English Language and Literature Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

English Language and Literature

Program Description

The Ph.D. Program. The doctoral program in English Language and Literature enrolls about 10 new students each year in the Ph.D. 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, Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Linguistics, Performing and Media Arts, Government, and Philosophy.

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 literatures in English; 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.

The Special Committee. Every student selects a Special Committee of three faculty 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 master’s candidate as part of the training for the degree. The Department of Literatures in 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 "Writing Across Cultures," "American Voices," "Word and Image," "Reading Now," and "Writing the Environment," among others. Serving as a Teaching Assistant for a lecture course taught by a member of the Department of Literatures in English faculty is another way graduate students participate in the teaching of undergraduates.

Contact Information

Website: https://english.cornell.edu/phd-program-english-language-and-literature
Email: english_grad@cornell.edu
Phone: 607-254-3471

250 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • 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


Visit the Graduate School's Tuition Rates page.

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Dec. 1 (Fall term admission only)

Requirements Summary:

(includes Graduate School Requirements)

The application must be submitted online. Detailed requirement summaries for applicants are available for download from the graduate pages of the English Department website.

  • Application and fee
  • Academic Statement of Purpose
  • Personal Statement
  • Critical Writing Sample
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • English Language Proficiency Requirement for all applicants
  • Note: GRE test scores are no longer required for application to this program

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of one major concentration in the field, and competency in one or two other minor areas of concentration, and/or interdisciplinary affiliations (for a list of concentrations and interdisciplinary affiliations, see http://www.arts.cornell.edu/english/graduate/areas/).
  • Demonstrate advanced research skills, including broad knowledge of a range of critical and theoretical approaches relevant to their field of research.
  • Make an original and substantial contribution to the field, and produce publishable scholarship in a timely fashion.
  • Communicate research findings effectively in written and spoken presentations.
  • Follow ethical guidelines for work in the field.
  • Demonstrate effective skills in undergraduate teaching and potential for graduate teaching.