PhD in English


Program Description


The department offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, with an emphasis on Literature and Social Justice. Students teach in the first-year writing program and receive training in research and pedagogy. Recent Ph.D. graduates have pursued a range of humanities careers, including tenure-track positions at institutions such as the University of Dayton and Moravian College; careers at non-profits such as the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center; and positions that bridge academic and student affairs at institutions such as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Program Highlights

  • Our full-time students are fully funded, with generous stipends and tuition scholarships. 
  • Our doctoral degree is small and flexible, and our students benefit from individual mentoring and personalized attention at every stage of their careers.
  • Our students present at national and international conferences, published in both academic and popular venues, and have received competitive research funding. 

Lehigh University’s graduate program in English is designed to prepare scholar-teachers for positions in institutions where both teaching and research are important elements of a successful academic career. Our English department has developed a program of study and teaching that should provide our graduates with

  • Broad knowledge of British and American literature in its historical context, including recent expansions of the canon;
  • A concentration of work in a major field, which is also the principal area of research;
  • An understanding of one or more recent theoretical approaches and the ability to use those theories to investigate literary, cultural, or pedagogical issues;
  • An ability to conduct sustained research and to produce insightful scholarship;
  • Sufficient background in composition and rhetoric to have a theoretical basis for teaching courses in writing;
  • Experience in teaching composition and literature to undergraduates.

Course Requirements 

Lehigh University requires that Ph.D. students complete 42 credits (if they hold Lehigh M.A.s) or 48 credits (if their M.A.s were awarded by other institutions). Ph.D. students generally should expect to take at least 8-9 courses or 24-27 semester hours of actual course work beyond the M.A. Students with Lehigh M.A.s must take at least 8 courses or 24 hours of actual coursework. Students who enter the Lehigh Ph.D. program with M.A. degrees from other institutions must take at least 9 courses or 27 credit hours of coursework, but they may be required to take additional distribution courses to ensure breadth of coverage.

  1.  English 485, Issues in the Teaching of Writing (2 credits) and 486, Teaching Composition: A Practicum (1 credit) or 400, Supervised Teaching (1 credit) will count as one (1) 3-credit course for the doctorate, even if taken while the student was in the M.A. program.
  2.  Ph.D. students may take an Independent Study, English 495, during their course work toward the degree. See Policy on Independent Study.

Language Requirement 

The faculty of Lehigh’s Department of English believes that foreign-language study greatly benefits the student of literature. Such a study not only illuminates texts written in English but also, insofar as it throws light on the nature of language itself, permits insights into the English language and the culture of English-speaking people. Foreign language study is therefore desirable for the M.A. degree in English, although none is required.

For the Ph.D. degree in English, the requirement is reading knowledge of one foreign language, ordinarily French, German, Italian, Latin, or Spanish, although other languages may be allowed at the discretion of the graduate-studies coordinator, with whom students should consult as to the identity of the language. Students must meet the requirement before taking the general examination for the Ph.D. degree.

To meet the language requirement, students may

  1.  pass a Level II translation examination, administered by the department; or complete the equivalent of one translation or literature course beyond the fourth semester with a "B-" or better; or
  2.  present evidence of successful completion of advanced language study at the undergraduate level (a minimum of two translation or literature courses beyond the fourth semester) with grades of A or B.

Students may study languages at Lehigh University, at another college or university, at a language institute, or on their own.

Lehigh language courses taken for credit do not count toward department course requirements but do count toward the total number of credits (42 or 48) needed to graduate.


The exam is comprised of two written parts, a primary research area (five hours), and a secondary area (three hours), followed by a two-hour oral examination.

The exam is given by three English faculty members, two for the primary research area, and one for the secondary area. The exam committee is chaired by one of the primary area examiners. A faculty member cannot examine a student in more than one area. A student may elect to invite an additional examiner from another department for either (but not both) of the exam areas.

In the last semester of course work, students will submit to the Graduate Committee a two- to three-page rationale describing the two areas in which they wish to examine and listing faculty who have agreed to examine them in these areas. Students completing their course work in the fall must submit their exam rationale, including a partial list of texts, by the first week of November, and students completing their course work in the spring must submit their exam rationale by the first week in April. After obtaining the approval of the Graduate Committee, the student will complete exam reading lists in consultation with his/her examiners, drawing on various resources like department lists (where available), major bibliographies, course syllabi, and web resources (for example, many exam lists from other institutions are available online). The department will maintain a file of approved lists and rationales for students to consult. All students must deposit their materials in this file before the exam.

Primary Research Area

This list will consist of 75-100 texts, primary and secondary, canonical, and less-canonical, in a recognizable field, in most cases a field found in the MLA Job Information List. A portion of the list should identify a theoretical/methodological area, historicist perspective, or interdisciplinary field.

Secondary Area

This list will consist of about 30 texts that focus on an area distinct from the research field. The list will have a general orientation toward the texts and scholarly web/media resources important to developing a range of undergraduate courses in a recognizable/marketable area in a historical period or in an interdisciplinary or nontraditional genre or method. Examples of the latter include women's studies, American studies, composition, religion and literature, film and/or popular culture, crime fiction, and science and literature.


Students must take the comprehensive exam at one of the first two scheduled exam dates following the semester they finish their course work. That is, students must take the exam in either August or January if they complete their course work in the spring, or in either May or August if they complete their course work in the fall.

Postponements beyond the second possible exam date will not be allowed on academic grounds (that is because the student doesn't feel prepared to take the exams) but may be allowed, on a petition to the Graduate Committee, for serious personal reasons.

Re-examination: A student who fails an examination in one or both areas may retake the examination in the failed area or areas after a period of at least three months. A student receiving financial aid must retake the examination in the failed area or areas at the next regularly scheduled time (May, August, or January). If the results of the re-examination in the failed area or areas are also unsatisfactory, the student may not continue doctoral studies at Lehigh University.


Admissions Open: Fall

Fall Deadline for Application Review: January 1

Contact Information

Stephanie Kotz, Graduate Coordinator
Phone Number: 610-758-3311

Admission Requirements

  • 3 Letters of Recommendation Required.
  • GRE general test scores Required.
  • Writing sample Required.

International Applicants

International Applicants are required to demonstrate English language skills equal to those required of degree-seeking students. All international applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL or IELTS test and submit scores.

Last updated Jun 2020

About the School

As Lehigh’s largest and most diverse college, we are home to the social sciences, arts, humanities, and natural sciences. With 1,894 undergraduate students, 342 graduate students, 270 full-time facult ... Read More

As Lehigh’s largest and most diverse college, we are home to the social sciences, arts, humanities, and natural sciences. With 1,894 undergraduate students, 342 graduate students, 270 full-time faculty and 90 professional staff, we are comparable in size and offer the intimacy of a liberal arts college, yet benefit from the resources of a research university. Our faculty are accomplished scholars, artists, and writers, recognized nationally and internationally as leaders in their fields, who share a commitment to the integration of teaching and scholarship into innovative, dynamic curricula set in an intellectually stimulating environment. Read less