The Department of English houses a doctoral program to which applicants with a B.A. can be admitted directly, that is, without first earning a master’s degree. Applicants are required to declare an intention to proceed toward the Ph.D., although they can still receive an M.A. along the way or choose to stop at the M.A. The Department also accepts applications to the doctoral program from applicants who have earned an M.A. elsewhere.

How to Apply

For information on how to apply to the Ph.D. program, please see the “Admission to the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs” heading on the Graduate Programs homepage here.

About the Program

The doctoral program provides options for intensive study in critical theory, cultural theory, film theory, women’s studies, minority literatures, and in interdisciplinary methods. Traditional areas of study include renaissance, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, modern and contemporary literature, and rhetoric and composition. Students are also encouraged to engage in serious interdisciplinary projects and to work closely with a faculty engaged in research and publications projects that take them regularly into the areas of history, psychology, philosophy, the arts, and non-print media.

Courses are typically offered within eight areas:

  • Early Modern and Medieval
  • Long Eighteenth Century
  • Long Nineteenth Century
  • American Literatures
  • Twentieth Century Literature: British and Anglophone World
  • Literary Criticism and Theory
  • Genre Studies
  • Composition and Rhetoric

Advanced graduate classes allow students to engage with cutting-edge faculty research. Recent special topics course have covered: Literary Aesthetics; Transatlantic Feminist Theory; Photography and Literature; Fetishism and the 19th Century Imagination; Feminist Rhetoric of Science; Joyce and Lacan; and Queer Poetry and Poetics.

Students are thus prepared to produce original and ambitious work at the level of the dissertation. Recent dissertation titles reflect the innovative work our students are undertaking: “Going Southwest: American Humor and the Rhetoric of Race in Modern African-American Fiction and Authorship”; “Making Flesh Word: Baroque Modernisms and Pragmatist Reconfigurations of Embodied Masculinities in Twentieth-Century United States and Cuban Literatures”; “Once Upon a Time There Was a Country: Nation and Cynicism in the Post 1990’s Balkan Cinema”; “Untying Tongues: Translation, Culture, and Identity in Asian American Literature”; “Through the Negative: The Relationship between Photography and Literature in 19th Century America.”


The Ph.D. program guides students through a series of stages calling for increasing amounts of independent scholarship. Beginning with coursework and a foreign language requirement, students then proceed to their preliminary examinations, and dissertation. Temple offers financial support to eligible students during the program. The Department’s job placement committee helps students to locate professional positions once the program is complete.

The curriculum for full-time students lasts approximately 6 years. The course work and foreign language requirements are typically completed within 3 years, the preliminary exams and the dissertation prospectus within 1 year, and the dissertation within 2 years. Students with master’s degrees from other institutions can complete the curriculum in 4 years. The university allots all matriculated doctoral candidates a maximum of 7 years to complete degree requirements (maximum 5 years for students with master’s degrees from elsewhere); thereafter a request for an extension of time must be made.

Transfer Credits

Students who have earned graduate credits or a master’s degree at another institution can transfer a maximum of 15 credits toward the course work requirement for the Ph.D. All transfer students must take the Introduction to Graduate Study course unless they have taken comparable courses elsewhere.

M.A. Option

Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program have the option of terminating their degree with an M.A. once they have completed the requirements for the M.A. program. For a master’s degree in literature, students complete 30 hours of course work, including at least one 8000-9000 level seminar. A maximum of six graduate credits can be transferred from another program. Students must also write one qualifying paper, typically a substantial revision of a paper submitted for a course, and demonstrate reading knowledge of one foreign language.

Required Courses

Students are required to take at least 48 credits of course work, including 42 credits of literature courses and 6 total combined credits of Preliminary Exam Preparation (9996), Pre-Dissertation Research (9998), and Dissertation Research (9999), at least 2 credits of which must be Dissertation Research (9999). Coursework is structured as follows:

  • English 9001: Introduction to Graduate Study.
  • 6 courses in concentrated textual analysis, periodization, genre studies, history of criticism and theory, pre-1800 literature, and advanced research.
  • 7 elective courses.
  • 6 total combined credits of 9996, 9998, 9999, at least 2 credits of which must be 9999.

Rome Seminar

Temple University Rome offers a four-week graduate seminar designed to bring together the disciplines of aesthetics and cultural studies. In its interdisciplinary thrust, the six-credit seminar is intended to serve as a foundation for advanced study in the human sciences and to reflect the most current trends of thought in post-modern culture. The seminar convenes at Temple University’s campus in Rome.

Foreign Language Requirement

Students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one foreign language.

Preliminary Examination

Following the completion of coursework, students must pass a preliminary examination, before proceeding to the dissertation stage. The exam is usually taken within one year of the completion of coursework. It covers two distinct areas of research related to the student’s interests. The subject areas are determined, in advance, by the student and the Dissertation Committee. The examination consists of a written examination on each of the two fields, followed by an oral examination a few weeks later.  The exam in its entirety is evaluated by the student’s Dissertation Committee.


The Dissertation Committee oversees the student’s doctoral research and is comprised of at least three Graduate Faculty members. The Committee Chair is responsible for overseeing and guiding the student’s progress, coordinating the responses of the Committee members, and informing the student of his or her academic progress.
The dissertation itself should demonstrate the ability to conceive, research, and write a scholarly project of at least 150 pages. At the beginning of the process, the student (in consultation with the Dissertation Committee) writes a dissertation proposal that identifies the key issues to be investigated, demonstrates an awareness of the relevant scholarship in the field, and supplies a detailed outline of the proposed dissertation.

When the dissertation is complete, the Dissertation Committee conducts a dissertation defense, in which it questions the student about the dissertation in an open forum. The Committee will vote to pass or fail the dissertation and the defense at the conclusion of the public presentation.

Financing Opportunities

Students are encouraged to apply for teaching awards, which include a tuition waiver and a stipend for the nine months of the academic year. Conditions of the award are determined by the graduate student union (TUGSA) contract with Temple University and currently require recipients to teach either as an assistant in a large lecture course or as the sole instructor of composition or literature courses. Applications are submitted along with admission applications. The department also nominates highly qualified students for University and Presidential Fellowships, which combine fellowship support and teaching experience over four years.

Philadelphia as a Place to Study

Temple’s location in urban Philadelphia gives students access to a wide range of cultural resources. The Philadelphia Art Museum and the Philadelphia Orchestra are world renown. Philadelphia also offers diverse venues for theater and cinema. Philadelphia hosts both an annual International Film Festival and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, a program of innovative arts and performance. Downtown Philadelphia presents a rich panoply of galleries, restaurants, bars, and local music scenes in all styles. For the scholar, Philadelphia possesses exceptional library resources, including the Rosenbach Library, the Philadelphia Free Library, the Library Company, and other area college and university libraries rich in manuscripts and rare printed materials. Temple University houses the Charles Blockson Afro-American Collection, one of the best collections of material on the African-American experience in the country.

Job Placement

The majority of graduates from 2000-2012 hold tenure-track positions at colleges and universities. A smaller number are non-tenure track faculty, and some work in publishing, foundation, or corporate positions. The program’s graduates have taken jobs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Ohio, New York, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. See our current list of Ph.D. graduates, dissertation titles, and job placements here.