Jun 23, 2024  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Graduate Programs

The Ph.D. program in English offers study in such areas as British and American literature, rhetoric and composition, language and linguistics, professional and technical writing, and film and literature. Distribution requirements direct students into applied as well as theoretical course work, preparing them for academic and nonacademic careers.

A graduate faculty member, after analysis of the applicant’s background and training, will counsel the student in planning an appropriate program. Small graduate seminars enable the student to develop the critical and investigative skills and insights necessary to perform successful scholarship and teaching. Fellowships and teaching assistantships are available for qualified students. Full-time students should be able to complete all the requirements for the doctoral degree in five years beyond the baccalaureate degree or four years beyond the master’s degree.

The doctoral degree in English is granted to candidates who not only satisfactorily complete a definite number of prescribed courses but who also are recognized for their high attainments and ability as shown by passing the required candidacy examinations (as detailed below) and by the preparation and defense of a dissertation.

Check departmental information for any additional requirements.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at http://www.niu.edu/assessment/clearinghouse/outcomes/index.shtml.


For admission to the program leading to candidacy for the Ph.D. in English, the student ordinarily must have successfully completed 30 semester hours of graduate work or hold a master’s degree. Exceptional students who hold only a baccalaureate degree may apply directly to the doctoral program.


English Ph.D. students must normally complete a minimum of 72 semester hours. These include 60 hours of course work (30 of which may be approved M.A. course work) and 12 hours of ENGL 799, Doctoral Dissertation. Students and assigned advisers design a program to prepare students for areas of study leading to field examinations, a dissertation, and professional expertise.

When selecting courses, students must include at least two courses with a pedagogical or other applied component; these must come from two of the fields of language, literature, and rhetoric (e.g., ENGL 600, ENGL 604, ENGL 610, ENGL 616, ENGL 621, ENGL 622, ENGL 628, ENGL 647, ENGL 696, ENGL 697, ENGL 700, ENGL 702, ENGL 703). Students must also include at least four 700-level seminars.

Students should select 700-level courses only if they have studied the period or subject at the undergraduate or master’s level. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the instructor and with the approval of the director of graduate studies.

Core Requirements (9)

One course from each of the following groups

Issues in Criticism (3):

  • Credits: 3 A. History of Literary Theory
  • ENGL 602 - Literary Theory and Criticism Credits: 3  B. Contemporary Literary Theory
  • ENGL 602 - Literary Theory and Criticism Credits: 3  C. Interpretation of Literary Texts
  • ENGL 602 - Literary Theory and Criticism Credits: 3  D. Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism
  • Credits: 3

History of the Language (3):

British and American Literature (18)

At least one course from each of the following groups

Post-1900 British, American, and Postcolonial:

Language, Linguistics, and Rhetoric (9)

At least one course from each of the following groups


Foreign Language Requirement

All Ph.D. students must fulfill a Language/Research Tool Requirement before taking the candidacy examinations. Students may fulfill the requirement by demonstrating high proficiency in one foreign language, by demonstrating average proficiency in two foreign languages, or by demonstrating average proficiency in one foreign language and average proficiency in a research tool. The choice of languages is subject to departmental approval. (For means of demonstrating language proficiency, refer to “Language and Research-Tool Requirement” in the Requirements for Graduate Degrees section of this catalog.) Average proficiency in a research tool is shown by completing with a grade of B or higher two courses designated by the English Department to show expertise in one of three fields: Language, Research Methods, or Literary Theory and Criticism. The two courses must be taken in addition to courses taken to fulfill core requirements in the three fields.

Candidacy Examinations

All Ph.D. students must successfully complete three Ph.D. candidacy examinations.

Two of these are written examinations in two fields of study selected from the following.

Linguistics or philology
Medieval literature (Old English literature and Middle English literature)
English literature from 1500 to 1600
English literature from 1600 to 1660
British literature from 1660 to 1800
British literature from 1800 to 1900
British literature since 1900
American literature to 1865
American literature since 1865
African-American literature
British and American women’s literature since 1750
Film and Literature
Writing Studies
A special field as determined by an examination committee and student in consultation

The third is an oral examination which consists of an explanation and defense of the student’s dissertation proposal, including its relation to the larger body of relevant knowledge and to the teaching of English or to other professional pursuits.

Students may request permission of the director of graduate studies in English to take the examinations when they have successfully completed 20 semester hours of course work beyond the M.A. degree (or 50 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree).


Candidates must write a dissertation that contributes to literary or linguistic knowledge and exhibits original scholarship and the ability to conduct independent research. Candidates must pass an oral defense of the dissertation. Chaired by the dissertation director, who must be a senior member of the graduate faculty in English, the dissertation committee shall consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty. The dean of the Graduate School or a dean’s designee may also serve as an ex officio, nonvoting member of the dissertation defense committee.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Graduate Programs