Doctor of Philosophy in English Rhetoric and Composition

Major: ERC
Degree Awarded: Ph.D.
Unit: GA
Program Webpage:

Program Information

Mission Statement

The Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition provides graduate training in the history and theory of rhetoric; theory and empirical research in composition; an area of literary study; and the relation of rhetoric and composition to allied fields (e.g., critical theory, cultural studies, linguistics). Goals for the Ph.D. are that students will 1) gain specialized and current disciplinary knowledge; 2) write a dissertation in which they initiate and complete specialized research that addresses an original and significant question in rhetoric and composition; 3) acquire experience and expertise as writing teachers.


*Note Applications must be complete, with all supporting materials, official transcripts, and GRE scores by the deadline to be considered for admission.

December 15: Fall admission only

Admission to the Ph.D.

Openings in the doctoral program are limited; therefore, admission is competitive. All doctoral degree applicants should present the following documents:

1. Complete official transcripts (official transcripts must be sent from the institution directly to the University of Louisville. Transcripts uploaded by the student will not count towards completion of this requirement.) of previous undergraduate and graduate work;

2. Three academic letters of recommendation (that is, actual letters attached to the evaluation form from faculty members who can address the applicant's academic performance and potential);

3. A written statement of no more than a thousand words detailing the applicant’s professional goals in the field of rhetoric and composition;

4. Scores on the Graduate Record Examination General Test (from within the last five years);

5. A sample of scholarly, critical writing (15-20 pages);

6. International students must also present scores of at least 600 on the TOEFL Examination (paper test) or at least 210 on the TOEFL Exam (computer test); IELTS scores are also accepted for consideration in lieu of the TOEFL;

Above documents should be submitted to:

School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies
Office of Graduate Admissions
Houchens Building, Suite 105
Louisville, KY 40292

submitted via the online application:

7. Application for Graduate Teaching Assistantship:

GTA application should be submitted to:

Annelise Gray
Department of English
University of Louisville
Bingham Humanities Building RM 315

Louisville, KY 40292

or via email:

The English Graduate Committee reviews applications for the doctoral program in rhetoric and composition and makes all admission decisions. Applicants must have a Master’s degree at the time of matriculation. Completed applications are due no later than December 15th for fall admission only.

All applicants must fulfill the general requirements of the Graduate Admissions Office. Apply Now


All doctoral students are expected to complete a minimum of 51 graduate credit hours, distributed as follows:

Required (12 credit hours)



ENGL 602, Teaching College Composition



ENGL 620, Research in the Composing Process



ENG 691, Contemporary Theories of Interpretation of ENGL 692, Topics in Interpretive Theory



ENGL 689, Directed Reading for Comprehensive Preliminary Exams



Additional Requirements (15 credit hours from the following categories):

Pedagogy and Program Administration




Literary Studies (one creative writing course may be used to fulfill the literary studies requirement; students may also take a second theory course--in addition to the required course listed above--in partial fulfillment of the literary studies requirement)



Electives (12 credit hours):



Choose from offerings in Rhetoric and Composition.  One elective may be taken outside these offerings, including a course outside the department



Dissertation (690)



Minimum Credit Hours Total



Ph.D. Language Requirement

Each doctoral student must demonstrate proficiency in one language other than English. (See the Graduate Program Guidelines for more information.)

Time Limit and Residency for Ph.D.

All work for the Ph.D. must be completed within four years of passing the comprehensive exams.

A year of full-time residency is required of all students. A year of full time residency in the English doctoral program consists of the completion of two consecutive semesters of nine (9) credit hours each.

For students holding Graduate Teaching Assistantships, a year of full-time residency in the English doctoral program is 18 credit hours within a single academic year. Students ordinarily take nine (9) credit hours of course work and teach six (6) credit hours in the fall and spring terms.

Professional Requirements

Sometime during their tenure in the doctoral program, students must participate in a year-long supervised teaching-intern program. Graduate Teaching Assistants automatically fulfill the professional requirement once they have completed one successful year as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Other students must make arrangements in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies to fulfill the year-long supervised teaching requirement.

Comprehensive Preliminary Examination

When students have completed coursework and satisfied the language requirement, they may sit for the Comprehensive Preliminary Examinations. (See the Graduate Program Guidelines for a detailed explanation of these examinations.)

Admission to Candidacy

Students will be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. after they have completed coursework, met the language and professional requirements, and passed the comprehensive preliminary examinations; they remain doctoral degree candidates until they complete the dissertation.

The doctoral dissertation requires the equivalent of a full year of graduate work and involves registration in at least 12 credit hours in English 690.

Guidelines for writing the dissertation prospectus are included in the English department’s Graduate Program Guidelines. The dissertation will be submitted in the form and by the date prescribed by the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (see for the current guidelines).

Final Oral Examination

The defense of the dissertation will be scheduled by the date listed on the Graduate Program Calendar. The dissertation will then be revised according to the dissertation committee’s recommendations. One copy shall be submitted to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies. Along with the dissertation, the candidate shall submit an abstract for publication in Dissertation Abstracts. Candidates may wish to produce a bound copy for the dissertation director, but the department does not require a bound copy.


David R. Anderson

Associate Professor

S. Matthew Biberman


Dale B. Billingsley

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs

Beth Boehm

Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies

Brenda Brueggermann

Director of Composition

Thomas B. Byers

Professor Emeritus

Karen M. Chandler

Associate Professor

Amy Clukey

Assistant Professor

Geoffrey A. Cross

Professor Emeritus

Julia C. Dietrich

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education

Lucy M. Freibert

Professor Emerita

Alan C. Golding


Susan M. Griffin

Distinguished University Scholar

Paul F. Griner


Karen C. Hadley


Dennis R. Hall

Professor Emeritus

Suzette A. Henke

Professor Emerita

Bruce M. Horner
Endowed Chair in Rhetoric and Composition

Director of Thomas R Watson International Conference on Rhetoric and Composition

Aaron Jaffe


Timothy Johnson

Assistant Professor

Debra S. Journet

Professor Emerita

Karen Kopelson
Assistant Professor

University Distinguished Teaching Professor

Min-Zhan Lu

Professor Emerita

Deborah Lutz

Morton Chair

Carol J. Mattingly

Professor Emerita

Kristi Maxwell

Assistant Professor

Fran McDonald

Assistant Professor

Robert Miller

Professor Emeritus

Karen Mullen

Associate Professor Emerita

Andrea Olinger

Assistant Professor

Kiki Petrosino
Associate Professor

Director of Creative Writing

Andrew Rabin
Associate Professor

Vice Chair

Harold E. Richardson

Professor Emeritus

Mary Ellen Rickey

Professor Emerita

Glynis Ridley

Department Chair

Mary I. Rosner

Associate Professor

Susan M. Ryan

Associate Professor

Stephen Schneider
Associate Professor

Director of Graduate Studies

Mary P. Sheridan


Jeffrey T. Skinnery

Professor Emeritus

Hristomir Stanev

Assistant Professor

Ian Stansel

Assistant Professor

Joseph Turner

Assistant Professor

A. Elizabeth Willey
Associate Professor

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Bronwyn T. Williams

Director of University Writing Center

Elaine O. Wise

Assistant Professor

Thomas A. Van

Professor Emeritus