Academic Year 2023 – 2024

General Information

22 McCosh Hall

Program Offerings:

  • Ph.D.

Director of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Program Administrator:


The aim of the Princeton graduate program in English is to produce well-trained and field-transforming scholars, insightful and imaginative critics, and effective and creative teachers. With two years of coursework and three years of research and teaching, all fully funded, it is possible to complete the degree in five years. We offer multiple opportunities for a fully funded sixth-year, should students need additional time for dissertation completion.

In keeping with the goals of the University at large, the Department of English seeks to cultivate and sustain a diverse, cosmopolitan, and lively intellectual community. Because this is a residential university, whose traditions emphasize teaching as well as research, the faculty is easily accessible to students and committed to their progress.

The faculty of the Department of English is notable for its world-renowned scholarly reputation, and commitment to teaching and close collaboration with colleagues and students. The faculty showcases wide-ranging interdisciplinary interests as well as a diverse range of critical approaches. In addition to offering seminars in every major historical field of concentration, from medieval to contemporary literatures, we offer training in fields such as gender and sexuality studies, psychoanalysis, Marxism, American studies, African American studies, Latinx studies, Asian American studies, postcolonial studies, environmental humanities, digital humanities, political and social theory, book history, performance studies, film and media studies, and poetry and poetics. Students may also take courses in cognate departments such as comparative literature, classics, philosophy, linguistics, history, and art history.



Application deadline
December 1, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (This deadline is for applications for enrollment beginning in fall 2024)
Program length
5 years
General Test - optional/not required

Additional departmental requirements

Sample of critical writing, approximately 25 pages in length, preferably in the student’s proposed field of study. This sample must be a sustained piece of writing, not the total of several smaller works, and can be an excerpt from a larger work.

Program Offerings

Program Offering: Ph.D.

Program description

The graduate program in English is a five-year program (with multiple opportunities for funding in the sixth year) leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Students may not enroll for a Master of Arts degree. During the first two years, students prepare for the General Examination through work in seminars, and directed or independent reading. The third, fourth, and fifth years are devoted the writing of a dissertation, and to teaching in undergraduate courses. Through numerous funding opportunities, we are able to offer sixth-year students generous research support.


During the first two years of the program, graduate students normally take an average of three courses per semester, to complete the required 12 courses by the end of the second year. Each entering student is assigned a faculty adviser who works with the director of graduate studies to help plan course selection.

Our distribution requirements are designed to acquaint each student with a diverse range of historical periods and thematic and methodological concerns. The Department values both historical expertise and theoretical inquiry, and assumes that our discipline includes the study of film, visual culture, and media studies.

Graduate Students in English must take at least one course in each of the following six areas:

1. Medieval and Renaissance

2. 18th Century and 19th Century

3. Modern and Contemporary

4. Theory

5. Race, Ethnicity, and Postcoloniality

6. Gender and Sexuality

All distribution requirements must be taken for a letter grade. The six-course distribution requirement comprises 50% of the courses required for the degree, leaving sufficient room for intensive coursework in areas of specialization.

Although some graduate seminars may cover more than one field, students may not use one course to fulfill two or more distribution requirements. For example, a medieval course with a substantial commitment to theory may fulfill either the medieval and Renaissance or the theory requirements.


Students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two foreign languages as soon as possible after enrollment. The language requirement must be satisfied before the completion of the general examination.

General exam

The general examination, taken in October of the third year, is the main qualifying examination for the Ph.D. The purpose of this examination is to help students become strong job candidates with wide-ranging knowledge of two or more fields. The examination committee consists of three faculty members, who assist the student in preparing a reading list for the examination. Students elect to be examined either on two major fields, or one major and two minor fields. Students also decide, in consultation with their examination committee, which examination format is most appropriate for them: an eight-hour written examination, or a two- hour oral examination.


Qualifying for the M.A.

Students normally qualify for the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree on the way to the Ph.D. by completing the general examination. Students who leave the Ph.D. program for various reasons may also be awarded the M.A. by satisfactorily completing all required course work, the course distribution requirement, and the language requirement.


All graduate students who have passed the general examination are required to teach in undergraduate courses. Although the minimum Department requirement is four hours, most students teach more than this. The Department offers many opportunities for teaching experience in conjunction with its large and popular undergraduate program. Students may teach in the writing program, conduct sections of large lecture courses, or direct precepts in upper-division courses. This teaching is supervised by experienced members of the faculty. Additionally, several collaborative teaching opportunities with department faculty are available each year. The Department and University also offer, on an annual basis, teacher training seminars.

Post-Generals requirements

The third, fourth, and fifth years are devoted to teaching in undergraduate courses and to the writing of the dissertation. Through numerous funding opportunities, the Department offers sixth- year students generous support with time off from teaching to complete their dissertation. After completing the general examination, all students participate in a dissertation seminar led by a faculty member in which they draft a dissertation proposal. This dissertation proposal becomes the basis of a one-hour oral examination, after which students continue to work on the dissertation with the guidance of their faculty advisers. Upon successful submission of the dissertation proposal but no later than the beginning of the fourth year, each student chooses three Department faculty members who will serve as their dissertation advisers.

Dissertation and FPO

A final public oral examination is given after each candidate’s dissertation has been read and approved by their dissertation faculty advisers. The examination has two parts. The first consists of a twenty-minute lecture, covering the following topics: a justification of the subject treated; an account of possible methods of treating the subject and a justification of the method chosen; an account of any new contributions made; and a consideration of the possibility of future studies of the same kind, including an account of plans for future scholarship and publication. During the second part of the examination, the student answers a series of questions from advisers and other members of the audience. At the end of the FPO, faculty consult and offer feedback to the student.


  • Chair

    • Simon E. Gikandi
  • Associate Chair

    • Sophie G. Gee (spring)
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Joshua I. Kotin
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • Russ Leo
  • Professor

    • Eduardo L. Cadava
    • Anne Cheng
    • Andrew Cole
    • Bradin T. Cormack
    • Maria A. DiBattista
    • Jill S. Dolan
    • Jeff Dolven
    • Diana J. Fuss
    • Simon E. Gikandi
    • William A. Gleason
    • Gene Andrew Jarrett
    • Claudia L. Johnson
    • Lee C. Mitchell
    • Rob Nixon
    • Jeff Nunokawa
    • Sarah Rivett
    • Gayle Salamon
    • Esther H. Schor
    • D. Vance Smith
    • Nigel Smith
    • Susan J. Wolfson
  • Associate Professor

    • Zahid R. Chaudhary
    • Sophie G. Gee
    • Joshua I. Kotin
    • Russ Leo
    • Meredith A. Martin
    • Kinohi Nishikawa
    • Tamsen O. Wolff
    • Autumn M. Womack
  • Assistant Professor

    • Monica Huerta
    • Paul Nadal
    • Robbie Richardson
  • Senior Lecturer

    • Sarah M. Anderson
  • Lecturer

    • Ryan Heuser
  • Visiting Lecturer

    • Fintan O'Toole

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

AAS 522 - Publishing Journal Articles in the Humanities and Social Sciences (also COM 522/ENG 504/GSS 503)

In this interdisciplinary class, students of race and gender read deeply and broadly in academic journals as a way of learning the debates in their fields and placing their scholarship in relationship to them. Students report each week on the trends in the last five years of any journal of their choice, writing up the articles' arguments and debates, while also revising a paper in relationship to those debates and preparing it for publication. This course enables students to leap forward in their scholarly writing through a better understanding of their fields and the significance of their work to them.

AAS 555 - Toni Morrison: Texts and Contexts (also ENG 536)

This course provides a critical overview of the writings of Toni Morrison. Close reading, cultural analysis, intertextuality, social theory and the African American literary tradition are emphasized.

ART 561 - Painting and Literature in Nineteenth-Century France and England (also ENG 549/FRE 561)

Course explores the dynamic interplay between painting, poetry, and fiction in 19th-century France and England. The focus is twofold: painters and paintings as protagonists in novels and short stories, and paintings inspired by literature. Themes include problems of narrative, translation, and illustration; changing theories of the relative strengths of painting and literature as artistic media; realism and the importance of descriptive detail; the representation of the artist as a social (or anti-social) actor; the representation of women as artists and models; and the artist's studio as a literary trope.

COM 532 - Publishing Articles in Literature, Art, and Music Studies Journals (also ART 531/ENG 591/MUS 533)

In this class, students of literature, art, and music read deeply and broadly in peer-reviewed journals in their disciplines and fields as a way of learning current scholarly debates and placing their scholarship in relationship to them. Students report each week on the trends in the last five years of any journal of their choice, writing up the articles' arguments and debates, while also revising a paper in relationship to those debates and preparing it for publication. This course enables students to leap forward in their scholarly writing through a better understanding of their fields and the significance of their work to them.

COM 535 - Contemporary Critical Theories (also ENG 538/GER 535)

Criticism as an applied art and as an autonomous discipline. Exploration of its place in intellectual history and a theoretical analysis of its basic assumptions. [Topics vary each year.]

COM 547 - The Renaissance (also ENG 530)

A study of selected major genres and modes of Renaissance literature, such as pastoral, satire, romance, picaresque, confession, lyric, epic, comedy, and tragedy. Attention is given to important cultural, social, and intellectual currents affecting their development, such as Christian Humanism, Reformation and Counter Reformation, mysticism, neo-Platonism, and skepticism. Representative works from various national literatures are chosen for close analysis.

COM 553 - The Eighteenth Century in Europe (also ENG 546/GSS 554)

A consideration of the primary topoi and defining oppositions of Enlightenment thought. Texts and specific focus vary from year to year.

COM 572 - Introduction to Critical Theory (also ENG 580/FRE 555/GER 572)

Through a comparative focus on the concepts of dialectics and difference, we read some of the formative theoretical, critical and philosophical works which continue to ground interdisciplinary critical theory today. Focal works by Lukacs, Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Derrida, de Man, Arendt, and Benjamin are included among the texts we read.

ENG 511 - Special Studies in Medieval Literature

Selected problems and topics in the literature of the Middle Ages are studied.

ENG 514 - Middle English Religious Literature

A study of the chief genres of medieval religious literature in the later Middle Ages, with special emphasis given to the poetic formulation of popular Christian doctrine in such works as <I>Piers Plowman</I> and the religious poems of the "Gawain" manuscript.

ENG 522 - The Renaissance in England

A study of major topics current in the field of English early modern and renaissance studies.

ENG 523 - Renaissance Drama

A study of development, form, and content in Tudor and Stuart drama.

ENG 532 - Early 17th Century (also COM 509)

An examination of some major writers of the period.

ENG 543 - The 18th Century

A study of the principal writers, with attention given to the social, political, and philosophical backgrounds. Some consideration is given to the chief problems of 18th-century scholarship and to the history of ideas.

ENG 545 - Special Studies in the 18th Century

A study of major 18th-century writers, genres, and critical issues.

ENG 550 - The Romantic Period

A study of the major Romantic poets, with some attention given to prose.

ENG 553 - Special Studies in the Nineteenth Century

Selected topics and problems in Romantic and Victorian literature.

ENG 555 - American Literary Traditions (also GSS 555/LAS 505)

A study of selected major American writers in the context of intellectual, religious, and cultural traditions.

ENG 556 - African-American Literature (also AAS 556)

A survey of African-American narrative and critical traditions in the context of social and cultural change. Attention is also given to the changing status of black literature in the curriculum of American colleges and universities.

ENG 558 - American Poetry

A study of 20th-century American poetry.

ENG 559 - Studies in the American Novel

This course examines a range of American texts written over half a century in order to clarify connections between their informing philosophies, narrative strategies, and historical moments.

ENG 563 - Poetics

A survey of issues in poetic production and reception from antiquity to the present.

ENG 565 - The Victorian Novel (also GSS 565)

A study of 19th-century English fiction, emphasizing social contexts, narrative forms, and critical theory.

ENG 566 - Studies in the English Novel

Selected 20th-century English novelists, considered in terms of critical theory, technique, and form.

ENG 567 - Special Studies in Modernism

Selected topics and problems in modern literature, culture, and criticism.

ENG 568 - Criticism and Theory (also AMS 568/MOD 568)

A study in the major texts in criticism and theory. Authors include Plato, Aristotle, Sidney, Shelley, Derrida, and Foucault, among others. Topics include mimesis, structuralism, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, and new historicism.

ENG 571 - Literary and Cultural Theory (also AAS 572/COM 506)

A study of the role of culture in literary practice and theory. Topics include postmodernism, post-colonialism, feminism, performance theory, queer theory, and popular cultures, among others.

ENG 572 - Introduction to Critical Theory (also COM 590/HUM 572)

The ethical, historical, and political dimensions of Jacques Derrida's thought and writings.

ENG 573 - Problems in Literary Study (also COM 596)

An examination of selected issues or texts that offer radical challenges to the profession of literary study today. Intended for students in all periods of specialization.

ENG 574 - Literature and Society

Selected topics in the relation of literature to social, political, or historical issues.

ENG 581 - Seminar in Pedagogy

Course will analyze and apply readings on pedagogical theory and method, and discuss particular problems and successes in precepts, methods of leading discussions; obligations and protocols of grading, preparing syllabi and lectures, and writing letters of recommendation. Course members will visit each other's classes and prepare critiques, contribute weekly to a course blog, and prepare a statement of teaching philosophy and teaching portfolio. Required of all graduate students in English teaching as AI's for the first time. Normally taken in Spring Term of third year.

ENG 582 - Graduate Writing Seminar

While dissertation seminars invite students to map the territory and the stakes of their thesis, and article workshops tailor writing for specific journals, this seminar focuses on the craft of writing. Our premise is that craft and argument are mutually constitutive and our method is deliberative slow motion, tracking words, sentences, paragraphs with care. Each week we read and critique 2-3 paragraphs of each student's prose, on the understanding that they are revised the following week, when we take up the next 2-3 paragraphs. By the end of the term, each student should have a polished article, chapter or talk.

ENV 596 - Topics in Environmental Studies (also AMS 596/ENG 517/MOD 596)

This topics course offers seminars with a focus on climate change and/or biodiversity. Seminars under this topic examine environmental and societal issues associated with two of the key defining challenges of our time: climate change and/or biodiversity loss. The course uses a multi-disciplinary combination of perspectives and approaches grounded in the Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences.