English @ OU

Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. in English provides professional training for teachers, scholars, and literary artists. The program at Ohio University offers students the opportunity to concentrate in one of the three areas of English studies described below. While our program requires students to concentrate in an area, it also asks them to explore other areas and to seek the common concerns that unite them. Accordingly, the program includes general requirements, as well as specific requirements within each of the concentrations.

Doctoral Concentrations

Literature: Doctoral students in this concentration aspire to a comprehensive knowledge of literature through a systematic historical, theoretical, and critical course of study. They develop techniques and skills in scholarly research, theoretical reflection, and careful reading of texts.

Creative Writing: Creative writing students specialize in one genre—fiction, nonfiction, or poetry—while also taking two writing workshops in another genre. Students also study literature to seek and articulate connections between the achievements of past traditions and their own work.

Rhetoric and Composition: Doctoral students in rhetoric and composition study the history and tradition of the discipline and the theories that underlie the teaching of writing.

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Course Requirements for all Ph.D. Students

Doctoral students whose M.A. programs did not include the following requirements, or their equivalents, must fulfill them as part of their Ph.D. program:

  • ENG 5890 Teaching College English
  • ENG 5950 Introduction to English Studies

Literature: All doctoral students are required to take doctoral seminars in literary history. The number and distribution of these courses vary by concentration.

Foreign Language: All doctoral students must prove reading knowledge of one foreign language by the Princeton exam, a translation exam, or an original project.

Colloquium on the English Profession ENG 7770 Doctoral students in all concentrations who are pursuing coursework meet at regular intervals with visiting and resident faculty to discuss theoretical and practical issues in English studies. This colloquium provides a special opportunity for students and faculty with differing interests to discover common ground.

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Course Requirements For Each Concentration

For Literature Students: Doctoral students in the literary history concentration take two doctoral seminars in the period of specialization, two doctoral seminars in periods other than their period of specialization, and at least one more doctoral seminar in any period they choose. They also take Critical Theory I or II, and two courses total in Creative Writing, Rhetoric and Composition, or a combination of the two.

For Creative Writing Students: Doctoral students in creative writing take two literary history seminars in their period of specialization and one literary seminar in a period other than their period of specialization. They take three creative writing workshops in their specialization and one workshop outside of their specialization. They also take one additional graduate elective that can be outside the English Department.

For Rhetoric and Composition Students: Doctoral students in rhetoric and composition take six doctoral seminars in rhetoric and composition. They also take Critical Theory I or II, one creative writing workshop, and one course in literary history or another course in critical theory.

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Examination Requirements

After the completion of required coursework, students take Ph.D. exams. All examinations are based on reading lists designed by the examining committee in consultations with the student. Exam requirements for each concentration follow.

Literature: For students in literary history, the Ph.D. exam consists of two written sections and one oral section. One written exam covers a period of specialization and the other covers the tradition. After both written exams are passed, an oral exam over the dissertation area will be scheduled.

Creative Writing: The written exam in creative writing consists of the period-of-specialization section and the tradition section; a written critical introduction to the creative thesis replaces the oral "dissertation area" exam. This introduction, which is evaluated and defended as part of the thesis, establishes a context for the student's creative work by relating it to the ideas and texts of other writers who have been especially important to the student's creative progress.

Rhetoric and Composition: Exam I is the Comprehensive Exam, a critical examination of 3 Journals (Exams II and III are the prospectus and dissertation defenses)

Time Frame: First day of class by 5 PM, fall of the 3rd year, through the first day of class, by 5 PM, fall of the 4th year. There are three distinct writing projects or essays as part of this examination. Each essay must include a Works Cited in MLA style. Each is to range between 20-25 double-spaced pages (approximately 5000-6500 words) excluding the Works Cited. These do not have to be done in any particular order, but they must turned in together, as a package, on the first day of class, fall semester of the 4th year. Exam results will be provided in one month. In the case of failure: If students fail any of the essays, they have one opportunity to revise and resubmit four weeks after receiving notice of failure. Results of the revision will be provided two weeks after the resubmission. All essays must pass for the student to remain in the program.

  1. Students will be assigned a specific decade of a journal from the field and must carefully examine all of the volumes of this particular journal published during that decade. Starting with the earliest volumes of the decade assigned, the essay produced for this section of the exam traces a conversation, thread, or issue forward. A writer might examine changes in the conversation over time, influences on the conversation, and its current status, among others.

  2. Students are assigned a journal from the field and must carefully examine all of the volumes of this particular journal published during the last ten years. Then students will identify and trace a conversation or thread, from its most recent presence in the journal’s volumes back through the ten years of the journal. Also, students should include important texts and events outside of the journals discussed in the thread. The essay produced for this section of the exam will explain and analyze this conversation or thread. The essay needs to take note of what exigencies (textual, pedagogical, societal, etc.) for this topic were present during the earlier part of the ten-year span.

  3. Students choose a journal from a provided list (see below) and carefully examine all of the volumes of this particular journal that have been published during the last ten years. The journal chosen must be a different journal from those assigned in the other essays above. The essay produced will be an analysis of the journal over time. A writer might note trends, changes, or genres. A writer might wish to examine who seems to get published in the journal, who the audience is for the journal, whether the journal has had an editorial change, and if so, what that indicates. A writer could also consider issues, debates, emerging issues, what leads to responses, terms of debate, common ground, crash points, and historical references. This list is not meant to be prescriptive or limiting, but rather suggestive and generative. As is the case with any analysis, exam writers need to explain what is important about what they notice and to provide evidence to support their points.

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Dissertation and Oral Presentation

The main criterion for the dissertation is quality, not quantity. Students are encouraged to plan dissertations that are original, significant, and, ideally, publishable. The number of pages is not crucial; the finished dissertation may fall below the usual 150 to 200 pages, but the project should nonetheless require an investigative process equivalent to that required of the dissertation of traditional length. Thus, a self-contained section of a proposed book-length study may satisfy the dissertation requirement.

The dissertation also may consist of a series of essays connected in some meaningful way by author, technique, theme, movement, etc. It may be an edition with appropriate introduction and annotations; a translation or collection of translations; or an original literary work (novel, short stories, poems, essays), prefaced by a scholarly introduction. Creative writing faculty must approve the project in advance.

Once a topic has been decided upon, the student and his or her adviser draw up a prospectus to be approved by the dissertation committee.

In lieu of the traditional oral examination, the candidate delivers a public lecture on some aspect of his or her dissertation and leads a discussion on the work.

Visit our dissertations title page to see some of our most recent graduating candidates' topics.

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Dissertation and Dissertation Defense for Rhetoric and Composition

The main criterion for the dissertation is quality. Students are encouraged to plan dissertations that are original and significant to the discipline and offer strong starting points for further scholarship. Most dissertations are 200-300 pages.

Once a topic has been decided upon, the student, under the direction of the advisor, writes a prospectus to be defended and approved by the dissertation committee. (See Rhetoric and Composition examination requirements above.)

The dissertation defense is a public presentation in which the candidate briefly sets the project in an appropriate scholarly context. Following this presentation the committee members engage the candidate in scholarly inquiry by commenting on and asking questions about the dissertation project. Once committee members have finished questioning the candidate, the chair of the committee will open the discussion to the public.

Visit our dissertations title page to see some of our most recent graduating candidates' topics.

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Teaching Associateships

All Ph.D. students with Teaching Associateships are expected to teach as part of their professional training. Because Ohio University is a moderate-sized state university, it has a wide variety of undergraduate English courses to be staffed. Consequently, graduate associates receive considerable experience in teaching different courses. Ph.D. graduates usually will leave the university having taught four or five different courses at the freshman through junior levels. Although they will have received supervision, they will have been primarily responsible for organizing and teaching these classes. Recent Ph.D. graduates have found this varied experience particularly valuable when they enter the professional job market. Teaching experience is not provided to students without Teaching Associateships..

Ph.D. students are also eligible to apply for TA positions for professors teaching 3000-level literature survey courses.

Placement, Orientation, and Preparation

The need to facilitate the transition between graduate study and the job market, or between the M.A. at OU and Ph.D. programs elsewhere, is more and more apparent in this period of diminished professional opportunity. The department offers counseling and practical support in important areas of job search, planning, preparation of applications and letters of candidacy, and interview techniques.

Admissions Materials Online

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