upcoming events, and resources available to you.

Studying in the Pioneer Valley

The Five College community and the surrounding areas have much to offer in terms of both cultural and scholarly resources.  The Five College Library Special Collections includes important book and manuscript materials on women’s history and the history of women’s education, the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, and the papers and correspondence of such authors as Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Harvey Swados, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens among many others. Within easy striking distance too, are the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, and the libraries of Harvard and Yale Universities.  Through ongoing poetry series at UMass, Smith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges, many poets come each year to give readings – including recently Seamus Heaney, Czeslaw Milocz, Ntosake Shange, John Ashbery, and Jorie Graham – and our own Martin Espada, Dara Weir, and James Tate.

Finding a Job After Graduation: A Map of Our Graduate Program Placement Worldwide

Our program is keenly aware that the job market for college and university teachers of English has been tight for over two decades. But we are equally aware that the larger context of higher education is in a period of profound transformation – and that new opportunities are arising for job applicants who prepare themselves creatively for the new environment. We support and encourage such preparation by giving our students ample opportunity to teach their own classes, by mentoring them closely as they become better teachers, and by offering a series of professionalization workshops. Dissertation workshops are offered every year to help students through the difficult transition from course work into the intense involvement with research and writing that the dissertation requires. In addition we are in the process of creating structures through which graduate students can take full advantage of opportunities to use technology in their classroom. Finally, we guide students through the difficult process of "the job search," offering special workshops and providing practice interviews. Over the past fifteen years (1998-2013), approximately 60 per cent of our graduate job seekers have found teaching jobs.