Doctor of Philosophy in English and Film Studies

The department offers specializations in the following three fields: gender and genre; nation, diaspora, culture; and textuality, media and print studies. The purpose of the program is to offer professional education and training for students who wish to pursue careers in postsecondary teaching, research, administration, and other fields in which sophisticated analytical, organizational and communication skills are required.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the program normally requires an MA in English, an MA in Cinema/Film Studies,  or an equivalent degree with at least an A- average in graduate work.  Applications are considered by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee and a recommendation to admit or decline is forwarded to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Admission standards are rigorous and involve three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a writing sample and a proposed program of study.

Program Requirements

Innovative opportunities exist in the program to pursue work across traditional disciplinary boundaries. The degree requirements consist of

  • four one-term (0.5 credit) graduate courses to be taken in the first year of the program; 
  • the Comprehensive Area Exam and the Specialization Area Exam culminating in the qualifying oral candidacy examination; and
  • a dissertation.
Doctoral students must maintain a minimum grade of B+ in each course to be eligible to continue in the program.

Area Exams

The PhD Area Exams, constituting the Comprehensive Area Exam and the Specialization Area Exam, prepare students for teaching and research. The two areas complement and reinforce each other, but are graded separately.  The Comprehensive Exam will comprise primarily canonical texts for a teachable area, while the Specialization Exam will cover, in-depth, both the canonical and the non-canonical texts necessary for the dissertation. 

The student's study of the assigned reading list and preparation for writing the Comprehensive Area Exam (CAE) will normally be taken during the third and fourth terms of study, with the writing of the examination taking place at the end of the fourth term. The Specialization Area Exam (SAE) will normally be taken during the fifth and sixth terms and will culminate in both a written examination and the oral qualifying candidacy examination by the end of the sixth term (the final term of Year Two).

Comprehensive Area Exam (terms 2, 3 and 4)
At the end of the first term of study (December), the student consults the Graduate Officer to determine the constitution of the overall Area Exam committee based upon the plan of research and study for the dissertation. The Area Exam committee, including the dissertation supervisor, plus two other members with expertise in one or more of the areas the student wishes to pursue, is selected by the first month of the second term of registration (January). The student chooses one overarching area of study genre, period, movement, nation, theory for the purpose of developing a recognized teachable strength and to form a general background for the Specialization Area Exam. The study selection outlined above will constitute the "Comprehensive Area Exam" and the reading list will be provided by the department from a series of set lists that are updated yearly to reflect changes in the discipline. The reading list will involve 90-100 "text units," where each text unit is equal to six hours of reading.

The student writes a take home exam (of a one week maximum duration) where there is a choice of 3 out of 5 essay questions, each of which requires approx. eight to ten pages of double-spaced typed writing. The 3 essay questions will be weighted equally.

If a student should fail the Comprehensive area exam, the student is allowed one chance to rewrite the exam within two months of receiving the failed grade.

Specialization Area Exam (terms 5 and 6)
The Specialization Area Exam (SAE) develops the student's primary area of specialization in preparation for the dissertation and normally overlaps with work on the dissertation. The Specialization Area Exam involves individualized, directed study of the literary, cultural and theoretical contexts related to the dissertation topic and thus provides the student with the research and pedagogical contexts to undertake the dissertation. It is related to the CAE insofar as the former serves to acquaint the student with the greater field he or she has chosen to study, while the SAE focuses narrowly and in depth upon a particular area within that greater field; in this way the two exams permit teachable subjects suitable for a second- or third-year survey course (the CAE), and also a fourth-year or graduate seminar (the SAE).

Early in the fifth term of registration (February 15) the student submits a reading list and a draft dissertation proposal to the SAE committee for approval. The creation of the reading list of 70-80 works will be self-directed in consultation with the examining committee. The draft proposal is approximately 6-8 pages long and is accompanied by a Works Cited in MLA Style. Failure to provide this material by February 15 will result in the forfeiture of the opportunity to write the exam and an annual progress report of unsatisfactory. For the remainder of the fifth and sixth terms of registration, the student studies for the Specialization Area Exam. At the end of the sixth term of registration (August), the student completes an on-campus written exam (1 essay out of 3 question choices). Within one week of writing the on-campus exam, the student takes the oral exam (two hours), which is devoted to questions about the reading list as a whole. Evaluation consists of 40% for written exam; 60% for oral exam.

If a student should fail the Specialization Area Examination, the student is allowed one chance to rewrite it within four months of receiving the failing grade.

Upon satisfactory completion of the SAE written and oral components, the student is deemed to have met the PhD program standards and is permitted to register in EN799 - Doctoral Dissertation.

Progress Reports

In April of the first year of registration and once a year thereafter, a student is required to complete an annual progress report detailing the achievements of the previous year and the objectives for the next year.  The report must demonstrate satisfactory progress, and must be signed with comments by the supervisor and department's Graduate Officer, and filed with the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Failure to submit a satisfactory report may result in the student being required to withdraw from the program.

Language Requirement

Doctoral students are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in one language other than modern English, and one that is in some way pertinent to the dissertation research area. The selection of the language will be determined by the student in consultation with the dissertation advisor, and must be submitted for approval to the Graduate Officer. The aim is to test the student's ability to read critically in another language rather than to demonstrate mastery of translation. Assessment of the student's reading proficiency is based on a three-hour examination, which consists of the student's translation (with the help of a dictionary) of one passage in prose and a written analysis (in English) of the passage's critical implications. A faculty member with expertise in the language grades the examination on a pass/fail basis. Evidence that a student has already demonstrated similar language ability at another university before admission may be submitted to the Graduate Officer, who will consult with the Graduate Studies Committee about the student's request to have the language requirement waived. Credit will be given at the discretion of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to any student who has fulfilled the equivalent language requirement through an MA-level examination. Credit will not normally be given for the completion of a university- level language course. Typically the language requirement will be completed within years 2 or 3 (between the 6th to 9th terms of study).

Failure to Complete

A student who twice fails the Comprehensive Area Exam or the Specialization Area Exam will be required to withdraw from the program.

PhD Dissertation

Following successful completion of the two area exams, the student must write and submit a Dissertation Proposal, using the guidelines outlined by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. This Dissertation Proposal will grow out of the student's SAE rationale, taking into consideration knowledge and research obtained in the course of preparation for and the writing of the SAE. This final dissertation proposal will normally be submitted to the student's supervisory committee within eight weeks after completion of the SAE. This Dissertation Proposal must also be deemed acceptable by the Graduate Studies Committee, before being passed to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

By the end of the winter term of the student's third year, the student must have submitted a working chapter of the dissertation to the committee(minimum: 25 pages) that demonstrates the feasibility of the project, as well as the student's ability to realize it. Failure to achieve this milestone will result in a rating of unsatisfactory on the Annual Progress Report; two such consecutive ratings will result in a recommendation to withdraw from the program.

The student must then go on to complete and defend an original research dissertation on an advanced topic. The dissertation should normally be between 50,000 and 75,000 words in length, and will be followed by an oral examination of the student in accordance with WLU's doctoral regulations and procedures, which will govern the written dissertation and the oral examination formats. 

Residency Regulations

At least five semesters of full-time study must be devoted to the doctoral program following the completion of a recognized master's degree.