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University of Pennsylvania Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :15 Dec 
International :15 Dec 

PhD English

 Course Level
Full Time

5 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

6490 USD
6490 USD

Application fee

International 80 USD
National 80 USD
Department of English
Scores accepted
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
GRE (avg)307

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About this course

The English Department offers full-time M.A. and Ph.D. programs. Comprehensive in their range of specializations, these programs are intellectually dynamic and rigorous. Our M.A. program offers students a solid foundation in the professional study of literature and culture, and our Ph.D. program prepares students for full participation in the profession as scholars and teachers of English and American literature, broadly conceived. Roughly 60 graduate students enjoy close interaction with over 30 internationally renowned faculty members who teach and publish on a large number of historical periods and theoretical and methodological specializations. Many of our faculty work across traditional period and disciplinary divides, and we encourage our students to bring similar innovation and creativity to their own research and teaching.

Our departmental culture reflects our commitment to fostering an environment that is at once challenging, inclusive, and supportive. We recognize that successful establishment in our profession requires more than taking courses, passing exams, writing a dissertation, attending conferences, and publishing articles: it also involves taking an active and valued role in an intellectual and social community of the English department, as well as other programs and departments across campus. Accordingly, we consider our graduate students full members of the department. We nurture an array of reading and discussion groups that bring together faculty and graduate students throughout the year; we host numerous departmental lectures by cutting-edge scholars; we encourage graduate students to take leading roles in planning conferences and symposia; and we include graduate students in a range of departmental dinners, parties, and other social events. We also support and value our Graduate English Association, which acts as a forum for graduates to provide one another advice and support, organize workshops helping one another through all stages of the program, discuss graduate concerns and initiatives, and plan numerous social events (I hear there is even a graduate student prom each spring ... ). Because most of our Ph.D. students plan to become professors, we provide extensive pedagogical training and mentorship. All Ph.D. students teach at least three semesters while working toward their degrees. Second-year English Ph.D. students assist professors with teaching and grading undergraduate courses and take a semester-long Pedagogy seminar; fourth-year English Ph.D. students design and teach a Junior Research Seminar in their own field of specialization and attend a required series of pedagogy workshops. In addition to these official requirements, Ph.D. students have numerous opportunities to assist with and teach courses at Penn and beyond, and each year we offers many specialized teaching workshops led by professors and graduate students.

We also recognize the importance of financial support in a program as demanding as ours. To this end, all of our admitted Ph.D. students are awarded an identical five-year guaranteed funding package, which gives students a generous yearly stipend and covers all tuition, fees, and health insurance. In addition, Ph.D. students receive many travel grants for conference presentations and archival research, and Penn offers numerous competitive sixth-year funding opportunities. Regrettably, no financial aid is available for our Master's students, whether in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships.

In the last year of the Ph.D. program, most students apply for academic jobs, and the Penn English Department provides extensive support and assistance and to students at this stage. We are proud of our placement record, which is among the highest in the country: our Ph.D. students go on to thrive in tenure-track positions at a range of public and private colleges and universities. We also support students who seek opportunities beyond academia. We are proud of our recent Ph.D.s. who have become business consultants at McKinsey, chosen careers in library services and the publishing industry, and taken teaching positions at the secondary level, to name just a few of the alternate paths Penn graduates have taken.

Check further details on University website

Eligibility Criteria

Eng lang – On the TOEFL-iBT exam (Internet-Based Test), competitive applicants tend to have a composite score of 100 and above (the exam is scaled from 0-120, with 120 being a perfect score) with demonstrated consistency on each section of the exam (reading, listening, speaking, and writing). On the Paper- Based TOEFL, Penn tends to admit students with a score of 600 and above (the exam is scaled from 310 to 677, with 677 being a perfect score).

  • GRE - 307


Check further details on University website

Course Modules

During your first three years, you must take at least 3 credits per semester in order to be considered by the Graduate Division to be a full-time student. Students registered for dissertation are allowed to register for one additional course each term, though they should be focusing on their writing.

All students will only be allowed to audit a maximum of 2 (their 4th and 5th course) courses each semester.

The Department requires that all students complete 13 grade-bearing seminars or independent studies by the end of their third year.  Students coming in with M.A. degrees may transfer one class toward this requirement (thereby reducing the number of required seminars or independent studies to 12). Graduate-level courses taken in other departments and at other universities who participate in Penn's exchange program can count toward course requirements. ENGL800, ENGL801, ENGL850, ENGL851, and ENGL999 cannot be counted.

Students should strive for a balance of 500- and 700-level courses each semester.

Incompletes: Students are allowed one Incomplete per year, though exceptions may be granted in the case of unusual circumstances. Incompletes will be granted with 1) permission of the instructor, 2) petition to the GEC. This petition need not be lengthy, but it should include a brief rationale explaining why the student would like to continue working beyond the end of the semester and a timeline for completing the work. Petitions are due to the GEC by December 1 in Fall semester and by April 20 in Spring semester.

Students must clear all Incompletes from their records before taking the 50-Book Exam and the Field Exam, and before enrolling in the Dissertation Proposal Workshop.

 Independent Studies: Independent Studies should not replace regular coursework. Students should take no more than 1 Independent Studies in a given year, and no more than 2 of total required courses may be Independent Studies. (Courses taken in other departments and at other universities do not count as Independent Studies and are not subject to these limits.)

Exceptions may be granted with instructor and advisor approval and upon petition to the GEC. Petitions need not be lengthy, but they should demonstrate that the additional Indepentent Study is critical to the student’s progress in the program, and they should include a plan for fulfilling all Distribution Requirements by the end of the student’s second year.

1st Year

  • Take 7 or 8 seminars or grade-bearing independent studies (4 both semesters, or 4 one semester and 3 the other semester), including the required ENGL600 (Proseminar) in the fall-the Proseminar can count as one of these seminars.
  • During spring and summer, prepare for the 50 book-book exam, to be held the day before the start of the fall semester of the second year.
  • Students typically pass at least one language exam by the end of their first year.
  • Students must be registered for at least 3 credits per semester to be considered a full-time student by Graduate Division.
  • No teaching requirements.

2nd Year

  • Take 5 seminars or grade-bearing independent studies (2 during the semester in which students are taking ENGL 800: Pedagogy, 3 during the other semester).
  • All students will be enrolled in ENGL800 (Pedagogy Seminar) during Fall or Spring, depending on their TA assignment.
  • Students must be registered for at least 3 credits per semester to be considered a full-time student by Graduate Division.
  • All students TA one semester and grade one semester. (Graders assist with grading an undergraduate course; TAs assist with grading and run their own weekly recitation section.)
  • Field Exam lists and rationales are due to the Graduate Executive Committee by May 15.

3rd Year

  • Take up to 1 seminar or grade-bearing independent studies. In addition, in the fall all students will be enrolled in ENGL850 (Field List); in the spring, all students will be enrolled in ENGL851 (Dissertation Proposal, representing the workshop taken that semester).
  • Field Exam must be taken by the end of the end of Fall term.
  • Note: All students must have completed 13 grade-bearing seminars or independent studies by the end of their third year. Transfer credits can be counted toward this requirement, but ENGL800, ENGL801, ENGL850, ENGL851, and ENGL999 cannot.
  • Students must be registered for at least 3 credits per semester to be considered a full-time student by Graduate Division.
  • Dissertation Proposal workshop begins in January

Junior Research Seminar Proposals due in February
 Dissertation Proposal due to the Graduate Executive Committee on April 15.

 4th Year

  • Two language exams must be passed by the end of this year.
  • Research and write your dissertation.
  • All fourth-year students teach one semester of the Junior Research Seminar.
  • All fourth-year students should hold a Dissertation Progress Meeting with their full dissertation committee by the end of Spring semester.
  • All fourth-year students should present one dissertation chapter as a WIP to one of our reading groups.

5th Year

  • Research and write your dissertation
  • No teaching requirements.
  • All fifth-year students should hold a Dissertation Progress Meeting with their full dissertation committee by the end of Spring semester.
  • All fifth-year students should present one dissertation chapter as a WIP to one of our reading groups.

6th Year and above

  • Research and write dissertation.
  • All students who will not defend and deposit dissertations at the end of their sixth year should hold yearly Dissertation Progress Meetings with their full dissertation committee by the end of Spring semester.

Check further details on University website

How to Apply

Elements of the Application

1. A personal statement of approximately 1,000 words. The statement should: 1) tell us about your reasons for applying and your relevant prior experience; 2) describe the area(s) of study and debate in which you are interested; and 3) address your particular interest in our program, including professors with whom you would hope to work.

***Note: when completing the online application, please include 1 primary field of study and up to 2 additional fields of interest on the top of the personal statement  from the following list. This designation will ensure that faculty with expertise in your intended field of study evaluate your application materials.***

  • Medieval Literature
  • Early Modern/Renaissance Literature
  • Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British Literature (includes Restoration, Eighteenth Century, Early Romanticism, British Empire Studies)
  • Nineteenth-Century British Literature (includes Later Romanticism, Victorianism, British Empire Studies)
  • Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century British Literature (includes British Modernism, Postwar, Contemporary, British Empire Studies)
  • American Literature through the Nineteenth Century
  • Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century American Literature (includes American Modernism, Postwar, Contemporary)
  • American Studies/Ethnic Studies (Asian American, Latino/a, Native American, Critical Race Studies, Transnational Americas)
  • African American and Afro-diaspora Literature
  • Contemporary Poetry & Poetics
  • Postcolonial Studies (Global South: South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, East Asia)
  • Film, Television, and New Media
  • Gender & Sexuality Studies
  • Material Texts and Digital Humanities

So, for example, a student interested in the 18th-century British novel, colonial discourse, and feminism  would place the following words on the top of her personal statement: "Primary: 18th-Century British Literature-British Empire Studies; Additional: Gender & Sexuality Studies." To take another example, a student interested in studying Latino/a literature, Latin American Literature, and Film would put the following words on the top of her personal statement: "Primary: American Ethnic Studies-Latino/a; Additional: Postcolonial-Latin America and Film/TV/New Media."

Your personal statement will provide specifics, but this general field-of-interest facilitates with the initial evaluation process. If your interest is not among the listed rubrics, please go ahead and list it on the top of your personal statement nonetheless.

 2. A critical writing sample of approximately 20 double-spaced pages is required of both Ph.D. and M.A. applicants. The writing sample must match one of your field interests/concentrations. Although we will accept two papers adding up to 20 pages, we strongly prefer a single, 20-page paper. Font size and style do not matter. Please make sure your name is on each page. Writing samples may be uploaded online via College Net.

 3. Three letters of recommendation. These should be written by professors who know your work and can attest to your academic ability. Please do not submit more than four recommendation letters; personal recommendation letters are strongly discouraged. Three letters of recommendation may be uploaded via College Net. Alternately, hardcopies can be mailed to: The University of Pennsylvania, Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences Admissions, 3401 Walnut Street, Suite 322A, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6228. Note: your recommenders will be able to upload or mail their letters for a brief grace period after the December 15 deadline for the main application.

 4. The GRE General Test is required of all applicants. The GRE Subject Test in Literature is recommended but not required; although scoring well on the Subject Test may help your application, not taking the Subject Test will not adversely affect your application. We do not have a minimum  GRE score requirement, nor do we publicize the average GRE scores of past admittees. The GRE School Code for the University of Pennsylvania is 2926. Although we do not have a department code, your GRE scores will be sent directly to us if you use the University code. You may also have your scores mailed to: The University of Pennsylvania, Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences Admissions, 3401 Walnut Street, Suite 322A, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6228. 

 5. Electronic versions of your academic transcripts must be submitted with your application. You can scan an unofficial copy of your transcript to the application. If accepted, you will then need to provide a final, official paper copy of your transcript before you matriculate.

Check further details on University website

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