in English and American Literature

The graduate program in English and American literature at Washington University in St. Louis is innovative, collegial, competitive, and generously funded, offering one of the top financial packages in the nation. All incoming students receive full tuition scholarships plus ample living stipends for six years. Our faculty includes Guggenheim Fellows, winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Curious as to what our faculty are working on? Check out our faculty's areas of expertise. A participant in the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, we exemplify an integrated community of scholars and writers, and are home to one of the top ten MFA programs in the U.S. 

Building on our many interests, we sponsor multiple reading groups, regular faculty and student colloquia, and an extensive lecture series. The Hurst Visiting Professorship brings multiple distinguished creative and critical voices to the department each year for public lectures and small workshops. Recent Hurst Professors have included Charles Altieri, Rita Copeland, Peter Coviello, Jed Esty, Rita Felski, Carla Kaplan, James Longenbach, Jerome McGann, Charles Taylor, Daniel Vitkus, and Michael Wood.

While our program is rooted in the materials of literary history, from medieval to contemporary, interdisciplinarity is more than aspirational. Certificate programs connect students to multiple departments and initiatives, building on the resources of the broader community. We believe that a strong intellectual community is fostered by concrete working relationships between professors and students and offer collaborative teaching opportunities with experienced faculty. After two years spent solely on coursework, research, and writing, students begin mentored teaching experiences in one course per term. Tailored to student interests, these experiences offer careful pedagogical attention in writing and literature courses, with the option of professional internships and training. At the end of the program, Ph.D. students spend a final year without teaching focused on finishing their dissertation and entering the job market.

Program Requirements

Courses & Requirements

Explore the timeline and requirements for the PhD in English and American Literature as well as the Combined PhD in English and Comparative Literature.

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Admissions Information & FAQ

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Special Collections

Perhaps the most important resource for graduate students outside of the English Department is the University's Special Collections Department, home to a first-rate archive of twentieth-century writers' manuscripts and other papers. The Modern Literary Manuscripts Collection focuses on the careers of 125 major literary figures including Samuel Beckett, Howard Nemerov, Stanley Elkin, William Gass, Mona Van Duyn, William Gaddis, and the world's most complete holding of writings by and about the American poet James Merrill. Taken as a whole, the collection consists of more than a quarter of a million manuscript items, correspondence, and ephemera, thousands of photographs, scores of unique audio-taped readings from the 1950s onward, and numerous videotaped readings. The Special Collections Department also coordinates occasional exhibitions of collected authors' papers, such as the 2000 exhibition "James Merrill: Other Writings," which included essays and related Merrill scholarship from several English department graduate students.

Interdisciplinary Research

The department encourages interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work in addition to the regular interdisciplinary course offerings. Various centers on campus, such as the Center for the Humanities, the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Equity, bring together scholars from a wide range of backgrounds and interests with programs, lectures, seminars, and colloquia. Meanwhile, programs such as Early Modern Studies, American Culture Studies and Women and Gender Studies draw from across the university. Students regularly have professors on their dissertation committees from multiple departments. These opportunities are just a few of the many ways that our students cross paths with esteemed scholars and fellow graduate students from other disciplines.

In addition to its many interdisciplinary programs and centers, the university offers several graduate certificates aimed specifically at encouraging and enhancing interdisciplinary study. The certificates give students additional qualifications in a second area. Beyond Early Modern Studies, American Culture Studies, and Women and Gender Studies—all of which have their own certificate programs—we also offer graduate certificates in Film and Media Studies (Program in Film and Media Studies),  Translation Studies (Program in Comparative Literature), and Data Science in the Humanities (Humanities Digital Workshop). For more information, contact the programs involved directly or contact the Director Graduate Studies in English.

Recent Dissertations

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Careers & Outcomes

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Life in St. Louis

A culturally diverse and exciting city, St. Louis is one of the most affordable and livable major metropolitan centers in the United States. Perhaps the greatest surprise to visitors and newcomers is just how green are our neighborhoods. One rarely goes more than two or three city blocks without finding an attractive and welcoming park in which to stroll, run, bike, or rollerblade. In addition, with affordable housing, excellent restaurants, numerous sporting events, and varied cultural activities, St. Louis is one of the most pleasant American cities in which to live and to work.

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