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Department of English
University of Mississippi

Degree Requirements–Ph.D.

Degree Requirements
The requirements for the Ph.D. in English include 24 hours of course work beyond the master’s degree or 42 hours of coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree (additional courses may be required by the Graduate Admission Committee on an individual basis); 18 hours of dissertation credit; successful completion of the Qualifying Procedure (which consists of a publishable article, an oral examination based on a literary-historical reading list, and successful oral defense of a dissertation prospectus); and the successful oral defense of a dissertation.

All students pursuing coursework for the Ph.D. should expect to meet with the Director of Graduate Studies at least once a year to discuss their progress. All students who enter the Ph.D. program without an M.A. will meet with the Director of Graduate Studies at the end of their second year of coursework, at which point a nonbinding recommendation will be made about continuing to move towards the Qualifying Procedure. For students who are admitted to the doctoral program without an M.A., the committee will vote during the second step of the Qualifying Procedure (the oral examination) whether to award an M.A. in passing. All course work must be completed before a student may submit any portion of the Qualifying Procedure.

For all students pursuing the Ph.D., ENG 600: Introduction to Graduate Study is required during the first fall semester of enrollment in full standing. Graduate students serving as instructors of record in first-year composition courses are required to complete ENG 617: Teaching College English (typically during the Spring semester of the first year). Students must take 6 hours of course work in English or American literature before 1800; 6 hours of English or American literature after 1800; and up to 6 hours of graduate course work in related disciplines and/or independent study/directed reading. Application deadlines for directed reading courses in the fall and spring semesters are, respectively, April 1 and November 1.

Foreign Language Requirement
Depending on the student’s area of specialization and dissertation topic, a student may, at the behest of the Ph.D. committee, be asked to demonstrate reading competency in one or more foreign languages.

PhD Committee
Each student, working in collaboration with the director of graduate studies, puts together a Ph.D. committee, comprised of three members of the English department graduate faculty whose teaching and research interests complement the student’s own plans for doctoral study. (The faculty members chosen must agree to serve on the committee.) The student and his or her Ph.D. committee are expected to design an individual program of study which contributes significantly to the student’s familiarity with the broad scope of literary history; and with areas such as linguistics, rhetoric, theory, methodology, criticism, canonicity, and the reciprocities between literature and culture. The responsibilities of the Ph.D. committee include supervising foreign language study; setting, administering, and evaluating the Candidacy Examination and admitting the student to candidacy; evaluating the dissertation prospectus; supervising and approving dissertation work; conducting and evaluating the oral dissertation defense; and recommending the conferral of both the M.A. and the Ph.D. degrees.
A fourth (extradepartmental) examiner works with the committee to evaluate the candidate’s work from the prospectus stage forward. (See Dissertation Prospectus.)

PhD Candidacy Qualifying Procedures
Candidacy for the PhD follows successful completion of the Qualifying Procedures, as outlined below. The entire qualifying procedure should be completed within 18 months after the completion of coursework. A form for establishing the Qualifying Procedure Timeline can be found HERE; completed forms will be kept on file in the English Department.

Qualifying Procedure, Step 1: Publishable Article
Under oversight of the dissertation committee, candidate will undertake the revision of a seminar paper into a publishable article. For the purposes of this exercise, “publishable” describes a paper that:

  1. Demonstrates knowledge of a significant question in a particular field;
  2. Offers a coherent and sustained contribution to a current critical discussion; and
  3. Demonstrates candidate’s ability to move between detailed literary analysis of primary text and relevant critical/historical/theoretical contexts.

The final result should be the length of a standard article (20-25 pages) and follow a recognized bibliographic style. In cases where a student has already published an article in a recognized professional journal, student may petition dissertation committee to count this earlier article as fulfillment of Step 1. Final discretion in such cases remains entirely with the dissertation committee. Step 1 should be complete by no later than the end of the first semester following the completion of coursework.

Qualifying Procedure, Step 2: Historical Period List and Oral Exam
Passage of the oral exam indicates candidate has attained a working knowledge of a literary-historical period. This exam must be formally scheduled with the graduate school HERE. Each field exam covers a standard, committee-approved list of 70-100 significant works. (See links below for further details regarding lists by field.) The Graduate Committee recommends that candidate bring to the exam two mock syllabi—one for an introductory survey of historical field and one a course on a more focused special topic—and that these documents provide the foundation for the opening discussion. A failed oral may be retaken once; a second failure will result in dismissal from the program. Step 2 should be complete by no later than the end of the second semester following completion of coursework.

Step 3: Special Topic List, Prospectus, and Prospectus Defense
The special topic list forms the bibliographic backbone for the dissertation. The special topic list should consist of 35-50 works, both primary (i.e. literary texts) and include critical, historical, and/or theoretical texts relevant to the proposed dissertation.

After the dissertation committee has approved the special topic list, candidate may begin work on the prospectus. Prospectus should be a 15-30 page document (including bibliography) detailing the main argument of the proposed dissertation, offering a review of relevant scholarship that makes the project’s contribution clear, and providing an abstract of the individual chapters. Completed prospectus should be submitted to the full dissertation committee (i.e. including extra-departmental member).

After submitting the prospectus to the committee, candidate should schedule a prospectus defense. The defense needs to be formally scheduled with the graduate school HERE. The defense, in which all four members of the dissertation committee serve as examiners, is designed to ensure that candidate has a solid grasp of basic dissertation materials and to help refine the project. It is ordinarily between 30 and 60 minutes in length. Step 3 should be complete by no later than the end of the third semester following completion of coursework.

The candidate is required to complete a book-length research project that makes an original and significant contribution to the field of literary studies. After the dissertation is completed and approved, the Ph.D. committee and the outside examiner will conduct an oral dissertation defense, which the candidate must pass before conferral of the degree is recommended

Renaissance and Early Modern Studies Emphasis
Students may receive a Ph.D. with an emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies by completing 21 hours of graduate course work in Renaissance and/or Early Modern Studies, including a minimum of nine hours in the English Department and a minimum of nine hours outside the English Department, and submitting a dissertation on a Renaissance or Early Modern subject. With the exception of the 6-hour requirement in literature after 1800 and the 6-hour limit on graduate course work in related disciplines, students must also satisfy all other general program requirements for the Ph.D. in English.