Program at a Glance: Doctor of Philosophy in Literature and Criticism

  • The main components of the program include:

    • coursework
    • the completion of a research skills requirement
    • a candidacy examination
    • proof of proficiency in a foreign language (other than English)
    • comprehensive examinations
    • the dissertation proposal and dissertation


    A minimum of 30 credits of program coursework is required. Academic good standing is maintained with a 3.5 average in the coursework. Full-time enrollment is normally three courses per semester. In summers, you may enroll for one or two courses for each of the two five-week summer sessions. The Literature and Criticism doctoral program does not accept transfer credits from other programs or institutions.

    All doctoral students, including summers-only students, who have completed all courses or who have passed the candidacy exam, must register continuously for one credit each fall and spring semester.

    You should complete 30 credits distributed as follows.


    674 Bibliographical Methods may be required as a prerequisite if the course was not completed at the master’s level. This course is taken in addition to the 30 credits required by the program.

    Core Courses (6cr)

    ENGL 955 — The History and Theory of Criticism

    ENGL 956 — Literary Theory for the Teacher and Scholarly Writer

  • Eric Wentz

    “The faculty is 100 percent committed to student success. Professors are willing to dedicate time to work one-on-one with students to hone writing, reading, speaking, and research skills that are essential to professional success.”

    Eric Wentz ’17, MA in Literature, and current Literature and Criticism PhD candidate

  • Courses in Traditional Literature (6cr)

    Choose two courses

    ENGL 861 — American Literature before 1870

    ENGL 862 — American Literature since 1870

    ENGL 863 — British Literature before 1660

    ENGL 864 — British Literature since 1660

    ENGL 865 — Literature as Genre

    ENGL 866 — Comparative Literature

    Courses in Special Literatures (3cr)

    Choose one course

    ENGL 871 — Postmodern Literature

    ENGL 872 — Women’s Literature

    ENGL 873 — American or British Minority Literature

    Seminars (6cr)

    Choose two courses

    ENGL 983 — Literary Theory Applied to a Major American Author or Theme

    ENGL 984 — Literary Theory Applied to a Major British Author or Theme

    ENGL 985 — Comparative Literary Theory Applied to Traditional and Special Literatures

    Open Electives (9cr)

    Take three courses

    Three literature courses of the student’s choosing

    Research Skills Requirement

    Six credits of Research Skills coursework is also required. You should select one of the following three options to fulfill this requirement. The option selected must have the approval of the director of Graduate Studies in Literature and should be related to your programmatic or research interests or long-range professional needs.

    Option 1

    Six semester hours of graduate credit beyond the 30 hours required, with a grade of B or above, in approved rhetoric, linguistics, writing for publication, or computer courses, including Teaching College Literature, Literature as Profession, and Teaching Writing.

    Option 2

    Proficiency in a second foreign language (not English) relevant to your dissertation research. Please review the Foreign Language Requirements below for more information. (anchor link to below section)

    Option 3

    Six semester hours of graduate credit beyond the 30 hours required, with a grade of B or above, in other graduate programs or departments. Courses must be directly related to your research needs.

    Candidacy Examination

    The Candidacy Examination assesses your knowledge of major authors and movements in British and American literature to determine your preparation for specialized and specific studies at the doctoral level. You are expected to take the exam after completing 12–18 credits of coursework.

    The Candidacy Examination consists of four exams, with each two-hour exam (two exams are administered for each of two days) focused on one of the following four periods:

    • British Literature, 700–1660
    • British Literature, 1661–1900
    • American Literature, Beginnings to 1900
    • American, British, and Global Literatures in English, 1901–present

    Foreign Language Requirement

    The program requires a reading ability in a foreign language (not English) as measured by an exam designed by Indiana University of Pennsylvania faculty in the Foreign Language Department, or by other means approved by the dean of the Graduate School. International students may use their native language to fulfill this requirement. Testing or verification must be accomplished after admission to the program. The University Testing Services administers language testing; testing dates and applications for the test are available from this office.

    Comprehensive Examinations

    Examinations fall between the completion of the course work, language requirement, research skills requirement, and the beginning of the dissertation. The Comprehensive Examinations are conducted by a committee of three faculty members and have both written and oral components. They provide specialized study in areas from which your dissertation will emerge.

    Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation

    The dissertation presumes control of skills developed throughout the program and shows your ability to bring these skills to a written performance that sustains and develops them fully. The dissertation may be initiated only after comprehensive examinations have been successfully completed.

    The dissertation proposal is a multi-part document of 15–25 pages that outlines the nature of the research project, its relation to existing scholarship and criticism, and its anticipated value to literary studies. The dissertation proposal must include:

    • a one-page summary of the project
    • a statement of purpose and thesis
    • an overview of the project and its contribution to the field
    • a tentative chapter outline, including planned completion date for each chapter
    • an annotated bibliography of secondary sources

    You will schedule a proposal meeting to defend your project, to discuss the issues outlined in the proposal, and to answer questions posed by the dissertation committee. The prospectus should be approved within one or two semesters following the Comprehensive Exams.

    Guidelines for the dissertation proposal and the dissertation, the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Manual, are available from the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

    Upon satisfactory completion of the dissertation, you will defend the dissertation before the dissertation director and committee. This meeting is open to the public.