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English, M.A., Ph.D.

Saint Louis University’s Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy programs in English provide students with scholarly training in language and literature, with courses covering subjects from Old Norse to contemporary writing.

About the Program

As a graduate student in the Department of English, you will receive scholarly training in English language and literature. Encountering courses that span the full experience of works in the English language — from Old Norse to Mark Twain and Gertrude Stein, and from Chaucer and Shakespeare to contemporary and postcolonial writing — you will have the chance to pursue specializations in a variety of literary fields and in the study of rhetoric and composition.

The program is responsive to interdisciplinary interests and to all of the theoretical discourses that connect the study of English language and literature to other literatures and cultures. As a student in the program, you will be equipped with the disciplines and methods of linguistic and literary analysis that will prepare you professionally for the career you seek.

Our graduate students bring a diversity of perspectives and interests to our graduate classes. As a student in the program, you will have many opportunities for close interactions with other students and faculty. Graduate students also run more than six student organizations.

Program Highlights

Both our master's and doctoral students in English select their own examination advisers and have a prominent voice in shaping examination and thesis boards. Reinforcing the voice our students have in important elements of their program is the English Graduate Organization, an active group that works with the faculty to promote the professionalization of graduate students through activities such as workshops on career preparation, trips to learned conferences and on-campus symposia.

Master's Curriculum and Program Details

The basic M.A. requires 30 hours of coursework beyond the B.A. The non-thesis option for the M.A. also requires 30 credit hours of coursework. The thesis option, which is recommended for those interested in eventually pursuing a Ph.D., allows students to substitute a thesis for six of the 30 required credit hours of coursework. Under this option, students select a topic in consultation with a director and have their completed work reviewed by a committee consisting of the director and two other faculty readers. Both options are normally completed in two years.

Students in the master's program are required to take ENGL 5000: Methods of Literary Research and ENGL 5110: Literary Theory. All graduate assistants are also required to take ENGL 5010: Teaching Writing.

All master’s students must take 12 of the 30 required hours in four of the following fields:

  1. Anglo-Saxon and/or medieval literature (three credit hours)
  2. Renaissance/early modern literature (c. 1500-1800) (three credit hours)
  3. Literature of the long 19th century (c. 1789-1914): British, American, African American or Transatlantic (three credit hours)
  4. Modern and/or contemporary literature: British, Irish, American, African American, transatlantic or postcolonial (three credit hours)
  5. Rhetoric and/or composition exclusive of ENGL 5010 (three credit hours)

At the conclusion of their coursework, all master’s students must take a one-hour oral examination on works drawn from a list that is made available to them at the outset of their program of study. Students who choose the thesis option will also be examined orally on their theses in separate one-hour examinations. For more information, contact the Office of Graduate Education or Master's Candidacy Adviser, LaToya Cash.

The English master's program course roadmap outlines the typical sequence of courses a student in the program may take.

Ph.D. Curriculum and Program Details

SLU’s Ph.D. in English requires a minimum of 24 credit hours of coursework beyond the M.A., and completion of the foreign language requirement, prior to taking the doctoral competency exam, which has a written and an oral component. After passing their exams, doctoral students write their dissertations. The time to complete the degree is normally five years.

All Ph.D. candidates must display reading proficiency in one modern foreign language relevant to their research; those concentrating in Medieval or Renaissance literature also need to demonstrate competence in either Latin or classical Greek.

Doctoral students who have taken coursework in four of the five following fields as master’s students, and have completed ENGL 5000, 5010 and 5110, need to take nine of 24 required credit hours in three of the five fields as part of their doctoral coursework. Doctoral students who have not met the threshold master’s level criterion must take 12 of 24 required credit hours in four of the following five fields:

  1. Anglo-Saxon and/or medieval literature (three credit hours)
  2. Renaissance/early modern literature (c. 1500-1800) (three credit hours)
  3. Literature of the long 19th century (c. 1789-1914): British, American, African American, or Transatlantic (three credit hours)
  4. Modern and/or contemporary literature: British, Irish, American, African American, Transatlantic, or Postcolonial (three credit hours)
  5. Rhetoric and/or composition exclusive of ENGL 5010 (three credit hours)

Advanced doctoral students are strongly recommended to take ENGL 5899, the Professionalization Practicum, offered each fall by the department’s placement director. All doctoral students must select a track of doctoral study by choosing one of the 10 listed below:

  • Anglo-Saxon and early medieval literature
  • Late medieval and early 16th-century literature
  • Early modern British literature
  • The British long 19th century
  • Twentieth-century and 21st-century American literature
  • Rhetoric and composition
  • Nineteenth-century American literature
  • Transatlantic modernisms
  • Contemporary postcolonial/non-Western literatures and cultures
  • Nineteenth-century and 20th-century African American literature

Each track is associated with a reading list of approximately 50 texts. A three-member written examination committee will examine the doctoral student over these texts. The student will produce a written competency essay, written over the course of seven days, in response to a question based on the 50 texts as well as 20 supplementary texts. Once the student’s competency essay is deemed acceptable, the student’s oral competency will be examined by the written examination committee, and two other faculty members. The oral exam, which involves questioning about the student’s competency essay as well as texts on the preparatory reading list, lasts two hours. Within one week following successful completion of the oral examination, the written examination committee will consider approving the dissertation prospectus. The student will then file the now approved copy of the dissertation prospectus and proceed to write the dissertation.

Completed dissertations are assessed by each student’s dissertation committee and are formally accepted after a public defense. For more information, contact the Office of Graduate Education or Doctoral Candidacy Adviser, Christine Harper.

The English Ph.D. program course roadmap outlines the typical sequence of courses a student in the program may take.


Our faculty hail from some of the most distinguished research institutions; their scholarship and teaching reflects the spectrum of interests that currently enliven the study of English. They are active in interdisciplinary programs with the Department of Women's and Gender Studies and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and they edit several journals, including African American Review and Fugue.

Since 2001, 90 percent of our doctoral students found jobs, and 73 percent found regular academic positions. Recent graduates from SLU’s English program have accepted tenure-track faculty positions at Creighton University, University of Central Florida, University of Detroit-Mercy, Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla), Truman State University and University of North Texas, Dallas. Graduates who pursued non-academic paths have accepted positions such as document analyst at the National Geospace Intelligence Agency, corporate training manager at Enterprise Holdings and the director of research communication at Washington University's School of Medicine.
Tuition and Fees

Saint Louis University takes pride in being one of Barron's Best Buys in College Education and Kiplinger's Best Values in Private Colleges.

For information regarding the upcoming academic year’s tuition rate, fees and financial aid, visit SLU Financial Services.

2018-2019 Tuition and Fees
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Scholarships and Financial Aid
SLU’s English department aims to provide graduate assistantships to all students entering the M.A. or Ph.D. programs. The typical assistantship affords two years of support for master’s candidates and five years of support for doctoral candidates. Yearly assistantship packages include a nine-month stipend (currently $18,000), 18 credit hours of tuition remission annually and health insurance.

Applicant Criteria

Most admitted students meet the following criteria:

  • Creative and ambitious with high levels of academic distinction and sophistication, at well-regarded colleges and universities with rigorous B.A./M.A. programs.
  • High GPA (3.7 and above in English).
  • Scored at or above the 90th percentile on the Verbal portion and/or 4.5 or above on the Essay portion of the GRE General Test.
  • Identified fields/areas of intended study, possible thesis/dissertation topics, and specific faculty in the department with whom you might wish to work.
  • Professional goal statement that aligns well with the curricula the department offers. The statement should be no more than 750 words and should lay out your professional and intellectual goals as well as your interest in graduate studies in English. While your plans may change, your statement will help us to assess both your grasp of the field and your ability to describe your ideas coherently and compellingly. The statement should address:
    • The specific field of English studies that you are interested in.
    • How you would like to contribute to existing research and criticism in your area of interest.
    • The critical and scholarly approaches to literature you have found most productive.
    • The SLU faculty members you are looking to work with.
  • Sufficient TOEFL score (for international students).

To apply, you’ll need:

Application Requirements

Application form and fee
Three letters of recommendation assessing your promise in graduate studies
GRE General Test scores
Writing sample (10 pages demonstrating competence in analyzing literary texts; this can be an excerpt taken from a longer piece)
Professional goal statement

Requirements for International Students

Application Deadline

Completed applications are due by Jan. 15. Applications that are completed by Dec. 15 will receive a response by Jan. 15. Students cannot begin the program in the spring semester or a summer session. 1818 instructors seeking a graduate degree should consult with the director of graduate studies in English.

Please do not forward any application materials directly to the Department of English. All application materials must be submitted through the Office of Graduate Admission.
For application forms and more information, contact the Office of Graduate Admission.

Review Process

Members of the department’s graduate committee examine applicants' materials and make admission and funding recommendations.


Department Journals and Colloquia

SLU’s English department is affiliated with the Walter J. Ong Center for Digital Humanities. In addition to participating in various writing programs, including University Writing Services, our English faculty and graduate students participate in departmental research colloquia and reading groups. SLU also hosts the journal African American Review as well as the New Chaucer Society, the world's leading scholarly organization in medieval literature and culture.