Doctor of Philosophy in English (Literature)

Dan Bivona,  PhD Literature Program Director  

Program Overview

Current Curriculum Requirements 

New Curriculum Requirements (Fall 2013)

Doctoral Supervisory Committee

Doctoral Examinations

Doctoral Procedures and Timeline

Doctoral Admission Requirements


Program Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in literature program at ASU promotes the study of the production, distribution and reception of texts, of their linguistic, rhetorical and literary structures and functions, and of internal and external forces that create literature.

While catalog offerings reflect a chronological approach with emphasis on biography, history and aesthetic appreciation, content and methodology in these courses vary. Modes of inquiry include both traditional and recent critical approaches to literary studies; many courses explore issues relating to gender, class, race and ethnicity. This flexibility allows the juxtaposition of high cultural with low cultural texts and the traditional canon with neglected texts.

The program prepares students for entrance into the profession as both teachers and scholars.

Course Requirements

The Ph.D. program is a total of 84 hours. In general, a student with an appropriate master's degree must complete a minimum of 54 credit hours of approved graduate work, which includes 12 hours of dissertation. Research hours may be used towards course work in consultation with the advisor. A student without an appropriate master's degree usually must complete 84 hours of work at ASU. At the advisor’s discretion, students may include up to 12 hours of appropriate, graduate-level course work undertaken at another university, and not previously counted towards any other degree.

The curriculum requirements for PhD literature have recently changed. The new PhD literature requirements are effective immediately. Students entering the program Fall 2013 should abide by these requirements, including the new exam structure. Current students may choose between the old and new requirements. Note: students who choose the new curriculum requirements must also abide by the new exam structure.


Current Requirements:

Research Methods (3): Students must take or have taken ENG 500 or its equivalent.

Theory (6): 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.

Distribution (24): Students must complete (or have completed at the masters' level or its equivalent) one graduate course in eight of the 10 following categories. Not all course work should be on one national literature. Some courses may count toward satisfying two of the required categories. The courses listed below are examples and satisfy the requirement only if the specific topic is appropriate and if the course is approved by the committee chair:

  1. Literature to 1500 (ENG 530, 531, 532, 533, 545, 546, 554, 560, 603, 604, 632, 645).
  2. Literature 1500-1660 (ENG 534, 545, 546, 554,560, 603, 604, 635, 645).
  3. Literature 1660-1900 (ENG 535, 536, 544, 542, 545, 546, 560, 604, 635, 636, 642, 645).
  4. Literature since 1900 (ENG 537, 538, 539, 542, 543, 544, 545, 546, 560, 604, 635, 636, 639,642, 645).
  5. Genre: novel, poetry, drama, film, etc. (ENG 560, 645).
  6. Gender studies (ENG 545, 546, 645).
  7. Ethnic studies (ENG 542, 604, 642).
  8. Postcolonial/Anglophone literatures (ENG 543, 544, 604,642).
  9. Cultural studies (ENG 503, 504, 604, 632, 654).
  10. History/structure of the English language: (ENG 530, 531, 532, ENG/LIN 517, LIN 515, or an equivalent or more advanced historical English-language course).

Seminar (15): Students must take a minimum of five graduate seminars at the 600-level en route to the Ph.D. At least three seminars must be taken in the doctoral program at ASU.

Interdisciplinary Option (9-12): Students wishing to take courses outside the department may count up to 12 hours of those courses toward the degree. Those courses may fulfill some of the foregoing requirements (e.g., critical theory). Students should consult with their supervisory committees when choosing electives.

Language Requirement: 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

  1. Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in a 400- or 500-level course in an appropriate (approved) language.
  2. 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.
  3. Demonstrating native-speaker proficiency, as determined by the School of International Letters and Cultures, in a language approved by the student’s supervisory committee.
  4. Earning a “B” (3.00) or higher in both ENG 530 Old English and ENG 531 Old English Literature or their equivalent.
  5. Holding a bachelor’s degree in an approved foreign language.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Dissertation: Students must include 12 (and only 12) hours of 799 on the doctoral program of study.

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 office of Graduate Education 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 leave status, not to exceed one year. Failure to obtain leave status for the semesters in which they are not enrolled may 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 of which should be face-to-face classes.


The application deadline is January 15th.

Apply online.

All applications for admission to the program must be approved by the doctoral admissions committee in the Department of English and by the office Graduate Edcucation. There are several requirements for admission, none of which will be arbitrarily disregarded, and the best applicants will meet or exceed all of these criteria. However, the admissions committee will consider the individual aspects of each application.

For details, please see the Department of English Application Process webpage.

The following items are required for admission:

  1. Undergraduate major. The Department of English requires an undergraduate major in English or its equivalent with a minimum GPA of 3.00.
  2. Cumulative grade point average. The office Graduate Edcucation requires a GPA of 3.00 or better in the last two years of work leading to the bachelor's degree and the recommendation of the academic unit in which the applicant plans to study. In addition, the Department of English requires that applicants have at least a 3.50 GPA in all previous graduate work.
  3. Graduate Record Examination. The GRE general test is required. The GRE subject test (literature) is optional. Normally, students should achieve a score in the 85th percentile or higher on the verbal aptitude section. (institutional code = 4007).
  4. Letters of recommendation. Three letters of recommendation from professors familiar with the student’s performance are required. 
  5. Statement Purpose. Applicants must submit a well-considered, one to two-page, single spaced statement of purpose in which they explain how their experience and training have prepared them for the program, and their purpose for pursuing the Ph.D.
  6. Sample of scholarly work. Applicants must submit an academic writing sample relevant to the field.
  7. Vitae or résumé. Applicants should submit a professional vita that outlines educational background, relevant experience, honors, publications.
  8. Application for admission. An application fee is required.
  9. Official Transcripts. Official transcripts must be sent to ASU Graduate Education - Admissions office.
  10. International students must have an official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS score report sent to the office Graduate Edcucation. Please refer to this webpage for English Proficiency Score requirements: