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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 Aid

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.

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, i.e. after the Renaissance, must offer French, German or Latin as one language and may choose the second language from the following: Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, or another language relevant to the student's field of study.

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.

Third-year Ph.D. student, Aku Ammah-Tagoe, leading a discussion section

Linda A. Cicero / Stanford University News Service