Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to have a Master’s Degree before I apply to the Ph.D program?

A minimum of a bachelor's degree (or equivalent degree) is required to be admitted to the Ph.D. program. While some students enter the Ph.D. program after obtaining an MA degree, this is not required.

Can I take courses in other departments at Duke?

Yes. We strongly encourage students to take advantage of Duke's tremendous breadth by taking courses in departments outside of Literature. 

What kind of assistantship opportunities are available?
  • Year 1: Students will work as a graduate assistant for 12 hours/week for the first year of study
  • Years 2 and 3: The student is usually designated as a TA in one undergrad course during one semester each year. Work includes teaching a section of a large class, grading papers and exams, or even giving an occasional lecture, depending upon the nature of the class (roughly 19 hours/week). Students will also have the opportunity to apply to the Thompson Writing Program as a Writing Instructor or a Writing Tutor.
  • Years 4: Students are given the opportunity to teach a course of their own design.
  • Year 5: There are no work requirements for students during this year. Students are to focus on their dissertation writing.

There will continue to be flexibility within these general guidelines, depending upon the needs of each student and of the department in a given year.

What kind of writing sample should I send?

The submission of a writing sample (nonreturnable, limited to 15-25 pages) is required. It should be a copy of an essay (nonfiction), preferably a critical or scholarly essay submitted as an academic requirement in a course in literature. Writing sample should be uploaded in the "writing sample" section of the application and should not exceed 25 pages.

Can I apply for Spring or Summer admission?

The Literature Program offers fall admission only.

When should I take the GRE?

GRE testing must take place within the 5 years prior to your application to our department. An official report of the scores, sent directly from Educational Testing Service, must be provided, institution code 5156. There are no exceptions as this is a Duke Graduate School Rule. If you need to retake the GREs, please do so early enough that your scores will reach us by December.

How selective is the process of being admitted?

It is a very competitive process. Typically, we get anywhere from 130 to 160 applicants a year, and are able to admit six students with full funding. All those admitted are invited for a campus visit, usually in February to learn more about the Department, University, and Durham.