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Whether you're considering law, medicine, advertising, teaching, or journalism, a background in English can offer you a good foundation for a future career. Majoring in English, you gain strong critical reading, analytical thinking, focused research, and precise writing skills.

The Department of English roots its Graduate Program in recognition of the African Diaspora as a founding event of modern history and culture. The courses of the Department address such fundamental literary issues as genre and period formation, authorial techniques, rhetorical strategies, thematic motifs, and critical theories. Attention to these issues is intended to foster the skills in critical reading, research, and analysis requisite to professional careers in the language arts. At the same time, the Program generally conceives its offerings within paradigms of the changes wrought by conflict, accommodation, and adjustment in the passage from traditional to modern and contemporary ways of life and writing. 

Substantive specialization may be gained in the various periods of African American, American, British, and Caribbean literatures, as well as in comparative studies among those fields and in Literary Theory. In addition, the Graduate Program in English takes inspiration from the heritage of eloquence in those literatures and designs its courses and requirements so that our graduates will possess uncommon skills in writing. 

The Department seeks to sustain a community of learning where students, under the direction of the faculty, participate with their peers—and the faculty too—in creative scholarship and lively interchange centering upon the significance of literature. Toward that end, the Graduate Program demands that students read widely in the literatures written in English, become familiar with the research and critical problems generated within the fields we offer, and produce work that contributes to our collective knowledge. 

The Department of English awards the Doctor of Philosophy in English. 

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Admission Requirements

Fall Start Date: Dec 1: early review deadline; March 15: applications due 
Spring Start Date: September 15 applications due.

To be accepted into the Graduate Program in English, students must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a GPA of at least 3.0 or B. In addition, students must meet the University requirement to take the Graduate Record Examination (and the TOEFL if applicable), have submitted letters of recommendation from persons in position to evaluate their academic work, and forwarded a sample of their analytic writing (preferably a graded critical paper).

Because graduate study in English builds upon students’ previously acquired knowledge of literature, applicants who were neither English majors nor minors as undergraduates will discover advanced study to be unusually rigorous. Provisional admission is possible, when the applicant’s undergraduate record is otherwise outstanding, but provisional admission bears with it a stipulation that a student in the first year of enrollment must meet special standards set by the Department of English.


Degree Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy

A student must complete a minimum of 72 credit hours. Students admitted directly into the doctoral program with only a B.A. must abide by the rules and regulations applicable to Ph.D. students and are urged to take the doctoral qualifying examinations no later than their third year of matriculation. A student must take ENGG 200 and ENGG 201 the first semester that each course is offered. Students should consult the department handbook and/or the Director of Graduate Studies for the full program of study.

The student is advised that, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Graduate School, course viability for students enrolled in the Ph.D. program is seven years; extenuations are detailed in the official Rules and Regulations for the Pursuit of Academic Degrees, published by the Graduate School, which states that "under no circumstances…may a student receive credit toward the degree for a course which the student pursued more than ten (10) years prior to the time the student presents himself or herself for the final examination.” 

A student must also pass a language examination in a field of study approved by the department.

Each student will be required to pass a Ph.D. qualifying examination devised and administered by the Department of English. The Department reserves the right to determine the stage at which a student may take this examination, which will be given once a semester, in January and August of each academic year, and which will be administered during the summer session only by special permission and only to students enrolled at Howard University during the prior spring semester. A student who fails the Ph.D. qualifying examination a second time will not be allowed to continue work for the Ph.D. degree.

To be admitted to candidacy, a student must first make a formal written request to the graduate program director, who will assign a major adviser and an advisory committee; must receive formal approval of the dissertation topic; must present a prospectus for approval by the assigned dissertation adviser, other members of the advisory committee, the graduate program director, and the chairman of the department. In addition, a student must satisfactorily complete a preliminary oral examination on the prospectus, failure of which may result in the student's not being allowed to continue work in the Ph.D. program. 

If at any time the majority of the student's dissertation committee determines that the student is progressing unsatisfactorily on the dissertation, the student may be dropped from the Ph.D. program. The decision will be made only with the advice and consent of the majority of the members of the graduate faculty in the department upon recommendation from the dissertation committee.

Admission to Candidacy

A student should file for admission to candidacy after 12 hours of work has been completed and this student has satisfied the GSAS writing proficiency requirement. Forms provided by the dean should be filed a semester before graduation and approved by the student's thesis committee and the Executive Committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Residence Requirements

Students in the Ph.D. program are required to spend at least three semesters in full-time residence, two of which must be consecutive.

Caution to Prospective Students

The Board of Trustees of Howard University on September 24, 1983, adopted the following policy statement regarding applications for admission: "Applicants seeking admission to Howard University are required to submit accurate and complete credentials and accurate and complete information requested by the University. Applicants who fail to do so shall be denied admission. Enrolled students who as applicants failed to submit accurate and complete credentials or accurate and complete information on their application for admission shall be subject to dismissal when the same is made known, regardless of classification."

All credentials must be sent to:

Howard University Graduate School 
Office of Graduate Recruitment and Admissions
2400 Sixth Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20059