Department of English


English Language and Literature

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Our PhD Program — Doctor of Philosophy in English

Are you looking for a top-tier degree program with outstanding opportunities in teaching? Our PhD focuses on the individual scholarly and career development of our students; we prioritize mentorship, professionalization and intellectual exchange, and maintain an abiding excitement about our students’ programs of research. The department is small enough that students get to know our faculty, yet large enough to offer expertise in all major historical periods and a wide array of approaches to literary study.
  • Photo: Erin Weinberg, doctoral graduate

    Erin Weinberg, recent doctoral graduate

  • Spring Convocation - Doctoral Graduates

    Spring Convocation - Doctoral Graduates

  • Sarah Kastner, PhD research in Zimbabwe (photo courtesy of Chaka Chikodzi)

    Sarah Kastner, PhD research in Zimbabwe (photo courtesy of Chaka Chikodzi)

  • Katie Hunt, Research Assistant for Dr. Ritchie at Victoria & Albert Museum, London

    Katie Hunt, Research Assistant for Dr. Ritchie at Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Students are assigned a faculty mentor upon entry into the program and provided the opportunity via the Publishing Practicum to develop a paper for publication by the end of their first year of study. Opportunities for professional and pedagogical development proliferate throughout the program, including participation in departmental colloquia, funded conference travel for graduate students, and the potential to teach your own course as a Teaching Fellow in a senior year. Graduates of our doctoral program have excellent rates of success in securing tenure-track appointments and can be found in broad spectrum of rewarding careers throughout the knowledge economy. Learn more on our Alumni News page...

The PhD at a Glance

The Doctoral Program is designed as a 4-year funded program. Some employment or award funding is typically available to students registering for additional terms of study.

In their first year of study, students enrolled in the Doctoral program normally take the following graduate courses:

  • Professional and Pedagogical Skills seminar in the fall term
  • Research Forum with visiting speakers from a variety of fields and career levels in fall and winter terms
  • 2 elective seminars in the fall term
  • 3 elective seminars in the winter term

All graduate students make sure to choose one seminar from each of the three periods:

  • Course Group 1: medieval to 1660
  • Course Group 2: 1600–1900
  • Course Group 3: 1900 to present

One of the courses may be an individual Directed Reading arranged with a supervisor, rather than a seminar. Students are strongly encouraged to take the Publishing Practicum seminar to collaboratively develop writing for publication in winter term. One of the courses may also be taken in a Queen's graduate program other than English, such as Philosophy, Art, or History.  Additional courses may be taken outside the Department with approval of the Graduate Coordinator and School of Graduate Studies.

Please note: The historical distribution requirements have been suspended for 2020-2021.

Comprehensive Examination

At the end of the first year and throughout the second year, students establish their expertise in a major field of study and academic employment as well as a foundation in special area studies relevant to their research interests.  This is the Comprehensive Examination process, which consists of two parts:

  1. The Field Examination covers one major field of literary study in English—historical, national, or theoretical. This written examination involves one four-hour sitting and one take-home paper written in the Fall term of the second year. A reading guide is supplied to assist students in their preparation. Students meet with examiners during the preparatory period. 
  2. The Special Topic Presentation is based on a customized reading plan devised by the student to address a broad issue or cluster of issues of importance to the student's dissertation work. Students work on the STPs during the Winter term of second year and make their presentations to the Department as part of a two-day celebratory event in early May.


In their second year, students submit a Thesis Proposal that maps out their research plan and formalizes their supervisory committee, which consists of a supervisor and second reader. Subsequent years are devoted to writing the dissertation, and with the mentorship of their supervisor and in collaborations with their peers, to a range of opportunities for research presentations and to publication.  When complete, the dissertation is defended at an oral examination, which is normally led by a visiting scholar with special expertise in the field.

Language Requirement

All candidates must demonstrate a reading knowledge of either two languages other than English at a basic level or one at an advanced level, either by passing a departmental examination or by successfully completing an approved university-level, full-year language course.


Doctoral students in Queen's English enjoy an unparalleled introduction to undergraduate teaching in a series of steps with increasing responsibility. In first year, during coursework, doctoral Teaching Assistants grade assignments and meet individually with students, but do not teach regular tutorials; instead they deliver two or three apprenticeship lectures under the supervision of their faculty instructor. In subsequent years TAs have the opportunity to teach their own tutorials for a larger course and, towards the end of the program, there are opportunities to design and instruct their own course as a Teaching Fellow.

Learn more about our graduate courses...

Publishing Practicum

The Publishing Practicum is an initiative of the English Department designed to foster the early professionalization of our MPhil and PhD students and to provide a competitive advantage in the academic job market and national scholarship competitions. This seminar takes students through the revision and submission stages of scholarly publishing from draft essay to academic article with the goal of achieving a publishable piece by the end of the student’s first year of doctoral study.

The Publishing Practicum course at Queen’s has been completely invaluable to my development as a scholar, not only academically, but (somewhat unexpectedly) socially as well. By the end of my first year of doctoral studies, I not only came away with a paper all but ready for publication, but I was able to benefit from reading and commenting on the work of my peers. The course works to make the process of seeking publication less nebulous by teaching us how to approach journals, how to deal with the revision process, and what ‘academic writing’ itself actually means.

Lindsay Young, PhD Student

Queen’s Publishing Practicum served as a key learning experience in my ongoing professional transition from graduate student to scholar and researcher. The course’s combination of theoretical and practical components effectively allowed me to familiarize myself with the academic publishing landscape in a fashion tailored to my own research interests… Participating in the practicum demystified the academic publishing process for me and concluded with concrete output that sets me up well for pursuing publication of academic articles going forward.

Robyn Carruthers, PhD Student

Special Topic Presentations

The Special Topic Presentations (STPs) are part of the department’s PhD Comprehensive Examination. With the guidance of two faculty advisors, students identify an historically or conceptually broad issue that relates to their dissertation project; devise a substantial reading list related to that issue; produce an annotated bibliography; and make a presentation to the Department regarding some of the ideas the reading has permitted them to explore.


Special Topic Presentations

3 May 2021


Rachel Friars: "I never knew that there were girls like her": Locating the Lesbian in the Neo-Victorian Novel

Natasha Lomonossoff: Radical Pragmatism: The Role of Moderation in Two of Anna Barbauld's Political Pamphlets