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Doctorate Program


The Graduate Program offers both MA and PhD degrees in English. We offer a broad range of graduate-level courses in English studies and encourage interdisciplinary approaches informed by cultural studies and contemporary critical theory. In addition, we offer focused areas of study in American Studies, Composition and Rhetoric, and Early Modern and Renaissance Studies.

On this page, you'll find Pre-Doc Requirements, PhD Requirements, and the Foreign Language Requirement. 

Pre-Doctoral Masters Degree (30 credits):

1. 10 graduate courses in 5 semesters:
    (1 course) Theorizing the Discipline (Eng 791).
     2 courses in English or American literature pre-1800.
     2 courses in English or American literature pre-1900.
     5 elective courses. 

2. Second Language Requirement

3. Students may transfer credit for 2 graduate-level English courses taken at other schools or at UMASS before their formal admission to the Graduate English Program. Courses counted toward a completed degree are not eligible for transfer.

4. While in the pre-doctoral MA program at UMASS, students may also take two courses in departments outside of English. 

5. In order to proceed into the Doctoral Program, students will be expected to:
    A. Achieve a GPA of 3.5 or higher during the course work for the MA degree. 
    B. Participate in an Advisory Session with four faculty members. 

6. The advisory session will review the candidate’s preparation and projected course of study, timetable, and goals. This session will be conducted by a committee consisting of either the Director or one of the Associate Directors of Graduate Studies, and three other faculty to be chosen by the Graduate Program Director with input from the student. The student will prepare a five-page statement that will constitute a narrative synthesis of what the student has accomplished thus far, and the kinds of issues and questions that arise at this point in her/his intellectual development. This statement, together with two papers, will be submitted to the committee two weeks in advance of the session. The committee will review these materials, including the student’s transcripts and faculty comments on course work, which together will constitute a dossier roughly comparable to admissions applications for students proposing to enter the program with the MA. The committee’s role is advisory: to help students refine their understanding of prior study and possible future research, and to provide suggestions about courses to take, books to read, people with whom to work.

PhD (24 credits coursework, 18 credits dissertation)

1. 6 graduate courses in 3 semesters:
    1 course in theory to be chosen by the student.
    5 elective courses. 

2. Second Language Requirement

3. Doctoral Examination (6 credits)

A two-hour oral examination, to be taken in the fourth semester of the PhD program and to be administered by a committee of four faculty: one the student’s chosen advisor for a First or Major Research Area, one the student’s chosen advisor for a Second Area, and two appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies with input from the student. In advance of the examination, the student will present work in writing for each area. The scope and substance of this work will vary somewhat, depending on the degree to which the student has already defined a major area for the dissertation, one that will therefore be more prominent than the second area, which might be (for example) a secondary field of research or an exploration of a certain critical, theoretical, or methodological approach. As a rough guide, the student should submit a combined maximum of 30 written pages defining the two areas, and a pair of bibliographies for the areas consisting of a minimum of 60 works.

The First Area should be seen as defining an area of research that the student hopes will lead to a dissertation. The work submitted for the exam will be a carefully written essay with an attached reading list. The essay will not be a formal dissertation proposal but will describe as searchingly as possible a field of interest, define the important issues, take stands, and consider possible methodologies. The student will be expected to defend and elaborate on the essay’s argument and to speak knowledgeably about the reading list, especially as its items bear on the argument.

The work submitted for the Second Area will be an essay, also with a reading list, defining this second area of interest and describing current issues in the field. The two areas should be distinct, and yet capable of speaking to one another in intellectually productive ways.

4. Appointment of a Dissertation Committee by the Graduate Dean

A committee of three faculty members is chosen by the student in consultation with faculty advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies. At least two members, one of whom must chair the committee, must be from the English department. The third member must be a UMASS Graduate Faculty member from another department.

5. Dissertation Prospectus

A document which gives a preliminary description of the work to be undertaken in the dissertation. It must be approved and signed by all committee members and the Graduate Director at least 7 months before the dissertation defense.

6. Dissertation Defense

During the defense students field questions about their work and its methodology. The Defense must be scheduled with the Graduate Program Administrator at least three weeks prior to the examination.

See course requirements for the American Studies concentration.
See course requirements for the Composition and Rhetoric concentration.


Additional Policies

  • A student entering our program with the MA from another program may be required to take one or two courses pre-1800 or pre-1900 if their MA is seen to be deficient in breadth of preparation.
  • Students entering with an MFA. are expected to complete an MA in English before advancing to the PhD.
  • Graduate courses from other departments at UMass fulfill elective credit with approval of the Graduate Program Director.
  • Creative Writing workshops cannot be applied towards the MA or PhD degrees.

Second Language Requirement

A student must demonstrate intermediate proficiency in one language other than English for the MA, the MA/PhD, or the PhD program.

Intermediate proficiency should enable a student to read a language with the aid of a dictionary. Plans to complete the language requirement should be approved in advance with the Graduate Program Director. Students can demonstrate intermediate proficiency in a number of ways:

Undergraduate Coursework

A student who has completed substantial recent course work may qualify as demonstrating intermediate second language proficiency, as may the satisfaction of a language requirement for an MA earned at another university.

Native Speaker

A student who is a native speaker of a language other than English automatically satisfies this requirement.

Overseas Language Study or Accelerated Language Program

Students may demonstrate intermediate proficiency by participating in a pre-approved overseas language study, or an accelerated summer language program. 
Note: No funding is available for students seeking to fulfill their language requirement through summer courses.

Translation Exam

Students may arrange to be examined by a professor in the English department or in one of the language departments. In each case, the professor must attest to the student’s level of proficiency. These exams typically consist of either:

  • a one-hour translation with the aid of a dictionary of a text chosen by the examiner OR
  • a longer project in which the student works under the direction of a professor to produce a relatively polished translation (the translation length would be determined by the level of difficulty of the text)
  • a graduate-level seminar in which most of the readings are in the original.

Standardized Placement Exam

Students may arrange to take a standardized placement examination in a second language that qualifies them to begin work at an advanced level.

Choosing a Second Language

Students should consider several factors in choosing among possible languages. Certain areas of specialization may make a specific language essential or highly desirable. Medieval and Early Modern literature specialists would be well advised to learn Latin, for example, and Spanish is increasingly necessary for scholars of American Studies. One will normally choose to study the language of a literature one wants to read in the original, or of a country in which one hopes to spend time. Americanists in particular can expect to have opportunities to lecture abroad in their field.