PhD Concentration in Rhetoric and Composition

Welcome to the website for the University of New Mexico’s Doctoral Program in Rhetoric and Writing. Below, please find the general path of study for our Doctoral Program. If you haven't done so, we recommend you visit the Rhetoric and Writing Program home to learn more about program faculty and ongoing projects. Please do not hesitate to contact a faculty member with questions, as we enjoy hearing from prospective students. Thank you again for visiting our site and we hope you consider joining us at the University of New Mexico.

Course Requirements

The PhD in English Language and Literature with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition requires 54 hours of coursework, comprehensive exams in three areas, a Foreign Language requirement, and a doctoral dissertation. Typically, PhD students have recently completed a Master’s degree in English with something in excess of 30 semester hours. The English department accepts up to 24 of those hours toward the PhD degree, leaving students 30 hours of regular course work to complete from the time of matriculation.  The PhD requires a minimum of four years of extended study to master a specific subject completely and to extend the body of knowledge about that subject. Applicants should already possess a Master’s degree in English or a related discipline. 

Note: Students who did graduate work in a discipline other than English likely will not transfer the full 24 hours to the PhD program. Such students will need to complete more than 30 hours of regular course work before moving on to the dissertation. The Associate Chair of Graduate Studies (ACGS) and the Committee on Studies (COS) determine the number of hours students are able to transfer to the PhD.

Required Coursework (for complete requirements, see the Graduate Handbook)
As explained above, PhD students must take 54 hours of course work before taking the Comprehensive Examinations and moving on to the dissertation. These hours must be distributed as follows:

Core Course (3 hrs)
Engl. 500:
 Introduction to the Professional Study of English (3 hrs) (Must be taken in the first semester of graduate study)

Distribution Requirements (15 hrs)
 Students must take 15 hours of coursework in Language, Theory, and Pedagogy, as described below.
Language and Theory (9 hrs) Students must take a total of nine hours from Language and Theory courses, at least three of which are from Language and three from Theory courses.
Language (at least 3 hrs from the following)
Engl. 541: English Grammar (3 hrs)
Engl. 545: History of the English Language (3 hrs)
Engl. 547: Old English (3 hrs)
Engl. 548: Beowulf and Other Topics (3 hrs)
Engl. 549: Middle English Language (3 hrs)

 (at least 3 hrs from the following)
Engl. 510: Criticism and Theory (3 hrs)
Engl. 511: Special Topics: Criticism and Theory; Literacy and Cultural Movements (3 hrs)
Engl. 540: Topics in Language or Rhetoric (3 hrs)
Engl. 542: Major Texts in Rhetoric (3 hrs)
Engl. 543: Contemporary Texts in Rhetoric (3 hrs)
Engl. 610: Studies in Criticism and Theory (4 hrs)

Pedagogy (6 hrs) Students must take six hours of pedagogy courses from the following or from approved substitutions in other departments. (All new Teaching Assistants, including those who have previous teaching experience or similar course work elsewhere, are required to take Engl. 537, which is offered every Fall semester, in the first semester they begin teaching at UNM.)
Engl. 535: Teaching Creative Writing (3 hrs)
Engl. 537: Teaching Composition (required of all new TAs) (3 hrs)
Engl. 538: Writing Theory for Teachers (3 hrs)
Engl. 539: Teaching Professional Writing (3 hrs)
Engl. 592: Teaching Literature (3 hrs)

Seminars (12 hrs)
 All PhD students must take at least three four-hour seminars offered in the English Department; these seminars are often, but not always, in their fields of study.
Engl. 610: Studies in Criticism and Theory (4 hrs)
Engl. 640: Studies in Language and Rhetoric (4 hrs)
Engl. 650: Studies in British Literature (4 hrs)
Engl. 660: Studies in American Literature (4 hrs)
Engl. 680: Studies in Genre, Backgrounds, Forces (4 hrs)

Electives (24 hrs)
 The required courses above total 30 hours; students who have transferred 24 hours from the MA into the PhD will have fulfilled the minimum course requirements, excluding dissertation hours, required for the degree. Students who need more course credits, should fulfill their remaining hours with approved graduate courses in English or related disciplines under the advisement of the COS and the ACGS. All 54 regular course requirements must be completed before enrolling for dissertation hours, Engl. 699.

Dissertation (no fewer than 18 hrs)

Engl. 699: Dissertation (3-12 hrs, no limit).

Foreign Language Requirement
With the approval of the ACGS and COS, PhD students may satisfy the language requirement in one of three ways.

  1. By demonstrating competence in two foreign languages. “Competence” can be demonstrated in one of several ways with a grade of B or better: through the second semester, second-year level in a language other than English; through a graduate-level reading course I in a language other than English; or through the second semester of a one-year sequence in Old English.

  2. By demonstrating fluency in one foreign language. “Fluency” can be demonstrated in one of several ways with a grade of B or better: through the second-semester, third-year level in a language other than English; or through a graduate-level reading course II in a language other than English.

  3. By combining competence in one foreign language with a similar competence in a research skill such as Computer Science or Statistics. Competence in the research skill can be established by the completion of a second-semester, second-year course with a grade of B or better.

Competence and Fluency can be demonstrated through course work from previous institutions, course work at UNM, and CLEP or UNM-administered language tests. The decision as to which research skills courses such as Computer Science and Statistics will satisfy the Department’s language requirements will be negotiated between the ACGS, COS, and appropriate faculty from other departments; other research tools may be approved in exceptional cases in which similar provisions must be made for rigorous academic study in the subject.

Note: Course credits for classes used to complete the language or research requirement cannot be counted toward the 54-hour requirement for regular course work.

Comprehensive Examinations
To ensure a thorough and broad knowledge of English as a discipline, the Department of English requires PhD students to take comprehensive examinations in three different fields. Under the advisement of the COS, PhD students should select their three fields of study early in the course of their doctoral program, so that they can take course work that enhances their understanding of their three fields.

Dissertation Prospectus and Its Defense
After passing the Comprehensive Examinations, PhD students must organize a Dissertation Committee, write and submit a Dissertation Prospectus, and successfully defend the prospectus before the Dissertation Committee. The prospectus defense must be completed no later than six calendar months after passing the Comprehensive Examinations.

The PhD Dissertation
A dissertation is a formal, scholarly document, seldom less than 150 double-spaced pages and often much longer, which makes an original contribution to its field and shows a professional mastery of academic methods and materials. Few dissertations are written in less than a calendar year. PhD students who are also Teaching Assistants commonly find that the process takes two years. UNM requires that students must complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation and defense, within five years of advancing to candidacy (i.e. passing the Comprehensive Examinations).