The Graduate Program

USC English is one of the most vibrant, innovative and productive departments in the nation, with 41 full-time and joint faculty training a talented cadre of Ph.D. students whose work is theoretically sophisticated, broadly interdisciplinary and historically rich. Our Ph.D. program is composed of two tracks, one in Literature and one in Creative Writing and Literature. The Literature track trains students in English, American and Anglophone literary cultures, criticism and theory and admits 10 to 12 students each year. The Creative Writing track admits 4 to 5 students a year.

Signature Features

Three qualities distinguish USC English from other top Ph.D. programs.

  • Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature

    In addition to our Ph.D. in Literature, USC English is one of a very small group of institutions in America to offer a combined Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature. Students admitted to this track take a series of writing workshops taught by our internationally renowned creative writing faculty and graduate literature seminars with their cohorts in the literature track. Working together as scholars, students in both tracks find the collaboration a remarkably fruitful, mutually inspiring, and indeed unique aspect of our program.

  • Cross-examination and collaboration

    Unlike traditional departments that organize themselves according to historical periods, USC English finds its intellectual coherence in a variety of interests that tend to overlap periods and fields. Literary history is vital to our endeavors but is filtered through a series of shared rubrics and strengths which include, but are not limited to:

    Poetry and Poetics: Recent years have seen a renaissance of cutting-edge work in the genre of poetry, especially in modernism but reaching out to earlier periods and encompassing the critical work of our poets.

    Gender and Sexuality: Historically strong in feminist criticism, the department now boasts unparalleled depth in queer theory and studies in sexuality.

    Media, film, and popular culture: The study of popular culture in the department reaches across all literary periods, from twentieth-century film to performance studies and studies in material culture.

    Studies in race and minority literatures: Many of our Americanists specialize in minority and ethnic studies; associated concerns such as global, transnational, and postcolonial theory; or regional literatures of California and the West.

    Narrative studies: One of the department's strongest clusters involves the study of narrative, including the history and theory of the novel, film narrative, and non-fictional narrative.

  • Career training

    To a degree unprecedented in other programs, USC English's curriculum incorporates a series of "professionalization" courses designed to introduce Ph.D. students in both tracks to current issues and debates in the profession, thereby preparing them to enter academia equipped with the best tools possible. These courses mark pivotal stages in the students' progress from arrival to placement. See "Career Training and Placement" for more details.

Application codes

Ph.D. in Literature
Post code 382

Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature
Post code 1087


Featured Collaboration

See Professor of English and Comparative Literature David St. John discuss his collaboration with Thornton professors Frank Ticheli and Lisa Sylvester, teaching classes in which graduate writer/poets, composers and singers come together for a semester to create and perform new works for voice/piano (some chamber works) with original texts from creative writing students.

Graduate alerts

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation offers dissertation completion fellowships and is interested in questions concerning violence and aggression in relation to social change, intergroup conflict, war, terrorism, crime, and family relationships, among other subjects. The next deadline will be February 2014. Please see the link below for more information.

Guggenheim Foundation dissertation completion fellowship

Graduate Prizes - Spring 2013

Graduate alumni publications pictured above:
Marci McMahon, Domestic Negotiations Rutgers UP 2013; Nora Gilbert, Better Left Unsaid Stanford UP 2012; Sean Zwagerman, Wit's End University of Pittsburgh Press 2010; Chris Abani, Sanctificum Copper Canyon Press 2013; Katherine Karlin, Send Me Work Triquarterly 2011; Samuel Park, This Burns My Heart Simon & Schuster 2011.

Life in LA
  • USC Dornsife Department of English
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 404
  • University Park
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354
  • Fax: (213) 741-0377