PhD Program Requirements (old system)

Students who entered the program prior to Fall of 2011 may choose to follow these or the revised requirements, both of which supplement those general requirements applicable to all disciplines set forth in the graduate application booklet. The latter should also be studied before initiating application procedures.


Course Requirements

Two Core Courses (8 units)

  • English 200, Introduction to Graduate Studies (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory)
  • One survey course in literary theory (Critical Theory 200A or 200C taken for a grade).

Ten graduate-level seminars in English and American literature or related fields (40 units, taken for grades).

Five of these courses must satisfy the "breadth" requirement.

At the discretion of the instructor and with the Graduate Adviser's approval, students may count one undergraduate 100-level course as one of their ten literature courses.

Aside from the Introduction of Graduate Studies (ENL 200), no course graded Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory may count as one of the twelve required seminars. Independent and group studies may not be taken for a grade.

TOTAL: Twelve graduate-level courses, 11 taken for a grade (48 units).

Students who enter the PhD program without a MA degree may request instructions for completing the optional MA "en route" to the PhD

Course Work

The Breadth requirement must be fulfilled by coursework in the Department of English or taught by English Department Faculty. Five courses (of the total 40 units above) will satisfy this requirement. Students must complete two Earlier National courses, two Later National courses, and one Focus course. At lease one of the four National courses must be in the "other" nation (i.e., a student may not do all four National courses in British literature, or all four in American literature). The focus may be fulfilled in one of two ways. Either a course will be explicitly designated a Focus course, or a student may arrange with the professor to write a paper with one of the foci listed below:

Earlier National Courses

  • British, pre-1800
  • American, pre-1865

Later National Courses

  • British, post-1800
  • American, post-1865

Focus Courses

  • Genre
  • Identity
  • Interdiscipline
  • Other National
  • Method
  • Theory

Faculty and/or the Graduate Advisor may choose to designate a course as fulfilling more than one category, but students may use the course to fulfill only one requirement. For instance, a student could use a course on women in Early Modern literature to satisfy the Earlier National (British) requirement, or the Focus (Identity) requirement, but not both. A student could use a course on Dickens and Twain to satisfy the Later National (British) requirement or the Later National (American) requirement, but not both.

Elective Requirement

 The elective requirement can be fulfilled by coursework inside or outside the English Department. Five courses (of the total 40 units above) will satisfy this requirement.

 With the approval of the Graduate Adviser, students may enroll in a graduate class at another University of California campus (Intercampus Exchange Program).

Course Waiver and Course Relief

Students who enter the PhD program with MA coursework from another institution may petition the Graduate Adviser for course waiver for up to three of the twelve required seminars; each approved petition will reduce the number of required courses by one. Students may not reduce their coursework to fewer than nine (9) seminars.

Students holding the MA may also petition the Graduate Adviser for course relief for up to five of the Breadth Requirements; each approved petition allows the student to substitute elective courses. ENL 200 may not be waived or relieved. Students applying for course waiver or relief must submit papers and syllabi to the English Graduate Office.

Designated Emphasis

Students may pursue a Designated Emphasis (minor) in any of eight  interdisciplinary areas: Classics and the Classical Tradition, Critical TheoryFeminist Theory and ResearchNative American StudiesSocial Theory and Comparative HistoryStudies in Performance and Practice,  African American and African Studies. In 2008, a D.E. in Writing, Rhetoric and Composition was added.

Foreign Language Requirement

The English PhD requires a reading knowledge of two foreign languages. French, German, Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Italian normally satisfy this requirement. The Graduate Advisor may approve other languages upon petition by the student. Reading knowledge is normally demonstrated by course work or placement tests.  Any of the following demonstrate proficiency:


A.      Completion within the past ten years, 2 years of language study at the undergraduate level

B.      Complete with satisfactory (S) grade the 4th quarter course in the beginning to intermediate language sequence as taught by the UC Davis Language Department (graduate students can only take S/U classes)

C.      Placement out of the 4th quarter course as certified by the Language Laboratory at UC Davis

D.     A pass in the language exam offered in the English Department at the beginning of fall/spring quarter each year 

Students must demonstrate competence in one language before taking the preliminary exam. Competence in the second language must be demonstrated before students are eligible to take the Qualifying Examination.


The language requirement for the PhD degree may also be satisfied by studying one language intensively. Proficiency is normally measured as follows: 1) students first certify competency in a language in one of the ways listed above; 2) then they complete with a grade of B or better a graduate course in this same language, for which they write a paper in the language.  An undergraduate major in a language other than English may prove intensive proficiency.

Preliminary and Qualifying Examinations

At the end of Fall Quarter of the third year of graduate study, students take a Preliminary Examination in one of the historical periods listed below. Prior to taking the Preliminary Examination, students must have completed the following:

  1. Introduction to Graduate Studies
  2. Survey of Literary Theory
  3. Four of five breadth requirements (fifth breadth seminar may be taken after preliminary exam);
  4. Four of five elective requirements (fifth elective seminar may be taken after the preliminary exam);
  5. One foreign language at the intermediate level or all course work toward the intensive level except the graduate course with a paper written in the foreign language. (The second language requirement may be completed after the preliminary exam.)

Any requirements remaining (i.e. second language, fifth seminar) after taking the Preliminary Examination must be completed  before scheduling the Qualifying Examination.

The preliminary exam should be either in the major period in which the student plans to position the dissertation or in another ("minor") period in order to demonstrate scholarly competence. This exam is given as a take-home, open-book, assignment written and assessed by faculty examiners.

Each year's examiners will be announced the previous spring. Examinations will be given at the end of Fall and end of Spring quarters. Historical periods are distributed as follows:

  • English Literature, Beginning-1100
  • English Literature, 1100-1500
  • English Literature, 1500-1660
  • English Literature, 1660-1789
  • English Literature, 1789-1890
  • English Literature, 1890-Present
  • American Literature, to 1800
  • American Literature, 1800-1900
  • American Literature, 1900-present

English 299 (Independent Study) is ordinarily for use the quarters before the Preliminary Examination to prepare for the written examination and is graded Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory. Students may register for ENL 299 under the Graduate Advisor or a faculty member in the field of their exam for the quarter(s) they intend to study. While these 299 courses ordinarily consist of unsupervised study, study groups may request to meet with examiners.

Exams are graded Pass with Distinction, Pass, Pending (Partial Retake) and No Pass. Partial and full retakes will be given in the next exam period. In the event a student receives two No Pass grades, he or she will be asked to leave the program.

The Qualifying Examination may be taken as early as the spring of the third year, and should be taken no later than the spring of the fourth year. This exam consists of a four-hour written test based on the prospectus, followed, later, by a two hour oral. The reading list for this exam is constructed by the student in consultation with his or her three-person dissertation committee. When making their lists, students may consult the standard lists for preliminary exams in the historical period, available in the Graduate Office. If the student is doing a designated emphasis (DE), materials from that field should also be incorporated into the Qualifying Exam reading list.

Five faculty members serve on the Qualifying Exam: the three members of the committee plus another faculty member from the department and one faculty member from outside the department. Students doing a designated emphasis (DE) must include one faculty member affiliated with the DE on their three-person dissertation committee.

By the end of the second week of the quarter that the student intends to take the Qualifying Exam, graduate students must file and submit (1) the “Qualifying Examination Application” form to Graduate Studies, (2) Prospectus sign off sheet (signed by all 3 members of the committee) and (3) the Prospectus and Reading list. (If a student is taking the Qualifying Exam early in the quarter, they must remember to submit these documents at last 8 weeks before the exam.)

The bibliography of the prospectus will normally overlap substantially with the Qualifying Exam reading list. The oral part of that exam will focus both on the student's prospectus and written qualifying exam.

Upon successful completion of the examinations, the student is given an "Application for Advancement to Candidacy" form by the examining committee chair. When it is filled out and signed by the DGS and major professor, the student pays the candidacy fee at the cashier’s office and returns the form to Graduate Studies.


 The dissertation must be an original work of scholarship and/or interpretation. It may be critical, bibliographical, historical, or biographical in its subject. Students work with a dissertation director and consult with two official readers as well as with other faculty knowledgeable about the project. The final draft must be approved by the dissertation committee.

Normative Time and Residence Requirement

The University and the Department of English have established six years (18 quarters) as the normative time for a student who enters the program with a B.A. degree to complete the PhD Students who enter with a MA can normally expect to complete the PhD in five years. The University residence requirement for the PhD is two years.

Teaching Requirement

Before candidates for the PhD degree may apply for conferral of the degree, they must have completed at least one year of teaching at the college level. The following are special requirements for graduate students who teach:

Graduate students are normally limited by University policy to 15 quarters of contracted employment. With special approval from the Dean of Graduate Studies, graduate students may teach three additional quarters.

In order to be appointed or reappointed, graduate students must be in good academic standing and must be progressing satisfactorily toward the doctorate. Good academic standing includes maintaining a grade point average of at least 3.0 on the 4.0 scale. The Graduate Studies Division restricts graduate student employment at the University to 50% time. Graduate students are required to take University Writing Program (UWP) 390: Theory and Practice of University-level Composition Instruction in preparation for teaching composition (UWP 1) and UWP 392: Teaching Expository Writing Fall Quarter of their first quarter teaching. English 393: Teaching Literature and Composition must be taken in the spring quarter before teaching English 3 the following Fall.