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Ph.D. Program

The Stanford English department has a long tradition of training the next generation of scholars to become leaders in academia and related fields. Our Ph.D. program encourages the production of ambitious, groundbreaking dissertation work across the diverse field interests of our prestigious faculty.

Fusing deep attention to literary history with newer approaches to media, technology, and performance, our department carefully mentors students in both scholarship and pedagogy through close interaction with faculty. Our location on the edge of the Pacific and at the heart of Silicon Valley encourages expansive, entrepreneurial thinking about the interpenetration of arts and sciences.

Program Overview

The English Department seeks to teach and promote an understanding of both the significance and the history of British and American literature (broadly defined) and to foster an appreciation of the richness and variety of texts in the language. It offers rigorous training in interpretive thinking and precise expression. Our English graduate program features the study of what imaginative language, rhetoric, and narrative art has done, can do, and will do in life, and it focuses on the roles creative writing and representations play in almost every aspect of modern experience. Completing the Ph.D. program prepares a student for full participation as a scholar and literary critic in the profession.

Financial Support

We offer an identical five-year funding package to all admitted students with competitive funding available for a sixth year. Funding covers applicable tuition costs, Stanford Cardinal Care health insurance, and living expenses in the form of direct stipend, teaching assistantships or pre-doctoral research assistantships. The department, in conjunction with the School of Humanities and Sciences, is also committed to supporting students' involvement in professional activities and funds many of the expenses for research travel, summer language study, and participation in academic conferences. Student housing is not included in the funding package.

In addition to our standard doctoral funding package, the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE) provides competitive funding to support individual doctoral students, student groups, and department-based projects. VPGE funding opportunities promote innovation, diversity, and excellence in graduate education. Explore their doctoral fellowship and other student funding opportunities.

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program cultivates and supports a highly-engaged, multidisciplinary and multicultural community of graduate students from across Stanford University, and delivers a diverse collection of educational experiences, preparing graduates to address complex challenges facing the world. Knight-Hennessy Scholars participate in an experiential leadership development program known as the King Global Leadership Program and receive funding for up to three years of graduate study at Stanford. Two applications must be submitted separately; one to Knight-Hennessy and one to the Stanford English graduate degree program by its deadline. Please refer to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program page to learn more and apply.

Teaching Requirements

One pedagogical seminar and four quarters of supervised teaching. Typically a student will teach three times as a teaching assistant in a literature course. For the fourth course, students will have the option of applying to design and teach a Writing Intensive Seminar in English (WISE) for undergraduate English majors or teaching a fourth quarter as a T.A..

  • 1st year: One quarter as T.A. (leading 1-2 discussion sections of undergraduate literature)
  • 2nd year: One quarter as T.A. (leading 1-2 discussion sections of undergraduate literature)
  • 3rd/4th/5th years: Two quarters of teaching, including the possibility of TA'ing or teaching a WISE course.

Language requirements

All candidates for the Ph.D. degree must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two foreign languages. One language requirement must be completed during the first year of study. The second language must be completed before the oral examination in the third year.

Candidates in the earlier periods must offer Latin and one of the following languages: French, German, Greek, Italian or Spanish. Candidates in the later period (that is, after the Renaissance) must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two languages for which Stanford’s Language Center regularly offers a reading course, administers a competency exam, or facilitates the administration of an American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Reading Proficiency Test (ACTFL RPT). In all cases, the choice of languages offered must be relevant to the student’s field of study and must have the approval of the candidate's adviser. Any substitution of a language other than one for which Stanford offers a competency exam must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Other requirements

All candidates for the Ph.D. must satisfactorily complete the following:

  • 135 units, at least 70 of which (normally 14 courses) must be graded course work
  • Qualifying examination, based on a reading guide of approximately 70-90 works, to be taken orally at the end of the summer after the first year of graduate work.
  • University oral examination covering the field of concentration taken no later than the winter quarter of the third year of study.
  • Submission of the dissertation prospectus
  • First chapter review with the dissertation advisor and the members of the dissertation reading committee.
  • Dissertation, which should be an original work of literary criticism demonstrating the student's ability to participate fully as a scholar and literary critic in the profession.
  • Closing colloquium designed to look forward toward the next steps; identify the major accomplishments of the dissertation and the major questions/issues/problems that remain; consider possibilities for revision, book or article publication, etc.