Department of English
Director of Graduate Studies
The aim of the Princeton graduate program in English is to produce well-trained and productive scholars, sympathetic and intelligent critics, and effective and imaginative teachers. The five-year Ph.D. program is intense but also supportive. Princeton maintains a feeling of intimacy despite being a high-powered research university; it is large enough to sustain an extremely diverse, cosmopolitan, and lively intellectual community, but small enough so that no one need feel lost in it. Because this is a residential university, whose traditions emphasize teaching as well as research, the faculty is easily accessible to students and concerned about their progress.
The faculty of the Department of English is notable for its scholarly reputation, commitment to teaching, and accessibility. Faculty are committed as a department to a diverse range of critical approaches to the discipline. In addition to offering seminars in every major historical field of concentration, from medieval to contemporary literatures, we offer a wide range of theoretical specializations in fields such as feminist theory, gender studies, psychoanalysis, Marxism, New Historicism, environmental studies, political and social theory, and cultural studies. Students may take courses as well in cognate departments such as comparative literature, classics, philosophy, linguistics, history, and art history.
The University offers programs in creative writing, dance, theater, and visual arts. Although these programs do not have graduate courses, graduate students are welcome to participate when space permits. The faculty in creative writing is one of the most outstanding in the country, and includes Jeffrey Eugenides, Chang-rae Lee, Paul Muldoon, Joyce Carol Oates, James Richardson, Edmund White, and C.K. Williams. John McPhee is a faculty member in the Council of the Humanities.
Students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two foreign languages as soon as possible after enrollment. The languages normally recommended are French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, but other languages relevant to a student’s program of research may be substituted with the approval of the director of graduate studies. The language requirement must be satisfied before the completion of the general examination.
The Course of Study
The graduate program in English is a five-year program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). During the first two years, students prepare for the general examination through work in seminars and directed or independent reading. The third, fourth, and fifth years are devoted to teaching in undergraduate courses and to the writing of the dissertation.
First and second years. The major work of the first two years should reinforce the student’s general knowledge of English and American literature. During the second year, students also begin intensive work in their special fields of interest, which may include a historical period, a genre, or literary theory and criticism. Students choose their courses at the beginning of each term with the aid of the departmental director of graduate studies. While programs are flexible, students normally enroll in three seminars each term to complete the required 12 courses by the end of the second year.
Students normally qualify for the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree on the way to the Ph.D. by completing the General Examination. Students who leave the Ph.D. program for various reasons may also be awarded the M.A. by satisfactorily completing all required course work, the course distribution requirement, and the language requirement.
The general examination, taken in October of the third year, is the main qualifying examination for the Ph.D. The purpose of this examination is to prepare students to present themselves as strong job candidates with wide-ranging knowledge of two or more fields. The examination committee consists of three faculty members, who assist the student in preparing a reading list for the examination. Students elect to be examined on either two major fields, or one major and two minor fields. They also decide, in consultation with their examination committee, which examination format is most appropriate for them: an eight-hour written examination, or a two-hour oral examination.
Third, fourth, and fifth years. Students are strongly encouraged to continue taking courses in the third year and beyond, both in the English department and in related departments such as comparative literature. After completing the general examination, all students participate in a dissertation seminar led by a faculty member in which they write a thesis proposal. This dissertation proposal becomes the basis of a one-hour oral examination, after which students continue to work on the dissertation with the guidance of two faculty directors.
Final Public Oral Examination
A final public oral examination is given after each candidate’s dissertation has been read and approved by their dissertation faculty advisers. The examination has two parts. The first consists of a 30-minute lecture on the dissertation to cover the following topics: a justification of the subject treated; an account of possible methods of treating the subject and a justification of the method chosen; an account of any new contributions made; and a consideration of the possibility of future studies of the same kind, including an account of plans for future scholarship and publication. During the second part of the examination, the student answers a series of questions growing out of subjects presented in the lecture and sometimes relating to the teaching of literary material dealt with in the dissertation.
All graduate students who have passed the general examination are required to teach in undergraduate courses as part of their preparation. While the minimum department requirement is four hours, most students teach more than this. The department offers many opportunities for teaching experience in conjunction with its large and popular undergraduate program. Students may teach in the writing program, conduct sections of large lecture courses, or direct precepts in upper-division courses. This teaching is supervised by experienced members of the faculty. The department and University also offer, on an annual basis, teacher training seminars.
Graduate students are welcome to participate in a variety of seminars and colloquia organized by the English department and other departments and programs. These may involve the discussion of an article or problem, the presentation of a paper, or a forum for debate. Colloquia also include one-day conferences on a number of topics. Students may also participate in the meetings of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies; attend the Christian Gauss Seminars in Criticism; and involve themselves in any of the many colloquia under the aegis of the Council of the Humanities. The department sponsors graduate-student-organized colloquia that are based around fields of interest. Currently there are seven major colloquia that include the Americanist, Contemporary Poetry, Postcolonial, Renaissance, 18th-Century and Romantic Studies, Victorian, and 20th-Century fields. In addition, there is also a graduate student Works in Progress lunchtime talk series.
ENG 501 Old English Period
An introduction to the early English language and literature, with attention given to the cultural and historical context.
ENG 502 Old English Poetry
A detailed study of the principal poetic texts of the period, including Beowulf and the Exeter Book, with a view to establishing critical standards and comprehending the literary traditions of the period. Attention is also given to manuscript reading and editing, verse scansion, and theories of meter.
ENG 503 Linguistic Thought
Studies in linguistic thought from the Renaissance to Saussure.
ENG 508 Studies in English Language:1400 to Present
Intensive consideration of problems in the development of English from its origins as an Indo-European dialect to its differentiation into modern British and American dialects.
ENG 510 Old Norse
An introduction to Old Norse, with the primary aim of achieving a good reading knowledge and an emphasis on the language and grammar as preparation for literary and philological study. In order to broaden the coverage, some texts are read in translation.
ENG 511 Special Studies in Medieval Literature
Selected problems and topics in the literature of the Middle Ages are studied.
ENG 512 Chaucer I
An introduction to the works of Chaucer in the light of late medieval literary techniques. A study of Chaucer’s use of traditional form.
ENG 514 Middle English Religious Literature
A study of the chief genres of medieval religious literature in the later Middle Ages, with special emphasis given to the poetic formulation of popular Christian doctrine in such works as Piers Plowman and the religious poems of the "Gawain" manuscript.
ENG 515 Chaucer II
A continuation of the work of ENG 512, concentrating on Troilus and Criseyde. May be taken independently of ENG 512.
ENG 521 Spenser
A study of The Faerie Queene in the context of earlier epic romance and The Aeneid, Morte d'Arthur, Orlando Furioso, and La Gerusalemme Liberata.
ENG 522 The Renaissance in England
No Description Available
ENG 523 Renaissance Drama
A study of development, form, and content in Tudor and Stuart drama.
ENG 524 Special Studies in Renaissance Drama
Selected topics and problems in Tudor and Stuart drama.
ENG 525 Shakespeare I
An intensive study of the Shakespeare plays, concentrating on one of the major genres.
ENG 526 Shakespeare II
A study of special problems in Shakespeare criticism and research.
ENG 531 Milton
A study of major works by Milton in their political and cultural context.
ENG 532 Early 17th Century
An examination of some major writers of the period.
ENG 533 Literature of the Restoration, 1660-1700
A study of the principal writings. The development of cultural and intellectual traditions is explored.
ENG 541 Restoration and 18th-Century Drama
A study of the development of the English drama and theater from 1660 to 1800.
ENG 543 The 18th Century
A consideration of the primary topoi and defining oppositions of Enlightenment thought. Texts and specific focus vary from year to year.
ENG 545 Special Studies in the 18th Century
No description available.
ENG 550 The Romantic Period
A study of the major Romantic poets, with some attention given to prose.
ENG 551 Special Topics in Romanticism
Selected topics in Romantic studies. Topics include Romanticism and gender, Romantic historicism. Wordsworth and Keats, and Romantic drama, among others.
ENG 552 The Victorians
Major texts of Victorian literature.
ENG 553 Special Studies in the 19th Century
Selected topics and problems in Romantic and Victorian literature.
ENG 554 Race and American Literature
This course examines some of the major literary works, including essays, inspired by the question of race and racism in America, with emphasis on the psychological and aesthetic complexities of such concern.
ENG 555 American Literary Traditions
A study of selected major American writers in the context of intellectual, religious, and cultural traditions.
ENG 556 African-American Literature
A survey of African-American narrative and critical traditions in the context of social and cultural change. Attention is also given to the changing status of black literature in the curriculum of American colleges and universities.
ENG 557 Special Studies in American Authors
No Description Available
ENG 558 American Poetry
A study of 20th-century American poetry.
ENG 559 Studies in the American Novel
This course examines a range of American texts written over half a century in order to clarify connections between their informing philosophies, narrative strategies, and historical moments.
ENG 560 Special Studies in the Drama
Selected problems in dramatic literature and theory.
ENG 562 Modern Drama
A study of major currents in modern drama from Ibsen and Shaw to the present day.
ENG 563 Poetics
No description available
ENG 564 Literature of the Fin de Siecle
A study of literary genres and issues in the 1880s and1890s, including aestheticism, decadence, utopias/dystopias, the New Women novel, and the New Drama, with emphasis given to their interaction with cultural change.
ENG 565 The Victorian Novel
A study of 19th-century English fiction, emphasizing social contexts, narrative forms, and critical theory.
ENG 566 Studies in the English Novel
Selected 20th-century English novelists, considered in terms of critical theory, technique, and form.
ENG 567 Special Studies in Modernism
Selected topics and problems in modern literature, culture, and criticism.
ENG 568 Criticism and Theory
A study in the major texts in criticism and theory. Authors include Plato, Aristotle, Sidney, Shelley, Derrida, and Foucault, among others. Topics include mimesis, structuralism, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, and new historicism.
ENG 571 Literary and Cultural Theory
A study of the role of culture in literary practice and theory. Topics include postmodernism, post-colonialism, feminism, performance theory, queer theory, and popular cultures, among others.
ENG 572 Selected Topics in Criticism and Theory
The ethical, historical, and political dimensions of Jacques Derrida's thought and writings.
ENG 573 Problems in Literary Study
An examination of selected issues or texts that offer radical challenges to the profession of literary study today. Intended for students in all periods of specialization.
ENG 574, ENG 575 Literature and Society
Selected topics in the relation of literature to social, political, or historical issues.
ENG 576 Literature and Gender
Selected topics in gender theory, feminist criticism, and the role of women and men as writers, readers, and literary subjects.
ENG 581 Seminar in Pedagogy
Course will analyze and apply readings on pedagogical theory and method, and discuss particular problems and successes in precepts, methods of leading discussions; obligations and protocols of grading, preparing syllabi and lectures, and writing letters of recommendation. Course members will visit each other's classes and prepare critiques, contribute weekly to a course blog, and prepare a statement of teaching philosophy and teaching portfolio. Required of all graduate students in English teaching as AI's for the first time. Normally taken in Spring Term of third year.