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Course of Study

Core Courses (9 Credit Hours) [+/-]

Required courses:

  • 810 Major Debates in English Studies
  • 840 Empirical Research Methods and Project Design
  • 892 Dissertation Seminar

It is strongly recommended that students take 810 in their first semester of study as it provides an overview to the many subfields within the English Studies. Students should also take 840 early in their course of study whenever possible. Dissertation Seminar is taken during the student’s last semester (see more below).

Emphasis Courses (18 Credit Hours) [+/-]

Students will choose two nine-hour emphases from those described below.

Please note:

  1. Several courses appear in multiple emphases, but the same course cannot be counted towards the required nine hours in multiple emphases. (No “double-dipping” is allowed).
  2. An emphasis is defined by a minimum of three courses, but students are free to select additional courses from their emphasis areas as electives (see below, ELECTIVES).
  3. Students who choose the “Student-Designed Emphasis” as one of their two emphases MUST follow the process for defining it specified in the description below in order for courses they take to constitute an emphasis.
  4. Students may count only one “Student-Designed Emphasis” toward the requirement to complete two emphases. That is, all students must select at least one of the pre-defined disciplinary emphases described below, but all students may also design their own emphasis according to the process stipulated below.
  1. Literary and Cultural Studies
  2. The Literary and Cultural Studies emphasis will teach students to apply a range of interdisciplinary methodologies to the study of literature and other textually informed cultural practices. Although the emphasis includes courses offering intensive study of specific literary-cultural topics (such as Victorian Gothic or Women & Indian Film), the emphasis aims more to professionalize students as experts in the methods and critical traditions of literary, textual, and cultural interpretation than to credential students as specialists in particular literary-cultural periods. By the conclusion of their studies in this emphasis, students will be proficient in interpreting texts and cultural practices by critically employing methodologies that include:

    • Theories of Form, such as the technical protocols of scholarly editing and the physical description of manuscript and printed texts
    • Critical Theories such as New Historicism, Feminism, Queer Theory, and Poststructuralism
    • Cultural Theories such as Critical Race Theory, Mass/Popular Culture Theory, and Postcolonial Studies


    801 Texts and Technologies

    805 Discourse and Rhetoric across Cultures

    825 Scholarly Editing and Textual Scholarship

    830 Digital Humanities

    835 Postcolonial Literature and Theory

    864 Theories of Literature

    890 Seminar in Textual Studies

    891 Seminar in Literary Studies

    895 Topics Cultural Studies Theory and Practice

  3. Rhetoric, Writing, and Discourse Studies
  4. This emphasis prepares students for placement and advancement in careers centered on the history and theory of rhetoric, composition, writing program administration, workplace studies, and/or rhetorical and linguistic approaches to discourse and culture. It emphasizes how communications are composed, constructed, and produced as well as how they affect (inter)personal, social, cultural, and political situations. Possible areas of inquiry include:

    • Institutional assessment procedures for writing and critical thinking.
    • Writing practices and language use in a variety of educational, public, professional, and workplace settings.
    • The influence of cultural and disciplinary assumptions about language and language users upon rhetorical and linguistic choices.
    • The rhetorical constraints and strategies of underrepresented groups.
    • The historical development of theory, practice, and instruction in rhetoric and composition and professional writing.


    805 Discourse and Rhetoric Across Cultures

    806 Visual Rhetoric and Document Design

    815 Professional Writing Theories and Practices

    816 Professional Writing In/For International Contexts

    820 Pedagogy and Instructional Design

    821 Composition as Applied Rhetoric

    860 Classical Rhetoric & Theory Building

    863 Seminar in Discourse Analysis

    865 Modern Rhetoric & Theory Building

    883 Seminar in Professional Writing

    878 Seminar in Sociolinguistics

    893 Seminar in Rhetoric

  5. Technology and Media Studies
  6. The study of technology as a political, cultural, economic, systemic, and aesthetic force is a crucial area of analysis of contemporary scholarship. This emphasis prepares students for interdisciplinary work with a focus on domains of technological complexity with foundations in the materiality of rhetorical work. A major tenet of this emphasis is that in addition to studying issues of technology, society, communication, and media design, we will also develop practical solutions for the situations we confront. This emphasis prepares students for both academic and industry positions where they can use their skills as researchers and strategists. Possible areas of research and application include:

    • Ethical, social, and political dimensions of information, technology and networked communication.
    • Copyright and intellectual property, including the legal implications of technological regulation and change.
    • Privacy issues in information technologies and media.
    • Implications of digital methods in the humanities (Digital Humanites).
    • Design and development of digital humanities tools.
    • Technologically mediated communication such as experience design, usability studies, and information architecture
    • Visual and participatory cultures


    806 Visual Culture and Design

    830 Digital Humanities

    866 New Media Theory and Practice 1

    871 New Media Theory and Practice 2

    894 Seminar in New Media

    895 Topics Foundations in Technology and Media Studies

    895 Topics Theory and Practice of Experience Design

    895 Topics Methods for Tracing Digital Culture

    895 Topics Culture | Media | Participation

    895 Topics Internet Studies

    895 Topics Technologically Mediated Communication

  7. Student-Designed Emphasis
  8. A student-designed emphasis is a coherent cluster of at least three courses that are not included in the other emphasis chosen by the student. The courses selected for the emphasis must define a cross-curricular focus that is clearly different from the foci of the pre-defined disciplinary emphases listed above. Examples might include: methodology; pedagogy; gender studies; visual rhetoric; discourse and rhetoric across cultures; or professional writing for international contexts. Students should choose or construct emphases under the guidance of an advisor, with advice from other mentors as needed. In order to count courses taken as part of a student-designed emphasis, students must submit a proposal for the emphasis that includes a title, a description of its focus, and a tentative or exemplary selection of at least 3 courses to their advisor and the GPD. Both the advisor and the GPD must approve the proposal and include a signed letter approving it in the student’s advising file. Because courses actually taken for the emphasis may change based on course offerings, a final description of the student-designed emphasis (including a title, a description of its focus, and a justification of how courses taken support its focus) must be approved by the student’s advisor in a signed letter and must be submitted with the advisor’s approval letter to the GPD before the student enrolls in English 892 Dissertation Seminar.

Elective Courses [+/-]

ELECTIVES (12 credit hours): The remaining four courses are electives, which may include additional courses in the student’s chosen emphases, courses in other emphases, or other 800-level courses from other programs. Students are encouraged to select electives that contribute to defining a coherent area of specialization or subfield. Note: Students and advisors should select a pedagogy course when students’ previous work experience or course work does not prepare them for instructional activities related to their field.

Foreign Language Requirement [+/-]

The department offers three options for fulfilling the foreign language requirement


To enter candidacy for the doctoral degree, students must present evidence of mastery of a foreign language equivalent to second-year undergraduate facility. This can be done by transcript, by demonstration of native language proficiency (for those who speak English as a second language), taking coursework at Old Dominion or elsewhere equivalent to second-year language facility (at Old Dominion University, through language courses numbered 202), passing a standardized test at the appropriate level, or passing an examination administered by the Department of Foreign Languages geared to second-year language mastery. A grade of B or above in both semesters of second-year instruction will demonstrate competency in that language. Evidence of completion of the foreign language requirement should be presented to the GPD as soon as possible in the student’s career and is necessary before enrolling in the Dissertation Seminar.

New Media Application

Students may choose the option of presenting evidence of mastery of computer and new media applications beyond the usual knowledge of word processing, spread sheets, projection applications (e.g., PowerPoint), portable document format (pdf), and similar, common applications and software. This evidence would include programming languages such as:

  • ActionScript
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • Ruby
  • ActionScript 2 or 3

Students choosing this option must submit a multimodal, new-media project in which demonstration of one of the allowed programming languages is paramount. Students should submit a statement describing the applications or programs used and level of expertise. Students should be prepared to demonstrate facility before members of the PhD Advisory Council, who shall have final say on whether the option has been satisfied. Projects should be multimodal and interactive. As with seeking credit in a foreign language, students should submit evidence of completion of the requirement to the GPD as soon as possible in their careers and before enrolling in the Dissertation Seminar.


Students whose research requires knowledge of quantitative research design and statistics may show mastery of statistical methods through the following:

  • Successful completion of one graduate-level course in statistics with a grade of B or higher (courses completed at the master's level may count for this requirement). Or. successful completion of two undergraduate-level courses in quantitative research design and statistics with a grade of B or higher in both.
  • Providing evidence to the GPD that they designed and completed a project, using statistical methods (e.g., a course project, conference paper, or journal article).


Dissertation Seminar [+/-]
In the final semester of course work (after completion of a minimum of 33 hours), students will take the Dissertation Seminar, ENGL 885, a three-hour course that will be offered each fall term. The purpose of the seminar is two-fold: first, to conduct preliminary research toward a formal dissertation prospectus; and second, to generate reading lists and questions for the doctoral candidacy examination. Students will form cohorts based on their field and share writing and reading assignments within their cohorts. The products of the seminar will include a dissertation prospectus (see below); an annotated bibliography associated with the prospectus; a field bibliography; and questions for the candidacy examination.
Dissertation Candidacy Examination [+/-]
In order to be eligible to take doctoral candidacy examinations, students must have completed all coursework, including the Dissertation Seminar and all incompletes, and research competency requirements. All students must take the candidacy examination by fall semester of the fifth year or be dismissed from the program. Successful completion of the examination enables the student to finalize the dissertation committee, begin the dissertation, and enroll in dissertation hours. If a student fails any portion of the exam, he/she must take the entire exam over to be eligible to continue and no earlier than the main semester (fall, spring) following the first attempt. Failure a second time will result in dismissal from the program.
Dissertation Prospectus [+/-]
As soon as possible following the Dissertation Seminar and successful completion of the candidacy examination, the student submits a dissertation proposal that outlines the project and methodology to be undertaken for a dissertation.
Dissertation Supervision [+/-]
A dissertation committee will minimally consist of a supervisor from the English department, a reader/advisor from English, and one faculty member from another department at Old Dominion University. Students may elect to add a fourth (or even fifth) member from outside the university or from the English department. The supervisor serves as the chief advisor and coordinator of the committee for the project.
Dissertation Credits [+/-]
All PhD students must write a dissertation, understood to be a document equivalent in length to a published scholarly monograph (c. 65,000-85,000 words) that makes an original contribution to scholarly inquiry about the topic it addresses. A student submits a dissertation prospectus after the student’s successful completion of the candidacy exam. If the student’s proposed dissertation committee approves the prospectus, the student will proceed to research and write the dissertation. Dissertation students will enroll in 9 hours of dissertation credit during the research and writing phase; students who require additional hours can sign up for a single hour each term of Directed Research or ENGL 999. The office of the graduate program director will schedule an oral defense of the dissertation after a draft of the completed dissertation is approved by the student’s dissertation committee as ready for such a defense.
Dissertation Defense [+/-]
After the student’s completion of the dissertation (pending final corrections), the student and supervisor contact the GPD to schedule an oral defense of the project. By university rules, such a defense is open to the university community. The defense committee consists of the supervisor and the remaining committee members, who will then examine and vote upon the suitability of the project as worthy of approval as a piece of sustained, original scholarship that meets the appropriate standard for doctoral research. The dissertation is considered approved when so indicated by a majority of the defense committee, pending final editing and approval of the project by the GPD and dean’s office.


The sample timelines below represent the extremes of fast-track, full-time plus summer or part-time at close to the minimum rate of progress. Many students will likely fall somewhere in between, while a few may take an additional semester or year.

Please note: Once a student has passed candidacy examinations, she/he need only take 1 hour of dissertation credit to be classified as a full-time student. The program requires 9 hours of dissertation; therefore, the charts below reflect an apportionment of those hours over the likely amount of time required to write a dissertation.

Year 1 [+/-]
Semester Full-Time Student Part-Time Student
Fall 9 hrs core/field/elective 3 hrs core/field/elective
Spring 9 hrs 3 hrs
Summer 3 hrs 6 hrs
Year 2 [+/-]
Semester Full-Time Student Part-Time Student
Fall 9 hrs 3 hrs
Spring 9 hrs 3 hrs
Summer Study 6 hrs
Year 3 [+/-]
Semester Full-Time Student Part-Time Student
Fall Dissertation Seminar
Candidacy Exams
3 hrs
Spring 3 hrs Dissertation 3 hrs
Summer 1 hr Dissertation 6 hrs
Year 4 [+/-]
Semester Full-Time Student Part-Time Student
Fall 3 hrs Dissertation Dissertation Seminar
Candidacy Exams
Spring 2 hrs Dissertation
2 hrs Dissertation
Summer   2 hrs Dissertation
Year 5 [+/-]
Semester Full-Time Student Part-Time Student
Fall   2 hrs Dissertation
Spring   1 hr Dissertation
Summer   1 hr Dissertation
Year 6 [+/-]
Semester Full-Time Student Part-Time Student
Fall   1 hr Dissertation