international student reading in the Atrium

Doctoral students in this program are encouraged to develop expertise in literature as both a historical and an evolving practice. Our program prepares you to become a mature scholar/teacher—you can enter college or university teaching or accept professional positions in business, industry, or allied fields requiring the highest levels of analytical and communications skills.

What You Will Learn

Our PhD in English (literature) enables you to connect research and teaching in meaningful ways and to balance breadth of knowledge with your areas of specialization. Faculty encourage your intellectual growth and practical development through courses on pedagogy and professionalism.

Students will learn to:

  • Hone their analytical reading skills.
  • Conduct focused, independent research.
  • Write original, polished, and professional conference- and article-length papers.
  • Develop pedagogical methods, rationales, and course plans.

Our Alumni

Learn more about what our graduate-program alumni do.

Download PDF

What Can You Do with an English Major?

We’re asked this question all the time. Our answer: A lot. You will learn skills that transfer across hundreds of possible careers and industries—some of which may not even exist yet. Our graduates go on to work in marketing, publishing, non-profit fundraising, speechwriting, as well as in countless other fulfilling occupations.

Explore Careers

A student and a professor working together.

Program Benefits

You’ll construct knowledge in close collaboration directly with your classmates and faculty members who boast impressive publication records. Your professors will bring to the classroom their excitement for researching and interpreting the cultural force of literature.

For example, Professor Joyce Huff brings her interdisciplinary specializations in Victorian Literature and Fat Studies to the graduate classroom in her recent Victorian Studies seminar titled, “Victorian Appetites.”

Professor Emily Rutter’s monographs Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line and Constructions of the Blues Muse: Blues Tributes in Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century American Poetry inform her curriculum in seminars with topics including “Correspondences between Poetry and Music” and “African American Literature and Theories of Race.”

Read profiles of our faculty:

Graduate students regularly present at national conferences, including those held by the Modernist Studies Association, the American Literature Association, and the Popular Culture Association.

At a recent Dean Hopper New Scholars Conference focused on Perspectives on Censorship, for example, two of our PhD candidates put together a panel on Peyton Place and Censorship/Gossip. Another PhD student presented on a panel titled “‘Big Books’ of Modernism” at a Modernist Studies Association conference in Pittsburgh. Our students have also participated in workshops on topics such as Shakespeare and Social Class at the Shakespeare Association of America Annual Conference.

This degree emphasizes pedagogy and includes a three-credit class devoted to teaching literature in higher education.

You may also pursue a graduate assistantship with the Writing Program, which has its own robust pedagogy-training program.

Program Requirements

The PhD in English literature includes core courses, literature-focused coursework, a doctoral dissertation, directed electives, and general electives.

Credits Required

Total Graduate Study: 90

  • core courses: 15
  • literature-focused courses: 18
  • doctoral dissertation: 18
  • directed electives: 15
  • general electives: 24

Relevant master’s coursework may be transferred to the degree.


A few of the classes you will take may include:

  • ENG 601 Research in English Studies (Literature)
  • ENG 605 English Teaching in Higher Education
  • ENG 607 Literary Theory
  • Period-based courses in American, British, and World Literature and Film
  • Courses in Diverse Literatures

For a complete list of all the courses you will take and their descriptions, consult our Graduate Catalog.

View Catalog

Comprehensive Examinations

At the completion of coursework, students take written comprehensive examinations. Oral examinations follow the written exams.


Candidates for the PhD must complete a dissertation on an original topic under the guidance of a committee of faculty. The dissertation requires 18 credits in DISS 799.

Paying for Your Education

Department Graduate Scholarships and Assistantships

A graduate assistantship is an excellent opportunity to gain meaningful professional experience while helping cover the costs of your degree. Learn more.

Ready to Apply?

Review our admission requirements, dates and deadlines, and instructions. Then complete our online application.

For consideration, complete applications must be received by February 1st for a Fall semester start date. After February 1st, please contact the department regarding program availability before beginning the application process.

More Information

If you would like to learn more about this program or about Ball State Graduate School in general, please complete our online form to request more information. Or if you’d like to speak with someone in our department directly by phone or email, please contact us.

Related Programs