Graduate Studies

The Department of English roots its Graduate Program in recognition of the African Diaspora as a founding event of modern history and culture.


Purpose and Goals of the Graduate Program in English

The courses of the Department address such fundamental literary issues as genre and period formation, authorial techniques, rhetorical strategies, thematic motifs, and critical theories. Attention to these issues is intended to foster the skills in critical reading, research, and analysis requisite to professional careers in the language arts. At the same time, the Program generally conceives its offerings within paradigms of the changes wrought by conflict, accommodation, and adjustment in the passage from traditional to modern and contemporary ways of life and writing.

Substantive specialization may be gained in the various periods of African American, American, British, and Caribbean literatures, as well as in comparative studies among those fields and in Literary Criticism. In addition, the Graduate Program in English takes inspiration from the heritage of eloquence in those literatures and designs its courses and requirements so that our graduates will possess uncommon skills in writing.

The Department seeks to sustain a community of learning where students, under the direction of the faculty, participate with their peers—and the faculty too—in creative scholarship and lively interchange centering upon the significance of literature. Toward that end, the Graduate Program demands that students read widely in the literatures written in English, become familiar with the research and critical problems generated within the fields we offer, and produce work that contributes to our collective knowledge.

Admission Requirements

To be accepted into the Graduate Program in English, students must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a GPA of at least 3.0 or B. In addition, students must meet the University requirement to take the Graduate Record Examination (and the TOEFL if applicable), have submitted letters of recommendation from persons in position to evaluate their academic work, and forwarded a sample of their analytic writing (preferably a graded critical paper).

Because graduate study in English builds upon students’ previously acquired knowledge of literature, applicants who were neither English majors nor minors as undergraduates will discover advanced study to be unusually rigorous. Provisional admission is possible, when the applicant’s undergraduate record is otherwise outstanding, but provisional admission bears with it a stipulation that a student in the first year of enrollment must meet special standards set by the Department of English.

While most students with a bachelor’s degree will enter the graduate program at the M.A. level, it is possible in extraordinary cases for an applicant to proceed directly into the Ph.D. program. Direct admission as a Ph.D. student requires an evaluation and approval by the graduate faculty of the Department. Students already holding an M.A. in English will normally apply for the Ph.D. program.

Transfer of Credits

Transfer credits, courses taken in the consortium, and courses taken in other departments in the University must first be approved by the graduate faculty. To initiate the process, the student must write a letter to the director petitioning consideration of his or her request. The letter should identify courses taken elsewhere by course name and number and be accompanied by a copy of the relevant official transcript, a copy of the course description (along with proof that the course is a graduate-level course), and the course’s syllabus. The letter should also identify, where appropriate, the number of the equivalent Howard University course. Documentation of the faculty’s approval of substitute courses and transfer credits must be recorded and filed in the student’s official departmental file (with a copy rendered to the student) before it may be entered on the student’s individual program of study. The general rules governing the process are detailed in the Graduate School’s Rules and Regulations for the Pursuit of Academic Degrees, Article 3, Section 7; Article 5, Section 4; and Article 6, Section 4. The Graduate School has rules limiting the number and the nature of transfer courses allowed. MA students may transfer six credits of graduate-level courses, while Ph.D. students may transfer twenty-four credit hours of graduate-level courses. Students admitted to Howard’s MA program can only transfer twenty-four credit hours from the Howard MA program to the Howard Ph.D. program. University regulations specify that no more than six credit hours of courses taken in the consortium may be applied to the Howard University graduate degree. According to the Department of English, these should be elective courses in literature not offered at Howard, unless otherwise pre-approved by the director of Graduate Studies. Likewise, the Department limits the number of courses students can take in other departments to (two?); these should also be electives in literature preapproved by the director of Graduate Studies. Students should note that transfer credits and substitute courses are not guaranteed until the Executive Committee of the Graduate School approves the request.

Graduate Faculty

Carole Boyce Davies, Department Chair

DeGout, Yasmin, Associate Professor

Sabrina Evans, Assistant Professor

Forbes, Curdella, Professor

Green, David, Assistant Professor

Griffin, Barbara, Associate Professor

Kamwangamalu, Nkonko, Professor

Kugler, Emily, Assistant Professor

Morgan Kirlew, Shauna, Assistant Professor

Oh, Elisa, Associate Professor

Kenton Ransby, Associate Professor

Reddy, Sheshalatha, Associate Professor

Hannah Regis, Assistant Professor

Susanna Sacks, Assistant Professor

Shinn, Christopher, Associate Professor

Singer, Marc, Associate Professor

Tovares, Alla V., Associate Professor

Walker, Patricia Elan, Assistant Professor

Williams, Dana A., Professor

Williams, Jennifer, Assistant Professor

Doctor Of Philosophy

Writing Examinations

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences expository writing examination. Department of English diagnostic critical writing examination.

Course Requirements

The total number of credits a student must earn is 72. Students entering without an M.A. degree will earn the entire amount of 72 graduate credits. Students entering with an M.A. degree will earn 48 additional graduate credits.

Courses must include:

200 Scholarship: Research Methods 3 credits 
201 Scholarship: Critical Methods 3 credits

Two-semester reading courses in

British Literature A 
British Literature B 
American Literature 
African American Literature 
Caribbean Literature

30 credits

Studies courses 6 credits

Optional courses

Dissertation courses 12 credits

Electives 18 credits

Consult Rules and Regulations for the Pursuit of Academic Degrees in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for time limits for completion of degrees.

Graduate Qualifying Examination

To include four examination areas in at least two fields of study.

Foreign Language Examination

This is a proficiency examination administered by an outside department.

Admission to Candidacy

Students are admitted to formal candidacy by the Graduate School when they have completed required courses, passed the Qualifying Examination and foreign language examination, submitted an approved topic for research, and been recommended by the Department. Without exception a student must be admitted to candidacy no later than the semester before graduation.

Doctoral Dissertation

An independent research project completed under the direction of a four-member faculty committee.

Final Examination or Defense

An oral examination open to the public conducted by the candidate’s dissertation committee.

Pedagogical Training

The Department of English expects that students who complete the doctorate will possess the pedagogical skills required to begin a professional career in college or university teaching. Most graduate students will serve as teaching fellows, working in the Writing Center under the tutelage of the director of the Center. For those who wish to receive classroom experience, the apprenticeship in pedagogy begins as students work closely with faculty mentors. During this first stage of the training, a student “shadows” a faculty member—that is, she or he works with a professor in devising the syllabus and reading list for an undergraduate course, attends the course meetings to observe the way a course unfolds from its initial plan, and participates in assessing the performance of the undergraduates. The student “shadow” may also make some of the class presentations, conduct discussion, and prepare examinations.

At this stage, the student “shadow” is ranked as a teaching assistant. In the next stage of the training experience, a graduate student takes a course focused on the methodologies and theories of teaching college-level English courses (writing and literature) and attends workshops (affiliated with this course) centered upon designing syllabi, assessment of undergraduate performance, administration of supporting technology for class instruction, and other practical requirements of effective instruction. The apprenticeship concludes as the student, under the supervision of an experienced professor, takes responsibility for teaching a required undergraduate writing course. At this stage, the student—now the instructor of record for a course—is ranked as a teaching associate.