PhD in English

The PhD in English at Boston University provides comprehensive training in all areas of literary studies in English. Coursework is offered in historical periods, individual authors, important literary movements, literary theory, and the history of criticism. Students develop a broad competence in all literary periods while moving to a more specialized knowledge of a single area or topic. World-class scholars lead small seminars, direct individual tutorials, advise independent student research, and provide professional mentorship, preparing students for careers as researchers and teachers in academia and beyond. To enter, at least a bachelor’s degree in English or a closely-related field is required.

Course Requirements

To be awarded the PhD, the candidate must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 in both semesters. No grade below a B– will count toward the PhD.

Post-Bachelor’s Requirements:

Sixteen semester courses (64 credits) are required for the degree, of which not more than four may be taken in one semester. Course requirements are as follows:

  • At least thirteen courses must be elected from courses numbered 700 or higher. With the approval of the director of graduate studies, one directed study course may be elected as one of the required courses.
  • At least one course that focuses primarily on critical theory, critical method, or the history of criticism
  • At least two courses in each of the following categories:
    • History of the language/linguistics or medieval literature
    • Literature in English 1660–1860
    • Literature in English 1860–present

Doctoral students may, with the approval of their advisor, elect two semester courses at the graduate level in related areas. A course elected to fulfill the foreign language requirement may be counted as a related course.

A limited number of courses are offered in Metropolitan College (MET) under the auspices of the Department of English and are approved for graduate credit for students enrolled in the MA and PhD programs. For further information, see the Metropolitan College Bulletin.

Post-Master’s Requirements

Students entering with a master’s degree are required to complete eight semester courses (32 credits) for this degree. Course requirements are the same as the post-bachelor’s program. Transfer of credit for graduate work completed prior to admission to the PhD degree program in English and American Literature will be considered on an individual basis, but may not exceed eight courses.

Foreign Language Requirement

All students pursuing a PhD degree in English are required to demonstrate advanced-level proficiency in one language or intermediate-level proficiency in two languages prior to completion of the degree. Languages chosen must have relevance to literary studies in English; the director of graduate studies determines which languages are appropriate to fulfill the requirement.

Advanced language proficiency can be demonstrated either by achieving a score of 650 on the SAT II language test currently offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Latin; by completing with a grade of B or better one literature course at the graduate level (courses numbered 500 or higher) in an approved language; by completing with a grade of B or better in a noncredit graduate-level foreign language reading course offered by Boston University; or by passing a one-hour translation test administered by the department.

Intermediate proficiency in a language can be demonstrated by achieving a score of 530 on the SAT II language test currently offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Latin; by earning a B or better in a noncredit foreign language reading course for graduate students (GRS LF 621 or equivalent); by earning a B or better in a graduate-level (500 or higher) course in foreign literature taught in the literature’s language; or by earning a B or better in a graduate-level course in Old English.

A student wishing to fulfill the requirement with a language for which there is no available examination (for example, Hebrew or Greek) may ask first to have the language approved and then to take a written translation examination.

A student who successfully completes a literature course at the graduate level in a foreign language can count the course toward the sixteen-course requirement for the PhD; only one such course will be accepted toward fulfilling the sixteen-course requirement. The language requirement must be fulfilled before the PhD qualifying oral examination is scheduled.

Qualifying Examination

To be admitted to doctoral candidacy, the student must pass a comprehensive oral examination in a major area of literary study defined by the student in consultation with the advisor. The area chosen for examination is normally related to the student’s anticipated dissertation topic.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the director of graduate studies, and the department chair/program director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field(s) and demonstrate a mastery of their field(s) of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

For further information about the graduate program in English, interested students should consult the department’s website or contact the department’s director of graduate studies.