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Portrait of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony. 1882. Library of Congress.

PhD in English and American Literature

Requirements for the PhD

In the PhD Program, students move toward specialization in a particular area of study. The requirements include:

  • Eight graduate-level courses beyond the MA
  • Demonstration of a reading knowledge of two languages at the intermediate level or one language at the advanced level
  • Completion of a Qualifying Oral Examination, 
usually within a year of completion of course work
  • Submission of a Dissertation Prospectus
  • Completion and defense of a PhD dissertation

Satisfactory Academic Progress for PhD Students

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English guarantee five full years (12 months each) of financial support for PhD students who maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress. This support will be in the form of Teaching Fellowships, Research Assistantships or Graduate Fellowships. All requirements for the doctorate, including dissertation, must be completed within seven years (exceptions require a petition to GRS). A leave of absence of up to two semesters is permitted for appropriate cause, but the leave period counts towards the seven-year time limit. Given these time constraints, students should work closely with their advisers and dissertation readers to devise an efficient schedule for meeting all benchmarks. Faculty and students share responsibility for adhering closely to this schedule.

The following achievements are required to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress:

1. Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

2. Have no more than 2 failing grades (lower than B- or an incomplete grade older than 12 months)

3. Pass qualifying exams and other milestones on the recommended schedule specified under the listed PhD Requirements.

Following is a general optimal timetable for the completion of the PhD*:

End of first year (MA year)

  • Successfully complete first-year review

End of second year

  • Complete all coursework
  • Satisfy PhD language requirement (either advanced competency in one or intermediate competency in two foreign languages)

By the beginning of the sixth semester

  • Pass PhD Oral Qualifying Exams

By the end of the third year

  • Submit approved Dissertation Prospectus

By the end of fifth year

  • Complete and defend Dissertation

Additional details regarding all stages of the degree can be found in the graduate handbook.

* This is the optimal schedule for students beginning their first year at BU in September 2013 or later.

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