Program Description

The English and Comparative Literature Department at UNC-Chapel Hill fosters insightful and imaginative thinking, with the goal of producing excellent scholars and teachers. Our department offers a wide-ranging Ph.D. program, engaging in all historical periods and across several key areas of critical study. The graduate program trains students to become specialists in fields of their own making by guiding them through the various stages of the program, and by offering rigorous coaching when they enter the academic job market. Our renowned faculty work across a range of fields, engaging in interdisciplinary scholarship and showcasing a diverse set of critical approaches within the discipline. They publish widely and make themselves accessible to their students at the same time. Exceptional mentoring is a hallmark of our program. These relationships assure that as students gain historical breadth in their study of literature, they also hone the highly-developed skills in scholarship and criticism necessary for innovative work in their chosen specialized fields.

Course of Study

Graduate students in our program take courses, pass qualifying examinations in their areas of concentration, and write dissertations.  But our graduate students are also vital to department life, taking leadership roles in our Critical Speaker Series, participating actively in the lectures and seminars held here—and attending the many social events that enhance our intellectual life. All students are fully funded in our program; some with research fellowships, most with teaching fellowships. All students teach in our undergraduate program, usually starting in the second year, but many in their first year of study. Our thriving graduate student colloquia—one for all third-year students, one in medieval and early modern studies—provides students finishing up their coursework the opportunity to present their own work and engage professors and fellow graduate students in debate. Our job placement program provides yet another forum for learning how to hone skills as a scholar with the aid of fellow students and faculty.  While the vast majority of our graduates pursue careers in academia, a good number seek other opportunities as well, and the department actively supports them. One former student in our program became a business strategist at Google, some have pursued careers in library services, while others have taken teaching positions at private prep schools.

Intellectual and Cultural Community

Chapel Hill is a sunny, beautiful university town, with a very reasonable cost of living and a wealth of libraries, book stores, historical sites, theaters, music venues, restaurants, and nearby peer institutions.  Students here belong to a thriving intellectual community, partly owing to our proximity to the National Humanities Center, North Carolina State University, and Duke University. In addition to the work they do here at UNC, our students regularly perform archival work, attend conferences and symposia, and collaborate with students at these neighboring institutions. Faculty and graduate students in our department also work frequently with our colleagues at King’s College, London, with whom UNC has an official partnership. Graduate study at UNC thus launches graduate students outward from this idyllic Southern setting, positioning them to reach past our borders, producing an expertise defined both locally and globally.