The doctoral program in English is small and highly selective. We typically admit 10 students per year. Known for its innovative and influential approaches to the study of literature, our doctoral program is dynamic and challenging within a collegial atmosphere of intellectual exchange. Our students are encouraged to read broadly across English and American literatures including four-nations British, Anglophone and comparative postcolonial, the Black Atlantic, Irish and other diasporas, multilingual North America, and pan-Pacific. Students investigate literary and cultural history as forms of knowledge production and social action; to develop the specific linguistic, philosophical, and historical skills relevant to their chosen field and intervention; and to think and articulate with clarity, subtlety, and imagination.
Particular faculty interests currently cutting across the chronological and geographical categorizations of literature include examples such as the cultural work of memory; whiteness and orientalism; mourning and trauma; the history of the book and other media, especially the visual arts and film; performativity and the sensorium; religion and political theory; science and technology. Not only is the faculty's own work uniquely interdisciplinary (nearly all the graduate faculty have joint appointments with other programs and departments including Cultural Anthropology, Religion, African and African American Studies, Germanic Languages and Literature, Theater Studies, the Program in Literature, Women's Studies, The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies) but students may take courses in other departments with few restrictions. The flexibility of the program, together with our encouragement of an interdisciplinarity driven and defined by the curiosity and intellectual interests of students, encourages exciting and unanticipated conjunctions in intellectual work -- between, say, queer and marxist theory, or between medieval and Latin American studies, film and Victoriana.
There is no terminal MA program in Duke's English department, though the department is a popular home for the JD/MA degree, a joint program with the Law School.
For the last several decades, we have been extraordinarily successful in placing our PhD graduates in tenure-track jobs. We calculate our placement percentage as the percentage of PhD graduates who receive a tenure-track job within three years of graduation. Between fall 2000 and fall 2008, our placement rate was 84% (48 of 57 graduates). The worldwide financial crisis that began in 2008 affected our placement rate (just as, we assume, it affected the placement rate of all our peer institutions), and between spring 2008 and summer 2013, our placement rate was 63% (30 of 48 students). (Even that placement rate is significantly above what the authors of an economics study recently calculated as the average placement rate—54%--of graduates from peer English programs such as the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania (1)). However, placement appears now to be moving back to our earlier, much higher rate: though we can't yet fully calculate our placement rate since fall 2013, as these students have not yet had three years in which to find a tenure-track job, our placement from fall 2013 is already nearly 70% (11 of 16 students), and this rate will presumably further increase as recent graduates have had a full 3 years in which to find tenure-track jobs.
The department runs a full support system to help students prepare for their job search, from the process of drafting application letters and curricula vitae through scheduling on campus mock interviews.
(1) David Colander, with Daisy Zhuo, "Where Do PhDs in English Get Jobs: An Economist's View of the English PhD Market." Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 15/1 (2014): 139-56.
Recent Tenure-Track Positions
Calina Ciobanu (PhD 2015), US Naval Academy
Jacqueline Cowan (PhD 2015), Stephen F. Austin University
Ainehi Edoro (PhD 2016), Marquette University
Rebecca Evans (PhD 2016), Winston-Salem State University
Azeen Khan (PhD 2015), Dartmouth College
Deanna Koretsky (PhD 2015), Spelman College
Frances McDonald (PhD 2015), University of Louisville
Whitney Trettien (PhD 2015), UNC - Chapel Hill