English Language and Literature
The Ph.D. Program. The doctoral program in English Language and Literature offers two degree options for the prospective applicant: the Ph.D. and the Joint M.F.A./Ph.D. The department enrolls about 12 new students each year in the Ph.D. including one or two of those students admitted into the joint program. Our small size allows us to offer a generous financial support package, details of which are outlined on our department website. At the same time, we have a large and diverse graduate faculty with competence in a wide range of literary, theoretical, and cultural fields. Students choose a Special Committee of three faculty members, from whom they receive a great deal of individual attention. Working with this committee, students design their own courses of study within the very broad framework laid down by the department. The program is extremely flexible in regard to such matters as course selection, the design of examinations, and the election of minor subjects of concentration outside the department. English Ph.D. students pursuing interdisciplinary research may include on their Special Committees faculty members from related fields such as Comparative Literature, Romance Studies, German Studies, History, Classics, Women's Studies, Linguistics, Theatre and Performing Arts, Government, Philosophy, and Film and Video Studies.
The Ph.D. candidate is normally expected to complete six or seven one-semester courses for credit in the first year of residence and a total of six or seven more in the second and third years. The program of any doctoral candidate's formal and informal study, whatever his or her particular interests, should be comprehensive enough to ensure familiarity with the authors and works that have been the most influential in determining the course of English, American, and related literatures; the theory and criticism of literature; the relations between literature and other disciplines; and concerns and tools of literary and cultural history such as textual criticism, study of genre, source, and influence, as well as wider issues of cultural production and historical and social contexts that bear on literature.
M.F.A./Ph.D. Joint Degree Program. Each year one or two students may be admitted to both the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing and the doctoral program in English Language and Literature. This joint program offers a fuller integration of literature courses and writing workshops. In their first four semesters in residence, joint candidates are expected to complete four Writing Workshop courses and four or five Ph.D. seminars for credit, all of which apply to the Ph.D. course requirement of twelve courses, six for a letter grade. At the end of their fourth semester, candidates submit an M.F.A. thesis, and receive the M.F.A. degree. They then proceed to complete the remaining course requirements for the Ph.D. and write a final dissertation. Cornell offers only the scholarly Ph.D., not the Ph.D. with creative dissertation.
The M.F.A. Program. The Creative Writing program in the department of English Language and Literature offers an M.F.A. degree only, with concentrations in either poetry or fiction. Each year the department enrolls only eight students, four in each concentration. Our small size allows us to offer a generous financial support package, details of which are outlined on our department website. At the same time, we have a large and diverse graduate faculty with competence in a wide range of literary, theoretical, and cultural fields. Students choose a Special Committee of two faculty members who provide a great deal of individual attention and encourage students to design their own courses of study within the very broad framework laid down by the department.
Students participate in a graduate writing workshop each semester and take 6 additional one-semester courses for credit, at least four of them in English or American literature, Comparative Literature, literature in the modern or classical languages, or cultural studies (typically two per semester during the first year and one per semester during the second year). First year students receive practical training by working as Editorial Assistants for Epoch, a periodical or prose and poetry published by the Creative Writing staff of the department. The most significant requirement of the M.F.A. degree is the completion of a book-length manuscript: a collection of poems, short stories, or a novel.
The Special Committee. Every student selects a Special Committee who will be responsible for providing the student with a great deal of individual attention. The University system of Special Committees allows students to design their own courses of study within a broad framework laid down by the department, and it encourages a close working relationship between professors and students, promoting freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of the graduate degree. The student's Special Committee guides and supervises all academic work and assesses progress at a series of meetings with the student.
Teaching. Teaching is considered an integral part of training for the profession. The Field requires a carefully supervised teaching experience of at least one year for every doctoral and masters candidate as part of the training for the degree. The Department of English, in conjunction with the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, offers excellent training for beginning teachers and varied and interesting teaching within the university-wide First-Year Writing Program. Graduate students are assigned to writing courses under such general rubrics as "Portraits of the Self," "American Literature and Culture," "The Mystery in the Story," "Shakespeare," and "Cultural Studies," among others. Serving as a Teaching Assistant for a lecture course taught by a member of the Department of English faculty is another way graduate students participate in the teaching of undergraduates.
Subject and Degrees
Concentrations by Subject
- creative writing
English Language and Literature
- African American literature
- American literature after 1865
- American literature to 1865
- American studies
- colonial and postcolonial literatures
- cultural studies
- dramatic literature
- English poetry
- lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies
- literary criticism and theory
- Old and Middle English
- prose fiction
- the English Renaissance to 1660
- the nineteenth century
- the Restoration and the eighteenth century
- the twentieth century
- women's literature