PhD in English


English PhD student smiling

Photo credit: Leah Newsom (ASU)

The PhD in English features areas of strength in American Literature and Culture, British and Postcolonial Studies, Crip/Queer Studies and Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Within each of these areas, students are invited to construct their own specializations and methodologies, ranging from sociohistorical angles to digital humanities and film studies.

Doctoral-level seminars are small, encouraging discussion and equal participation. Seminar presentations are modeled on conference papers, and many of our students have turned their coursework into conference presentations and articles that are suitable for publication in scholarly journals. 

Application Deadline: January 15


Program Strength Areas

Our widely published faculty in each of these areas closely mentor PhD students, from coursework to the final stages of the dissertation.

Mt. Rushmore

American Literature and Culture


Painting of a dock with boats and people gathered

British and Postcolonial Studies


LGBTQ Rainbow Flag

Crip/Queer Studies


Student reading an old Shakespeare folio in an archive setting

Medieval and Early Modern Studies




Admissions Requirements

A student entering with an MA in an approved field may be awarded up to 24 credits of advanced standing toward doctoral coursework. PhD students must maintain a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 in order to remain in the program.


Timeline and Funding

In order to facilitate the shift from "student" to "colleague," we match students to appropriate faculty mentors early in the student’s career, and we urge students to develop a dissertation research agenda by the end of the first year of graduate work.

The program normally takes four to five years of full-time study. We expect students to adhere to this timetable and therefore fund them for this length of time, designing a program that will enable them to progress quickly from coursework to dissertation and defense.


Consortium and Outside Courses

Students may take up to two courses outside the English Department, in other GW graduate programs, in consortium universities with participating English graduate programs or at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

College guidelines allow graduate students to take up to two courses outside of her/his degree-granting department (and students are encouraged to take these courses at nearby universities as well). Courses taken outside of departmental offerings are usually on the basis of the fact that some aspect of a key expertise for a student’s research may otherwise go unfulfilled. All areas of the GW graduate curriculum are available for outside credit consideration as we promote not only interdisciplinary work but also the development of disciplines that are not exclusively literary in focus. We emphasize in particular the work of literature understood within its specific historical, cultural, material, philosophical, and genre contexts.


Course Requirements

Note: Independent Study (ENGL 6720) and Advanced Research and Reading (ENGL 8998) may be repeated for credit with the approval of the DGS.

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program.


  1. Coursework planned in consultation with the department advisor
  2. A comprehension exam in a language approved by the department
  3. A qualifying examination passed at the beginning of the student’s second year and a field examination passed by the end of the student’s coursework, topics and reading lists for which are designed in consultation with two graduate faculty advisors
  4. A dissertation proposal after the field exam
  5. A dissertation on an approved topic, directed by a member of the department’s graduate faculty, and completed by the end of the fifth year of study.

Each student plans a program of studies in consultation with the department advisor and a committee of the graduate faculty. Students must maintain a grade-point average of at least 3.5.