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Comparative Literature Doctoral Degree Requirements

Program | Faculty | Master's | Doctoral | Courses

Successful completion of the qualifying procedure enables the student to proceed with preparations for the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination, beginning with the formation of a guidance committee. The qualifying procedure involves competence in foreign languages and satisfactory performance in required coursework.

Program of Study
The balance among the main constituent elements of a candidate’s course of study will vary with individual circumstances. The following kinds of competence, however, are taken to characterize the holder of a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature: a thorough grounding in literary and social theory; a knowledge of one language and its literature sufficient to warrant the respect of specialists; a reading knowledge of three languages (ancient or modern); a wide command of the literature of one main historical period; ability to make serviceable use of at least three literatures in the original languages; and training in research methods, literary translation, and problems of criticism.

Work in one literature requires historical coverage from the earliest literary forms of the language to the present, with emphasis either on a genre or on a major period, and a thorough reading knowledge of the language. Work in the second and third literatures requires coverage of the period or genre related to the field of emphasis in the first literature. Reading knowledge of the languages involved should be very good in the second literature, and good in the third.

A minimum of 45 credit hours is required in all cases, distributed as follows: 21 graduate credits in comparative literature, 6 of which must be at the 600-800 level (excluding dissertation credits); 6 graduate credits in a major literature; 6 in a second literature studied in the original language; of the 45 required credit hours, 12 graduate credits are considered elective. One of the comparative literature courses must be 752 Theory and Practice of Comparative Literature; another must be a course that combines theoretical perspectives with practical criticism.

Comprehensive Examination
The Comprehensive Examination Committee works with the student to formulate the list of six topics on which the Comprehensive Examination is based. A topic is a conceptual issue of considerable breadth. The purpose of the individual topic is to permit the exploration of a critical problem within a broad spectrum of literary-historical expression. More than one critical approach to individual literary texts and a range of linguistic traditions should be reflected among the six topics. Each topic must be accompanied by a statement in which the scope and direction of inquiry of the topic are clearly defined.

Each topic is examined in one of three modes: by written examination, by a paper or papers (for a maximum of two topics), or by oral exam, which includes a passage for textual analysis. The examination as a whole must incorporate each of these modes. A final review of all components of the examination by the Examination Committee is required and normally accompanies the oral examination. Successful completion of this examination allows the candidate to proceed to the dissertation.

The Dissertation
The dissertation may deal with any subject in literary history, or with the comparison of texts, in the original languages of works from two or more literatures. A translation dissertation may be proposed, provided that it is prefaced by an extensive introduction, with a level of analysis appropriate to a doctoral dissertation. The introduction should deal with theories and specific problems of the translation.