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Graduate Program Overview

Welcome to the University of Kansas's graduate program in English, which offers the Ph.D. (see Doctoral Program Profile), M.A., and M.F.A. degrees. Our program prides itself on its comprehensive coverage of the field, from medieval studies to contemporary postcolonial literatures, and from the history of the English language to the intersection of ethnicity and rhetoric.

If you are contemplating applying to any English Ph.D. program, you should inform yourself about the probabilities for permanent academic employment after you receive that degree. Please see the Modern Language Association (MLA) web site for its mid-year report on its Job Information List PDF (Size: 1638KB)

Strengths

Particular strengths of the department include Twentieth-Century American literature, Postcolonial Literatures, African-American literature, Gender Studies, Rhetoric and Composition, and Creative Writing. In recent years, we have supplemented our course offerings in traditional fields with courses in Irish studies, postcolonial theory, African and Caribbean literatures, Latino literature, cultural rhetorics, jazz studies, American Indian literature, and cultural studies.

Master's Program

The English department offers four options for M.A. candidates. M.A. students enrolling for the first time must choose one of the four options listed below.

Option 1a - Literature

  • A total of 30 hours in English courses carrying graduate credit. No more than 6 hours may be taken at the 600 level. At least 6 hours must be taken at the 900 or seminar level. Exam option students will take 9 conventional courses (27 hours), plus 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) or another elective course. Thesis option students will take 8 conventional courses (24 hours), plus 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours).
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Methods or Theory appropriate to different areas of focus in Literary Studies: ordinarily 708, 709, 800, or another course appropriately designated by the Graduate Director. A 998 (Directed Reading) directly focused on questions of methods and theory can fulfill this requirement if approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Pedagogy: the 801-802 sequence (required for TAs), 780, or other appropriate course as approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 18 (6 courses with thesis option) or 21 (7 courses with exam option) distribution hours to be selected in consultation with advisors (Graduate Director during first year and thereafter advisors with whom students plan to move toward exam or thesis options). At least one course must be pre-1700; at least one must be 1700-1900; and at least one must be after 1900. Two courses (6 hours) outside the department may be included in the 18 distribution hours with approval of the Graduate Director.
  • Exam option (3 hours): the student will generally enroll in 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) and must pass a 90-minute oral exam based on a 30-item exam list of literary and / or theoretical texts, including at least 6 items from before 1700; at least 6 items from 1700-1900; and at least 6 items from 1900-present. The student may opt to enroll in one additional 3-hour elective course instead of ENGL 897.
  • Thesis Option (6 hours): The student must enroll in 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours) over 2 semesters of thesis work: (1) a first semester of work with the thesis director leading to polished proposal with a bibliography; and (2) a thesis semester of writing leading to defense of finished thesis.

Option 1b - Literature & Literary Theory

  • A total of 30 hours in English courses carrying graduate credit. No more than 6 hours may be taken at the 600 level. At least 6 hours must be taken at the 900 or seminar level. Exam option students will take 9 conventional courses (27 hours), plus 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) or another elective course. Thesis option students will take 8 conventional courses (24 hours), plus 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours).
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Methods or Theory appropriate to different areas of focus in Literary Studies: ordinarily 708, 709, 800, or another course appropriately designated by the Graduate Director. A 998 (Directed Reading) directly focused on questions of methods and theory can fulfill this requirement if approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Pedagogy: the 801-802 sequence (required for TAs), 780, or other appropriate course as approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 18 (6 courses with thesis option) or 21 (7 courses with exam option) distribution hours to be selected in consultation with advisors (Graduate Director during first year and thereafter advisors with whom students plan to move toward exam or thesis options). At least one course (3 hours) must be pre-1800; at least one (3 hours) must be post-1800. At least two courses (6 hours), besides the course used to fulfill requirement 2 (Methods or Theory) must focus primarily on Literary Theory. Two courses (6 hours) outside the department may be included in the 18 distribution hours with approval of the Graduate Director.
  • Exam option (3 hours): the student will generally enroll in 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) and must pass a 90-minute oral exam based on a 30-item exam list of literary and / or theoretical texts, including at least 6 items pre-1800; at least 6 items post-1800; and at least 12 items in theory. The student may opt to enroll in one additional 3-hour elective course instead of ENGL 897.
  • Thesis Option (6 hours): The student must enroll in 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours) over 2 semesters of thesis work: (1) a first semester of work with the thesis director leading to polished proposal with a bibliography; and (2) a thesis semester of writing leading to defense of finished thesis.

Option 2a - Rhetoric and Composition

  • A total of 30 hours in English courses carrying graduate credit. No more than 6 hours may be taken at the 600 level. At least 6 hours must be taken at the 900 or seminar level. Exam option students will take 9 conventional courses (27 hours), plus 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) or another elective course. Thesis option students will take 8 conventional courses (24 hours), plus 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours).
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Methods or Theory appropriate to different areas of focus in Rhetoric and Composition, ordinarily 780 (Composition Studies), or another course appropriately designated by the Graduate Director. A 998 (Directed Reading) directly focused on questions of methods and theory can fulfill this requirement if approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Pedagogy: the 801-802 sequence (required for TAs), 780, or other appropriate course as approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 18 (6 courses with thesis option) or 21 (7 courses with exam option) distribution hours (6 courses) to be selected in consultation with advisors (Graduate Director during first year and thereafter advisors with whom students plan to move toward exam or thesis options). At least 6 hours in Rhetoric and Composition courses (including at least one seminar) beyond the courses used to fulfill requirements 2 (Methods and Theory) and 3 (Pedagogy).
  • 6 hours of elective courses
  • For students selecting the exam option, 6 hours in second exam area (rhetoric and composition specialty, English language studies, literature, literary theory), including at least one seminar
  • Two courses (6 hours) outside the department may be included in the 18 distribution hours with approval of the Graduate Director.
  • Exam option (3 hours): The student will generally enroll in 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) and must pass a 90-minute oral exam based on two lists developed in consultation with advisors: a) a 15-item exam list of works in rhetoric and composition, and b) a 15-item exam list of works in a second area: literature, literary theory, English Language Studies, or specialty within rhetoric and composition. The student may opt to enroll in one additional 3-hour elective course instead of ENGL 897.
  • Thesis Option (6 hours): The student must enroll in 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours) over 2 semesters of thesis work: (1) a first semester of work with the thesis director leading to polished proposal with a bibliography; and (2) a thesis semester of writing leading to defense of finished thesis.

Option 2b - English Language Studies

  • A total of 30 hours in English courses carrying graduate credit. No more than 6 hours may be taken at the 600 level. At least 6 hours must be taken at the 900 or seminar level. Exam option students will take 9 conventional courses (27 hours), plus 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) or another elective course. Thesis option students will take 8 conventional courses (24 hours), plus 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours).
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Methods or Theory appropriate to different areas of focus in English Language Studies: 785 or 787, or another course appropriately designated by the Graduate Director. A 998 (Directed Reading) directly focused on questions of methods and theory can fulfill this requirement if approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 3 hours (1 course) on Pedagogy: the 801-802 sequence (required for TAs), 780, 781, or other appropriate course as approved by the Graduate Director.
  • 18 (6 courses with thesis option) or 21 (7 courses with exam option) distribution hours to be selected in consultation with advisors (Graduate Director during first year and thereafter advisors with whom students plan to move toward exam or thesis options). At least 6 hours in English Language Studies courses (including at least one seminar) beyond the courses used to fulfill requirements 2 (Methods and Theory) and 3 (Pedagogy).
  • 6 hours of elective courses.
  • For students selecting the exam option, 6 hours in second exam area (rhetoric and composition, literature, literary theory), including at least one seminar.
  • Two courses (6 hours) outside the department may be included in the 18 distribution hours with approval of the Graduate Director.
  • Exam option (3 hours): The student will generally enroll in 3 hours of ENGL 897 (exam preparation hours) and must pass a 90-minute oral exam based on two lists developed in consultation with advisors: a) a 15-item exam list of works in English Language Studies, and b) a 15-item exam list of works in a second area: literature, literary theory, or rhetoric and composition. The student may opt to enroll in one additional 3-hour elective course instead of ENGL 897.
  • Thesis Option (6 hours): The student must enroll in 6 hours of ENGL 899 (MA or MFA thesis hours) over 2 semesters of thesis work: (1) a first semester of work with the thesis director leading to polished proposal with a bibliography; and (2) a thesis semester of writing leading to defense of finished thesis.

Additional requirements for M.A. degree

  • Thesis (optional).
  • Final Comprehensive Exam or thesis defense.

Please consult with your advisor to confirm requirements for degree.

MFA Program

KU's MFA program offers students tracks in fiction writing, poetry writing, playwriting, and creative nonfiction. The full-time creative writing faculty of seven has been widely published and anthologized and has been awarded such distinctions as the Gertrude Stein Award, the Kenyon Review Prize, the Sue Kaufman Prize, the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion, and the Pushcart Prize. Students who finish their course work in two years may have the third year devoted almost entirely to the writing of the thesis. Internships are available with Cottonwood, KU's nationally recognized literary review, and students with assistantships have the opportunity to teach a course in creative writing. In recent years, writers Salman Rushdie, Rita Dove, Cristina Garcia, Kent Haruf, Ted Kooser, Sherman Alexie, Cherrie Moraga, Nuruddin Farah, Diane Williams, Paul Muldoon and many others have come to the campus to give seminars and readings.

  • Total of forty-eight (48) hours of credit
  • Twelve (12) hours of writing workshop credit
  • Twelve (12) hours of literature course credit
  • Nine (9) other hours
  • Fifteen (15) hours of ENGL 899, Thesis
  • Thesis defense

For a full description of the M.F.A. program, please see the M.F.A. in English website.

Doctoral Program

  • At least 24 hours of credit in appropriate formal graduate courses beyond the M.A. At least 15 hours (in addition to 800 if not taken for the M.A.) of this course work must be taken from among courses offered by the Department of English at the 700-level and above. English 997 and 999 credits cannot be included among the 24 hours. Students may petition to take up to 6 hours outside the Department.
  • English 800.
  • Two seminars offered by the Department of English at the University of Kansas beyond the M.A.
  • English 999, Dissertation (normally at least 24 hours).

Students with M.A.s earned at an institution other than K.U. may be required by the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, acting on behalf of the Graduate Committee, to take additional course work.

Note on English 998: A student wishing to enroll in English 998 (Investigation and Conference) must secure the prior approval of the graduate faculty member with whom he or she intends to work and the approval of the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, who will indicate that approval by countersigning the graduate adviser's signature on the enrollment card.


Additional Requirements For Ph.D. Degree
  • A reading knowledge of one approved foreign language and completion of the college Responsible Scholarship and Research Skill requirement.
  • At least one year of supervised quarter-time teaching.
  • At least two semesters spent in resident study.
  • Comprehensive examination.
  • Dissertation Proposal Review.
  • Doctoral dissertation and defense.
  • Please consult with your advisor to confirm requirements for degree.

Faculty

Our faculty boasts an outstanding publication record, having produced 17 single-authored books in the past five years alone. The department combines this scholarly success with a deep concern for teaching and mentoring. Our faculty have won numerous university-wide and national teaching awards (thirteen in ten years), and the department as a whole was given an award for outstanding teaching by the University's Center for Teaching Excellence in 2003.

Placement Record

From 2004 to 2009 the department has graduated 45 PhDs. 25 of these PhDs are tenure-track (or tenured) faculty members at colleges and universities (55.5%). In total, combining tenure and non-tenure track, 32 of 45 PhDs over the 2004-2009 period are teaching as assistant professors (71%).

Because we help our PhD students to develop into well-rounded academics, our rate of placement in tenure-track positions has been impressive, particularly given the downturn in the academic job market. More than 80% of our Ph.D.s who take the Department's job-placement workshops and who do national searches find tenure-track jobs within three years of finishing the degree. Our recent success may also have been helped by the department's support for job seekers. Eight years ago we created the position of Job Placement Advisor; the Advisor is a faculty member in charge of running workshops and mock interviews for graduate students, as well as providing one-on-one advising for those students preparing for the job market. In the past few years, our graduate students have accepted tenure-track jobs at institutions such as Rutgers University, University of Washington, University of New Mexico, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Eastern Illinois University, Xavier University, Valparaiso University, Baldwin-Wallace College, Ithaca College, and Lafayette College.

Community

Our department has a strong tradition of democratic inclusion and sense of community. Faculty and graduate students participate as equals in various reading groups, community organizations, and events involving visiting speakers. Perhaps more importantly, graduate students have a strong voice in the administration of the department; for example, they are on almost all departmental committees, including hiring committees.


Diversity

Our focus on inclusion and community also manifests itself in our attention to diversity. The department has been recognized by the university's Black Faculty and Staff Council for its "outstanding leadership in creating a multicultural academic environment," and 10% of our students come from traditionally underrepresented groups or are international. Not only are we interested in promoting diversity in faculty and student population, but we are also committed to promoting diversity and multiculturalism as important objects of intellectual inquiry both in our own classrooms and across the university and larger communities. The Ad-Hoc African/Americanist (AHAA) faculty group, for instance, fosters vigorous conversations about African, African-American, and African diaspora literatures among faculty and students, promotes diversity, and makes connections between the English Department and other units within the University of Kansas and the larger community for the sponsoring of multicultural events. Faculty and graduate students in our department have served as leaders and participants in the Hall Center's ongoing Gender Seminar. Faculty regularly crosslist courses with Women's Studies, African Studies, and the Center for Indigenous Nations. Both faculty and graduate students have spearheaded significant service-learning programs with the local community, including the Douglas County Jail.


Graduate Student Organization

Finally, our student organization, SAGE, fosters a sense of community among graduate students. SAGE stimulates and coordinates student activity in such areas as curriculum, academic standards and ethics, graduate teaching assistantships, professionalization, and orientation of new graduate students. SAGE also sponsors a colloquium and readings each semester, and publishes a graduate student newsletter.

Summer Institutes

Summer Institutes

The English Department hosts two intensive summer institutes which bring in nationally-known scholars for a two-week graduate seminar in a topic of interest in current scholarship: the Holmes Institute sponsors a visiting scholar in either American or British literature and the Institute for Rethinking Literature sponsors scholars using innovative, cutting-edge approaches to literary study. The Science Fiction Institute held on campus each summer is nationally recognized and offers graduate students opportunities to help in the programming process.

The Setting

Smith Hall

The university is set on top of Mount Oread and offers beautiful vistas of the surrounding area, while at the heart of the campus itself is Jayhawk Boulevard with its historic stone architecture. The appeal of KU does not end with the campus, however; we have a charming downtown with diverse restaurants and shops, many of which are independent and locally owned. Lawrence's music scene is considered among the best in the Midwest. Additionally, Kansas City, which boasts a wide variety of cultural venues, is only 30 miles away.


Salman Rushdie

Both the department and the university offer numerous intellectual and cultural activities. The department itself sponsors a number of visiting speakers each year. Among recent luminaries have been Fredric Jameson, Salman Rushdie, Rita Dove, Cristina Garcia, Marjorie Garber, Lyn Hejinian, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. The Hall Center for the Humanities aims to bring together faculty and graduate students with common interests from various disciplines to them to build on each others' ideas, and to share their knowledge within the university and with the wider community. Last, but by no means least, the university has an outstanding performing arts center, the Lied Center, which presents high-quality performances by established and emerging professional, national and international performing artists for the people of Kansas and the region.enable


The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, retaliation, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and is the University’s Title IX Coordinator: the Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.