The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

English Language and Literature - PhD

Division: Humanitiess
Degree Type: PhD 

Program Description

Graduate students in the PhD program of the University of Chicago’s Department of English join a vibrant intellectual community. We welcome each student’s participation in the many ongoing conversations that define our work as a collaborative as well as an individual enterprise. The student with a strong commitment to the British literary canon engages with the student mapping the terrain of new media studies; the student fascinated by the shifting borders of global literature works closely with the student who focuses on particular literary and cultural temporalities and regionalisms; and the student committed to the richness of an archive shares her work with the student whose commitments are centrally theoretical or conceptual. All join in a department that fosters foundational scholarship, conceptual innovation, and interpretive sophistication.

In the structure of our program and in our individual teaching and research commitments, we keep in view our students’ ambition for professional careers in the academy. Through coursework, workshops, mentorships, and job preparation exercises, our students enter the job market well-prepared for the thinking, writing, teaching, and program-building that characterizes a career as a professor of English. We are proud to see our students move into academic positions, and their training as intellectuals and teachers will sustain literary study for future generations.

Explore program faculty »


  • Department of English
  • Division of the Humanities
  • 1115 E. 58th Street
  • Chicago, IL 60637
  • Phone: 773.834.3050
  • Website:

Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application. Paper applications are not accepted.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: December 15

The Department of English admits applicants once a year for the following fall quarter. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered for aid. 

Campus Visits

Campus visits and interviews are not required. Contact the department for more information.

Degree Objective

The Department of English admits applicants only for the PhD degree, and do not offer a stand-alone MA program. If you are interested in pursuing an MA focusing in English, we encourage you to explore the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH).

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Form and Supplemental Form  
  2. References:  Three letters of reference should be included with your application.
  3. Graduate Record Examinations and TOEFL Scores:
    Graduate Record Exam scores (general test only) are required of all applicants, including those with previous MAs. For information on additional examinations required of some international applicants, please see the Application Requirements page on the divisional website.  The University GRE code is: 1832
  4. Statement of Academic Purpose:  All applicants should carefully state their purpose in pursuing a graduate degree. This statement is given considerable weight in the final decision regarding admission.
  5. Writing Sample:  Applicants should submit a sample of their scholarly writing that is between 15 and 20 pages in length.
  6. Transcripts: Official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions should be submitted with your application.  

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions are released in early March. No decisions will be given by phone or email. Please direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

In the first two years of the program, students take six graduate courses each year. All first-year students also participate in a one-quarter PhD colloquium, which is designed to introduce theoretical and practical questions posed by the study of literature.

In the fall of their third year, students take a one-quarter pedagogy course, which introduces them to various approaches to the teaching of literature and composition.

Students typically teach at least one quarter-long course during 3rd, 4th, and 5th years: initially as course assistants in departmental courses for undergraduates; then as lecturers in the departmental methods and issues course for majors, as BA paper supervisors, or as instructors in courses of their own design.

By the end of their third year, students take the oral fields examination. In consultation with faculty specialists, students specify one major and two minor fields for the examination. A field consists of either a historical period or an otherwise-constituted domain of literary practice, defined by generic, theoretical, or methodological parameters.

By the end of their third or fourth year in the PhD program, students must meet the Department's foreign language requirement, in one of the following ways: successfully completing a one-quarter graduate course, or two undergraduate courses, in the literature of one language, taken at this University; passing the Department's proficiency examination in one language; or successfully completing a year of elementary-to-intermediate Latin or Greek. 

In the fall of their fourth year in the PhD program, students attend a peer-run Dissertation Proposal Workshop and begin to craft a dissertation proposal.

During their fourth year of the program, students submit a dissertation proposal to potential faculty readers and secure approval of the proposal. Under current funding arrangements, the average time to accepted dissertation proposal is 3.74 years. At this point, students should enter into PhD candidacy. With the support and direction of their faculty committee, students then focus on the writing and research of the dissertation, a project that should constitute a significant contribution to literary or film study. When the dissertation is completed and approved by the committee, the dissertation defense may be scheduled. 


Costs & Financial Aid

Each student who is admitted to the PhD program receives a five-year fellowship, which includes a tuition waiver, a generous living stipend, two summer research grants, and basic health insurance.