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PhD in Comparative Literature

International students:

Check out the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office for useful resources.


Comparative literature is a university discipline of long standing in the United States and elsewhere. Some programs emphasize the study of two or more national or linguistic literary traditions, while some interweave literary criticism with other forms of humanistic research. While our program in comparative literature engages such approaches, it accents literary and cultural theory—the relationship of literature to other media, old and new—and a polycentric vision of the discipline that cuts across all continents. We encourage work that embeds literature and “text” more generally in a matrix of forces—social, historical, political—and that critically examines the material and institutional conditions of their production and reception.

Our PhD program admits small cohorts of students each year; we foster a close-knit and collaborative research and teaching community. As a graduate student in our program, you will work closely with intellectual leaders in the discipline.  

Our curriculum emphasizes seminars and directed research that:

  • foster critical inquiry into literature and culture
  • draw on a variety of theoretical positions, including:
    • gender, feminist, and queer studies
    • film and media studies
    • Marxist theory
    • psychoanalytic theory
    • postcolonial studies
    • semiotics
    • sound studies
    • translation theory
    • visual studies
  • engage politics and philosophies of comparatism
  • take a cross-disciplinary view of literature in relation to other humanities fields and the social and natural sciences


Proficiency in two languages (other than English) is required for the degree.  Students whose first language is not English may waive one of the two required languages; no other waivers are possible.  Graduate students must certify proficiency in these languages by passing a two-hour translation examination in each, focusing on a 600-word passage from a critical or theoretical text in the humanities and set and evaluated by a qualified faculty member.  For more information, see the Graduate Language Examination Policies.

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