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English (Literature), PHD

At a Glance: program details

ASU's English department boasts an internationally recognized faculty with expertise across historical, geographical and theoretical boundaries. With a flexible, interdisciplinary curriculum, an assigned faculty mentor upon admittance, and various internship and professional development opportunities, this doctoral program prepares you to enter academia as well as a variety of careers.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD English (Literature)

The PhD program in English with a concentration in literature trains students in various methodologies, pedagogies and areas of inquiry that constitute literary and cultural studies.

With a diverse and distinguished faculty, the program offers opportunities for specialization in traditional areas of literary criticism, cultural analysis and theory, as well as various fields of interdisciplinary study.

A doctorate in literature equips students with a range of highly sought-after skills and competencies: research and analysis of complex material, communication in written and oral modes, collaboration, independence and self-motivation, creativity and adaptability.

The PhD in English (literature) at ASU is a premier graduate program in the U.S. with strong interdisciplinary ties and faculty links to research centers on campus and in the state, including the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, the Institute for Humanities Research, and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. With these resources and a strong mentorship program at their fingertips, our graduates are prepared for a wide array of professional opportunities including careers in college teaching, research, writing, editing, higher education, and humanities-related organizations.

Lee Bebout,  Director  

Sheila Luna, Program Manager

Faculty in Literature

Doctoral Examinations

Doctoral Procedures and Timeline

Teaching Assistantships


Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, a foreign language exam, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

A student with an appropriate master's degree must complete a minimum of 54 credit hours of approved graduate work, which includes 12 credit hours of dissertation, provided the student's master's degree is accepted by the supervisory committee and the academic unit. Research hours may be used toward coursework in consultation with the advisor.

A student without an appropriate master's degree must complete 84 credit hours of work at ASU. At the advisor's discretion, students may include up to 12 credit hours of appropriate, graduate-level coursework undertaken at another university and not previously counted toward any other degree.

Specifically required are six credit hours in theory courses and ENG 501 Approaches to Research. Students must complete eight graduate courses in any of the following categories:

  • cultural studies
  • ethnic studies
  • gender studies
  • genre
  • history and structure of the English language
  • literature 1500--1660
  • literature 1660--1900
  • literature since 1900
  • literature to 1500
  • postcolonial or anglophone literatures

Students must take at least five graduate seminars at the 600 level en route to the doctorate, at least three of which must be taken in the doctoral program. Up to 12 credit hours taken outside the department may be counted toward the degree. Students should consult with their supervisory committees when choosing electives.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.50 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. statement of purpose
  4. resume or curriculum vitae
  5. three letters of recommendation
  6. academic writing sample relevant to the field
  7. statement of teaching philosophy (teaching assistantship only)
  8. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English and has not graduated from an institution of higher learning in the United States must provide proof of English proficiency, regardless of current residency. Applicants can find more information about English proficiency requirements on the school website. Please note that official scores must be sent to ASU in order for the application to be processed.

The well-considered, one- to two-page, single-spaced statement of purpose should explain the applicant's scholarly background and training, career goals, proposed research specialization, any secondary field of interest and why the applicant wishes to pursue a PhD in English (Literature) at Arizona State University. Applicants applying for funding must also submit a statement of teaching philosophy.

Courses and Electives

Approaches to Research (3 credits / one class):  Students must take the core class ENG 501 Approaches to Research.

Theory (6 credits / two courses): Appropriate courses for filling this requirement must be in the area of the history of criticism, literary theory, rhetorical theory, linguistic theory or cultural theory. Examples of courses which meet this requirement, if the specific topic is appropriate, include the following: ENG 502, 503, 504, 550, 551, 552, 554, 556, 602, 604, 651, LIN 510, 516, 517; however, an equivalent or more advanced course in linguistic, rhetorical or literary theory would also be acceptable.

Additional Required Courses (24 credits / 8 classes): Students must complete eight graduate courses in any of the following categories: cultural studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, genre, history and structure of the English language, literature to 1500, literature 1500-1660, literature 1660-1900, literature since 1900, postcolonial or anglophone literatures.

A minimum of five courses counted toward the PhD, which may include those listed above, must be taken at the 600-level (three of which must be taken in the doctoral program at ASU). Students wishing to take courses outside of the department may count up to 12 credit hours toward the degree. These courses may also fulfill some of the above degree requirements. Students should consult with an advisor or their committee chair when choosing electives.

Other Requirements

Language Requirement: PhD students must demonstrate evidence of a competent knowledge of a natural language other than modern English, to be selected by the student, subject to the approval of the chair of the dissertation committee. The language requirement must be completed before the student is eligible to take the doctoral exams. This requirement may be met by

  • Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in a 400- or 500-level course in an appropriate (approved) language.
  • Demonstrating comparable proficiency by taking a language examination, administered by the School of International Letters and Cultures, in a language approved by the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Demonstrating native-speaker proficiency, as determined by the School of International Letters and Cultures, in a language approved by the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in both ENG 530 Old English and ENG 531 Old English Literature or their equivalent.
  • Holding a bachelor’s degree in an approved foreign language.
  • Having fulfilled a foreign language requirement towards a previously awarded master’s degree that has been completed within five years of the semester for which the student has been admitted to the doctoral program. This foreign language must be in a language approved by the student’s doctoral supervisory committee.
  • For languages which the School of International Letters and Cultures does not offer or does not offer above the 200 level, two years (4 semesters) of successfully completed college level coursework at least at the 100 and 200 level with a C or better would fulfill the requirement. The coursework must have been successfully completed no more than six years prior to admission to the degree program.

PhD Examinations:  Essay, oral exam, colloquy on the dissertation prospectus.

Dissertation: Students must take 12 credit hours of ENG 799.

Miscellaneous: Students may take research (ENG 792) for the purpose of working independently in preparation for the doctoral examination. This is an alternative to be elected by the student at the discretion and with the approval of the advisor and supervisory committee and can count towards course work. Satisfactory completion of ENG 792 is indicated by the grade of "Y." Individual interim segments of ENG 792 will be graded "Z" (course in progress), and changed to "Y" (successful completion) after the dissertation defense. No conventional letter grades are awarded for ENG 792 or 799.

The Graduate College also requires that students be enrolled every semester, excluding summer sessions, until they have completed all requirements for the degree. Continuous enrollment may be satisfied by registration for one hour of ENG 799, or, in cases where dissertation or other credit hours are not needed, Continuous Registration (ENG 595 or 795). If students wish to interrupt their programs of study for one or more semesters, they may apply for a leave of absence, not to exceed one year. Failure to enroll or obtain leave status for the semesters in which they are not enrolled will result in dismissal from the program.

Doctoral Supervisory Committee

The doctoral supervisory committee consists of a minimum of three members from the graduate faculty selected at the time the student files a program of study. In consultation with the director of the Ph.D. program, the student will select the committee chair, who also serves as the student's advisor. Once a graduate faculty member has agreed to serve as the student's chair, the student and chair will then consult before recommending two other members to the director of the doctoral program. Ideally another member of the supervisory committee in addition to the chair should be in the area of specialization. It is the responsibility of each student to form a supervisory committee very early in the program so that the chair and members of the committee may be involved in shaping the course of study, for example, in determining such matters as the choice of foreign language(s) and in specifying courses that will be required for the student's particular area of concentration.

Important Notice to Current International Students

In order for international students to maintain good standing for their VISAs, they must take a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester (i.e., 3 classes), 6 credits (2 classes) should be face-to-face classes.

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Application Deadlines



Session A/C
In Person
January 1st

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify and evaluate various disciplinary arguments, trends, traditions and debates within the knowledge community of literary and cultural studies scholars.
  • Demonstrate the ability to produce written work of publishable quality.
  • Demonstrate research skills necessary to bring a project of literary or cultural analysis to fruition, including the ability to evaluate disciplinary debates and developments; and the ability to produce research on historical and cultural meanings of texts and related cultural productions.

Career Opportunities

Graduates are prepared for careers in higher education and other fields that value this expertise. Sectors employing high numbers of arts and humanities graduates include information and communication, financial and insurance, public administration and defense, arts and entertainment, and education.

Career examples include:

  • archivist
  • art director
  • copywriter
  • criminal investigator or special agent
  • editor
  • educator
  • intelligence analyst
  • librarian
  • market research analyst
  • museum curator, educator or exhibit designer
  • political analyst
  • public relations specialist or manager
  • technical writer

Global Opportunities

Global Experience

With over 250 programs in more than 65 countries (ranging from one week to one year), study abroad is possible for all ASU students wishing to gain global skills and knowledge in preparation for a 21st-century career. Students earn ASU credit for completed courses, while staying on track for graduation, and may apply financial aid and scholarships toward program costs.

Program Contact Information

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