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Doctorate in English

Students receiving the MA from the department who wish to continue toward the PhD need not make a separate application through the School of Graduate Studies, but are required to make a formal application to the department. MA students wishing to continue for the PhD may apply by letter to the Graduate Director when they have completed 18 hours of coursework and have no outstanding incompletes. Applicants in their second year of MA study at CWRU should supply a new statement of purpose and a writing sample with their application. In addition to the letter of application, statement of purpose, and writing sample, the Graduate Committee will consider grades and course evaluations in its decision. The Committee may decide to 1) grant early admission; 2) deny admission; or 3) postpone a decision until the MA degree has been completed. It will communicate its decision in writing. If granted, admission is conditional until completion of the MA degree. A student denied admission may request a review upon presentation of additional evidence (consult with the Graduate Director).


I. Residency Requirement

The university requires each PhD student to spend a substantial amount of time in residence, which entails continuous registration in each regular semester for at least six consecutive semesters (excluding summers), or six semesters in two consecutive calendar years (i.e., including summers), at any time from matriculation until all degree requirements are completed. The requirement may be fulfilled with course work toward the the PhD or with ENGL 701 (Dissertation PhD).

In general, the English Department encourages students to remain in residence in Cleveland throughout their degree programs. Only by being in residence can students take advantage of the many workshops, colloquia, and reading groups the Department considers essential to graduate training. Those holding TAships are expected both to be in residence and to refrain from accepting employment outside the University. Those writing dissertations with the support of Departmental Fellowships are encouraged to remain in residence, and are prohibited from accepting outside employment.


II. Hours and Courses

The PhD degree requires 24 hours of course work beyond the MA. Students must take a minimum of FOUR 500 level seminars (12 credits). ENGL 590 (Special Reading or Research—Independent Study) does NOT count toward this 12 credit minimum. A maximum of six hours of graduate work from another institution or a related department at CWRU may be counted toward the PhD on application to the Director of Graduate Studies; such courses will count toward the coursework requirements for the degree, but not toward the grade point average standards for Advancement to Candidacy.

Beyond coursework, PhD students must complete a minimum of 18 credits of English 701 (Dissertation PhD). Students beyond coursework register for 5 credits of 701 and 1 credit of EXAM 700 in the semester in which they take the Qualifying Exam (usually the fall of the third year). The subsequent semester they take 6 credits, and thereafter students should register for only three (3) credit hours of tuition for English 701 per semester until they reach the mandated minimum total of eighteen (18), and 1 credit per semester after that threshold has been met, as long as they remain in the program and teach for the department. (See chart for expected progress below.) PhD TAs in this situation must plan ahead. Students planning to defend dissertations on accelerated schedules should make special arrangements to reach the 18-hour minimum prior to the semester in which they plan to defend. Students with some kinds of government and private loans normally need to be registered for 6 hours a semester. The English Department does not award tuition hours simply to meet this regulation.

All PhD Students must take English 510 (Research and Methods) and either English 487, Introduction to Critical Theory, or an advanced course in critical theory and enroll in the Preprofessional Workshops. All PhD students must also take English 506 (Professional Writing: Theory and Practice). English 400 is an elective course for PhD students; it is strongly recommended for any doctoral student on TAship who did not complete 400 or an equivalent course as part of the MA degree.


III. Advisory Committee

When a student has satisfactorily completed 12 hours of coursework toward the PhD (normally at the end of the second semester), the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student will appoint a three-person advisory committee (a primary adviser and two other faculty members) to guide the student’s progress toward the PhD qualifying exam. The committee’s duties will include advising the student in

• Selection of remaining coursework;
• Selection of areas of focus;
• Preparation of a book list (50-75 works) in the student’s areas of concentration;
• Preparation of questions for the written component of the qualifying exam.


IV. English Ph.D. Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement

Prior to advancement to candidacy, all Ph.D. students must demonstrate reading proficiency in one foreign language (including Latin and ancient Greek) by earning a grade of A or B in a 300-level CWRU course that requires the student to read literature extensively in the language. (These will normally be courses in the Departments of Classics and Modern Languages and Literatures. Note that advanced courses in business writing, composition, and conversation will not normally fulfill the requirement.) Such courses will not count toward the 24-credit doctoral course requirement. However, if students register for the course using the Fellowship Course Option, tuition will not be charged for completing the Foreign Language Competency Requirement.

Prior expertise in a foreign language, attested by an undergraduate major or minor or a previous graduate degree in the language, can demonstrate proficiency. Proficiency in these cases will normally be certified by the Graduate Committee, in consultation with faculty in Modern Languages and/or Classics.  Students for whom English is a second language will be understood to have demonstrated linguistic proficiency by their enrollment in the graduate program in English.

If 300-level literature courses in the student’s approved language are not available at CWRU in the semester(s) in which the student is to have established proficiency, the student may petition the Graduate Committee to accept an alternative method of fulfilling the requirement.

Completing upper-division courses in a foreign language or literature at another institution will not normally be an acceptable way to fulfill the language requirement.


V. Advancing to Candidacy

When students have completed 24 credits of course work beyond the MA and fulfilled the foreign language requirement, they must apply for formal advancement to PhD candidacy by completing the form available from the Graduate School and securing the signed approval of their research advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Department Chair. Eligibility is based on grades earned at CWRU. Students with more A’s than B’s are advanced to candidacy; students with more B’s than A’s are not advanced to candidacy. A case of an equal number of As and Bs on the record, or other anomalies, will be referred to the Graduate Committee of the English Department for a final decision. Students not advanced to candidacy are separated without the award of the degree.

The department reports its decisions on formal advancement to the Dean of Graduate Studies. Upon being advanced, students have five years to complete all requirements for the Ph.D. During this period they must register for at least eighteen hours of ENGL 701 (Dissertation), taking at least three credit hours per term until the eighteen are complete. According to current Graduate School regulations, this five-year time period begins with early registration in 701 while the student is preparing for the Qualifying Examination. (Consult with the Graduate Director for specific limitations.)



Year 1 Fall: 2 courses Spring: 2 courses + Plan to fulfill language requirement
Year 2 Fall: 2 courses Spring: 2 courses + Language requirement complete
Year 2 Summer Director and committee approve reading lists
Year 3 Fall: 5 hrs. ENGL 701; 1 hr. EXAM 700 – take exams by Oct 30 Spring: 6 hrs. ENGL 701 – Prospectus approved by end of February
Year 4 Fall: 3 hrs. ENGL 701 – Write dissertation Spring: 3 hrs. ENGL 701 – Write dissertation
Year 5 Fall: 1 hr. ENGL 701 – Write dissertation Spring: 1 hr. ENGL 701 – Finish dissertation and defend



VI. Taking the Qualifying Exam

No later than one semester after students have been advanced to candidacy, in cooperation with their Advisory Committee, and subject to the Committee’s approval, the student will:

• Decide on either two or three areas of concentration, one of which must be a literary area, from broad disciplinary fields such as those recognized in the MLA Divisions and Discussion Groups, and represented in current department expertise. The Advisory Committee will have final approval of these areas and will take into account such issues as contiguity, relevance, and relation to possible dissertation interests.

• Prepare a list of 50-75 primary and secondary sources in these focus areas. The list should not be more than 75 works.

No later than the second semester after advancing to candidacy (i.e., registering for 701 credits), the student will prepare four questions based on the readings on the approved book list and schedule the written exam, which must take place within a calendar year of advancement. The questions should be designed to allow the student to demonstrate his or her knowledge of the field or focus area, drawing upon both primary and secondary texts from the list.

The usual progress for a PhD student receiving financial support from the department (i.e., a TAship or Fellowship) should follow the chart above. Because the department can usually only obligate itself to a maximum of five years of funding for each Ph.D. student receiving support, it is essential for students to keep to this schedule in order to have enough funding left to write the dissertation.

All students taking the exam during the fall semester should complete the oral section of the comprehensive exam by November 15. If a student should need to take the exam in the spring, the oral section must be complete by April 10. The orals follow the written exam by ten days to two weeks; therefore students should schedule their written exams before Oct. 30 in the fall (typical) and before March 25 in the spring (in exceptional cases).

The chair of the exam committee (the Research Director, in University parlance) will facilitate most aspects of the exam for the other committee members, though the candidate is responsible for communicating and consulting with all members of the committee. The candidate should draft questions at least six weeks before the scheduled date of the exam so that each committee member has a chance to read, make suggestions, and approve the questions. The candidate should first present the proposed questions to the committee chair for suggestions and approval. The revised questions should then be circulated by the student to other committee members for their revision and approval. If the chair feels it is necessary, the committee may meet as a whole to discuss, edit, and revise the questions. Any conflicts should be resolved by the committee chair, or, if necessary, in a meeting of the committee without the candidate. It is important for both the student and the chair to make sure that the committee has a common understanding of the language of the questions. Once approved, the questions may not be altered. The committee will select two of the four questions submitted for the exam. The chair of the exam committee must submit the approved questions, along with the final approved lists, to the DGS to be put in the student’s file.



The exam must represent the student’s own writing and may not include any written material previously submitted for a seminar or other coursework.

Candidates may discuss the slate of four revised questions with the chair but are never given advance sign about which two will be selected. While students may consult faculty about the texts on their lists and in very general terms strategies for composing answers before the exam, they may not submit drafts, sketches, or outlines of their exam answers to faculty. They are, however, encouraged to draft answers to all four questions in advance of the formal exam period on their own.

The Department acknowledges that intellectual exchange is at the heart of our discipline, and therefore we recognize that students preparing exams will as a matter of course consult with and discuss ideas with their examination committees and with other faculty and students. Nevertheless, in strict observance of the Academic Integrity standards of the University and the School of Graduate Studies, students may not receive outside assistance of any sort in the written conception, composition, or editing or proofreading of their examinations. This includes the sharing of draft outlines, paragraphs, and individual pieces of answers. Students submitting examinations affirm that the work they turn in is their own and that they have not received any outside assistance.


On the day of the exam the student will be given the two questions chosen by the Advisory Committee and will have a maximum of seventy-two (72) hours to write substantial responses in the form of two well-organized and carefully-argued essays, one in response to each question. The exam answers must be submitted both to the committee members and to the Director of Graduate Studies by the deadline. The DGS must have both a hard copy and an electronic copy. The committee may decide in what form it wishes to receive the written exam, and it is the student’s responsibility to get it to each committee member.
Within one week of completion of the written exam, the Advisory Committee, through its chair, should report to the candidate whether that portion has been passed or failed. The committee members should send their comments to the committee chair (not directly to the student). The committee chair should then write up a report for the student and the Director of Graduate Studies (for the student’s file) that puts together the various responses he or she has received from the committee members. The committee chair should try to resolve any contradictions in advice among the committee members before responding to the student. The report should give the student a sense of the exam’s strengths as well as any weak points that might need to be worked on for the oral. The report may be communicated to the student by e-mail (with a copy to the DGS), but the committee chair should also meet with the student in person to go over the report and to provide general suggestions for the oral. Committee members will not, however, tell the student specific questions that will be asked in the oral. The oral exam, which usually takes place ten days to two weeks after the candidate has passed the written exam, will address any questions that arise from the written exam, and may range to any work on the student’s reading list.

After the oral exam, the committee chair should write up a brief report about the exam for the student’s file, describing the student’s performance. This report may either be submitted separately to the DGS or added to the previous report on the written exam and submitted as one document. In either case, a copy of the report goes to the DGS.

After being notified of the results of both parts of the exam, the DGS is responsible for filing the reports and sending any paperwork to the School of Graduate Studies.


Students who fail either question of the written exam must retake that part. They are given a grade of U in English 701 or Exam 700 for that semester; they must ordinarily retake the failed section(s) of the exam the following semester and receive a passing grade. The exam may be retaken during summer semester only at the discretion of the chair of the exam committee and if all members agree. The grade of U remains on the student’s transcript. On the retake, the Advisory Committee may ask for two new questions from the student for each section failed, if so desired. Aside from this possibility, guidelines above for the first attempt apply.

In the event of failure the student meets with the committee chair as soon as possible. In this meeting the Research Director will summarize the committee members’ responses on the exam. After this meeting, the chair will write a one-page report evaluating the exam; this becomes the official grade report and is sent to the DGS for placement in the student’s file. The student may request to meet with the entire committee or may choose to meet with individual committee members to discuss the exam and preparation for the retake.


A student who passes the written exam the first time but fails the oral will have a grade of U in English 701 or Exam 700 recorded for that semester and will retake the oral early in the following semester. As in the case of a failed written exam, the Research Director writes a summary report on the performance and sends it to the DGS for inclusion in the student’s file. If, after one failure on the written exam, the oral exam results in a failure, a second oral exam must be scheduled for the same semester in order for the student to receive a grade of S in English 701 or Exam 700 for that term. Failure a second time on either the written exam or the oral exam will result in separation from the program.


The PhD qualifying exam is designed to test your knowledge of your chosen fields or focus areas. While you should have a thorough knowledge of the individual works on your list, you should also be able to situate them in the context of wider critical debates and relevant theoretical issues in your area of concentration. It is expected that each student will be familiar with some background reading of a general critical, theoretical, or scholarly nature that will help to provide the student with knowledge of current debates and scholarship in the chosen focus areas.

The function of the exam is not simply to test your knowledge of isolated texts from your list, but rather to test your ability to provide a focused, substantive, and intelligent discussion of those texts in relation to the wider field(s) that they have been chosen to represent. It is thus important to design your questions and answers in such a way as to highlight your own readings of the chosen texts in relation to significant issues in the contemporary critical discourse of the field. An exam which merely summarizes the critics without providing any original argument or readings, or an exam which fails to situate readings of the primary texts in a wider critical and theoretical context, will not provide an adequate demonstration of your ability to synthesize the primary and secondary materials.


VII. The Dissertation Committee

The composition of the dissertation committee is commonly, though not always, the same as that of the qualifying exam committee. Students should confer with the Director of Graduate Studies early in this process. The following regulations of the School of Graduate Studies must be observed in forming the dissertation committee.

• The committee consists of at least four members, comprising a chair and two members selected from the Department’s research faculty.

• The fourth member must be from another department within Case Western Reserve University. For English Dept. dissertations, this member has typically come from Modern Languages, History, American Studies, Religion, Philosophy, etc. The practice of appointing fourth readers from other universities is no longer followed. See below for information on readers from other universities.

• Emeritus faculty of CWRU may serve as directors or faculty as long as they have not left the university.

• Faculty who have left CWRU may serve as chairs or readers for 18 months after the date of their last formal employment.

• Faculty at other universities with appropriate credentials may only serve as additional readers, i.e. fifth readers.


VIII. The Prospectus

Within one semester after passing the qualifying examination, the student will select a dissertation committee and submit a dissertation prospectus. The prospectus must be approved within one year of passage of the comprehensive exams.

The prospectus should include:

• A clear statement of the student’s thesis, theoretical approach, and a summary of anticipated evidence;

• A discussion of the likely contribution of the study: what gaps in our knowledge will it fill?

• An outline/summary of proposed chapters or sections;

• A bibliography.

The prospectus must be reviewed by all of the departmental members of the Dissertation Committee and discussed at a meeting with the student. Once the dissertation director has approved the prospectus, it is filed in the student’s permanent file and circulated to all faculty in the department. Circulation of the prospectus is required and is the student’s responsibility.


IX. The Dissertation

Students must register for a minimum of eighteen hours of dissertation credit (ENGL 701) during dissertation writing; if the dissertation is not complete by the time this requirement is fulfilled, they will then normally register for one credit hour per semester. Students must complete all requirements for the Ph.D., including the dissertation, within five years of the semester in which they are advanced to Ph.D. candidacy or in which they begin 701 registration.

Regulations concerning dissertation credit and fees, terminal dates for degrees, and possible extensions are published separately by the School of Graduate Studies.
In addition to more traditional kinds of dissertations, the department will accept the following:

• A part of a larger project, provided that the part submitted is substantial and coherent in itself;

• A collection of related essays;

• Edited translations, scholarly editorial projects, and transcripts of documents–with quality and significance, not length, as criteria.

The Department requires that students follow the documentation procedures of the current MLA Style Manual. Regulations concerning the format of the dissertation and other procedures must be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies.


The doctoral student is responsible for managing the progress of the dissertation and is expected to arrange meetings and maintain periodic contact with each committee member. A meeting of the full committee for the purpose of assessing the student’s progress should occur at least once a year until the completion of the dissertation, according to the CWRU General Bulletin.


The student defends the dissertation in a formal, public two-hour oral examination before the committee. A student must be registered for ENGL 701 during the semester in which the final oral examination is taken. All committee members must be physically present for the duration of the oral defense. Any exception must be approved by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the point at which the defense is scheduled.

Students should apprise committee members of their progress on the dissertation throughout its writing. Departmental readers should have opportunities to read and provide formative feedback to substantial pieces of the dissertation project along the way. When all committee members agree that the project is ready to go to defense, the final completed dissertation (the “defense copy”) is submitted to the Departmental committee plus one faculty member from outside the Department at least 10 working days (two work weeks) before the oral defense. It is not advisable to press these deadlines.

Students must schedule the dissertation defense with the Director of Graduate Studies and the School of Graduate Studies according to the schedule specified by the School, at least three weeks in advance of a date agreed upon by the entire Committee. The School will advertise the defense on its calendar to the University community; the defense will be announced to the Department as a public event by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Only one dissent of the four members is permitted for the dissertation to receive a pass. Readers of the dissertation will file with the Director of Graduate Studies a report including comments on style, originality, and scope; on the quality and value of the argument; and on the publishability of the material. Copies of the reports will be given to the candidate and placed in the candidate’s Departmental file.

The School of Graduate Studies maintains a set of regulations and forms that must be completed with the version of the dissertation submitted to the School as the finished copy on the basis of which the degree is conferred. (This is the “copy to be filed.”) Please consult the Graduate Studies calendar for filing deadlines and the Handbook for current guidelines. Note that dissertations are now digitally available through OhioLink; a request to stay digital publication (in cases in which immediate publication through a press is anticipated) can be submitted, if appropriate.


All requirements for the Ph.D. must be finished within five consecutive calendar years from the date of the first English 701 taken. Candidates may petition for a one year extension on the recommendation of the dissertation advisor and with the approval of the Chair or Graduate Director and the Dean of Graduate Studies. If an extension is granted, the candidate must register for 3 hours of 701 each term. The English Department does not award tuition credits for this purpose.


If the oral defense is passed, but the dissertation has corrections or required changes, the candidate may notify the School of Graduate Studies in writing of a desire to use the “grace period.” This is granted only once: it is a one month extension granted from the date of commencement for that semester. The degree is then awarded the next semester, but without additional registration.