Comparative Literature

Handbooks & Program Procedures


Graduate Program Procedures

Students do advanced work in the original language in at least three literatures as demonstrated by the successful completion of at least two courses in each of those literatures at the 2000 course level. In certain cases, appropriate 1000 level courses may safisty this requirement with the permission of the Director of Graduate Study. This requirement is to be satisfied by the end of semester four. Students whose linguistic competence requires them to take language courses below the 1000 level may do so in consultation with the Director of Graduate Study, but those courses will not count toward the course requirements for the Ph.D. Normally at least the first foreign language requirement will be satisfied through advanced courses during the first year.

A standard of professional competence should be maintained within the area of likely specialization. For example, a student intending to specialize in the medieval period will offer an appropriate language competence, Anglo-Saxon or Middle English for English, Middle High German for German, Old French or Proven├žal for French, etc. Students concentrating in Classics must offer both Latin and Greek; German is also recommended. For those with specialties in medieval and renaissance, Latin is recommended. Ordinarily two languages from the same group -- Romance, Slavic, Germanic (exclusive of English) -- will not be selected.

Students will take an oral examination on their designated major literature (which should correlate to the National Literature Department in which they expect someday to work) by late September of Semester V.

A. Timing and Committee

Students must declare the major literature on which they will be examined by September 30 of the second year (i.e., Semester III). During the spring semester of their second year, students will take at least two regular courses and may elect one section of COLT 2980 (Reading and Research), an independent study devoted to preparation for the major literature examination, as the required third course. During the second year, the Director of Graduate Studies will form an exam committee. Committees will be made up of members of the Comparative Literature faculty; a professor who is not a member of the Department may serve on examination committees at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies in those cases where a specialty not covered by departmental faculty is presented. A committee assembled of the same faculty will examine all students examined in a given literature during the same semester. The final reading list, described in the next paragraph, is to be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies by March 1 of the second year.

B. Scope of the Examination

The examination will be based on a list of 25 entries covering the chronological range of the literature chosen, and 10 entries selected by the student in consultation with the committee to develop an area of interest within that literature, within another literature or to develop a theoretical or comparative field. An entry generally consists of several works, roughly three novels or prose works, eight to ten plays, or two dozen or so poems. The works for each entry are to be chosen in consultation with the examination committee.

Major literature reading lists for Classical Greek, Latin, English, English with American, French, German, Portuguese, Brazilian, Italian, and Spanish are available in the Comparative Literature office as well as on the department website. Students presenting lists in other languages and literatures will consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and appropriate faculty in formulating reading lists.

C. The Oral Examination

The three members of the examining committee will administer the examination in English. It will last no more than two hours. Questions will draw on the reading list, and will be of an appropriate theoretical, historical, or textual nature. Passing will be decided by majority vote taken directly after the examination. If a student fails the examination, one further attempt will be permitted, ordinarily during the following semester. Normally students will either pass or fail the examination as a whole, but in the event that the committee determines a student has failed a portion of the examination, the committee may require that the student repeat that portion of the exam at a later date. Ordinarily the re-examination will take place the following semester.

The comparative project provides an opportunity to begin focused research leading to the dissertation, and to gain experience in professional writing, oral presentation, and discussion comparable to a conference situation or job interview.

A. Timing and Committee

After passing the major literature examination, students will begin formulating a topic for the comparative project during Semester V and complete it during the third year. The topic for the comparative project will be worked out in consultation with the student's preliminary doctoral committee, consisting of three faculty members, to be established by the student in consultation with the Director of Graduate Study.

Students must declare their intention of fulfilling the comparative project requirement to the Director of Graduate Study and the Prelim Committee at least eight weeks prior to the oral examination. In Semester VI, students will submit the comparative project to their examination committee in written form. A revised draft, to be considered by the examination committee for the oral defense, must be submitted by April 15th.

B. The Comparative Project

The comparative project is an article length essay which may or may not become a part of the dissertation. As stated above, the project provides an opportunity to begin focused research on subjects possibly leading to the dissertation.

C. Oral Presentation of the Comparative Project

Approval of the written project must be given by each member of the committee in writing to the Director of Graduate Study before the oral examination can be scheduled.

The candidate will give a brief presentation at the beginning of the examination, situating the project, and where appropriate, indicating how it might relate to the dissertation.

  1. Following the completion of the Comparative Project Exam (by May 30 of their third year), students name at least three members of their dissertation committee, of which one must be a member of the Department of Comparative Literature. Students should submit the doctoral thesis prospectus to their dissertation committee by September 30 of their fourth year (i.e., Semester VII). The student will schedule a collective meeting with the committee for the approval of the prospectus by October 30. Students will then send copies to the DGS and department administrator to file.
  2. Typically, the prospectus will include a clear statement of the objective of the dissertation, a discussion of the issues involved, a selective account of the key sources (primary, secondary, and methodological), and a chapter outline. Normally, it may run to about 10-15 double-spaced pages plus bibliography.
  3. If a student changes topic or advisor, a new prospectus may need to be filed; this decision falls within the discretion of the dissertation advisor.

The requirements stated above are intended to provide both comparatist training and preparation in one major literature (to maximize placement possibilities) within a reasonable time (five years) and with financial support. An effort will be made to provide teaching experience not only in Comparative Literature, but also within an appropriate foreign language or English, or Modern Culture and Media. The timetable envisioned allows for the completion of course work, the major literature examination and a comparative project by the end of the third year, submission of the doctoral thesis proposal at the beginning of the fourth, and one or two years of work to complete the doctoral thesis.

Both fellowships and teaching assistantships are contingent on the timely and successful completion of course work and examinations. Support for students entering with substantial advanced work or an MA will normally be three years with the possibility of a fourth year. In the case of a student failing the major literature examination, provision will be made for a second try. Except for that eventuality or in the case of serious illness, this timetable should be adhered to in order for support to continue. First year students will be reviewed at the end of Semester I and again after Semester II. Subsequently all students are reviewed at year's end and are notified in writing of their progress.