English Literature

The Ph.D. program in English literature at Duquesne University will provide you with comprehensive training in advanced literary research and postsecondary teaching of writing and literature. In our small department, you’ll work closely with faculty mentors as you prepare to be a teacher-scholar or for a career outside of academia.

While the department supports doctoral students in all fields and periods of literary and cultural studies, you’ll find that we have particular strengths in women's and gender studies, poetry and poetics, modernist studies and American literary studies. Other current areas of scholarly and teaching activity you’ll explore include narrative studies, environmental literature and ecocriticism, performance studies, 19th-century literary studies, religion and literature, print culture and book history, transatlantic/world literature and digital humanities.

Student Opportunities

As a doctoral student, you’re guaranteed four years of funding and the opportunity to teach several different undergraduate courses in writing and literature and train as a writing center consultant. Fifth-year fellowships are also available. If you are new to the classroom, our teacher training includes a semester-long Composition and Pedagogy Reading Group and team-teaching with a mentor. Funding to attend conferences and summer research-travel support is also available.

Faculty and doctoral students have coauthored articles and grants, published together in edited collections and jointly organized community-engaged projects. The English Graduate Organization also organizes its own biennial conference at Duquesne. By the time you complete the program, you will have presented at multiple conferences, and in the past, many of these presentations have been published.


Program Information

Duquesne University's Ph.D. program in English Literature offers comprehensive learning opportunities in advanced literary research and teaching writing and literature at the postsecondary level.



Academic Department


Required Credit Hours

24-27 credits

Program Requirements

  • All students must take a minimum of 27 credit hours of coursework beyond the M.A. degree, excluding dissertation credits. Students will take 27 credits (10 courses, including two 1-2 credit courses) which will allow for flexible scheduling of courses.
  • An Independent Exam Reading course is an option for students in year 2.
  • Courses are required in the following four general areas on the graduate level: British Literature prior to 1800, British Literature after 1800, American Literature prior to 1900, American Literature after 1900.
The doctoral exam in English is a comprehensive exam with two major stages: a field exam and a specialized project. The field exam is designed to give students a broad and comprehensive knowledge of a literary historical period. The specialized project allows students to immerse themselves in a topic of interest related to their field of study. This stage of the exam is designed to help students identify, map, and situate themselves within an existing critical conversation and to equip them with the critical tools and practices necessary to conduct a larger project on a narrow topic of interest.
To complete your Ph.D., all students must complete a doctoral dissertation, a book-length project that makes an original contribution to a field of scholarship. Dissertations can be interpretive, critical, or historical. A dissertation can be an edited edition of a primary text but must also include an extended discussion of the text's history and the editorial choices made that shows an engagement with theories of editing. You will assemble a dissertation committee consisting of a director and two readers. The dissertation must be defended in front of the committee, approved by the department and dean, and presented to a public audience.

Alumni Success

Recent graduates have gone on to jobs at the following institutions of higher education:

  • Ball State University
  • Oberlin College
  • Roger Williams University
  • University of Maryland
  • Stonehill College
  • Geneva College
  • Central Penn College
  • Spring Hill College
  • Penn State Altoona
  • Rocky Mountain College
  • College Misericordia
  • Southeastern University
  • Slippery Rock University
  • Fairmont State University

Many of our graduates from the Ph.D. program also pursue careers outside of academia with great success. Some recent careers include:

  • Assistant Director of Online Learning, Duquesne University
  • Research Facilitator, Fanshaw College
  • Legal Writer, Fragomen Associates
  • Assistant Director of Institutional Giving, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
  • Instructional Designer, University of Pittsburgh

Publishing & Awards

Our graduates have published books with Palgrave Macmillan, the University of Alabama Press and the University Press of Mississippi and articles in South Atlantic Review, Eighteenth-Century Fiction and African American Review.

Two recent Ph.D. students won the prestigious national K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award from the American Association of Colleges and Universities, while on campus our students regularly win the Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Scholarship, the Distinguished Dissertation Prize and (for the last 13 consecutive years) the Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Application Requirements

Students must submit a completed online application, including an updated resume or curriculum vitae.

Official transcript(s) recording all baccalaureate and graduate work. A 3.0 grade average, based on a four point scale, in graduate level work is normally required. Students having an undergraduate major or a Master of Arts degree in a field other than English are normally required to take several preliminary graduate courses before acceptance into the program. If you are currently taking classes, please submit your transcript once grades have been posted.

Letters of recommendation from three persons familiar with the applicant's academic studies or, in some cases, work experience. (Note: The department does not contact recommenders. Letters should be submitted through the University's online system.)

A brief (1-2 page) statement of the applicant's purpose in seeking the Ph.D. degree.

A sample of the applicant's academic writing (a critical paper, 10-20 pages, from a graduate course or a chapter from a Master of Arts thesis).

An official score report indicating satisfactory performance on TOEFL examination (applicable to international students only).

Ph.D. Graduate Fellowships

Students seeking the the doctorate degree may hold a teaching fellowship for four years, providing students make satisfactory progress in the program.

To provide students with solid training and ample opportunity to teach independently without creating an overwhelming workload, a tier system has been developed for our fellowship program. The following guidelines are typical for teaching fellows, but because students have varying strengths and experience, adjustments are often made to the tier system with the approval of the director of freshman English and the director of graduate studies.

The Department of English currently has available several teaching fellowships for incoming students, and two dissertation fellowships for fifth-year students. These fellowships are awarded on the basis of merit. Fellowships include tuition, certain fees, and a stipend. The stipend for 2022-23 is $17,000. Further details about the fellowships are outlined below.

*NEW* - Duquesne is now offering the Nimick Forbesway Foundation English Graduate Diversity Teaching Assistantship for a qualified master's or doctoral applicant from an underrepresented population; this award adds an additional $4,000 to the current master's or doctoral teaching assistantships.

The Center for Teaching Excellence at Duquesne University offers a three-day workshop to all new teaching fellows, usually the week before the fall semester is scheduled to begin. Besides providing new teaching fellows with books and articles relevant to teaching at the college level, this workshop covers important advice for teachers such as how to promote classroom discussion. The Center for Teaching Excellence also offers workshops regularly during the school year.

The director and assistant director of freshman English also offer a workshop before classes begin that is designed specifically for English teaching fellows.

All first-year fellows must complete a yearlong course on teaching college writing.

New fellows with little or no teaching experience will spend their first semester co-teaching a first-year writing class with a more experienced teacher/mentor.

Teaching workshops for the English department are held during the academic year. These sessions are usually led either by English faculty or teaching fellows, and the topics may cover anything from dealing with plagiarism to creating a teaching portfolio.

The Writing Center director and assistant director offer an orientation session before the Writing Center opens for the fall semester and professional development meetings throughout the academic year to provide ongoing support and training. The Writing Center also offers workshops for teachers during the year.

Typically, teaching fellows teach one section of first-year writing in the fall semester and one section of introduction to literature in the spring semester. Department guidelines are provided for each course. The introductory literature courses are structured around theme-based clusters; sections are taught independently, but the cluster group of teachers provides a forum where methods and ideas may be exchanged. In addition:

First-year teaching fellows will serve five hours per week as tutors in the Writing Center, where they will tutor students one-on-one.

Second- and third-year teaching fellows will spend five hours per week doing research for a faculty member, usually in a field that intersects with the student's interests.

Teaching fellows in the Duquesne English department have the opportunity to teach a wide variety of classes. All teaching fellows teach first-year writing courses multiple times, and after their second year many have the opportunity to teach outside of the writing sequence.

Fourth-year teaching fellows may take advantage of various opportunities, including:

  • Serving as assistant director of the Writing Center: Each year, one fellow is selected among applicants to work with the Writing Center director, helping to train Writing Center consultants, create instructional materials and workshops and manage the day-to-day operations of the Writing Center.
  • Serving as a mentor to a new teacher: usually in the fall semester, this position involves co-teaching a section of first-year composition and advising the first year fellow.
  • Teaching advanced writing and sophomore/junior level survey courses.

Every effort is thus made to provide graduate students with teaching and leadership opportunities that will prepare them for future academic work.

Doctoral students who have an approved dissertation proposal and are in the early stages of work on the dissertation may be eligible for one of the department's two dissertation fellowships. Priority will be given to students who have a particularly strong overall record in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service; who have made sustained progress through the Ph.D. program; and who have demonstrated a commitment to Duquesne University's mission of "education for the heart, mind and soul."

The goal of a dissertation fellowship is to enable a student to dedicate a significant amount of attention to the dissertation and, hopefully, complete the dissertation by the end of the academic year in which the student receives the award. The student will also present her/his dissertation work to the department in the form of a colloquium.

Advanced students are also eligible to apply for a McAnulty College and Graduate School fellowship. For details, please contact the English Department's director of graduate studies.