Program of Study

Please note: the Ph.D in Literature Program at the University of Notre Dame is no longer admitting new students.

Credit and Area Requirements

The program requires its students to complete a minimum of 51 credit hours from regular graduate courses. Students who have obtained credits for graduate courses taken after their undergraduate degree and prior to entering the program may be allowed to transfer a maximum of 6 credit hours. Students who have completed an M.A. before entering the program may be allowed to transfer a maximum of 24 credit hours. The transfer of credit hours is not automatic and requires the approval of the program director and the Graduate School.

During their first three semesters students are required to take the program’s two basic courses: (a) the course in literary and critical theory and (b) a course in literature that exemplifies transnational and/or interdisciplinary approaches to literary studies. Courses that fulfill the latter requirement will be defined by the program director.

Every student in the PhD in Literature program must be registered for a minimum of nine credits per semester. During the period of coursework (the first three to five semesters), these credits should be content-oriented courses that will fulfill requirements or serve to meet a programmatic need of the student.

Primary field and related fields may be organized around periods (e.g., late antiquity, medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, fin de siècle, etc.); around genres (e.g., epic, tragedy, comedy, the ancient and/or modern novel, etc.); around literary movements (e.g., modernism, symbolism, the avant-garde, etc.); or around languages (e.g., ancient Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, German, Italian, etc.).

All students are also required to take two courses in disciplines other than literature, such as philosophy and theology, which enable them to understand the historical disciplines that have shaped the way we talk and think about literature.

Additionally, students are required to fulfill three credits in the area of professional development. In the first year, students will enroll in the course “Learning the Profession” (LTP). Students may opt to take this course on an S/U basis, in which case the credits earned will not count towards the 51 credits of coursework required by the program. The content of this course will include preparation for entering professions in academia and will also discuss other career options. This course will also provide a forum for students entering the job market to practice their job talk and other critical skills.


All students in the Ph.D. in Literature Program are expected to be able to read and conduct research in English and at least two other languages. Any of these languages may be defined as the primary language. If the language of the major area of study is English, then near-native competence must be demonstrated in the secondary languages.

Students are minimally required to demonstrate near-native proficiency in the language of their major area of study and a scholarly reading knowledge in an additional language. The language skills required will vary according to the individualized program of study. Language requirements are designed to provide a rigorous base for in-depth study of two or more literary traditions and to ensure that students will successfully compete for placement in national literature departments as well as interdisciplinary programs.

In most cases, students should be able to demonstrate their language skills at the time of admission to the program. Primary language proficiency must be demonstrated by the beginning of a student’s third semester of residence. Proficiency in an additional language must be demonstrated by the end of the fifth semester of residence.



The Ph.D. Candidacy examination must be successfully completed by no later than the end of the third year—and preferably earlier. It consists of a written and an oral component.

The dissertation proposal must also be submitted and approved before the end of the third year of study, at the very latest.

To get a copy of the handbook please e-mail your request to or download the handbook.

(Note: This is not the English Ph.D. If you would like to apply to English, please click here.)