English Language and Literature

2014-15 Tuition

$29,500

Application deadlines

Dec. 15 (Fall term admission only)

Requirements summary

(includes Graduate School Requirements)

 The application must be submitted online. Detailed requirement summaries for applicants are available for download from the graduate pages of the English Department web site.

M.F.A.

  • Application and fee
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts - one official copy
  • TOEFL (if non-native speaker of English)
  • Creative Writing sample

Ph.D.

  • Application and fee
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts -- one official copy
  • TOEFL (if non-native speaker of English)
  • GRE General Test (reported directly from ETS)
  • GRE Subject Test in English Language and Literature (reported directly from ETS)
  • Critical Writing Sample

Joint M.F.A./Ph.D.

  • Application and fee
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Four letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts (one official copy)
  • TOEFL (if non-native speaker of English)
  • GRE General Test (reported directly from ETS)
  • GRE Subject Test in English Language and Literature (reported directly from ETS)
  • Critical Writing Sample
  • Creative Writing sample

Joint applicants are reviewed by both the M.F.A. and the Ph.D. committees, and subsequently may be admitted to either program or both.

 

Department Mailing Address:
Graduate Applications
Department of English
250 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-3201

 

 

Degrees

  • M.F.A.
  • Ph.D.

Subjects

  • Creative Writing (M.F.A.)
  • English Language and Literature (Ph.D.)

Major concentrations

  • African American literature
  • American literature after 1865
  • American literature to 1865
  • American studies
  • colonial and postcolonial literatures
  • creative writing (M.F.A. only)
  • cultural studies
  • dramatic literature
  • English poetry
  • lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies
  • literary criticism and theory
  • Old and Middle English
  • prose fiction
  • the English Renaissance to 1660
  • the nineteenth century
  • the Restoration and the eighteenth century
  • the twentieth century
  • women's literature

The Ph.D. Program. The doctoral program in English Language and Literature offers two degree options for the prospective applicant: the Ph.D. and the Joint M.F.A./Ph.D. The department enrolls about 12 new students each year in the Ph.D. including one or two of those students admitted into the joint program. Our small size allows us to offer a generous financial support package, details of which are outlined on our department website. At the same time, we have a large and diverse graduate faculty with competence in a wide range of literary, theoretical, and cultural fields. Students choose a Special Committee of three faculty members, from whom they receive a great deal of individual attention. Working with this committee, students design their own courses of study within the very broad framework laid down by the department. The program is extremely flexible in regard to such matters as course selection, the design of examinations, and the election of minor subjects of concentration outside the department. English Ph.D. students pursuing interdisciplinary research may include on their Special Committees faculty members from related fields such as Comparative Literature, Romance Studies, German Studies, History, Classics, Women's Studies, Linguistics, Theatre and Performing Arts, Government, Philosophy, and Film and Video Studies.

The Ph.D. candidate is normally expected to complete six or seven one-semester courses for credit in the first year of residence and a total of six or seven more in the second and third years. The program of any doctoral candidate's formal and informal study, whatever his or her particular interests, should be comprehensive enough to ensure familiarity with the authors and works that have been the most influential in determining the course of English, American, and related literatures; the theory and criticism of literature; the relations between literature and other disciplines; and concerns and tools of literary and cultural history such as textual criticism, study of genre, source, and influence, as well as wider issues of cultural production and historical and social contexts that bear on literature.

M.F.A./Ph.D. Joint Degree Program. Each year one or two students may be admitted to both the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing and the doctoral program in English Language and Literature. This joint program offers a fuller integration of literature courses and writing workshops. In their first four semesters in residence, joint candidates are expected to complete four Writing Workshop courses and four or five Ph.D. seminars for credit, all of which apply to the Ph.D. course requirement of twelve courses, six for a letter grade. At the end of their fourth semester, candidates submit an M.F.A. thesis, and receive the M.F.A. degree. They then proceed to complete the remaining course requirements for the Ph.D. and write a final dissertation. Cornell offers only the scholarly Ph.D., not the Ph.D. with creative dissertation.

The M.F.A. Program. The Creative Writing program in the department of English Language and Literature offers an M.F.A. degree only, with concentrations in either poetry or fiction. Each year the department enrolls only eight students, four in each concentration. Our small size allows us to offer a generous financial support package, details of which are outlined on our department website. At the same time, we have a large and diverse graduate faculty with competence in a wide range of literary, theoretical, and cultural fields. Students choose a Special Committee of two faculty members who provide a great deal of individual attention and encourage students to design their own courses of study within the very broad framework laid down by the department.

Students participate in a graduate writing workshop each semester and take 6 additional one-semester courses for credit, at least four of them in English or American literature, Comparative Literature, literature in the modern or classical languages, or cultural studies (typically two per semester during the first year and one per semester during the second year). First year students receive practical training by working as Editorial Assistants for Epoch, a periodical or prose and poetry published by the Creative Writing staff of the department. The most significant requirement of the M.F.A. degree is the completion of a book-length manuscript: a collection of poems, short stories, or a novel.

The Special Committee. Every student selects a Special Committee who will be responsible for providing the student with a great deal of individual attention. The University system of Special Committees allows students to design their own courses of study within a broad framework laid down by the department, and it encourages a close working relationship between professors and students, promoting freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of the graduate degree. The student's Special Committee guides and supervises all academic work and assesses progress at a series of meetings with the student.

Teaching. Teaching is considered an integral part of training for the profession. The Field requires a carefully supervised teaching experience of at least one year for every doctoral and masters candidate as part of the training for the degree. The Department of English, in conjunction with the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, offers excellent training for beginning teachers and varied and interesting teaching within the university-wide First-Year Writing Program. Graduate students are assigned to writing courses under such general rubrics as "Portraits of the Self," "American Literature and Culture," "The Mystery in the Story," "Shakespeare," and "Cultural Studies," among others. Serving as a Teaching Assistant for a lecture course taught by a member of the Department of English faculty is another way graduate students participate in the teaching of undergraduates.

Elizabeth Anker -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; the twentieth century; women's literature; Research interests: postcolonial literature; human rights; literary theory; narrative studies
Kevin Attell -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; literary criticism and theory; colonial and postcolonial literatures; the twentieth century; Research interests: 20th-century American and British literature; literacy and critical theory; history and theory of the novel; postcolonial studies; film studies
Fredric Bogel -- Concentrations: English poetry; literary criticism and theory; the Restoration and the eighteenth century; Research interests: literary criticism and theory; eighteenth-century English literature; satire; English and American poetry; rhetoric and writing
Carole Boyce Davies -- Concentrations: African American literature; literary criticism and theory; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; women's literature; Research interests: African Diaspora literature and theory; Caribbean literatures; Black women's writing (internationally); black left studies; black feminist theory; African literature and culture; Afro-Brazilian literature
Jeremy Braddock -- Concentrations: African American literature; literary criticism and theory; cultural studies; the twentieth century; Research interests: 20th-century American literature; transatlantic modernism; African American literature; visual studies; film; libraries, archives and information
Mary Pat Brady -- Concentrations: African American literature; American literature after 1865; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: U.S. Latino and Latina literatures and cultures; cultural studies; American literature after 1865; critical geography; multi-ethnic literature, theories of race and sexuality
Laura Brown -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the Restoration and the eighteenth century; cultural studies; women's literature; Research interests: restoration and eighteenth-century literature
Cathy Caruth -- Concentrations: African American literature; literary criticism and theory; creative writing (M.F.A. only); Research interests: British and German romanticism; literary theory; literature and theory of drama; psychoanalysis
Cynthia Chase -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the nineteenth century; Research interests: Romanticism, theory, psychoanalysis; romantic and modern poetry; women's literature; eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novel
Eric Cheyfitz -- Concentrations: African American literature; American literature after 1865; American literature to 1865; literary criticism and theory; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; Research interests: American literatures; federal Indian law; Native American literatures
Walter Cohen -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the English Renaissance to 1660; cultural studies; Research interests: the Renaissance; history of European literature; world literature
Elisha Cohn -- Concentrations: the nineteenth century; colonial and postcolonial literatures; women's literature; Research interests: 19th century British literature and culture; history and theory of the novel; lyric poetry
Barbara Correll -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; the English Renaissance to 1660; cultural studies; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; Research interests: Renaissance literary and cultural texts; gender and sexuality studies; post-structuralist theory; film and adaptation; Shakespeare; Donne; Marlowe
Margo Crawford -- Concentrations: African American literature; American literature after 1865; literary criticism and theory; cultural studies; the twentieth century; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: 20th- and 21st-century African American literature; cultural movements and visual cultures; race, gender and sexuality studies; American modernism
Jonathan Culler -- Concentrations: English poetry; literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the nineteenth century; Research interests: literary theory and criticism; English poetry since 1600; 19th and 20th century French literature
Ella Diaz -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; prose fiction; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; the twentieth century; American studies; women's literature; Research interests: US Latina/o and Chicana/o literature: and visual studies; feminist studies; US Latina/o dispora
Laura Donaldson -- Concentrations: colonial and postcolonial literatures; the twentieth century; women's literature; Research interests: American Indian literature and culture; American Indian women; postcolonial studies; religion and literature; early American literatures
Grant Farred -- Concentrations: African American literature; literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; the twentieth century; Research interests: Africana studies; cultural studies; postcolonial theory; race theory; African-American literature; Diasporic literature and theory; literature and philosophy
Debra Fried -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; American literature to 1865; English poetry; literary criticism and theory; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: 19th- and 20th-century American poetry; history of the lyric; linguistic approaches to poetry; poetic genre and form; prosody; classic American film and film theory
Alice Fulton (Divisional) -- Concentrations: English poetry; literary criticism and theory; creative writing (M.F.A. only); women's literature; Research interests: contemporary poetry and fiction; poetry and poetics; narrative writing; critical writing; feminist critical theory
J. Ellen Gainor -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; the nineteenth century; the twentieth century; women's literature; Research interests: British and American Drama; feminist theatre criticism; women playwrights; dramaturgy
Andrew Galloway -- Concentrations: English poetry; Old and Middle English; Research interests: Medieval English poetry (esp. Layamon, Chaucer, Langland, Gower); medieval drama; medieval history writing; history of the book; literature and the prospect of cultural history
Roger Gilbert -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; American literature to 1865; English poetry; Research interests: American poetry; modern and contemporary poetry; aesthetics and evaluation
Amanda Goldstein -- Concentrations: English poetry; literary criticism and theory; the nineteenth century; the Restoration and the eighteenth century; Research interests: history and philosophy of biology and aesthestics; poetry; poetics and critical theory; materialist philosophy; literature and enviornment
Ellis Hanson -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the nineteenth century; cultural studies; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: Victorian literature; decadence and aestheticism; gender and sexuality studies; and film
Thomas Hill -- Concentrations: Old and Middle English; Research interests: Old English; Middle English; Old Norse-Icelandic; Old French. Medieval Latin, particularly Biblical exegesis, English and American Folklore
Molly Hite -- Concentrations: prose fiction; creative writing (M.F.A. only); the twentieth century; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: 20th-century experimental fiction--mostly British pre-1950 and U.S. post-1950; feminist theory and criticism; fiction writing
George Hutchinson -- Concentrations: African American literature; American literature after 1865; American literature to 1865; American studies; Research interests: American modernism; African American literature; race in American culture; Walt Whitman
Ishion Hutchinson (Divisional) -- Concentrations: African American literature; dramatic literature; English poetry; colonial and postcolonial literatures; creative writing (M.F.A. only); the twentieth century; Research interests: poetry in translation; American and British poetry; creative writing and creative reading; the long poem and the Epic
Jane Juffer -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; cultural studies; women's literature; Research interests: cultural studies; Latino/a studies; ethnography; feminist, gender and sexuality studies
Rayna Kalas -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; English poetry; literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the English Renaissance to 1660; Research interests: 16th- and 17th-century poetry and prose; poetics and technology; visual studies; the labor and craft of writing in the early modern period
J. Robert Lennon -- Concentrations: creative writing (M.F.A. only); Research interests: creative writing (fiction): contemporary literature; crime and science fiction novels
Philip Lorenz -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; literary criticism and theory; the English Renaissance to 1660; Research interests: Renaissance Drama, political theology, sovereignty, poetics and theory, literature and philosophy
Joanie Mackowski (Divisional) -- Concentrations: creative writing (M.F.A. only); Research interests: poetry and poetics; creative writing pedagogy; American writers; use and value of literature
Jenny Mann -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; English poetry; literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the English Renaissance to 1660; cultural studies; women's literature; Research interests: 16th- and 17th-century British literature and culture; history of rhetoric; history of science; gender studies
Kate McCullough -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; American literature to 1865; literary criticism and theory; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: American literature after 1865; women's literature; feminist literary criticism and theory; lesbian/queer theory
Natalie Melas -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; colonial and postcolonial literatures; the twentieth century; Research interests: postcolonial questions; the politics of disciplinary histories; cultural comparison; modernisms (English, French, Caribbean, Greek, Egyptian); Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean literature and theory; multilingualism
Satya Mohanty -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; the twentieth century; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; Research interests: critical theory; 20th-century literature; colonial and postcolonial studies; the novel; modernism/postmodernism; film; South Asian literature and culture
Jonathan Monroe -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; English poetry; the twentieth century; Research interests: modern and contemporary poetry; comparative/interdisciplinary approaches; modernism/postmodernism; critical theory; sociohistorical and linguistic criticism; romanticism
Robert Morgan (Divisional) -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; American literature to 1865; English poetry; creative writing (M.F.A. only); the twentieth century; Research interests: creative writing; American literature; English poetry; the twentieth century
Timothy Murray -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; literary criticism and theory; the English Renaissance to 1660; cultural studies; the twentieth century; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; Research interests: international film and new media; visual studies; performance; theory and aesthetics; psychoanalysis; Renaissance studies
Mukoma Ngugi -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; Research interests:
Ernesto Quinonez -- Concentrations: creative writing (M.F.A. only); Research interests: creative writing; fiction
Masha Raskolnikov -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; literary criticism and theory; Old and Middle English; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: Middle English literature, allegory, medieval literary theory and rhetoric, contemporary critical theory, feminist and queer studies
Neil Saccamano -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the Restoration and the eighteenth century; Research interests: 18th-century English and French literature and philosophy; aesthetic theory; print culture; poststructuralist theory
Nicholas Salvato -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; dramatic literature; literary criticism and theory; the twentieth century; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; Research interests: 20th- and 21st-century literature; theater and culture; performance history and theory; American modernism; queer studies
Shirley Samuels -- Concentrations: American literature after 1865; American literature to 1865; the nineteenth century; cultural studies; women's literature; Research interests: American literature and culture; 18th- and 19th-century American fiction; feminist criticism, American studies
Paul Sawyer -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the nineteenth century; cultural studies; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; Research interests: literature of the Victorian period; recent American literature; fiction and poetry of the 19th century
Daniel Schwarz -- Concentrations: English poetry; literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the nineteenth century; cultural studies; the twentieth century; Research interests: the British novel from Defoe with a special focus on Joyce, Conrad, Lawrence, Hardy, Forster, and Woolf; cultural criticism, especially the modernist tradition, including the relation between literature and the visual arts; 20th-century poetry, especially Wallace Stevens; Holocaust studies; literary theory; the changing nature of literary studies and the profession; Victorian poetry and Victorian studies; theory of the novel; American history and culture, with a special focus on New York City; media studies
Harry Shaw -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; prose fiction; the nineteenth century; the Restoration and the eighteenth century; Research interests: 18th- and 19th-century British fiction; historical fiction and literary form; narratology and the theory of narrative
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon -- Concentrations: creative writing (M.F.A. only); Research interests: creative writing, 19th-century American literature, African American literature
Stephanie Vaughn (Divisional) -- Concentrations: prose fiction; creative writing (M.F.A. only); Research interests: creative writing
Amy Villarejo -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; the twentieth century; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; women's literature; Research interests: film history and theory; cultural studies; popular culture and media; gender and sexuality
Helena Viramontes (Divisional) -- Concentrations: creative writing (M.F.A. only); Research interests: creative writing
Shelley Wong -- Concentrations: African American literature; American literature after 1865; cultural studies; the twentieth century; Research interests: Asian American, African American, and ethnic literatures; cultural studies
Dagmawi Woubshet -- Concentrations: African American literature; colonial and postcolonial literatures; cultural studies; the twentieth century; lesbian, bisexual, and gay literary studies; Research interests: African American literature; Ethiopian Poesis; queer studies; AIDS and narratives of loss; 1980s; contemporary African and African-American visual culture
Samantha Zacher -- Concentrations: Old and Middle English; Research interests: Old and Middle English literature; manuscript studies; rhetoric; studies in orality and literacy; history of the English language

Graduate School Professors (emeritus)

Mary Jacobus -- Concentrations: literary criticism and theory; Research interests:
Carol Kaske -- Concentrations: Research interests: nondramatic literature of the High Middle Ages and Renaissance; Renaissance Latin writers; Renaissance cultural history; allegory; genre
Dorothy Mermin -- Concentrations: Research interests: women's poetry; 19th-century women's literature; Matthew Arnold; Victorian poetry and non-fictional prose
A. Reeve Parker -- Concentrations: dramatic literature; English poetry; the nineteenth century; Research interests: British romantic poetry, fiction, and drama and related aesthetic, political materials of late Enlightenment, French Revolutionary, and Regency periods
Winthrop Wetherbee -- Concentrations: Research interests: Chaucer; Middle English; Classical and medieval Latin; Dante; Old French poetry; Medieval literary criticitism

Graduate Assessment Plan

The Cornell Department of English is committed to diversity in terms of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of English literature. The areas of expertise professed by its faculty and explored by its graduate students represent the full spectrum of professional sub-fields, and interdisciplinary affiliations further extend the department’s intellectual and creative engagement. A distinguishing feature of the Cornell PhD program in English is its reliance on a system of Special Committees, which allows students to develop their own courses of study within a broad framework established by the department. Graduate students work closely with faculty committees to determine a highly flexible course of study, to set individually devised qualifying exams, and to determine additional work in foreign languages. This system encourages a close working relationship between professors and students, promoting freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of the graduate degree. Students in the English PhD program also receive extensive teacher training. After the first year in the program, students typically teach seminars in the university-wide First-year Writing Program, an experience which prepares them to design and teach courses in creative writing, literature, and cultural studies to a range of students, including agriculture and engineering majors as well as students in the humanities and social sciences. The combination of an individualized curriculum and rich teaching experience positions our students to be extremely competitive on the job market, and qualifies them to pursue work in a variety of creative fields. 

Learn more about the graduate field of English language and literature assessment plan.