Overview of the Programs

The Department of English at Middle Tennessee State University offers the Master of Arts and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Both degree programs provide students with advanced training in standard and emerging areas of English studies and opportunities through assistantships to integrate their studies with teaching experience and pedagogical training. The programs seek to attract a diverse body of qualified applicants and especially welcome nontraditional students, including returning students, professionals, international students, and students historically underrepresented in the discipline.

The English Department has been involved in granting master’s and doctoral degrees for more than four decades. The M.A. program was established in 1966, fifteen years after the graduate school was added to the university. The Ph.D. program, first established in 2003, awarded its first two Ph.D. degrees in that same year. The Ph.D. program evolved from a Doctor of Arts (D.A.) degree program established in the late 1960s; the department granted its first D.A. degree in 1971. Many of our applicants to the doctoral program come from regional campuses of community colleges and small liberal arts universities, and in seeking an advanced degree such candidates enhance the intellectual culture of their campuses and the region, as well as contributing to the economic growth of the region and their own personal, intellectual, and economic wellbeing.

The graduate programs in English at Middle Tennessee State University offer a rich curriculum, with a full range of courses covering all literary periods and genres in English. The relatively small size of the seminars, usually eight to ten students, allows for highly individualized attention to students. The curriculum provides opportunities in areas that are unique strengths to the department, such as film studies, Southern literature, American folklore, and rhetoric and composition studies in addition to the major periods of British and American literature. The graduate curriculum thus maintains considerable breadth as well as depth, allowing students to become adept in a variety of fields within English studies. The department’s faculty is engaged in research in standard literary fields as well as popular culture, film studies, rhetoric and composition, linguistics, children’s and young adult literature, and other areas. The graduate programs also afford opportunities to students to teach undergraduates, both in General Education classes and in the University Writing Center, as well as opportunities to assist in research with faculty members. The university library, a beautifully designed and well equipped modern facility, prides itself on a meticulously maintained collection and a wide array of archival materials in early American and British literature available through electronic resources. The graduate programs in English have enjoyed a highly successful placement record for students. We are committed to continuing to attract and grow a diverse, well qualified student body and maintaining an engaged graduate faculty.

The Master of Arts degree offers advanced studies in a variety of literary and cultural expressions. Master’s students may develop expertise in specific areas and topics by following one of four Emphases or customizing a flexible Open Plan: A: Literary Studies; B: Language and Writing Studies; C: Teaching Writing and Literature; D: Popular Culture/Cultural Studies; E: Open Plan. These emphases are discussed more fully below on pp. 10-14.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree offers a dual specialization program allowing for focused study in more than one area of emphasis. Distribution requirements in Theory, American, and British literature are complemented by a substantial number of electives. Students specialize in two areas on which they take preliminary examinations preparatory to teaching in these fields and to the dissertation. These subject areas currently include all periods of American and British literature as well as film, folklore, children’s and young adult literature, Anglophone/Global English literatures, literary theory, and rhetoric and composition. One of the subject areas may be replaced with a Custom exam area designed by the student in consultation with appropriate faculty. The program is designed to provide doctoral students with flexibility in developing their own interests while at the same time providing them with a thorough background in the field. Students creatively define their specialties through their course selections and preparations for candidacy examinations, one or both of which are further developed and more sharply focused in the dissertation.

The department offers a number of unique award opportunities for graduate students, including the Kevin J. Donovan Graduate Award for Excellence in Scholarship, The David Lavery Travel Award in Popular Culture and Film Studies, the William R. Wolfe Graduate Student Writing Award, the John N. McDaniel Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Bené Cox Excellence in Tutoring Award, the Richard and Virginia Peck Awards for scholarly achievement, and graduate assistantships in teaching and research. In addition the College of Graduate Studies offers a limited number of scholarships and support for travel for research and conferences.

Because university approval processes make immediate updating of policies and procedures in written or digital formats impracticable, students should be aware that inconsistencies may occur from time to time. Information in the English Graduate Student Handbook, based on information in the College of Graduate Studies Graduate Catalog or university, department, and program documents, is superseded by more recently communicated updated policies and procedures from the English Graduate Program office. It is the student’s responsibility to ask the English Graduate Advisor or Program Director about any apparent inconsistencies that may come to the student’s attention. Students should keep in mind that they are generally governed by the policies and procedures stated in the catalog in place when they enter the program, unless they elect in consultation with the Graduate Advisor or Program Director to be governed by newer policies and procedures and complete the appropriate forms when the option is available.


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