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University of Pittsburgh    
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jul 14, 2024
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

English, PhD

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Graduate and Professional Degrees

The Department of English offers a PhD emphasizing Cultural and Critical Studies, and two Master’s degrees: an MA in English and an MFA in Writing. The PhD in English, open to applicants with at least a BA or its equivalent, encourages interdisciplinary scholarship. PhD students typically base their work in Composition/Rhetoric, Film Studies, or Literature, but the department fosters interdisciplinary work that draws on more than one program.  The department has a strong national reputation in composition and literacy studies, children’s literature, global film studies, and cultural theory.  Based in the Literature Program but including faculty members and PhD students across programs are four focal areas that provide curricular and extracurricular support for student work: Children’s Literature and Childhood Studies; Genealogies of Modernity; Media and Material Practices; and Race, Politics, and Empire. The MA in English provides broad familiarity with advanced studies in Composition/Rhetoric, Film Studies, and/or Literature. The MFA in Writing allows students to specialize in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, while also integrating courses in literature and literary history. The department also offers a graduate-level certificate in Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy and Rhetoric.

Requirements for the PhD

General Requirements. The PhD requires 72 credit hours, 39 of which must be in courses at the 2000 or 3000 level, with a minimum grade point average of 3.00. Required courses are a one-credit practicum, Introduction to Graduate Study; a two-credit practicum, Introduction to Composition Pedagogy; and Seminar in Pedagogy (3 credits); Additionally, two core courses in different programs of the department (Composition, Film, and Literature) are required. The remaining credits are earned through elective seminars, independent studies in preparation of the PhD project and dissertation research credits. PhD candidates must fulfill a language requirement by demonstrating reading knowledge of two languages other than English, advanced study in one language other than English, or beginning knowledge of a new language. PhD students must teach for at least two terms.

Earning the MA. PhD students may elect to earn an MA as they progress in the PhD program, although they are not required to do so. If they wish to earn the MA, they must successfully complete the two core courses listed above with a grade of B or better, and either complete the master’s research paper (outlined above under “Requirements for the MA Degree”), or successfully pass their PhD comprehensive (project) examinations. Application for the MA must be made before the end of the student’s fourth year in the PhD program.

The PhD Project. The PhD project fulfills the University requirement for a comprehensive examination prior to admission to doctoral candidacy. It is a historical and theoretical investigation of a topic that can be demonstrated by the student to be of long-term significance for critical study. The project allows students to examine and synthesize a range of interests that ordinarily lead into the more detailed inquiry of a dissertation. While we no longer insist on comprehensive knowledge of all literature written in English, the project is meant to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge as well as the ability to work on a single problem. For more specific regulations governing the PhD project, please consult the PhD website listed above.

The Dissertation. After students have passed their project examinations, they will register for independent study credits in order to write a prospectus for the dissertation. The student should choose a dissertation director and a committee at this time. Once a dissertation committee has been formed, the student will submit a formal dissertation prospectus to them for approval. When the dissertation committee has approved the prospectus, the dissertation director will submit for the student an application for admission to doctoral candidacy. Once students have had their dissertation prospectus passed and have been admitted to doctoral candidacy, they should begin the work of researching and writing the dissertation. Normally students will complete the dissertation during the fifth and sixth years in the program, the fifth through the eighth terms as a teaching fellow, or the ninth through the 12th terms in residence. Once the dissertation is completed, students must successfully defend the dissertation in order to earn the PhD.

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