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The Department of English offers a Ph.D. in English (with specializations in composition and rhetoric, English language and linguistics, or literary studies); an MFA in creative writing; and a terminal M.A. in English with a specialization in applied English linguistics. Students enrolled in the literary studies Ph.D. specialization become eligible for an M.A. English degree in the literary studies area when they successfully complete the first-stage doctoral requirements. The literary studies specialization does not offer an M.A. apart from the doctoral program. Students enrolled in the composition and rhetoric track in English must have a master's degree in hand prior to matriculation in the doctoral program. An optional path to the literary studies and composition and rhetoric doctoral programs is through the Afro-American Studies Bridge.

The doctoral program in the literary studies area offers a rigorous course of study leading to the completion of a doctoral dissertation in any field of English, American, or Anglophone literature and culture, or in any field of literary theory and criticism. The program prepares students for active careers in research and teaching at the university, and combines a sharp focus on conceptual approaches to literary and cultural works with a commitment to broad coverage of the field of Anglophone literature. Graduate seminars taken during the first phases of the doctoral program serve to prepare students to develop research projects for the dissertation. As they progress toward the Ph.D., students are invited to consider interdisciplinary subspecialties: literary theory and criticism, visual studies, ecocriticism and environmentalism, transnational and global literature, material culture, print culture and book history, digital humanities, disability studies, gender studies, race and ethnic studies, feminist theory, lgbtq literature and queer theory, postcolonial studies. The program provides opportunities for teaching writing and literature and for administrative experience. 

The doctoral program in the composition and rhetoric area offers a vibrant intellectual community of scholar-teachers and supports research in a wide array of subfields, including literacy studies, composition theory & pedagogy, rhetorical studies, and writing centers/writing program administration. Faculty expertise in literacy, composition, and rhetoric includes emphases in migration, race and ethnicity, critical theory, historical and ethnographic methods, space and place, environmental rhetoric, science writing, visual rhetoric, and transnationalism. This multidisciplinary program with a low faculty-to-student ratio offers doctoral students close contact with faculty mentors throughout coursework and dissertation research. It also maintains close collaborations with campus programs in Communication Arts, Linguistics, and Curriculum and Instruction, among others. The program offers varied opportunities for professional development in teaching, research, and writing program administration, and is recognized for its commitment to training well-rounded professionals in the field of composition and rhetoric.

The English doctoral program in the English language and linguistics area is intended for students with a solid foundation at the master's level in the English language, applied linguistics, and related fields. Through a program of course work and seminars, doctoral students attain advanced knowledge in the core areas of English syntax and phonology and in the applied areas of second language acquisition, discourse analysis, and language variation and change. On reaching the dissertation stage, students pursue individual research in close cooperation with their faculty advisor. In recent years, students have written dissertations on code-switching, critical pedagogy, interactional competence, conversation analysis, syntactic problems in second language acquisition, classroom discourse, and psycholinguistics. Graduates of the program have taken faculty positions at universities throughout the country.

Regarding catalog course listings: graduate seminars in English reflect the faculty's current areas of research and therefore change importantly from year to year. Please consult the department website for more detailed information.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 8
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

The department requires an applicant to have a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution. Applicants for the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees typically demonstrate competence in the fields of English literature or language, American studies, or linguistics, but the department also welcomes applications from superior students who have not had the equivalent of an English major. Such students may be asked to supplement the normal program of study by completing a small number of coverage courses. Applicants for the MFA degree are expected to demonstrate competence and promise in the genre in which they are applying.  MFA students are not necessarily expected to be knowledgeable in the same areas specified for M.A. and Ph.D. applicants. Applicants for the Ph.D. specialization in composition & rhetoric may have bachelors and masters from a variety of fields beyond English but must complete a master's degree or equivalent before beginning the doctoral program. International students whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students are able to complete a program with minimal disruptions to careers and other commitments.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement Ph.D.–composition and rhetoric track: 51 credits
Ph.D.–English language and linguistics track: 63 credits
Ph.D.–literary studies track: 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement At least half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students are required to take a comprehensive preliminary/oral examination after they have cleared their record of all Incomplete and Progress grades (other than research and thesis). Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

Required COURSES

Composition and Rhetoric Track1

Composition-Rhetoric Major
Students take six courses in consultation with their advisor.
Doctoral Minor
Students complete four courses toward a doctoral minor.
Research Methods/Tools
Students take two courses in consultation with their advisor.

These tracks are internal to the program and represent different pathways a student can follow to earn this degree. Track names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

The following Composition-Rhetoric courses are offered on a regular basis: ENGL 700 (every Fall), ENGL 702 and ENGL 703 (in alternating years), and ENGL 799 for specialized coursework.

English Language and Linguistics Track1

In order to be granted candidacy, students must complete a minimum of seven (7) graduate courses or seminars beyond coursework taken for the M.A. and approved by the English Language and Linguistics Ph.D. advisor. At least four of these courses/seminars must be taken in the English Department.

For the doctoral minor, usually four courses (12 credits) are to be chosen by the student and the minor advisor in consultation with the student’s advisor. Although superior work in these courses is usually deemed sufficient to satisfy the requirement, formal examination in the minor remains at the discretion of the minor department.


These tracks are internal to the program and represent different pathways a student can follow to earn this degree. Track names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Literary Studies Track1

For the M.A. degree en route to the Ph.D. degree, students take a total of ten courses (for a total of 30 credits) in the Department of English and demonstrate competence in one foreign language. To ensure breadth of knowledge, the course requirements call for intensive study in different chronological and geographical areas. There is room too for electives within this stage of the program. These requirements must be completed before the beginning of the fifth semester. When the first stage requirements are completed, provided the student meets the program standards for satisfactory progress, he or she will be entitled to move into the second stage of the program.

Once this broad foundation has been built, the second, more focused stage allows students to work in an area or areas of specialization, and to begin to create an ongoing research agenda. During the three semesters typically devoted to this stage, students choose three English (Literary Studies)  courses beyond those taken already. In addition, using the 10-12 credits of minor courses that the Literary Studies Ph.D. track requires, students deepen their knowledge and diversify their skills by cross-disciplinary work. Successful completion of this coursework, demonstration of competence in either one foreign language at the advanced proficiency level (equivalent to fifth and sixth semester language study) or two languages at the adequate proficiency level (equivalent to third and fourth semesters of language study) is also required.


These tracks are internal to the program and represent different pathways a student can follow to earn this degree. Track names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

Ph.D.–composition and rhetoric track, and English language and linguistics track: With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Ph.D.–literary studies track: With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 (typically 3 to 6) credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


12 credits

Time Constraints

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may be required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


Graduate programs in English are full-time programs. Students are expected to enroll full-time until required coursework is completed. Funding available for students pursuing the M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  2. Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study demonstrating breadth as well as depth.
  3. Conducts research according to recognized standards in the field and crafts persuasive and original arguments that make a substantive contribution to the field.
  4. Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner that advances and articulates the value of contributions of the field of study to society
  5. Demonstrates knowledge and practice of pedagogy consistent with discipline and with field of study
  6. Fosters ethical and professional conduct.

Faculty: Professors Castronovo (chair), Auerbach, Barry, Bearden, Begam, Bernard-Donals, Bow, Britland, Dharwadker, Foys, Friedman, Guyer, Hill, Johnson, Keller, Kercheval, Olaniyan, Ortiz-Robles, Purnell, Raimy, Sherrard-Johnson, Wanner, M. Young, R. Young, Zimmerman; Associate Professors Allewaert, Cooper, Fawaz, Olson, Samuels, Trotter, Vareschi, Yu, Zweck; Assistant Professors Amine, Calhoun, Cho, Druschke, Edoro, Fecu, Huang