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Doctoral Program (PhD)


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Why Study English at UB?

Be part of an intellectual community

Our department is a vibrant and thriving intellectual community and offers a supportive and stimulating environment in which to do your graduate work. From our perspective, graduate study consists of work that happens both in seminars and in the many conversations that happen outside them: formally and informally, among and between faculty and students.

The English Department at SUNY Buffalo has long been recognized for its strengths in contemporary theory and Poetics, and many students come here to work with faculty through the Center for Psychoanalysis and the Poetics Program. But these centers offer only some examples of the kinds of innovative work that takes place in the department. Our students are trained by faculty who are interested in both the latest theoretical approaches and in more traditional fields of literary historical study, and in finding new ways to connect old and new.

Engage across disciplines

There is nothing new about “interdisciplinary” study at Buffalo. For close to fifty years the UB English Department has worked to encourage students to think and study across the disciplines and to think beyond the usual definitions of “English Literature.” We have few curricular requirements and encourage students to take courses in other departments from their earliest semesters. Students frequently have dissertation committee members from other departments and, even within English, work broadly between history and theory. For this reason, our PhDs produce some of the most cutting-edge scholarship in their fields, studying literature alongside anthropology, media studies, transnational studies and, of course, history. For some recent examples of the kinds of dissertations written at Buffalo, look here.

Beyond coursework, there are numerous venues for interdisciplinary conversation within and beyond the humanities. Some of the most productive involve groups organized by faculty and graduate students through Buffalo’s Humanities Institute.

Participate in department operations

Ours is a program in which students are active in every phase of the department’s operations. A unique system of parity gives graduate students a strong voice in departmental operations. Department meetings are open to graduate students, and student representatives sit as voting members in those meetings and in all departmental committees, including the Graduate Review Committee and the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships.

The English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) is an active and vital group that elects students to committees, helps form the graduate curriculum, and sponsors lectures, conferences, works-in-progress symposia, and many other events.

Prepare for the Profession

Our students leave the PhD Program accomplished teachers and scholars and very much prepared to assume careers in the profession. We encourage students to publish during their time in graduate school and offer a third-year workshop dedicated to that goal. Our department is also unique in having graduate students involved in every phase of its operations. Students attend department meetings and are part of all department committees, including the Graduate Review Committee and the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships.

What are the requirements for completion?


The doctoral degree requires 72 graduate credits, most of which are satisfied through ten graduate seminars.

Candidates may also create a Minor Field, broadly defined as an area of knowledge or intellectual discipline other than English or American Literature. The range of possibilities is vast, and the only requirement is that the Minor Field have some defensible relation to the student’s dissertation.


Candidates for the PhD take a PhD oral qualifying examination that is largely of their own design. The exam consists of three fields, one of which relates to a potential dissertation topic. The students constructs each examination list with a faculty member who specializes in that area, and all three lists are reviewed and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.


The degree is completed through a book-length work of original scholarship, which is advised by a committee of three faculty members. Upon the completion of the dissertation, the student participate in a defense with the full committee.

How do I apply?

Apply online.

Completed applications are due December 15.

Contact Us

Ruth Mack

Ruth Mack

Associate Professor; Director of Graduate Studies

302B Clemens Hall

Phone: (716) 645-0680

Rachel Ablow

Rachel Ablow

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Admissions

431 Clemens

Phone: (716) 645-0690


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Joyce Troy

Administrative Assistant

Graduate Office

302 Clemens Hall

Phone: (716) 645-2567