Last Updated on January 17, 2023
THE GRADUATE PROGRAM
At a time of rapid transition in the field of literary and cultural studies, we are intent upon sustaining our offerings in traditional historical periods, elaborating those in diverse world literatures, and engaging fully with the spectrum of current theoretical concerns. The University of Virginia is also widely recognized as a leader in digital humanities, an area for which much of the initiative comes from faculty and graduate students in the English department. We take pride in offering graduate study superintended by an internationally renowned faculty.
The Master of Arts Program provides advanced training in literary studies, preparing students for either admission to Ph.D. programs or careers in a variety of fields that require intellectual ingenuity, skills in writing or research, or training in literary criticism and theory. Those who wish to pursue doctoral degrees regularly gain admission to other fine programs. Those seeking careers immediately following the MA have found jobs in secondary teaching, technology, the public sector, business, publishing, and higher education. The MA degree may be completed in three full semesters, though students opting to write an MA thesis often take a fourth semester.
Students may also opt to complete an MA on a part-time basis, so long as they complete the degree within five years. Some students take a full load in their first semester and then finish the degree as a part-time student, but other schedules are possible. Some sample MA timelines may be found here.
Note: The funding of an MA degree can be challenging, as few sources of scholarship support are currently available, either at UVA or nationally. This is a matter of much current concern and discussion in graduate education circles. (See the description, below, of our MA Teaching concentration, a partly funded degree.) Funding issues may impinge on a student’s decision to study full or part time, in that many students take loans that require them to maintain full-time status. All students with loans should contact their lenders directly to understand any implications part-time status might have for them. Moreover, part-time UVA students are currently not eligible to receive student wages, so may not hold student jobs at the university (though this policy is under review and may change). UVA Student Financial Services can help students understand if part-time status is the right financial choice for them.
In addition to our regular MA, we offer several concentrations. The MA in English with a Concentration in Teaching Literature and Writing is a two-year program that provides specialized training in teaching, and, in the second year, teaching opportunities and financial support (tuition, fees, one-person health insurance coverage, and a salary per course). The English Department also offers a Concentration in World Religions, World Literatures, a multidisciplinary and interdepartmental concentration that joins the study of literature and literary theory to the study of religious traditions. In cooperation with the Law School, we offer an interdisciplinary MA in Law and Literature. Our BA/MA program enables selected UVa undergraduates to take graduate courses in their fourth year and go on to complete the MA degree the following year. Interested MA students may choose to earn a certificate in Comparative Literature (contact Prof. Paul Cantor), American Studies, Africana Studies, Gender Studies, Environmental Humanities, or a Digital Humanities certificate. The MA in English is a terminal degree; UVa MA students who apply to the PhD program compete with other transfer applicants.
The PhD program, with its coursework, exams, guided dissertation research, and training in teaching, places graduates in college and university research and teaching positions, in secondary education, and in academic administration, as well as in positions in publishing, consulting, the public sector, private foundations, and journalism—everywhere that research skills, rigorous analysis, and good writing are valued. In addition to their specialized research, interested PhD students may choose to earn a certificate in Comparative Literature (contact Prof. Paul Cantor), American Studies, a certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies, a Certificate in Africana Studies, a certificate in Environmental Humanities, or a Digital Humanities certificate. Financial support, including health insurance and tuition remission, is awarded to all PhD students from the first through the fifth year of study, with students regularly receiving support in the sixth and seventh years of study. As part of their package, PhD students teach one course per semester in years two through four of the program. The fifth year of study is a fully funded year dedicated entirely to writing the dissertation without teaching obligations. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences awards Dissertation Completion Fellowships to select graduate students in the sixth year. These fellowships provide stipend and tuition support and require only half-time teaching, freeing up a significant amount of time for dissertation writing. Students in the English Department have been very successful in winning these fellowships. Beyond this, students may receive tuition remission, fees, and a salary in consideration for teaching in the sixth and seventh years. Government loans and work-study funding are also available. Students typically complete the doctoral degree in six to seven years.
The English Department makes every effort to place its students and has a good record of doing so. Recent recipients of the PhD have found teaching positions at such institutions as Williams College, Illinois, Ohio Wesleyan, Harvard, Virginia Commonwealth University, Bowdoin, Clemson, Iowa, McGill, Nevada, MIT, Dartmouth, Bowling Green, New Mexico State, Penn, North Carolina, Rutgers, Fordham, Tufts, Arizona, Wake Forest, and Berkeley. Find more information about placement and careers in and outside of academia here.
The University library system is a resource of many dimensions. The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library holds a number of remarkable collections of American and British literature. Most noteworthy is the Barrett Library, one of the finest research collections in the world for American literature, including rare books and manuscripts of Cabell, Cather, Crane, Cummings, Eliot, Frost, Harte, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Holmes, Howells, James, Twain, Wharton, and Whitman. Manuscripts in the collection include The Red Badge of Courage, the 1860 Leaves of Grass, and The Sun Also Rises. Other collections of note include the William Faulkner Collection, the unique Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Novels, the Wagelin Collection of American Poetry, the Taylor Collection of American Fiction, and the Tunstall Collection of Poetry. Alderman Library, the largest circulating library on Grounds, is an excellent research facility with a standard working collection suitable for advanced studies across the humanities. The library’s online holdings and well-staffed Scholars’ Lab provide access to a large collection of literary works and advanced computer techniques for working with the texts. In addition, Clemons Library holds an abundant collection of video material and a well-equipped media center. The Department itself is the home of three prize-winning journals: New Literary History, an internationally respected journal of theory and interpretation; Studies in Bibliography, the premier international journal of analytical bibliography and textual study; and Meridian, a student-edited journal of writing.
Students with physical or learning disabilities which may require reasonable accommodation at the University should contact Brad Holland, Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities. Information about the larger University and Charlottesville communities may be found here.
The English Department has three graduate programs: the PhD in English Literature, the terminal MA in English Literature, and the MFA in Creative Writing. You may submit only one application at a time to the English Department. However, if you are applying to the PhD program, you may request in advance that, if not admitted to that program, you be considered for admission to the MA program.
For detailed information about applying to the English Department’s graduate programs in literature, follow the links on the left-hand side of this page. You may also wish to browse the degree requirements for the MA and PhD, or the pages of the Graduate English Student Association (GESA).
For questions about the PhD and MA programs and their application procedures contact Sandhya Shukla, Director of Graduate Admissions. For questions about the MFA program and its application procedures, contact Lisa Spaar, Director of Creative Writing.
Applicants to the PhD program in English with strong interest in Caribbean Studies are encouraged to apply simultaneously to the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship in Caribbean Literatures, Arts and Cultures. In addition to the standard Ph.D. admissions package, the fellowship offers substantial enhancement of the five-year fellowship, membership in the Greater Caribbean Studies Network, a research collaborative led by faculty from multiple disciplines, and enhanced research support and professional development at all stages of doctoral study as you work closely with Caribbeanist faculty mentors. For more information, see the program’s website: https://graduate.as.virginia.edu/caribbean-literatures-arts-and-cultures.