PhD in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society

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One of the first and still among the rare doctoral programs of its kind, CSDS is entering its fourth decade at the forefront of cross-disciplinary research and teaching in the liberal arts.

While most traditional humanistic disciplines tend to focus either on a given mode of discourse (e.g., art history, musicology) or a specific cultural context (e.g., American studies, or African, Asian, European, or Latin American languages and literatures), CSDS engages a broader problematic—how discourse and cultural production shape and are shaped by life in time, space, matter, and society. We strive to re-associate intellectual and cultural history with social and political history, to set discourse of various sorts within a social context, and to consider specific social formations within the ongoing historical process. We encourage work that is interdisciplinary (at times, even anti-disciplinary) as well as cross-cultural.

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:

  • Draw on a variety of theoretical positions
  • Closely study a range of discourses in elite, popular, folk, and mass culture, such as:
    • Film
    • Literature
    • Music
    • Myth and ritual
    • Painting and sculpture
    • Television and digital media
    • Urban design, architecture, and landscape
  • Understand each discourse as both a site and an instrument of contestation and negotiation among social forces

PhD Degree Requirements

All students who enter the doctoral program after January 2013 have eight years from the date of matriculation to complete all requirements for the PhD, including the dissertation. All extensions of time beyond that point require special petition. Those students who entered the doctoral program before January 2013 have five years from the date on which they passed the doctoral oral preliminary examination to complete all requirements for the PhD, including the dissertation. All extensions of time beyond that point require special petition. For guidelines on doctoral progress, see the Graduate Education Policy Doctoral Degree: Performance Standards and Progress.


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. For more information, see the Graduate Language Examination Policies.

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