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Graduate Program


The English Department offers a program leading to the Ph.D. degree in English and American literature. The department is small in numbers and its graduate students are carefully selected on the basis of their professional distinction as teachers, critics, and scholars. Because of its small size, the department affords students exceptionally focused attention. The department accepts only full-time students for the Ph.D. and no credit is given for previous graduate study or degrees. Continuance beyond each of the first three years depends on satisfactory performance in the graduate seminars and passing two foreign language examinations. Students who successfully continue are awarded an M.A. degree in the course of the Ph.D. program, but the department does not offer a separate master's program. Students proceed to the dissertation after successfully passing a qualifying examination in the third year.

The Ph.D. in English literature at Johns Hopkins will consist of two years of course work and three years devoted to the research and writing of a dissertation. Students who remain in good standing will be guaranteed the same level of financial support for the full five years.

Preparation for the Dissertation

Graduate students will take three courses each semester of their first year, and two each semester of their second year. The first and fourth years will normally be supported by fellowship. During the second, third, and fifth years students will normally teach to earn their stipends, in the second year by serving as a teaching assistant for a lecture course, in the third and fifth years by teaching expository writing. Training and practice in teaching are regarded as an integral part of the graduate program. On some occasions graduate students, with prior approval of the faculty, conduct undergraduate courses of their own design.

Department courses will be taught as seminars. 

Students are also expected to demonstrate proficiency in reading one foreign language (at the level of fluency) or two foreign languages (at the more modest level of competency).  The language requirement may be satisfied either by course work (including summer courses offered at Johns Hopkins) or by written examination (for which students are expected to translate a paragraph with the aid of a dictionary).

During the spring of the second year, graduate students, in concert with a faculty sponsor, will collectively organize the ELH Symposium for the following year. In the third year, they will supervise the ELH Symposium on a topic of their choice and invite scholars from outside the University to lecture on their work.

At the end of the first semester of the third year, each graduate student will take a preliminary examination in two fields.

Facilities for Research

The cities of Baltimore and Washington jointly contain a large collection of manuscripts and printed books. Major libraries and museums in Baltimore possess over a thousand early manuscripts and three million books. The twelve million books and numerous manuscripts in the Library of Congress are supplemented in Washington by many specialized collections, notably those of the Folger Shakespeare Library, with which the University is affiliated. Opportunities for research in those libraries are open to students in the department.

The Tudor and Stuart Club, along with a number of other outstanding lecture series within the University, enables students to learn about advances in research, criticism, and theory, and to confer with leading American and European scholars. The Journal Club is a departmental series in which each student presents to the department a paper drawn from the research for his or her dissertation. ELH, a leading literary quarterly, is edited by members of the English Department.

Learn how to apply or read the FAQs about graduate study.

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