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Doctor of Philosophy in English

Program Overview

The doctor of philosophy in English program is specialized to develop research skills, critical thinking, and writing proficiency. Its main objective is to prepare students for careers in teaching English at the college or university level, as well as in writing, editing, and publishing.

The traditional Ph.D. focuses on literary study, although a concentration of six credits may be earned in composition studies. Each student chooses three areas in which to specialize:

  • A chronological period
  • A literary genre
  • Either an additional chronological period, a major author, or a special topic approved by the student’s advisory committee.

Coursework is devoted to developing a high degree of professional expertise in these three areas of specialization. Such knowledge is tested in a qualifying examination and is also the basis upon which the student writes a doctoral dissertation.

Tailor Your Education With a Subplan Focus

The program also offers three subplans for students to choose from: post-bachelor’s, post-master’s, and creative dissertation. Each subplan caters to our students’ diverse academic backgrounds and career aspirations.

The post-bachelor's subplan provides a comprehensive path for those entering the program directly after their undergraduate studies. Students embark on an enriching academic journey designed to deepen their expertise in English literary studies.Throughout the program, students sharpen critical thinking and analytical skills by engaging with complex texts and literary theories. They also enhance their research abilities, learning to conduct thorough and original investigations into literary topics. Additionally, students improve their writing proficiency, producing clear, coherent, and persuasive academic papers. The program also fosters strong communication skills, as students regularly participate in discussions and presentations.

The post-master's subplan is tailored for students who have already earned a master's degree and wish to delve deeper into advanced topics. It's designed to help students deepen their knowledge of English studies through advanced scholarship and research. Students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills by engaging with intricate literary texts and advanced theoretical frameworks. They also refine their research capabilities, mastering techniques for conducting comprehensive and original scholarly investigations. Additionally, students enhance their academic writing proficiency, crafting detailed, articulate, and well-supported dissertations and research papers. The program further develops their expertise in synthesizing complex ideas and communicating them effectively through presentations and academic discourse.

In collaboration with the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute, our department offers the doctorate of philosophy in English with a creative dissertation. This program is supported by a graduate assistantship and the Black Mountain Institute fellowship, and it also requires students to declare a genre concentration in poetry, fiction, or literary nonfiction.

The three-year course of studies, focusing on English and American Literature with the option of Comparative Literature, includes mentored work in creative writing, a qualifying examination, and a creative dissertation. Notably, Ph.D. candidates also have the exciting opportunity to gain hands-on experience in literary publishing as editors of Witness.

Past program fellows include:

  • Joe Milan, Jr.
  • Olivia Claire
  • Wendy Wimmer
  • Maegan Poland
  • Leia Penina Wilson
  • David Armstrong
  • Alissa Nutting
  • Oscar Oswald
  • Matt Shears
  • Vu Tran
  • Heather Winterer

Please note: Two new Ph.D. BMI Fellows are admitted each year, in alternating genres. Our current admissions schedule is to admit students for entering classes as follows: Literary Nonfiction – 2024, 2025; Fiction – 2025, 2026; Poetry – 2024, 2026. Applications for a genre not in the admissions rotation will be returned.

Funding and Graduate Assistantships

Graduate Assistantships

All program applicants are eligible to apply for graduate assistantship (GA) funding. The current GA stipend for Ph.D. students in English is $21,000. In order to be eligible for a GA position, the student must be fully admitted as a degree-seeking graduate student. New students may not begin their GA before their term of admission.

The graduate assistantships application must be submitted through the Grad Rebel Gateway, and the deadline is the same as for the program itself. View the Graduate College's Deadlines page for more information.

Ph.D. BMI Fellows

All Ph.D. BMI fellows are supported by the Ph.D. stipend of $21,000 plus an additional $9,000 fellowship from the Black Mountain Institute, for a direct financial support package of $30,000 plus covered in-state tuition and health insurance.

Scholarship Opportunities

The English Department and the College of Liberal Arts proudly offer multiple scholarships to help students achieve their academic goals. Scholarship offerings for graduate students include the following:

For more information, visit the College of Liberal Arts' Grants, Scholarships & Awards page.

Experience a Dynamic Student Experience

Activities and Events with the Black Mountain Institute

The UNLV Department of English has a longstanding relationship with the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute (BMI). This allows our students to receive opportunities to engage in creative and literary activities with visiting BMI fellows in socially meaningful literary events for the city of Las Vegas and its greater community.

See the Black Mountain Institute's website for more information.

Academic and Literacy Journals

The Department of English publishes the acclaimed journals Melus and The Popular Culture Review, giving students hands-on experience with literary publishing.

Admission Requirements

All applicants must possess a B.A. in English or a related field from a regionally accredited university. Applicants to the Post-Master's Literature subplan must possess an M.A. in English or a related field from a regionally accredited institution with at least 21 graduate credits and a graduate GPA of 3.50 or better. Applicants to the Creative Dissertation subplan may possess either an M.A. in English or a related field as stated above or an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from an accredited institution.

Applicants must submit the following:

  • A statement of purpose 
  • Unofficial transcripts/Official transcripts 
  • Three letters of recommendation 
  • For the literature Ph.D., a writing sample of 15-20 pages 
  • For the Ph.D. with Creative Dissertation, a sample of fiction, literary nonfiction, or poetry, of 40-100 pages


For more information, you may email unlvenglishgradprogram@unlv.edu or contact John Hay, director of graduate studies, at john.hay@unlv.edu.