University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Berkeley English Department offers a wide-ranging PhD program, engaging in all historical periods of British and American literature, Anglophone literature, and critical and cultural theory. The program aims to assure that students gain a broad knowledge of literature in English as well as the highly-developed skills in scholarship and criticism necessary to do solid and innovative work in their chosen specialized fields.

Please note that the department does not offer a master’s degree program or a degree program in Creative Writing. Students can, however, petition for an MA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing upon completion of the PhD course requirements (one of which must be a graduate writing workshop) and submission of a body of creative work.

Students interested in combining a PhD in English with studies in another discipline may pursue Designated Emphases or Concurrent Degrees in a number of different fields

Visit Department Website


Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. A complete list of graduate academic departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

The doctoral degree requires satisfactory completion of the following five requirements:

1)  Thirteen courses undertaken in graduate status at Berkeley;

2)  Course work in a broad range of fields of English and American literature;

3)  Demonstration of competence in two foreign languages, or advanced knowledge of one,

relevant to the student's research interests;

4)  An oral qualifying examination;

5)  A prospectus and dissertation.

The normative time to complete the doctoral program is six years (twelve semesters).


The general goal of the first two years of the program is to assure that the student has a broad and varied knowledge of the fields of British, American, and Anglophone literature in their historical dimensions, and is also familiar with a wide range of literary forms, critical approaches, and scholarly methods. A coherent demonstration of this knowledge is the aim of the course and breadth requirements and of the system of regular advising and evaluation of student work. At the end of the two-year period, the student's record is reviewed in its entirety in order to ascertain whether they are able and ready to proceed to the qualifying examination and the more specialized phase of Ph.D. study.

Students will complete twelve 4-unit graduate-level courses, and remove all incomplete grades, before taking the qualifying examination. A required thirteenth course in reading and composition pedagogy may be taken later. The distribution of the twelve courses is as follows:

1)  ENGLISH 200, "Problems in the Study of Literature"

2)  Medieval through Sixteenth Century

3)  Seventeenth through Eighteenth Century

4)  Nineteenth Century

5)  Twentieth Century

6)  A course organized in terms other than chronological coverage (special problems, theory, minority

discourse, etc.)

7-12) Elective courses

At least seven courses must be drawn from English Department offerings; however, students are strongly encouraged to take courses offered in other departments, in part to work with outside faculty members who may later serve on qualifying exam and dissertation committees. Courses offered for 3 units in other departments may be approved as electives at the Graduate Chair’s discretion. At least one course must be an English 250 seminar, requiring a substantial piece of writing. Four courses (#2-#5 above) will be devoted to fulfilling the historical breadth requirement.

Upper-division or graduate courses in a foreign language may count toward the twelve-course requirement, whether they also are used to fulfill the language requirement or not.

Independent Study: Up to two independent studies, ENGLISH 298 (Directed Reading) courses, may count toward the twelve-course requirement, with the approval of the Graduate Chair. English 298s should meet on a regular basis; instructors should provide a course description and a sequence of readings at the beginning of the semester, and should assign at least twenty pages of student writing over the course of the semester. With the consent of the instructor, students may also enroll in English 298s in conjunction with undergraduate upper-division lecture courses (100-series courses) and when employed as Readers for undergraduate courses. Reading and writing assignments should be commensurate with those of standard graduate seminars.

Students wishing to engage in independent study courses with English Department Faculty may petition the Director of Graduate Studies for approval. The student must submit a plan of reading and writing, as well as approval from the instructor. In the case of an independent study taken in conjunction with an upper-division undergraduate course, the student may provide a syllabus and a list of any additional readings. Once approved, the GSAO will email a Class Number to the student which can be used to enroll via CalCentral.

Students who have completed graduate-level course work at other institutions may submit a written petition to the Graduate Chair requesting that specific courses be considered for credit (transferred) toward satisfying course and breadth requirements. The petition should provide a brief description of the course(s) to be considered. In no case will such credit be given for more than three courses.

ENGLISH 200, "Problems in the Study of Literature," is taken by entering students in the fall semester. Students who have done previous graduate work elsewhere may petition for a waiver of English 200 by submitting to the Graduate Chair a letter describing an equivalent course they have successfully completed, reviewing any research projects already done in graduate courses, and enclosing a transcript.

All courses fulfilling the course requirement, except for the pedagogy course, must be taken for a letter grade. (So must Independent Study/Directed Research courses numbered 298.) Any additional courses in which students enroll may be taken for a grade of Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, including lower-division language courses taken in preparation for satisfying the language requirement.

In addition to the twelve courses that must be completed before the qualifying examination, each student must take ENGLISH 375, “The Teaching of Composition and Literature" (or its equivalent in a comparable department, under special circumstances). This course must be taken no later than the semester in which the student first serves as a Graduate Student Instructor, typically in the fall semester of the third year. This requirement may be waived, with permission from the Graduate Chair, if the student has acquired significant teaching experience before entering the program.


A student must take one course at the graduate level in the Department of English from each of the following four historical groups:

1)  Medieval through Sixteenth Century (British);

2)  Seventeenth through Eighteenth Century (British and/or American);

3)  Nineteenth Century (British, American, and/or Anglophone);

4) Twentieth Century (British, American, and/or Anglophone).

The courses satisfying these four groups must include at least one course in American literature, but no more than two such courses. No more than one group is to be satisfied by a course in Anglophone literature.

No single course may be used to satisfy more than one group. A student may satisfy a group with a course that covers material in more than one group, provided that the main emphasis of their work in the course falls on material in the relevant group. In such a case or in any case where ambiguity might arise, the student should ask the instructor to indicate which group the student's work has satisfied.

If an Old English course is used in partial satisfaction of the language requirement, it cannot also count as satisfying the requirement of a course in group 1.

One independent study course, English 298, may be used to fulfill a breadth requirement, contingent on prior approval of the Graduate Chair. No more than two groups may be satisfied by graduate-level courses completed at other institutions (transfer courses).

Information About Courses

All information regarding courses may be found on the following websites:

The Berkeley Academic Guide, http://guide.berkeley.edu/courses/
The Online Schedule of Classes, http://classes.berkeley.edu/
English Department Course offerings and descriptions, http://english.berkeley.edu/courses/


For the Ph.D. in English, the student must demonstrate either:

1)  Proficiency in two approved foreign languages; at least one of these must be satisfied by exam; or

2)  Advanced knowledge in one approved foreign language.

Before the review of course work at the end of the second year, a student is expected to have been certified as proficient in at least one approved language. The student must complete the entire language requirement before taking the oral qualifying examination.

There are no "canonical languages" in the program. Rather, each new Ph.D. candidate will prepare a brief "Preliminary Rationale for Language Study" indicating the manner in which they intend to fulfill the language requirement; this rationale is subject to approval by the Chair of Language Exams. The student's statement will specify which languages are to count, how they relate to the student's intellectual interests, and on which level (proficiency or advanced) the competence in each language is to be demonstrated. If the student believes that part of the requirement has already been met by recent course work (see below), the rationale should also include that information.

The Graduate Division will accept any natural language with a system of writing if the department certifies that the language has scholarly value in the field; if the language is integral to the training of a particular student; and, if a member of the Berkeley academic senate qualified to administer the examination is available. Each student selects the language(s) used to satisfy this requirement from a set of languages certified by the Graduate Council. Students may substitute an uncertified language only if the Graduate Chair makes such a request and it is approved by the Dean of the Graduate Division.

Proficiency is understood as the ability to translate (with a dictionary) a passage of about 300 words into idiomatic English prose in ninety minutes. Copies of past examinations are available through the Graduate Resources section of the department website. Proficiency examinations are given three times annually, during the third week of instruction in the Fall and Spring semesters and at the end of the Spring semester. (Please note the specific information announced each term by the Graduate Office.) A student has the option of not handing in the examination. Examinations passed elsewhere will not be accepted in fulfillment of this requirement.

The language requirement can be met, wholly or in part, through prior or current course work. A student who has successfully completed one upper-division or graduate literature course in a language approved by the Graduate Chair may count that language toward fulfillment of the proficiency requirement. The same credit can be given for successful completion of a course after enrollment at Berkeley. In the case of Old English, however, two upper-division or graduate courses are needed. In the case of Latin or Greek, the proficiency requirement may be satisfied by completing the Summer Workshop with a grade of "B" or better.

Advanced knowledge in an approved language will be granted if a student passes an advanced language exam or successfully completes a number of upper-division or graduate courses in the literature of that language. For the exam, advanced knowledge is understood as the ability to translate (without a dictionary) a passage of about 1,000 words into idiomatic English prose in three hours. According to Graduate Division standards, students must demonstrate an exceptionally thorough reading knowledge and an adequate knowledge of the grammatical structure of the language. To satisfy the advanced requirement by coursework, a student must have completed:

1)  Three upper-division or graduate courses taken prior to enrollment at Berkeley;

2)  Two such courses taken after enrollment at Berkeley; or

3)  Two such courses taken prior to enrollment at Berkeley plus one such course taken at Berkeley thereafter.

In order to be counted toward either proficiency or advanced credit, a given course (whether current or prior) must be passed with a grade of "B" or better. Prior courses must normally have been taken within four years of enrollment at Berkeley. Courses in which the foreign literature is read in English cannot be counted toward the requirement. If there is any other compelling evidence of linguistic competence, such as a record of published translations, the student may petition the Graduate Chair for credit in this language.


The Graduate Chair serves as Director of Graduate Studies and as the head graduate adviser for all students in every phase of the program. The Graduate Chair is available for consultation during regularly scheduled office hours and by appointment. The Graduate Chair provides final departmental approval for all programmatic matters, including satisfaction of the course and language requirements, fields for the qualifying exam, and the dissertation prospectus, as well as for various administrative and bureaucratic matters. The Graduate Chair will hold a mandatory meeting with each incoming student during orientation week to review requirements and discuss strategies for fulfilling them over the next two years. One function of this meeting will be to inform students of faculty members who share their academic interests and, in turn, inform faculty members of students being directed their way. In addition, the Graduate Chair will serve as the Second-Year Review adviser for students who have not already chosen an orals adviser. The Graduate Student Affairs Officer also serves as an adviser regarding the technical details of the program’s requirements and for administrative and bureaucratic matters.

All entering students will be assigned a faculty mentor to give additional guidance on course work, language requirements, and professional development in the first two years of the program. There is no expectation that first-year mentors will serve on an advisee's qualifying exam or dissertation committee, though they may serve. Mentors will be assigned by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the Admissions Committee Chair.

The Second-Year Review

Graduate Students in their fourth semester must complete the ‘Second-Year Review of Course Work’ form to record their completed course work and delineate the satisfaction of the program’s course and language requirements; the form also asks students to identify an orals adviser. Students who have not identified an orals adviser will meet with the Graduate Chair. Along with the ‘Second-Year Review of Course Work’ form, students also will consult the ‘Second-Year Review Adviser's Guide,’ a series of questions aimed at focusing the conversation between a student and their adviser.

After completing the ‘Second-Year Review of Course Work’ form, the student will arrange a meeting with their orals adviser or the Graduate Chair. At this meeting, the adviser will review with the student the completed review form and work with the student to develop a plan for fulfilling any course or language requirement not yet satisfied. With the help of the ‘Second-Year Review Adviser’s Guide,’ the adviser will also discuss academic goals with the student, advising the student on how to refine and meet these goals, and addressing any apparent obstacles to the student’s progress. The adviser may help the student preliminarily to determine historical fields and a specific area of interest for the qualifying exam and dissertation.

At the end of the meeting, the adviser (or the Graduate Chair) will sign the student’s review form and comment briefly on the outcome of the meeting. The student will submit the signed form to the Graduate Office. The Graduate Chair will, in the case of a student who has made only uncertain progress toward fulfillment of the program’s requirements, arrange to meet with the student and the review adviser to determine the conditions under which the student might proceed to the Ph.D. oral qualifying examination.

PLEASE NOTE: It is essential that any incomplete grades be removed at the earliest possible date. Incompletes can keep the student from advancing to the qualifying exam and adversely affect the student's chances for fellowships, teaching appointments, and readerships. For courses taken since the fall of 2016, an instructor may submit incomplete grades through CalCentral. Incomplete grades for courses taken prior to fall 2016 are changed by petition, which should be submitted to the instructor with the final work for the course. The instructor sends this petition to the Registrar once a course grade is assigned.

The M.A. Degree for Students in the Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program has no comprehensive M.A. requirement. Doctoral students who wish to take the M.A. because they have decided to leave the Ph.D. program or in transit to the Ph.D. as an additional credential for a specific professional opportunity may do so in one of the following ways:

1)  By writing an M.A. thesis; or

2)  By passing a written M.A. examination

Students who select the thesis option must fulfill the historical breadth requirement and complete at least 20 total units with a minimum overall grade-point average of 3.0. The thesis must be directed and approved by a three-member faculty committee configured as follows: a Chair (English Dept.); a second inside reader (English Dept.); a reader from outside the English Dept. (this is preferred, but not required and may be replaced by a third English Dept. reader). The thesis must also conform to Graduate Division guidelines: https://grad.berkeley.edu/academic-progress/thesis/.

Students who select the written examination option must fulfill the historical breadth requirement and complete at least 24 total units with a minimum overall grade-point average of 3.0. Students must petition to take the exam, by written request of the Graduate Chair, before the end of the fifth week of the semester. Students select one historical field on which to be examined and may submit a brief written statement describing specific interest(s) within that field. The Graduate Chair appoints two faculty members who each write two broadly conceived questions, from which the student selects two to answer, for an eight-hour open-book exam. The exam is sent electronically by the graduate office to the student at an agreed upon time and the student must return their essays electronically within eight hours. Both faculty members grade the exam; in cases of disagreement, a third faculty member will be consulted.

The M.A. with Emphasis in Creative Writing for Students in the Ph.D. Program

For students interested in writing a creative M.A. thesis, the Graduate Program requires enrollment in the English Ph.D. program (see below for exceptions), enrollment in an English 243 seminar, and a proposal, to be submitted by the student to two thesis advisors who have agreed to advise the thesis and to the chair of the department’s Creative Writing Committee.

The two thesis advisors should include a director (a member of the English department faculty) and a second reader. At least one advisor should be a faculty member whose primary expertise is creative writing. The other may be from a traditional scholarly field. The proposal should be 500-1000 words long, should describe a field of concern and/or an initial argument for the thesis, and should include a projected completion date for the thesis. When the proposal has been approved, the Creative Writing Committee Chair will send it to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer, who will add the M.A. as a degree goal for the student in CalCentral.

The student should meet regularly with the thesis director to examine drafts of the work and discuss the progress of the project. The final shape and genre of the thesis are to be decided by the student and the thesis director. The thesis in toto should be of substantive length, but it may comprise a group of discrete and connected pieces or sustain a single project. A critical introduction is optional.

Once the completed thesis has been approved by both thesis advisors, the director will inform the Creative Writing Committee Chair, who will notify the Graduate Student Affairs Officer. The Graduate Student Affairs Officer will complete the M.A. degree goal in CalCentral.

Students enrolled in other UC Berkeley doctoral programs may petition the Graduate Chair in English for admission to English in pursuit of the Creative M.A. This petition should include the 500-1000 word proposal described above, a note of recommendation from the Head Graduate Advisor of their own department, and a note of agreement from a faculty member in the English department to direct the thesis. Admissions requirements and decisions will be made by an ad hoc committee comprised of the Graduate Chair, the Admissions Chair, and the Creative Writing Committee Chair. Such students, once admitted, remain subject to all other degree requirements above. Units counted toward the Creative M.A. may not be counted toward any other master’s degree.

Questions about procedure should be directed to the current Creative Writing Committee Chair.


Students who have fulfilled all course and language requirements may proceed to the oral qualifying examination. Students are expected to take the qualifying examination by the end of the third year. This is considered normative time by the department and the Graduate Division.

Contiguous fields from this list, or any single field and a related field in Comparative Ethnic and/or Anglophone Literatures (field 14). In many instances, the fields are contiguous if their numbers are consecutive. Contiguity can also be established by crossing national borders; thus, for example, field 4 (Seventeenth Century through Milton) is deemed contiguous with field 10 (American Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries). Students with special research interests must petition to the Graduate Chair for approval to declare two non-contiguous fields.

The Qualifying Examination consists of three parts of approximately equal time, which should be about thirty minutes each. Two of these parts examine students on each of their two historically defined fields, chosen from the list below — namely any two:

  1. Old English
  2. Middle English
  3. Sixteenth Century
  4. Seventeenth Century through Milton
  5. Restoration and Early Eighteenth Century
  6. Later Eighteenth Century
  7. Romantic
  8. Victorian
  9. British Twentieth Century
  10. American 17th- & 18th- Centuries
  11. American Nineteenth Century
  12. American Twentieth Century
  13. Contemporary
  14. Comparative Ethnic and/or Anglophone Literatures

When constructing a reading list in a selected field, students and their examiners should strive to balance breadth and individual emphasis. In Fall 2020, the department approved the addition of fields 13 and 14. Contemporary (field 13) has no fixed starting date or national designation; students determine the historical and geographical scope of the field. Comparative Ethnic and/or Anglophone Literatures (field 14) provides no fixed historical, national, or (if applicable) translingual parameters; students organize these elements based on their intended area of study.

The English Department does not provide a single orals list for each historical field, because we believe Ph.D. students benefit from constructing field lists themselves. The EGA and the Graduate Office keep a record of student-generated lists; these are valuable study aids, available for students to examine and compare. Students should consult with faculty when designing their lists. This process begins with the orals adviser, but should extend to all committee members. One month before the exam, students will submit to the graduate office a final list for each field, approved by the field examiner. The graduate office will distribute the three lists to the exam committee. While students may not consult historical field lists during the exam, faculty may use them to inform and focus their exam questions. Students are responsible only for the texts on the three approved lists.

The third part examines students on field statements of their own design and explores topics in preparation for the dissertation. A field statement of fifteen to twenty pages, plus a bibliography of no more than four pages, will be approved by the student's adviser and field statement examiner and then submitted to the Graduate Office, at least thirty days prior to the oral qualifying examination, for circulation to the full committee. (For students offering statements in fulfillment of requirements in other programs, such as Medieval Studies, this length may vary.) Failure to approve the field statement will delay the examination. The field statement is not a prospectus setting out the specific plan of research for a dissertation, but a broader and more preliminary engagement with the theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary resources that may best help a student work toward a prospectus. The field statement’s bibliography provides the sources that inform the writing of the statement. The statement may proceed as a single discussion or may be modular in structure, articulating a series of questions and arguments about the works on the bibliography.

At the beginning of the semester in which the student intends to take this examination, they should submit for the approval of the Graduate Chair a departmental orals application, signed by the orals adviser, listing the two historical fields and a brief description of the third field. The application form is available on the Graduate Program website. The student and adviser together are encouraged to propose the names of appropriate examiners; suggestions for the ‘outside examiner’ (see below) are especially welcome. There can be no guarantee, however, that the actual committee will match the proposed list. While students may wish to do ‘mock’ exams with their advisers as practice for the actual qualifying examinations, they should not do ‘mock’ exams with any member of the faculty who is a potential or actual field examiner. 

Ph.D. qualifying examination committees will consist of five ladder faculty, at least three of whom must be from the English Department, who will serve in the following capacities:

A. TWO FIELD EXAMINERS: Each of these examiners has the primary responsibility for one of the historically defined fields listed by the candidate in their description of the fields. A field examiner should expect to conduct a direct examination of approximately thirty minutes on that field.

B. A FIELD STATEMENT EXAMINER: The field statement examiner should expect to conduct an examination of approximately thirty minutes on the candidate's field statement, circulated to the full committee prior to the exam.

C. ONE GENERAL EXAMINER: The primary aim of the general examiner is to maintain an overview of the examination and to ensure that the standards of the Graduate Division and the Department have been met. The General Examiner should ideally come from a department other than English and thus serve as an “outside examiner.” The Graduate Chair can allow for exceptions when a committee proves difficult to constitute.

D. THE CANDIDATE’S ADVISER: The faculty member primarily responsible for guiding the candidate in their selection and preparation of fields will also be on the committee. The adviser’s presence should reduce the ambiguities and misunderstandings that can arise between the candidate and the committee as to the nature and content of the fields under examination.

One of the above examiners, though not the adviser, will be selected by the Graduate Office to chair the examination. The Qualifying Examination Chair must be from the English Department and a member of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. The chair ensures that the examination is well-conducted and thorough as well as fair to the candidate, that there is a judicious coverage of the material in breadth and depth, clear lines of questioning, and a variety of approaches to the material. The chair of a qualifying examination cannot go on to become the candidate’s dissertation director.

The chair is also responsible for drafting the report of the examination results. The chair should circulate an initial draft to all exam committee members within seven days of the exam. While the chair may wish to incorporate suggestions from other committee members, ultimate authority over the content of the report remains with the chair (though any committee member has the option of filing a letter supplementing the chair’s report). The final report should be no more than 700 words and must be filed in the Graduate Office within 14 days of the exam. The Graduate Student Affairs Officer will forward the report to the student and put a copy in their file.

Another examiner will serve as Academic Senate Representative (ASR). The ASR must be a Berkeley Academic Senate member and serves as the Dean’s representative to lend the balance and independence needed to ensure that the candidate’s mastery of the subject matter is broad and comprehensive. The ASR may also serve as a field examiner or as the general examiner but cannot chair the exam.

Advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D.

When the student has fulfilled the program’s first four requirements, they must apply to the Dean of the Graduate Division for advancement to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This is done in CalCentral, with the Higher Degree Committees eForm, available through the “Student Resources” section. A candidacy fee of $90 will also be assessed and charged to the student’s account. At this time, students should also inquire in the Graduate Office if they are interested in acquiring the degree of Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil.), for which they are now eligible.

Students should submit their application for candidacy no later than June 30 of year three. Students who fail to file for advancement within normative time (by the end of the third year) may lose priority for some GSI appointments until they file for candidacy.

After advancement is approved, the candidate will undertake 12 units of Independent Study (English 299) for prospectus or dissertation writing. The Graduate Office emails the Class Number for English 299 to all students prior to enrollment appointments each semester.

When international students advance to doctoral candidacy, they become eligible for a Graduate Division waiver of “Nonresident Student Tuition” (NRST) for a period of three calendar years. For further information, see the section on NRST toward the end of the handbook.


Dissertation Committees

The dissertation committee is normally composed of three or four faculty members: the Chair, one or two secondary readers, and an outside reader. The Chair and at least one secondary reader of the dissertation must be from the English Department.

The outside reader (who also serves as the Dean’s Academic Senate Representative) must be a member of the Berkeley Academic Senate and typically should come from a department other than English. However, students may petition the Graduate Chair for an exception if they are having difficulty constituting a committee or if there are compelling academic reasons for convening a committee with English faculty only. The outside reader cannot serve as chair or co-chair.

The Graduate Division requires a minimum of three faculty members for all dissertations. For some projects, it may be desirable to add a fourth member to the committee as an additional secondary reader. There are different options for adding a fourth committee member . . .

A student can invite an English department faculty member to serve as an additional secondary reader. This is warranted when a student’s project requires additional faculty expertise from within the English department. This reader is thus an additional inside reader. The role played by such a reader should supplement but in no way replace the core advising carried out by the Chair or other members of the committee. If the student chooses to add such a reader, the role of that English faculty member should be clearly understood by the whole committee. It is recommended that the student consult with the dissertation Chair about the appropriateness of adding a reader from within the department. No official approval is required by the Graduate Chair to add an English department faculty member as a reader.

Committees may be co-chaired, but not by two members of the English department. If a committee is co- chaired by a faculty member within the English department and a faculty member from another Berkeley department, it is still necessary to have a second reader (from inside the English department) and an outside reader (ordinarily from another Berkeley department). Co-chaired committees are by necessity four member committees; typically two members are from the English department and two members are not.

University policy states that, with the Dean’s approval, a non-Berkeley faculty member may be added to the committee as a fourth (or fifth) member. A non-Berkeley faculty member cannot serve as the outside reader. Any request to add a non-Berkeley faculty member to the dissertation committee should come first to the Graduate Chair. If approved, the Graduate Chair will petition Graduate Division on the student’s behalf.

Professors Emeriti (or Professors of the Graduate School) are members of the academic senate. They may direct dissertations and serve as readers.

Prospectus for the Dissertation

The prospectus consists of an essay and bibliography setting forth the nature of the research project, its relation to existing scholarship and criticism, and its anticipated value. The essay is meant to serve as an introductory “working paper” that articulates in ten to fifteen pages the issues to be addressed in the dissertation, the approach the candidate expects to take, the relation of that approach to recent knowledge and judgment as expressed in published sources, and an indication of how the candidate plans to begin the project. The bibliography, of approximately five pages, represents a preliminary survey of the pertinent primary and secondary literature. The prospectus should be developed in consultation with the dissertation director and presented for approval within one or two semesters following the qualifying examination.

Since the prospectus conference is not an examination, the director must not allow the conference to be scheduled until they are reasonably satisfied that the prospectus has been carefully written and proofread, that its bibliographic citations are pertinent and up to date, and that the general line of proposed argument is sound. The prospectus conference is not an appropriate setting for negotiating fundamental differences between the candidate and director.

When the student is ready to schedule a prospectus conference, they must submit two items to the Graduate Chair at least two weeks prior to the conference date: (1) a copy of the prospectus, approved and signed by the dissertation director; (2) the Prospectus Graduate Chair Approval form. If it seems appropriate, the Graduate Chair may request further written clarification of the project before giving it final approval. Prior to the conference, the student must also obtain from the Graduate Program website the Prospectus Conference Approval form, which the dissertation committee members should sign after the conference, giving final approval to proceed with the dissertation; the student will return the signed approval form to the Graduate Office.

At the prospectus conference, the committee members explore with the candidate the issues outlined in the proposal. Normally the conference takes about an hour. Its purpose is to enable the candidate to begin work on the dissertation having benefited from a full and detailed discussion with all concerned faculty present. After the conference, the candidate writes a memorandum of the discussion and submits copies to each member of the committee and to the Graduate Chair, whose copy will be placed in the candidate's file. The other copies will serve the dissertation committee members as a baseline of expectations and will be especially useful in the next year's meeting of the dissertation candidate with their committee--a gathering now mandated by the Graduate Division, which expects an annual report of progress toward completion.

The prospectus conference must be completed by the end of the fourth year. Students entering year five who have not completed the conference may be ineligible for some GSI appointments until the prospectus is approved and the conference is scheduled.

Online Academic Progress Report

All students in candidacy are required to file an annual Doctoral Candidacy Review (DCR) with Graduate Division. The DCR eform is available to graduate students and their dissertation chairs in CalCentral: https://grad.berkeley.edu/academic-progress/advanced/doctoral-candidacy-review. Graduate students should complete the eform; dissertation chairs then review, add comments, and release it back to the students for response.

The online report is available from the first day of the fall semester until the day before the fall semester in the following year. Students who do not file the DCR will not be able to claim their Doctoral Completion Fellowships the following year. They also may be denied other requests from Graduate Division, including extensions of candidacy.

Submission of the Dissertation

The dissertation is the culmination of the student's graduate career; it is expected to be a substantial and original work of scholarship or criticism. Instructions about final deadlines, filing fee eligibility, preparation of the manuscript, approval page, copyright, and embargo should be obtained from Graduate Services, 318 Sproul or online at http://grad.berkeley.edu/academic-progress/dissertation/



Contact Information

Department of English

322 Wheeler Hall

Phone: 510-642-3467

Fax: 510-642-8738

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Eric Falci

323 Wheeler Hall


Graduate Advisor

April Sanders


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