Ph.D. in Composition
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The Department of English at the University of New Hampshire offers a well-established Ph.D. program in English with a specialization in Composition Studies.
Created in 1985, our program is designed to prepare experts in composition theory, research and pedagogy who can contribute to the evolving knowledge in the field through rigorous research and scholarship. In addition to a specialization in composition studies, students will develop a secondary area of specialization such as applied linguistics, critical theory, English as a second language, English teaching, linguistics or literature.
One of the major strengths of the program is the opportunity to work closely with nationally-known faculty in composition studies in developing research and teaching expertise. We hold high expectations for students but work to create a supportive atmosphere where exams and coursework are matched to individual needs and interests.
Ph.D. students in English normally hold graduate assistantships with the teaching load of one course per semester. Teaching opportunities include First-Year Writing, ESL Composition, Creative Nonfiction, Technical Writing, and Persuasive Writing, as well as Critical Analysis and Literature Courses. Some students also work in Robert J. Connors Writing Center and the Writing Across the Curriculum program. See the page on Financial Aid for more information. If you would like more information about tuition, fees, housing, and graduate life at UNH, visit the UNH Graduate School.
About the University of New Hampshire
The University of New Hampshire is a land-/sea-/space-grant institution with a student population of 12,315, including 10,237 undergraduate and 2,078 graduate students. Founded in 1866, UNH is located in Durham, a small college town in the Seacoast region of southeastern New Hampshire. Durham is surrounded by such scenic sites as Portsmouth, Hampton Beach, and Kittery, Maine. It is also within one hour of Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.
During the first two years, Ph.D. students in Composition Studies will complete 10 courses (40 credits) beyond the M.A. degree, including at least four graduate seminars (900-level courses) offered by the English Department.
Core requirements in Composition Studies include: Practicum in the Teaching of Composition (910) and Research Methods in Composition (918).
Students are required to be enrolled in at least 6 credits a semester; two courses (8 credits) per semester are usual. Ph.D. students may take up to two independent studies (8 credits) to fulfill the course requirement. Teaching Assistantship provides a waiver of tuition for academic courses taken during the year.
With permission of an advisor, students may take an appropriate graduate course in another department.
Kate Tirabassi, Ph.D. in Composition, co-wrote a chapter in the book entitled Centers for Learning: Writing Centers and Libraries in Collaboration. A publication that UNH library faculty contributed to as well, the book received a Publication of the Year award from the Association of College and Research Libraries. This award recognizes an outstanding work related to instruction in a library environment that’s been published in the preceding two years.
English 810: Teaching Writing
English 827: Issues in Second Language Writing
English 910: Practicum in the Teaching of Composition
English 912: Historical and Theoretical Studies in Rhetoric
English 913: Theory and Practice of Composition
English 914: Special Topics in Composition and Rhetoric
English 916: History of Composition
English 917: Seminar on Teaching Composition
English 918: Research Methods in Composition
English 919: Teaching the Writing Process
Special topics courses have included: Critical Theory and Composition; Cultural Studies and Composition; Gender and Writing; Second Language Writing; Montaigne and the Essay Tradition; Performance Theory and the Teaching of Composition; the Personal Essay; the New Literacy; and Writing Center History, Theory and Practice; Writing Across the Curriculum.
English 996: Reading and Research
Formal coursework is only part of a student's preparation for the doctoral exam and subsequent teaching. In order to develop the general and specialized knowledge necessary for the program students must read a great deal on their own or with only informal guidance.
English 996, Reading and Research, is an ungraded, variable-credit course designed to meet this need. Students normally register for English 996 after completing their formal course work and before advancing to doctoral candidacy (doctoral candidates register for English 999, Doctoral Research). However, after completing four courses in the program, students wishing to prepare for their exams or pursue independent reading may register for English 996 in addition to one regular course.
English 996 does not count toward the course requirement, but it does satisfy the stipulation that a Teaching Assistant must be enrolled for 5 or more credits while on an assistantship.
The purpose of the language requirement is to give students a tool (or tools) which will enable them to master the literature in the specific field that they choose to study, and to add depth to their study of a period of literature, a national literature, an area of critical theory, or the like. All doctoral students will meet with their advisor during the first year of study to determine what the best way of fulfilling the language requirement would be for that student. It is possible that in certain fields the student may be advised to take up the study of a language or languages that she/he has not previously studied, to demonstrate basic proficiency in two rather than advanced proficiency of one language, or possibly to demonstrate proficiency of more than two languages.
To this end, all doctoral students are expected to complete either Option 1 or Option 2 of the language requirement:
A student may demonstrate basic proficiency in two foreign languages, as evidenced by passing grades on translation exams to be administered by the department. Students will be allowed to waive one or both translation exams by demonstrating a grade of B or better in a fourth semester (or higher) undergraduate course in the language.
A student may demonstrate advanced proficiency of one foreign language. Advanced proficiency must be demonstrated in one of the following ways:
- The requirement will be waived for students who are native speakers of another language.
- The student may take a relevant 700 level literature class (the literature must be read in the relevant language), and pass with a grade of B or better.
- The student may show coursework in an undergraduate or M.A. program equivalent to a 700 level literature class (with literature read in the relevant language) with a grade of B or better.
- The new advanced exam requires translation of a longer passage in two hours. We expect a demonstration of nearly complete comprehension of the passage.
- The student may propose a special project, for example, a program of readings in the language, supervised by an appropriate member of the faculty. This project might result in a paper of no less than 20 pages using substantial original translations of the readings and demonstrating the student's close reading skills in the language. The student must submit a short written proposal to the Graduate Committee for approval of this option. (The student may not combine this option with any independent study taken for credit toward the advanced degree.)
The General and Qualifying Exams will take place in the student's third year in the doctoral program. It will consist of three parts:
- a 24-hour open-book take-home General Section (which will entail about eight hours of work);
- a 48-hour open-book take-home with one day devoted to each area of specialization (again, each part will entail about eight hours work); and
- a two-hour oral exam to be scheduled not more than one week after the written exams.
The General section and Qualifying sections of the exam must be taken within a single week; the Qualifying Exam must be taken on two consecutive days. One 24 hour period will be devoted to the primary area of concentration (Composition Studies) and the second 24 hour period to the secondary area of specialization.
Students will be awarded a grade of pass, pass with distinction, pass with reservation, or fail. Two failures will constitute grounds for dismissal from the program. Students who have failed the exams on the first try must retake them by the beginning of their fourth year of study.
The General Examination will consist of interpretive responses to passages drawn from significant work in the field of composition studies. In the answers students are expected to show the relationship of each passage to the work of the author and to issues in the field.
In preparing for the Qualifying Exam, the student will choose one secondary field of specialization in addition to the primary area of specialization in Composition Studies. Secondary fields might include a broad area of literary study, an equally broad area of linguistics, or literacy studies. Areas of specialization in literature are broad fields such as a genre, a literary or historical period, a major tradition, or criticism and theory. Areas of specialization in linguistics include theoretical linguistics, sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, and the like.
Exam committees will consist of four faculty members, two in the area of composition and rhetoric, and two in the student's secondary field of specialization. The committee will be selected as follows. The Graduate Director, in consultation with the student, will choose a chair for the committee. The committee chair and the Graduate Director, again in consultation with the student, will choose three additional members in the student's fields of specialization.
Students are encouraged to begin shaping their exam areas during the second year of study. They should begin to consult with the Graduate Director about their committee by the end of the second year. Students will prepare reading lists, which must be placed on file in the Graduate Office by the time of the exam.
Although the major work on the dissertation is concentrated in the last year or year and a half of the program, a good dissertation develops and gets refined over a longer period of time. The candidate should have a subject in mind as he or she selects fields for the Qualifying Examination. Then the fields can be chosen appropriately and the subject can grow as the student prepares for that exam.
Once the student has passed the Qualifying Examination, a doctoral committee is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School after nomination by the Department. This committee is normally composed of three professors from the English Department and two more from related departments. The student then prepares a written proposal outlining the dissertation topic, a minimum of ten pages long, the materials to be used, and pertinent scholarship related to the topic. The student has six months from the date of passing the Qualifying Examination to present this proposal.
After submitting copies of this proposal to the doctoral committee, the student meets with its members to defend the proposal and to demonstrate his or her preparation to work on the project. The meeting should last one and one-half hours. The committee may opt to 1) approve the proposal, 2) require that the proposal be revised, 3) require that the student undertake further preparation before proceeding (the conditions are set by the committee and monitored by its chair). If the proposal needs to be re-presented, the student may take no more than an additional six months to do so.
Doctoral candidates registering for English 999 are normally expected to attend a noncredit ungraded dissertation workshop directed by a member of the English Department's graduate faculty. This workshop will meet approximately once a month. (If travel presents a hardship, this requirement may be waived through a petition to the Graduate Director.)
In preparing the dissertation, the candidate should refer to the Graduate Catalogue for technical requirements. For dissertation format, the student must consult the graduate school pamphlet, Manual for the Preparation of Theses. After the dissertation is completed, the candidate will defend it orally at a formal examination with the doctoral committee.
If you are a non-U.S. citizen currently living outside the United States, please complete International Student Pre-application Form before submitting application materials. (Choose English PhD as the Degree/Program under Educational Plan.)
For more information, please see Graduate School Information for International Applicants.
If you are a non-U.S. citizen living in the United States or if your pre-application has been approved, please proceed to the application procedures.
Sites of Interest to International Applicants
Cristy Beemer (Ph.D., Miami University 2008)
Cristy Beemer (Ph.D. Miami University) is Assistant Professor of English and Coordinator of the Professional and Technical Writing Program. Cristy’s research focuses on the history of rhetoric, with a particular emphasis on women and the early modern period, Writing Across the Curriculum, and professional and technical writing. Cristy has published in Pedagogy, Praxis, and the collection Performing Feminism and Administration in Rhetoric and Composition Studies. Her article, “The Female Monarchy: A Rhetorical Strategy of Early Modern Rule” is forthcoming in Rhetoric Review. At the University of New Hampshire, Cristy teaches undergraduate courses in First Year Writing, People Stories (an honors inquiry course), Professional and Technical Writing, Advanced Professional and Technical Writing, and Shakespeare, and graduate seminars in Histories and Theories of Rhetoric and in Theory and Practice of Transactional Writing. She is looking forward to teaching a new graduate seminar on Women in Rhetoric and Composition in the fall 2011 semester. Cristy’s current research project involves technical writing pedagogy.
|Thomas Newkirk (Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin) is Professor of English. For the past 20 years he has built and directed the New Hampshire Writing Program, a set of summer institutes attended by teachers from across the country. He has studied literacy learning at all levels, from the first scribbles a child makes to the writing of college students. He is the author of four books, More Than Stories: The Range of Children's Writing; Listening In: What Children Say About Books (And Other Things); Misreading Masculinity : Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture, and The Performance of Self in Student Writing, for which he has won the David Russell Award. He is currently studying the ways in which upper elementary school students appropriate visual narratives (cartoons, TV shows) in their writing.|
|Christina Ortmeier-Hooper (Ph.D., University of New Hampshire) is an assistant Professor of English. She began her teaching career as an English language arts and ESL teacher in the public schools, and her research areas continued to reflect her investment in schools, teachers, and immigrant adolescent literacy. At UNH, she teaches undergraduate writing courses in creative nonfiction, professional writing, and first-year composition. At the graduate level, she has taught courses in second language (L2), research methods in composition, literacy and identity, sheltered instruction, secondary English methods, and composition theory. Currently, she serves as a co-chair for the CCCC Committee on Second Language Writing, and she is a founding chair of Second Language Writing Interest Section at TESOL. Christina is the editor of three collections on second language writing: The Critical Sourcebook on Second-Language Writing for the Composition Classroom (Bedford/St. Martin, 2006 with co-editors Jay Jordan, Michelle Cox, and Paul Kei Matsuda); The Politics of Second Language Writing: The Search for a Promised Land (Parlor Press, 2006 with co-editors Paul Kei Matsuda and Xiaoye You); and her newest book, Reinventing Identities in Second Language Writing (NCTE Press, 2010 with Michelle Cox, Jay Jordan, and Gwen Gray Schwartz). Reinventing Identities includes her chapter on adolescent second language writers and high schools: “The Shifting Nature of Identity: Social Identity, L2 writers, and High School.” Her work has also been published in English Journal, TESOL Journal, and College Composition and Communication.|
Composition Studies faculty at UNH work closely with graduate students, providing multiple and ongoing opportunities for professional growth. Some graduate students also work with faculty from English Language and Linguistics, Literary Studies, and the Department of Education.
Graduate Students in Composition Studies at UNH
Graduate students work closely with Composition Studies faculty to develop their own areas of research and teaching expertise in composition studies and in other related fields of study.
Current Doctoral Students
- Corey McCullough
- Elizabeth Kramer
- Bradfield Dittrich
- Jim Webber
- Patricia Portanova
- Maja Wilson
- Patty Wilde
- Erin Wecker
- Michael Peterson
- Shauna Wight
- Sarah Franco
- Wendy VanDellon
Articles by recent UNH alumni Abby Knoblauch (Ph.D. in Composition, 2008) and Mike DePalma (Ph.D. in Composition, 2010) are featured in the December 2011 issue of College Composition and Composition (CCC). Follow the link below to view the issue. http://www.ncte.org/cccc/ccc/issues/v63-2
January 30, 2008: Kate Tirabassi, Ph.D. in Composition alum has won the 2008 James Berlin Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication. This is a national award for the best dissertation in Composition Studies. Kate did an archival study that examined the teaching of writing at UNH in the 1940s, focusing substantially on the work of Caroll Towle (who was Don Murray’s writing teacher).
Bronwyn Williams (Ph.D. in Composition, 2000) has recently published an essay on the impact of Donald Murray on his own teaching and the field. The piece, titled “Dancing with Don, Or 'Waltzing with Expressivism',” is featured in the November 2011 issue of Enculturation: A Journal of Writing, Rhetoric, and Culture . It can be read at: http://enculturation.gmu.edu/dancing-with
English Graduate Organization
The English Graduate Organization (EGO) is the student organization of the University of New Hampshire's Graduate Programs in English. For more information, visit EGO website at: http://www.unh.edu/ego/.