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Graduate Program

Letter from the Graduate Chair

To All Current and Prospective Graduate Students:

Welcome to the virtual home of the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. On these pages, current as well as prospective students will find detailed information about graduate study in English at Penn.

The 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. Over seventy graduate students enjoy close interaction with thirty-seven internationally renowned faculty members in the Department who teach and publish on a large number of historical periods, theoretical areas, and methodological approaches. 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 Department culture reflects our commitment to fostering an inclusive environment that is at once challenging and supportive. We recognize that success in our profession requires more than taking courses, passing exams, writing a dissertation, attending conferences, and publishing articles; it also involves the recognition that we produce new knowledge collectively. Accordingly, we consider our graduate students full members of the Department and encourage everyone to take an active role in the intellectual and social community of the Department as well as other programs and departments across campus. We convene an array of reading and discussion groups that bring together faculty and graduate students throughout the year; we host numerous Department lectures by leading scholars from across the world; we encourage graduate students to take leading roles in planning conferences and symposia; and we include graduate students in a range of Department gatherings, dinners, and other intellectual and social events.

We also support and value our Graduate English Association, which acts as a forum for graduate students to provide advice and support, to organize workshops, to help one another through all stages of the program, to discuss graduate concerns and initiatives with faculty and administration, and to plan various social events. Since most of our Ph.D. students plan to become professors, the Department provides extensive pedagogical training and mentorship. All Ph.D. candidates teach at least three semesters while working toward their degrees. Second-year English Ph.D. students assist professors with teaching and grading in undergraduate courses and enroll in a semester-long pedagogy seminar; fourth-year English Ph.D. students design and teach a Junior Research Seminar in their own field of specialization while attending a series of pedagogy workshops. In addition to these official requirements, Ph.D. students have other opportunities to assist with and teach courses at Penn and beyond, and each year we offer teaching and mentoring workshops on special topics led by professors and graduate students.

The Department recognizes 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. This award, the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, gives students a generous yearly stipend and covers all tuition, fees, and health insurance. In addition, Ph.D. candidates are eligible for many travel grants for conference presentations and archival research, and the University offers a number of competitive sixth-year funding opportunities for dissertation completion. Regrettably, no financial aid is available for our M.A. students, whether in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships.

In the last year of the Ph.D. program, most doctoral candidates apply for academic jobs, and the Department provides extensive assistance and support to students at this crucial stage of their careers. We are proud of our placement record, which is among the best in the country. Graduates of our Ph.D. program 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 those who have chosen careers in library and digital services, in the publishing industry, in teaching at the secondary level, and in management consulting, to name just a few of the alternate paths graduates of the Department have taken.

Graduate school is full of many surprises, but there is one thing of which you can be sure: Your time in our Department will be one of intellectual growth and excitement. By the end you will have made an original and important contribution to your field of scholarly expertise. We cannot promise you that earning a Ph.D. or M.A. in Department of English will be an entirely smooth or always pleasurable process. The work and effort required is difficult and at times daunting. However, I promise you that we will do everything to support you as you work toward an advanced degree in English and prepare for a brilliant and rewarding career beyond graduate school.

Sincerely yours,

David L. Eng
Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and Graduate Chair


Graduate Teaching Awards

Our graduate students are regularly recognized as excellent teachers. See right for a few recent winners, or view a full list of our award winners.

  • Laura Soderberg

    Sweeten Award

  • Bronwyn V. Wallace

    Graduate Fellowship for Teaching Excellence from the Centre for Teaching and Learning