The graduate program in English and American literature at Washington University in St. Louis is innovative, approachably sized, and generously funded, with all eight incoming students receiving full tuition scholarships plus University Fellowships worth more than $22,220 in the 2016-17 academic year. Our faculty includes Guggenheim Fellows, winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A participant in the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, we exemplify an integrated community of scholars and writers, and are home to one of the top ten MFA programs in the U.S. We sponsor multiple reading groups, regular faculty and student colloquia, and an extensive lecture series. The Hurst Visiting Professorship brings eight or more distinguished creative and critical voices to the department each year for public lectures and small workshops. Recent Hurst Professors have included Jerome McGann, Jed Esty, Charles Altieri, Carla Kaplan, Michael Wood, James Longenbach, Peter Coviello, Daniel Vitkus, Rita Felski, and Rita Copeland. In fall 2016, the department will host Adam Potkay and Charles Taylor as visiting Hurst Professors.
While our program is rooted in the materials of literary history, medieval to post-postmodern, interdisciplinarity is more than an aspirational slogan here. It is no accident that English faculty members founded both the university’s American Culture Studies major and its Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities, or that our professors have headed the campus-wide Center for the Humanities and the Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry postdoctoral program endowed by the Mellon Foundation. Many of our classes are designed to promote movement across humanities units and disciplines, from History to Comparative Literature, African American Studies to the recently established Center on Religion and Politics. As a complement to their grounding in Anglophone literature, our PhD students may earn certificates in American Culture Studies, Film and Media Studies, Translation Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Data Science in the Humanities. The Humanities Digital Workshop, co-directed by an English professor, offers summer fellowships during which graduate students design and build digital humanities projects alongside Washington University faculty.
We believe that intellectual community is fostered by such concrete working relationships between professors and students and offer collaborative teaching opportunities with experienced faculty. No student is required to teach during his or her first two years of graduate study, however. Without exception, admitted students are funded through fellowships during their four semesters of required coursework. Starting in their fifth semester, students teach one course per term in intimate classes capped at fifteen. Teaching assistantships and co-teaching positions in advanced undergraduate literature classes then follow. In their fifth or sixth year, PhD candidates are awarded a one-year dissertation writing fellowship freeing them from all other service. Graduate students in good standing can expect six years of full funding in all. A detailed year-by-year account of the course of the PhD program can be found in our English Graduate Student Handbook.
To assist students seeking faculty positions, we offer the year-round assistance of an English Graduate Placement Committee led by two professors. Since 2008, the inaugural year of the grim, Great Recession-tightened academic job market, at least 18 of our PhDs have accepted tenure-track jobs at colleges and universities including Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, St. Andrews University in Scotland, St. John’s University in Minnesota, Trinity University in Texas, Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the University of Alabama at Huntsville, the University of North Dakota, and the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. Other post-2008 graduates have won highly competitive postdoctoral fellowships at University College, Oxford, and the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies in Berlin. Still others have taken recurring non-tenure-track teaching positions at Bucknell University, New York University, Tulane University, and the University of Texas at Austin. Our most recent PhDs have also entered non-academic careers from corporate communications to labor organizing. We believe that we are relatively successful in placement because of the unusual level of support we offer in the first critical years of graduate work, and because of our faculty’s commitment to careful mentoring in the years beyond them. The long-term value of such mentoring can be measured in the publication records of our PhDs, several of whom have issued books with major university presses including Cambridge, Notre Dame, Oxford, and Yale.
We would be pleased to have you visit Washington University in St. Louis—founded by T. S. Eliot’s paternal grandfather in 1853 and ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the nation’s nineteenth best national university in 2017. Ours is a beautiful Collegiate Gothic campus adjacent to Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. Both are set within a historic gateway city that features several major art museums, a noted symphony orchestra and jazz scene, and any number of good restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, and bars (not to mention a famous Major League Baseball stadium). Housing here is varied, plentiful, and comparatively inexpensive. (As of January 2017, the average monthly rent of a one-bedroom apartment in St. Louis was $650-850). For several of these reasons, a 2017 Princeton Review survey placed Washington University at number 15 among all U.S. universities for the quality of student life.
Contact the Director of Graduate Studies:
Department of English
Campus Box 1122
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899