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Department of English Language and Literature

  • Professors Byron Hawk teaching with a very busy whiteboard behind him


Our graduate programs in English are dedicated to advanced study in a number of fields, including literature, rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. The department awards the MA, MFA, and PhD degrees.

Innovation and Community

With an outstanding faculty and a deep dedication to mentoring and fostering community, our graduate programs attract students from across the country and around the world. The programs build on the department’s long history of excellence in scholarship while enabling students to engage with the most innovative research in their fields. Graduate students at all levels and in all areas participate in the kinds of scholarship that occur at the leading edge of literary and rhetorical study. At the same time, we are an uncommonly collegial department at a university that prizes interdisciplinary collaboration. English faculty and students aim to bridge the distances between theoretical orientations and across a diverse range of specialties; many also become affiliated and/or work collaboratively with other programs and departments. These commitments have made the department a hub for innovative research and teaching that serves the college, the university, and the community at large.

The National Research Council’s decennial assessment of graduate programs—last published in 2010—ranks our department’s PhD programs among the top 40 in the country.

Our Programs

The department houses MA, MFA, and PhD programs in areas spanning American and British Literature, Rhetoric and Composition Studies, and Speech Communication. All of our programs encourage interdisciplinarity, and we maintain partnerships with a variety of other units on campus, including African American Studies, Comparative Literature, Film and Media Studies, Jewish Studies, Linguistics, and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Fellowships and Assistantships

The department offers several graduate student fellowships, and many students go on to win university-wide awards.

Students in all fields of study are eligible for teaching assistantships, which provide stipends and substantial tuition abatement. Depending on prior training and experience, students with assistantships might serve as graders for large lecture courses, work in the Writing Center, teach stand-alone sections of First-Year English, or (in later years of their time in the program), offer more advanced courses, including a small number of upper-level courses in literature and writing. We provide extensive training and ongoing mentoring for our graduate student instructors, many of whom have been recognized with department and university teaching awards.

The department offers opportunities to work with faculty on significant new scholarship as research and editorial assistants. MFA students may also participate in community outreach via our unique and innovative Split-P program.

Professional Development

Our department cares about your success beyond the completion of your degree. We offer professional development and encourage you to become involved in graduate student organizations to expand your skills and network.

Graduates from our programs find employment in a wide range of fields. While the majority seek work in secondary or higher education, others have gone on to become technical writers, novelists, arts administrators, corporate trainers, and editors at both academic and commercial presses. Over the past decade, our PhDs have secured tenured and tenure-track positions in colleges and universities of all sorts, from R-1 institutions to regional campuses and HBCUs, including Allen University, CUNY, Charleston Southern University, Florida Atlantic University, Northwest Missouri State University, University of Texas-Austin, and Wagner College. Other students have accepted postdoctoral fellowships and instructorships at institutions including Arizona State University, University of Illinois-Chicago, Dixie State University, and Sewanee University.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.