The Ph.D. program in English was suspended in 2005. The information below therefore applies only to students who matriculated in Fall 2005 or earlier. 


The Ph.D.

(48 hours; 24 may be transferred from M.A.)
The Ph. D. program will provide:

  • A specialization in one area with continued training in related areas
  • Further professional training in teaching and writing in preparation for the job market
  • The opportunity to work with a mentor in independent studies
  • The opportunity for interdisciplinary work through courses in other departments


1. Admission to the Ph.D. program:

Students with B.A.s or M.A.s from other institutions may apply to the Ph.D. program (see Graduate School deadlines).  Students entering with an M.A. may transfer credit up to 24 hours toward the Ph.D. They will be required to take any graduate courses necessary to address a deficiency in their records as determined by the Director of Graduate Studies. As a rule, students in the Ph.D. program will receive stipends for a stipulated time period provided they remain in good standing in the program (five years for those entering with a B.A., four for those entering with an M.A.). No more than six hours of English 799 (Independent Study) is permitted.

2. Requirements:

Completion of M.A. requirements or equivalents: Bibliography, Literary Theory, 4 proseminars , 4 seminars
Pedagogy (Year Two)
4 additional seminars for a total of eight.  Up to two independent studies may be substituted for seminars in any area in consultation with the DGS and a faculty mentor; no more than one independent study may be taken per year.  In consultation with the DGS and faculty mentor, graduate-level courses may be taken outside the department if related to the student's area of concentration.
Competency in one foreign language
Comprehensive Examination (Spring of Year Four)
Dissertation Proposal (Spring of Year Four)
Dissertation Prospectus (Fall of Year Five)


3.   Foreign Language Requirement:

Before taking their Qualifying Examinations, students must present evidence of competency in one foreign language that has a clear relevance to their research interests. Students may prove competence by receiving a passing grade on a computerized examination administered by the relevant language department at Tulane, or a translation examination administered by that department. Students arrange for the translation examination directly with the relevant department. The translation examination will require the student to translate a passage of 400-500 words, using a dictionary, in 90 minutes. The passage will be taken from a work to be made available to the candidate at least one week before the exam, selected either by the administering faculty member in the relevant department. The student will have three chances to pass. Exams taken at other schools could be used to fill this requirement at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies. Undergraduate courses at the equivalent level of the Tulane literature courses at an advanced level, with a grade of B or better, will be accepted as fulfilling the requirement.

Students who passed a foreign language examination as part of their M.A. work at another school may request to have their examinations accepted here. Credit will be given for a GSFLT passed elsewhere if taken no more than five years before entering Tulane.

Beginning in Fall 2006 Department of Spanish and Portuguese will offer a non-credit reading course in the Spanish language designed for graduate students who must acquire reading knowledge of the language for degree qualifications and research. The instructor of this course will be responsible for administering a reading exam at the end of the semester
and then another one in the Spring for those who were unable to take the exam in the fall. The department will no longer accommodate students who wish to take language exams throughout the academic year. We will, however, accommodate students from departments with faculty who are
proficient in Spanish, which reverses our policy of the last two years.

The Department of French and Italian will offer a similar reading coursein French in the Spring.


4. Progress Toward the Ph.D. Degree:

A. Time to degree:  

Students who enter with the B.A. will be encouraged to complete their requirements for the degree in five years. Students who enter with the M.A. will be encouraged to complete their requirements in four years. Students must meet a number of objectives to receive the Ph.D.

B. Reviews of Progress: 

Students in the doctoral program are reviewed every year for progress with respect to grades, attendance, participation, comprehension, and writing by the graduate faculty and the Director of Graduate Studies. In addition, students are reviewed at mid-program (see below), at the time of the written and oral examinations (see below), and at the dissertation defense.   

C. Grade Point Averages:

While the Graduate School sets the minimum grade point average for continuation in the program at a 3.0, the department has a higher standard. Every semester, students must meet a minimum of a 3.6 grade point average to remain in the program during coursework. Students who do not meet this minimum will be placed on probation; failure to achieve a 3.6 average in the next semester will result in dismissal. In addition, any student who receives a B+ or lower in more than one course will automatically be placed on probation, terms to be set by the graduate faculty to help the student focus on improving areas of concern. Students who have more than one incomplete per semester for any reason will also be placed on probation: further incompletes will trigger a review that may result in a leave or a dismissal.

Students are expected to demonstrate in class, in presentations, and in papers that they have conducted research in the scholarship for the readings assigned in proseminars and seminars.   Assigned materials should be regarded as minimum requirements and gateways to acquiring broader and deeper knowledge of the field.

Note on grading: In the English Department doctoral program, grades have the following significance:

Work is at a near-professional level.

Work indicates excellent potential for success in advanced scholarly writing and research. (undergraduate A).

Very good work, indicating good potential for success in advanced scholarly writing and research, but needing improvement in a focused area. (undergraduate B)

Some promising work but areas of concern; success in advanced scholarly writing and research will require improvement in several areas. (undergraduate C)

Work that is below average; success in advanced scholarly writing and research is in doubt. (undergraduate D)

D. Mid-Program Review:

Students who are admitted to the doctoral program with a B.A. degree will undergo a mid-program review conducted by the graduate faculty at the end of their third semester; those entering with an M.A. will have their mid-program review at the end of the first semester (in either case, the review is to be completed by January 10). Students may be strongly encouraged to continue in the program, recommended to remain in the program, placed on probation, or asked to leave the program as a consequence of this review. This review considers the whole of the student's work to date, including attendance, participation, comprehension, and writing as well as any other factors deemed important by the faculty. The review assesses the student's potential for success at the examination and dissertation levels. All students will be notified by letter of the results of this review; every student so reviewed should make an appointment with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the results. Students who do not pass the review will be dismissed from the program, effective at the end of the academic year (or the semester in which the review results are reported to the student). [The purpose of the new deadline is to give students who are unfavorably reviewed time to apply to other programs.]

E. Appeal Procedure:

Students who are asked to leave the program at mid-program review may appeal the procedure by notifying the Director of Graduate Studies in writing within two weeks of the date on the letter of notification. The letter should state the grounds of the appeal. If new information is forthcoming, it must be given to the Director at this time. The Director will reconvene the graduate faculty to consider the appeal within one week of the date on the letter of notification, and the final decision will be conveyed to the student within a reasonable period thereafter.

5. Ph.D. Qualifying Examination:

A. Overview

The examination consists of two parts, written and oral. The written examination is based on three lists: one from a primary historical field, one from the dissertation topic, and one supplementary list (often a contiguous historical field, a genre, or a theoretical list). All committee members must come to a consensus about the lists. The written examination, taken by February 1 of the spring after completion of coursework, is given in three sections, one for each list: the candidate writes on each section for 24 hours, with a 24-hour rest period in between each section. If the candidate passes the written test, he or she will take an oral examination within two weeks: the oral examination lasts up to three hours. It is possible to fail a part of the written or oral examination, which may be retaken. Only when the entire written test has been passed will the candidate be permitted to take the oral examination. Both the written and the oral tests may be retaken once, in part or in their entirety. The entire committee must come to a consensus on the evaluation of the examinations.

B. Choosing the Fields and Making the Lists:

The first list addresses a primary historical field. If the candidate's interests cross historical periods as currently defined, typically that second field will be represented in one of the other lists. The primary historical field lists should be designed to give both broad and deep knowledge of the period: primary works from the major genres, including prose nonfiction, readings in the period's history (social, political, economic), standard and significant secondary criticism (including the history of criticism in the field) are expected. This reading will provide a base for future teaching and research, a fund of knowledge on which the candidate will draw for the rest of his or her career.

The list representing the dissertation topic should be designed to give the candidate a head start on the dissertation research. Obviously, it will be difficult to be thorough on a topic which is in its early stages of inquiry. The candidate should concentrate on the major primary texts relevant to the topic and include the scholarship concerning those texts, authors, and issues (not forgetting that scholarship has its own history). It is important that the research specific to the contextual and theoretical parameters of your work appear on the list. For example, if the primary historical field is early 19th C. British literature, scholarship general to the Romantic period, and if the dissertation topic is Keats and the Romantic construction of masculinity, the dissertation list would focus more narrowly on Keats scholarship. Such a list might also include research into the contemporary reception of Keats' poetry, the shift from Romantic to early Victorian conceptions of masculinity in primary documents, scholarship on Romantic masculinity, theories of gender and queer theory, and so forth.

It is in the thinking through of the dissertation list that the parameters of the third list will most likely come into view. If the third list is not a contiguous historical field, then it should represent areas which will help the candidate conduct research (and focus teaching) in the future. A candidate working on Keats and masculinity might choose to study the lyric to get a sense of Keatian innovation, or the candidate may find that he or she requires a substantial list on theories of masculinity. Candidates working on multi-author dissertations might want to create a list pertaining to genre issues for those authors, or one that includes other works by those authors along with the secondary criticism. If the dissertation is heavily involved in contextual cultural research, the third list might reflect this--deepening the study of the historical material in the first list. Each candidate will have different needs and interests.

The lists are designed to complement one another. The committee will provide guidance to create meaningful and manageable lists, to focus as well as establish breadth. The Director of Graduate Studies is charged with making sure that all lists are roughly comparable in difficulty and quantity.
Sample lists are available from the Director of Graduate Studies (and from other graduate candidates) and paradigmatic historical field lists are available on our website.

C. The Examination Committee:

The Examination Committee is composed of 4 professors who will be responsible for the three lists.   After reading the available sample lists for the field and those that other candidates working in that area have produced, the candidate will create his or her own lists, along with a rationale for them. The committee members will help draw up the lists relevant to their individual designated areas, but any committee member may suggest additions or substitutions to the other lists. When the student has received approval of the revised lists and rationales from all committee members, he or she submits them to the Director of Graduate Studies with the signatures of all members on one copy. Every committee member must approve the entire list.

Committee members are expected to cooperate in the best interests of the candidate. Reasonable compromises will probably have to be made. On request, the Director of Graduate Studies can serve as a consultant to the candidate and committee. The Executive Committee may be petitioned to resolve problems in the event of extraordinary difficulties.

D. Timetable:

No later than the beginning of spring semester in which coursework has been completed, the candidate should choose list topics and committee members. The candidate will then schedule an advising meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss requirements and procedures as well as to set a tentative time table.

Before the end of spring term of the year coursework is completed, the candidate will submit one copy of the approved lists, signed by all committee members, to the Director of Graduate Studies. The candidate and committee will set a date, time, and place for both the written examination (no later than Feb 1 of the year after coursework typically would be completed) and the oral examination (no later than two weeks after the completion of the written test). The candidate should notify the Director of Graduate Studies of these dates and pick up the forms for reporting the results of the written and oral examinations from the Director of Graduate Studies.

Before February 1 of the spring following the end of coursework, the candidate must have completed the foreign language examination.

February 1 of the spring following the end of coursework is also the deadline for taking the written examination.

Within one week after the completion of the written test, the committee will notify the Director of Graduate Studies of the result using the form provided. The Director of Graduate Studies will notify the candidate in writing about these results.

If the candidate passes all parts of the written examination, he or she will schedule the oral examination to be taken within two weeks. The candidate should remind the committee of the location, date, and time of the oral examination. The candidate should bring the form to be filled out by the committee to the oral examination.
If the candidate does not pass, the committee will inform the candidate about requirements that must be fulfilled before retaking some or all of the written examination; the committee will report this information on the form returned to the Director of Graduate Studies. A date must be set for the re-taking of the written examination at this time.
Within two weeks of the successful completion of the written examination, the candidate will take the oral examination.

If the candidate passes all parts of the oral examination, the committee will inform the candidate (after a period of deliberation) at the conclusion of the examination. The committee will sign the form and return it to the Director of Graduate Studies. The candidate does not convey the form.
If the candidate does not pass some or all of the oral examination, the committee will inform the candidate at the end of the examination and set a date for re-taking the oral examination (or some part thereof) within two weeks. The committee will indicate this information on the form returned to the Director of Graduate Studies. The candidate does not convey the form.

E. The Examination and Its Evaluation:

The exam will have a written and an oral component. The written component will consist of questions in all three areas. The candidate will have 24 hours to complete each section of the examination, with a 24-hour rest period in between examination days. Questions for that day's section will be available in the morning; these may be sent via email. Arrangements for obtaining the questions are the responsibility of the candidate and the committee. The committee may ask a small number of broad questions or a larger number of more focused questions. Typically, the candidate will be offered some choices of questions and texts. It is the responsibility of the chair of the exam committee to review the questions for clarity and fairness with respect to time constraints and list material.

The committee must reach a consensus about all three parts of the written examination; the committee as a whole must evaluate the entire examination.

If all examiners are not satisfied with the written exam, they may fail the entire examination or decide to pass part of the examination but require that the candidate re-take one or more sections. The committee may require the candidate to undertake additional coursework or reading. Such work must be completed within six months; the examination must be retaken by the end of the six-month period following the original examination. Candidates are permitted to retake the written examination one time. Once the written component of the exam has been deemed satisfactory by the examiners, the oral examination must be taken within two weeks.
If the performance on the written exam is satisfactory to all examiners, the candidate will then take the oral exam, which will last no more than three hours. The four examiners must come to a consensus about the performance. The oral examination (or some part thereof) may be retaken one time, within two weeks of the original examination.
Results of both examinations, including any requirements before re-taking the examination, must be reported to the Director of Graduate Studies on the relevant forms.

Students who entered prior to Fall 2000 may elect the old qualifying exam format.

6. The Dissertation Process:

Doctoral students should consult with the Graduate School at this stage to learn the requirements for admission to candidacy, regulations governing the length of time allotted for completion of the dissertation, the form for the prospectus, and all requirements for production and submission of the dissertation manuscript.

The Committee: The student selects a faculty member who agrees to direct the dissertation. The dissertation director, in consultation with the student, forms a dissertation committee of at least three members. After conferring with the director and the other committee members, the student prepares a dissertation proposal.
The Dissertation Proposal: This is an intra-departmental document of one typed page, describing the dissertation. It should be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for review by the Executive Committee after the oral examinations have been taken in the spring of the fourth year (for BA students; third year for MA students) and before March 15 of that spring. This document must be signed by all committee members. If no proposal has been submitted by that date, the omission may affect the decision of whether the student will receive a stipend for the following year.
The Prospectus: This is a document required by the Graduate School. The student's dissertation committee must meet formally to discuss the prospectus and sign it, after which it is submitted to the Graduate Council of the Graduate School for approval. Guidelines for the prospectus are available from the Graduate School. The prospectus is due to the Graduate School no later than Sept. 15 of the year in which the oral examinations are passed.
Admission to Candidacy: This form is obtained from and submitted to the Graduate School, and it is required in order to achieve ABD (All But Dissertation) status and become a candidate for the doctoral degree. All fellowships for the dissertation year, for example, require this status, as do some teaching opportunities. The form usually accompanies the prospectus and is due by Sept. 15 of the year in which the examinations are passed. It must be signed by the Chair of the Department.
The Dissertation: After the dissertation committee approves the completed dissertation, the dissertation is presented to the Graduate School . Finally, an oral examination on the dissertation (normally two hours) is administered by the dissertation committee after acceptance of the dissertation. All members of the English graduate faculty are invited to attend and are welcome to participate.


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