PhD in English

Binghamton University's graduate program in English offers more than just the study of language and literature. Students in the program develop skills that have applications far beyond the traditional occupations of teaching and composition. Effective and persuasive communicators are in demand in a number of fields, including law, marketing, communications, and journalism. Advanced study of literature and rhetoric will greatly contribute to your skill set and employability. The Creative Writing concentration can offer additional experience and is not only for those who are pursuing a career in writing.

Graduate Programs

Welcome to the Graduate English program at Binghamton University. Our program has had a history of distinguished faculty and graduates in literary research, critical theory, rhetoric, and creative writing.


The English Department currently serves approximately 75 students working toward the PhD and about 30 students in progress toward the MA degree. The English Department offers opportunities for study in all major areas of British and American literatures, with strengths in American Studies, British Modernities, Critical Theory, Gender and Sexualities, Medieval Studies, Early Modern and Renaissance Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Race, Empire, and Global Diasporas, Rhetorical Discourse, Ethnic Studies, Cultural Studies/ Science Studies, Creative Writing.


  • Ph.D. in English with a research dissertation
  • Ph.D. in English with creative dissertation

Literature Degrees:

The MA in literature stresses breadth of knowledge in literature and theory. The Ph.D. program encourages students to pursue focused interests in literary periods or movements, theoretical models and schools, or global literature. Ph.D. candidates take field exams and write dissertations on specific areas of literary, critical or theoretical interest.

Creative Writing Degrees:

The MA and Ph.D. programs with a creative writing concentration offer a range of workshops, readings, and visiting writers. (Visiting faculty has included Charles Johnson, Galway Kinnell, Robert Creeley, Marvin Bell, W. D. Snodgrass, and Molly Peacock.) MA-CW students take courses in literature and writing and produce a creative thesis. Ph.D. students take courses in literature and writing, complete the same field exams as literature students, and produce novels, books of poems, or books of short stories for their dissertations.


Students entering the Ph.D. program in English usually are expected to have an MA in English literature. This does not preclude the admission of students whose education has been in other fields. (In these exceptional cases, candidates, in consultation with the graduate director, may be asked to undertake an additional study.) After completing their courses, candidates specialize in three fields of scholarly interest preparatory to field examinations and in a specific area of expertise leading to the dissertation.

The English Graduate Admissions Committee admits qualified students to the Ph.D. program on the basis of their total records, including transcripts, GRE general test, recommendations, and a sample of their critical writing (10 to 20 pages). Applicants who wish to choose the creative writing option for the dissertation should so indicate on the front page of the application and should submit a portfolio of their creative work (not more than 50 pages of fiction or 25 pages of verse) in addition to the critical writing sample.

The deadline for application for the fall semester to the Ph.D. program, whether or not the student wishes to be considered for financial aid, is February 15. The deadline for application for the spring semester is November 15.

Doctor of Philosophy Program Requirements

Program of Study

In consultation with the graduate director, the student plans a program of study comprising at least eight courses and begins to determine three areas of special interest (see below under "Field Exams"). As part of their eight-course minimum, students may take up to three creative writing workshops, no more than three appropriate courses in other departments, and no more than three graded courses from the same faculty member. Students may take no more than two independent studies. One of the eight required courses must be ENG 589, Teaching of College English. Beyond the eight-course minimum, these limitations do not apply.

Students must maintain at least a B+ average to remain in the program; more than one C grade normally requires dismissal. Students not in residence must register each semester to remain in good standing.

PhD Field Exams

Coursework is normally completed at the end of the second year of doctoral study. Students are then expected to complete three distinct field examinations by the end of the third year (though many students will begin taking these examinations earlier.) While areas acceptable as fields of study are not predefined, they must be approved by the graduate director. A field of study may be defined in various ways: e.g. by nationality and chronology, genre, topic or critical theory. Students may coordinate their fields of study so that the time spent preparing for their examinations will provide a foundation for their dissertations, as well as preparation for their professional identities.

In the fourth semester of coursework, each student, in consultation with the graduate director, works with a chosen professor to define each field examination, draw up a reading list, and pursue the topic chosen. All three examinations are normally administered in the third year of study.

Detailed guidelines for PhD students working on field exams are available in the English Department Graduate Office.

Foreign Language

All PhD candidates must demonstrate a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language at a level of competence sufficient for the understanding of scholarly and critical materials. Such competence may be demonstrated in any one of four ways:

  • Evidence of the student has passed a certified translation exam in a graduate program at some other institution.
  • Presenting transcript evidence of at least three years (six semesters) of college-level study of a single foreign language (we will count as two semesters each, fourth and fifth year high school study in the same language) with a grade average of B or better, completed no more than five years before admission to the PhD program at Binghamton University.
  • Successful completion of a graduate course in a foreign language, or of a graduate course in comparative literature in which a significant portion of the work is done in a foreign language.
  • Successful completion of a graduate proficiency workshop and examination (TRIP 707).


In the course of doctoral study, the student establishes a dissertation committee consisting of a director and two readers. The dissertation is a substantial study of some significant topic in the area of the student's professional interest or a creative writing dissertation for those students who are admitted to the creative writing dissertation option.

The student's dissertation director must formally approve and submit to the graduate director, a written prospectus of the dissertation, or for those submitting a creative dissertation a sample of work in progress, at least one semester prior to completing the dissertation. The prospectus or the sample of creative work in progress will be shared with all members of the dissertation committee. On completion of all other requirements, the student submits a finished dissertation for approval and defends the dissertation in an oral examination. The submitted dissertation must conform to the Graduate School requirements for a dissertation, as outlined in the Graduate School Handbook.

After successful completion, defense, and submission of the dissertation, the student is awarded the PhD in English.

Professional Development

Through their thesis and dissertation projects, students become well-versed in theoretical approaches, research, and bibliography. These skills prepare a student for continued success in academia, and our distinguished faculty also provides close guidance for those seeking publication. The department publishes its own literary journal Harpur Palate, which is edited by graduate students and enjoys both domestic and international circulation. Such editorial experiences are an instrument for those wishing to pursue positions in periodical review or journalism. The University also hosts conferences and workshops for creative writers, such as the popular Readers' Series, that provide a chance to interact with visiting professionals in a variety of writing fields. Literary outreach programs such as the Binghamton Poetry Project also give students an opportunity to make a lasting impact in the local community.

After You Graduate

Recent alumni of the program have attained a number of different careers, as well as further graduate study. Destinations include many faculty positions across the country, from New York University to UC Irvine. Meanwhile, several graduates have found their skills to be desired in publishing companies, or in journalism. Courses of study are highly individualized, but your faculty advisor will help you choose a path that develops your strengths and interests while also achieving a diverse cross-section of abilities. Meanwhile, the University Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development helps students to arrange resumes, prepare for interviews, and can keep them informed about opportunities and openings in their chosen fields.

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This course is Campus based
Start Date
Sept. 2019
4 years
12,921 USD
(Resident); $24,261 (Non-Resident)
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