The first stage provides a broad background in literatures written in English, including but not limited to those of Britain and the USA, as well as exposure to diverse critical and theoretical orientations and, usually, to the study of the English language or composition theory. For the MA degree en route to the PhD degree, students take a total of ten courses (for a total of 30 credits) in the Department of English and demonstrate competence in one foreign language. To insure breadth of knowledge, the course requirements call for intensive study in different chronological and geographical areas. There is room too for electives within this stage of the program. These requirements must be completed before the beginning of the fifth semester. When the first stage requirements are completed, provided the student meets the program standards for satisfactory progress, he or she will be entitled to move into the second stage of the program.
Once this broad foundation has been built, the second, more focused stage allows students to work in an area or areas of specialization, and to begin to create an ongoing research agenda. During the three semesters typically devoted to this stage, students choose three English (Literary Studies) courses beyond those taken in Stage One. In addition, using the 10-12 credits of minor courses that the Literary Studies PhD requires, students deepen their knowledge and diversify their skills by cross-disciplinary work. Successful completion of this course work, demonstration of competence in either one foreign language at the advanced proficiency level (equivalent to fifth and sixth semester language study) or two languages at the adequate proficiency level (equivalent to third and fourth semesters of language study) is also required. In addition to foreign languages, computational language may count at the adequate proficiency level. American Sign Language may count at either the adequate or advanced levels, depending on the depth of study. Passing a written Preliminary Examination qualifies them to pass to the third stage, the dissertation, the last step before the PhD. Most students during the second and third stages work as Teaching Assistants, gaining substantial guidance and experience as proficient teachers of composition and literature. In order to take prelims, students must have completed all their courses in Literary Studies (a total of 13 courses) as well as the MA requirement of one foreign language. If the foreign language for the MA requirements is at the adequate proficiency level, then the second foreign language and the remaining minor course work may be completed in the semester following prelim exams, but students cannot obtain dissertator status until satisfying all requirements except the dissertation.
In the third and last stage of the Graduate Program, a doctoral candidate writes a dissertation, with faculty guidance, representing original scholarly work of a high order. The dissertation characteristically becomes key to a career as a publishing scholar, just as the doctoral candidate’s teaching experience becomes key to ongoing classroom success. When the candidate completes a dissertation to the satisfaction of the faculty committee he or she has chosen to guide the work, this third stage culminates in the award of a PhD degree. The Department offers a job placement service to help graduates begin their professional careers.