English (PhD)

The Department of English offers graduate study in English and American literature, film and television studies, folklore, critical theory, rhetoric and composition, cultural studies, popular culture, ecocriticism, ethnic literatures, gender studies, postcolonial studies, comic studies, disability studies. It offers the master of arts (MA) and doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees in English.

In the English PhD program, students take courses exploring a variety of fields and theoretical approaches in years one and two and then focus on their special area of study in years three through five. After fulfilling a limited number of distribution requirements, each student fashions an Individual Program of Study with the assistance of their faculty advisor, who is a specialist in the appropriate field. The number of places in the PhD program is limited, and admission is competitive.

Program's Admission Requirements

Please visit the program's website.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of literary texts (which may also include film, media, folklore, and/or other objects of study covered in English Department areas of emphasis, hereafter understood as included in literature literary texts) in English as well as a general understanding of English and American literary history.
  • Demonstrate ability to write to a professional standard within the field of literary studies.
  • Demonstrate ability to analyze literary texts using theoretically informed methods as well as skills in close reading.
  • Demonstrate ability to speak coherently and professionally about literature, including literary form and genre, literary history, and literary scholarship.
  • Demonstrate ability to conduct original research and writing on literature, film, and media, as well as other cultural expressions related to literature, film, and media.
  • Demonstrate mastery of a specialized subject area within literary and/or film/media studies, including mastery of both primary sources and scholarship within that area.
  • Demonstrate ability to write an in-depth, original work of scholarship.
  • Demonstrate ability to teach undergraduate composition and/or literature courses to a professional standard.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements

ENG 614Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory5
ENG 690Introduction to Graduate Studies in English5
Select two of the following: 1
Pre-1500 course
1500-1660 course
1660–1800 course
Select two of the following: 1
19th century course
20th century course
Rhetoric or advanced theory course
Twelve seminars 2

Graduate course work should be completed at the 600 level. Exceptions to this policy must be made in advance by the director of graduate studies in consultation with the individual faculty advisor.

A cumulative GPA of 3.50 or better in all graduate work at the UO is the minimum requirement for satisfactory progress toward the PhD.

Second Language

The graduate language requirement for the doctoral degree is reading competence in two non-English languages or high proficiency in one. Reading competence may be demonstrated in each of two foreign languages as specified under the language requirement for the MA degree. High proficiency may be demonstrated by a grade of A– or better in an approved 400-, 500-, or 600-level literature course, with readings in the target language; scoring at the required levels on the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) test; or passing the Toronto Medieval Latin examination at the PhD level.

Students may petition the graduate committee to test in languages that don’t fit the above criteria.


Doctoral candidates must have experience as classroom teachers in the department before they receive the degree.

Structured Emphasis

Students may define their individual plan of study according to one of seven structured emphasis options: ethnic literary studies, film studies, folklore, literature and the environment, medieval studies, poetry and poetics, or rhetoric and composition. Each emphasis has a focused set of courses and a special section.

Breadth Examination

Doctoral candidates must take the PhD breadth examination at the beginning of the third year of study, or, if they enter with 6 or more transfer credits, at the beginning of the second year of study. The student and the student’s advisor select two examination fields chosen for proximity to and/or importance for the separate, primary research field and project. These fields may provide broad familiarity with readings, texts, or methods that will inform dissertation research, and may also develop areas of relevant professional or teaching competence. They may include historical fields adjacent to the primary research field; genres; or areas of critical theory. The examination includes written (take-home) and oral components based on reading lists generated by the student in consultation with faculty examiners and approved by the Graduate Committee. A student must pass the breadth examination in order to take the PhD major field examination, administered the following year. Students who fail either written portion of the breadth examination do not take the oral portion until they have retaken and passed the failed written part; retakes will occur at the end of that term, postponing the PhD major field examination to the following term.

Major Field Examination

After students in the PhD program have completed their course work, they must take a two-and-a-half-hour major field examination. Typically taken fall term following completion of all course work and the language requirement, the major field examination provides each student with the opportunity to present and defend a short paper on a topic related to the dissertation. The examination also allows the student to demonstrate expertise in his or her field of specialization. It is divided into two parts:

  1. A discussion of a relatively broad field of study that provides a context for the topic or problem examined in part two
  2. A prepared presentation by the student on a topic or problem of the student’s choice that is related to the dissertation, followed by a discussion of that topic

The topic and areas covered by the major field examination are defined, in the form of a project description and reading list, by the student in consultation with an advisor or advisors and must be approved by the English department graduate committee. As a supplement to the major field examination, a student may choose to complete a one- to two-hour written examination on part two. The major field examination may be retaken only once.

PhD Dissertation

After completing all other degree requirements, the candidate should consult with a faculty advisor willing to work in the area of the student’s interest and submit a dissertation prospectus for approval by the student’s dissertation committee. Once the prospectus is approved by the committee and the director of graduate studies, the student is advanced to candidacy. A three-year period for completion of the dissertation begins when the Division of Graduate Studies approves the advancement to candidacy.

The dissertation may be a work of literary, film, folklore, or linguistic scholarship or, with the approval of the committee, a collection of three substantial essays exhibiting internal coherence though not necessarily treating a single subject. The candidate gives an oral presentation or defense of the dissertation when it is completed and found acceptable by the committee.

Residency Requirements

The Division of Graduate Studies requires at least three years of full-time work beyond the bachelor’s degree for the doctorate with at least one year spent in continuous residence on the Eugene campus. The Division of Graduate Studies requires three consecutive terms (fall, winter, spring) with a minimum of 9 graduate credits of formal course work per term for the PhD year of residency; graduate employees (GEs) must also enroll for a minimum of 9 graduate credits each term they hold a GE appointment.