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Department of English
University of Mississippi

PhD with Creative Writing Concentration

The PhD with Creative Writing Concentration is an accelerated program that demands students work to a strict timeline and meet all deadlines. In particular, we advise that planning and work on the creative dissertation begin well before the end of classes (which is usually the end of your second Spring semester).

Degree Requirements:

  • 33 hours of graduate coursework beyond the MFA (additional courses may be required by the admission Committee on an individual basis), plus at least 21 hours dissertation credit
  • Successful completion of 2-step qualifying procedures
  • Completed dissertation and successful oral defense of the dissertation

Coursework Requirements:

  • 6 hours of coursework in literature before 1800
  • 6 hours of coursework in literature after 1800
  • 6 hours of creative writing workshop
  • 15 hours of electives
    • may include up to 6 hours of Form, Craft, & Influence
    • may include up to 6 hours of graduate coursework in relevant academic disciplines outside the English Department, up to 3 of which can be taken as independent study or as directed reading

Forming a Committee

Students in the PhD with Creative Writing Concentration should assemble a committee with five members (composed of two creative writing faculty, two research faculty, and a fifth committee member who is UM faculty not affiliated with the English department). 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 practice of creative writing as well as the broad scope of literary history; including areas such as theory, methodology, criticism, canonicity, and the reciprocities between literature and culture. The responsibilities of the Ph.D. committee include setting, administering, and evaluating the Candidacy Examination and admitting the student to candidacy; supervising and approving dissertation work; conducting and evaluating the oral dissertation defense; and recommending the conferral of the Ph.D. degree. Students typically form their thesis/dissertation committee no later than the end of their second fall semester, although the extradepartmental member can be added as late as the prospectus stage.

Qualifying Procedure: Step 1

The qualifying procedure consists of two steps: an oral comprehensive exam and a prospectus. Both steps should be complete by no later than the end of the first semester following completion of coursework (usually the Fall semester of the third year).

This oral comprehensive exam must be formally scheduled with the graduate school (here), and is based on a field list covering 30–40 works from a historically diverse range of texts in one of four possible topic areas: American literature, British literature, World literature, or a custom topic. Your chosen texts should be drawn from the longer existing lists on historical periods (Medieval, Early American, 19th Century British, etc.) found on the Degree Requirements page for the literary-critical PhD (found here). Your list can be more heavily weighted towards a particular period, but must draw at least 20% of its titles from both pre- and post-1800 literature. Your list must be approved by your committee before you proceed; students interested in pursuing a custom topic list must also first consult with their committee in order to ensure their project can only be properly served by such a custom topic list.

Oral exams typically last 60 to 90 minutes. 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.

Qualifying Procedure: Step 2

The prospectus consists of an annotated book list geared toward their Creative Dissertation, and serves as part of the preparation for the Critical Introduction component of the Dissertation process.  For the PhD in English with a Creative Writing Concentration the expectation is that the list will therefore represent formative/vital works (around 30, with at least 5 critical/theoretical texts) for the candidate in terms of their own development and potential as a creative writer.  The candidate is at this point declaring a specific creative writing genre for their dissertation: Fiction, Poetry, or Creative Non-Fiction. Completed prospectus should be submitted to the full dissertation committee (i.e. including extra-departmental member) for approval. There is no defense of the prospectus in the PhD-CWC program. Following the successful oral exam and approval of the prospectus, the chair of the student’s committee should email the graduate school ( a PDF of the prospectus and a completed form GS5.1: Admission to Doctorate Degree.


Following completion of the qualifying procedure, you will prepare the dissertation, a book-length work that makes an original and significant contribution in your chosen genre accompanied by a 20–40 page critical introduction. As a general guideline, book-length will be understood as around 150–200+ pages for a novel, short story collection, or creative non-fiction work, or 48+ pages for a poetry collection. This is only a guideline and the dissertation committee can agree to different requirements as desired. In the introduction, the candidate will critically consider their work and its place in the overall canon of literary work in that genre.  The introduction will use standard scholarly practices to cite works when applicable, and demonstrate graduate-level competency in literary analysis techniques.  The introduction will allow the candidate to contextualize their work and discuss their aspirations, influences, and difficulties encountered in the process of writing the dissertation document.  The works listed on the prospectus will serve as the foundation for this discussion and individual works will be cited when appropriate.

You should remain in close contact with your chair throughout this process, submitting drafts for feedback and discussing your progress towards completion. It is also a good idea to remain in regular contact with your larger committee. When your dissertation is complete and approved by your chair, you will schedule an oral defense with your dissertation committee, and submit your dissertation to them no less than two weeks prior to the defense date. Don’t forget to submit the GS7 form (Authorization for Final Oral Exam) to the graduate school at least two weeks before your defense.