The University of Massachusetts Amherst
HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu
Academics

Master of Arts in Comparative Literature

The Graduate Program in Comparative Literature is designed for students who are committed to the study of languages and literatures in a context broader than that of a single national literature program and who wish to prepare themselves for professional work in comparative, interdisciplinary, and cultural studies or in the fields of translation and interpreting. Our program encourages the study of literature in its historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts as an international phenomenon; stimulates the development and refinement of new theoretical and curricular paradigms; and promotes imaginative approaches to the analysis of literary and visual texts in multiple languages.

The Graduate Program in Comparative Literature offers opportunities for graduate study leading to the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. Areas of curricular emphasis include literary theory, the theory and practice of translation and interpreting, affect theory, film studies, critical theories of race and gender, intermedial studies, colonial and postcolonial criticism, and conflict studies. Students have the opportunity to study with core faculty in the program of Comparative Literature, as well as faculty other departments at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and throughout the Five College consortium.

Graduate courses in Comparative Literature are open to all qualified graduate students and may, with prior approval of the other department or program concerned, be taken to meet a foreign language requirement.

Prerequisites (Beyond the usual requirements of the Graduate School.)

Undergraduate Degree

Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree or a recognized foreign equivalent, either with a major in a language-literature field or with substantial literary studies.

Languages

All applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English and advanced proficiency in one language other than English; competence in a third language is optimal but not required for admission.</strong>&nbsp;Generally, applicants have completed at least three years of their first foreign language and at least one year of their second. Knowledge of classical and non-European languages is encouraged.

An entering M.A. student must show language competence by passing a recognized language proficiency test, a successful record of college-level coursework in that language, or through a language test administered by the program, as specified in the program's Statement of Procedure. Note that students without adequate language preparation may require an extended time to degree.) The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages provides opportunities to study a wide variety of world languages not offered at the university.

Grade Point Average

The applicant should have a grade point average equivalent to at least 3.00 out of possible 4.00.

Examinations
Non-native speakers of English who are not U.S. citizens are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System.

Written Work

Applicants are required to submit directly to Comparative Literature a sample of their written work with their application. This should demonstrate critical handling of literary material, preferably including non-English texts. The paper need not be written in English. Essays written in a language other than English should be accompanied by an English translation done by the candidate. For applications to the Translation and Interpreting Studies track, a candidate may submit a sample translation with an introductory translator's note.

The critical essay required of applicants to the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Comparative Literature should be sent directly to Comparative Literature at Herter Hall, 161 Presidents Drive, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003-9312. All other application materials must be sent to the Graduate School.

Transfer Credits

Subject to the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee, M.A. candidates may transfer from other institutions up to six hours of graduate credit graded "B" or higher, and taken within three years before admission.* Students are strongly encouraged to request transfer of credits within the first semester after admission.

Funding

M.A. funding may be available for highly qualified applicants. All funding is in the form of Teaching Assistantships, which include health&nbsp;benefits and tuition wavers.

Academic Standing

Advising and Review of Progress

The Graduate Program Director for AY 2020-21 is Professor Kathryn Lachman (klachman@umass.edu). Prof. Lachman serves as advisor to newly admitted students in the M.A. Program in Comparative Literature; Professor Moira Inghilleri, minghilleri@complit.umass.edu advises incoming students in the Translation and Interpreting track. During the first year, in consultation with the GPD and the Director, M.A. students select an adviser according to their academic interests.

Each academic year, members of the Graduate Studies Committee review the progress of all students. Students are expected to maintain standing in accordance with the General Regulations of the Graduate School.*

The Graduate Studies Committee, in consultation with the student's adviser, may place a student on probation for one semester to one year when:
1. the student's record shows more than two grades of incomplete (excluding thesis or dissertation credits); or
2. the cumulative grade point average falls below 3.0.
3. the student fails to make appropriate progress toward degree as defined in the Statement of Procedure.

In any of these cases, the Graduate Program Director writes the student a memorandum describing the steps to be taken to remove probationary status. Probationary status jeopardizes a student's eligibility for financial support, whether by funding through the Department, the University (fellowship programs) or Continuing Education. Failure to meet stipulated obligations in the ensuing semester may result in termination of graduate studies. Any student placed on probation may appeal in writing to the Graduate Studies Committee no later than thirty days after the beginning of the semester following the notice of probation. This appeal will be granted only in cases of unusual hardship.
Waivers, Exemptions, Modifications

A student may petition the Graduate Studies Committee for a waiver or modification of any requirement in this Statement of Procedure, except for those mandated by the Graduate School.* The Graduate Studies Committee will provide written notice of its decision in a timely fashion.

The M.A. Degree

The Comparative Literature graduate program includes a focused track in Translation and Interpreting Studies. The program is designed to be completed in two years, but students who enter the program without adequate language preparation may have an extended time to degree.

The M.A. in Comparative Literature

Program of Study
Although the balance among the main constituent elements of a candidate's course of study will vary, M.A. students are expected to achieve the following kinds of competence: grounding in literary and social theory; knowledge of one language and its literature sufficient to warrant the respect of specialists; reading knowledge of three languages (ancient or modern); wide command of the literature of one main historical period; and training in research methods, literary translation, and problems of criticism.

Requirements
Work in one literature/field of concentration 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 fields requires coverage of a period or genre related to the emphasis in the first. Students are expected to demonstrate advanced competence reading knowledge in the language of the second literature/field. Students are expected to do a semester of coursework at UMass or one of the Five Colleges in a third language if they do not already possess mastery of a third language upon enrolling. (Note that English may count as the first language.)

Requirements include 33 graduate credits (for distribution see below), 6 of which must be at the 600-800 level (excluding thesis credits), demonstration of foreign language facility, demonstration of bibliographic skills in Comparative Literature and the appropriate related disciplines, and the satisfactory completion of the M.A. thesis or project.

Course Distribution Requirements
A minimum of 33 credit hours is required in all cases, distributed as follows for the M.A. in Comparative Literature. In addition, teaching assistants must take the one-credit Teaching Workshop.

Comparative Literature 12
First Concentration 6
Second Concentration 6
Elective 3
Thesis/Project 6

Please note the following Required Courses:
1. A second graduate Comparative Literature course that combines theoretical perspectives with practical criticism.
2. Students planning to write a translation thesis must take Comparative Literature 751 (Theory and Practice of Translation).
2. For the M.A. up to three credits of Independent Study (one course) may be counted towards the fulfillment of the requirements for the degree. Additional Independent Studies require the approval of the Graduate Program Director.
3. Literature in translation courses may not be counted towards the literature components of the Distribution Requirements unless special arrangements are made to complete required reading in the original language. This must be approved by the GPD.

The M.A. Committee
By the beginning of the third semester, the student selects, in consultation with the Graduate Program Director, the chair of the M.A. committee, who then becomes the student's primary adviser. The committee chair and the candidate then select the rest of the committee, which consists of at least three members of the graduate faculty: at least two from the Program of Comparative Literature and at least one from another department.* The committee must include a member who is an expert in the literature/field of the student's primary concentration. The committee must be appointed by October 1 of the student's second year.

The M.A. Thesis
By the beginning of the third semester, in consultation with the student's M.A. committee, the student chooses a thesis topic and writes a thesis prospectus. The prospectus must be defended by the end of the student's third semester, so as to allow a four-month time period between the acceptance of the prospectus and the defense of the thesis.*

The thesis for the M.A. in Comparative Literature is between 20,000 and 25,000 words. Theses must include bibliographies of all works read in conjunction with the research undertaken for the thesis.

After the thesis has been completed and submitted to all committee members, the student undergoes an oral examination in the form of a thesis defense. The thesis defense is open to the public and two hours in length. It must be announced at least two weeks in advance to all members of the Comparative Literature faculty and graduate program. Questions at the thesis defense may also address the scope of the student's entire course of study for the M.A.

Immediately after the defense, the M.A. committee decides whether the student has submitted an acceptable thesis and defended it adequately, thus fulfilling the final requirements for the M.A. in Comparative Literature. The decision is based on both the written thesis and the oral defense. The examiners choose from two possible outcomes: pass or fail. The recommendation of all but one member of the M.A. committee is required for the student to be eligible for receiving the M.A. The decision of the committee is made known immediately after the committee has conferred.

In the event of a negative decision by the committee, the M.A. committee consults with the Graduate Program Director during the week following the thesis defense. The Graduate Program Director thereupon informs the student either that permission to resubmit the thesis and to have a second and final defense has been granted or that termination of graduate studies will be recommended.

The Translation and Interpreting Studies Track within the M.A. in Comparative Literature

Program of Study
Although the balance among the main constituent elements of a candidate's course of study will vary, M.A. students in the Translation and Interpreting Studies track are expected to achieve the following kinds of competence: grounding in translation, literary, and cultural theory; practical expertise in either translation or interpreting and grounding in the other; expert knowledge of at least two languages and familiarity with the literary, cultural, and translation traditions of at least one of those languages; expertise in critical reading and textual analysis of complex written and spoken language; grounding in translation technologies; and training in research methods and problems of criticism. Students are expected to demonstrate advanced competence reading knowledge in the language of the second literature/field. Students are expected to do a semester of coursework at UMass or one of the Five Colleges in a third language if they do not already possess mastery of a third language upon enrolling. (Note that English may count as the first language.)

Requirements
Requirements include 33 graduate credits (for distribution see below), 6 of which must be at the 600-800 level (excluding thesis credits); demonstration of foreign language facility; demonstration of bibliographic skills in Translation and Interpreting Studies, Comparative Literature, and the appropriate related disciplines; and the satisfactory completion of a thesis or project.

Course Requirements
A minimum of 33 credit hours is required, distributed as follows for the M.A. in the Translation and Interpretive Studies Track. In addition, teaching assistants must take the one-credit Teaching Workshop.

Comparative Literature/Translation Studies 12
First Concentration 6
Second Concentration 6
Elective 3
Thesis 6

Please note the following Required Courses:
1. Comp Lit 751, Theory and Practice of Translation
2. Comp Lit 550, Translation and Technology or demonstrated equivalent competence
3. Comp Lit 681, Introduction to Interpreting and Translation Research and Practice I
4. One advanced seminar in Translation Studies
5. One graduate Comparative Literature course that combines theoretical perspective with practical criticism.
2. For the M.A. with thesis, up to three credits of Special Problems Courses may be counted towards the fulfillment of the requirements for the degree.
3. Literature in translation courses may not be counted towards the literature components of the Distribution Requirements unless special arrangements are made to complete required readings in the original language and this has been approved by the GPD.
4. With the approval of the Graduate Program Director and the student's adviser, a student may substitute a course in Comparative Literature for a course in the first or second concentration.

The M.A. Committee
By the beginning of the third semester, the student selects, in consultation with the Graduate Program Director, the chair of the M.A. committee, who then becomes the student's primary adviser. The committee chair and the candidate then select the rest of the committee, which consists of at least three members of the graduate faculty: at least two from the Program of Comparative Literature (one of whom must be a specialist in Translation Studies) and at least one from another department.* The committee must include a member who is expert in the literature of the student's primary concentration.

he Thesis
By the beginning of the third semester, in consultation with their M.A. committee, the student chooses a thesis topic and writes a thesis prospectus. The prospectus must be approved by the end of the student's third semester, so as to allow a four-month time period between the acceptance of the prospectus and the defense of the thesis.*

A student may choose to write a descriptive, historical, or theoretical thesis of between 20,000 and 25,000 words, or to submit a translation and introduction. The translation option represents a translation into English of a collection of poems, literary essays, or short stories, a short novel, or a play, accompanied by a critical introduction of 25 pages (10,000-12,000 words) that sets the work in context. The introduction must address the structure and style of the source text, as well as the strategies and techniques adopted in the translation.

The translation should demonstrate the student’s skill as a translator in dealing with a complex text and their capacity to make sound, conscientious decisions that respect the literary/aesthetic dimension of a text and the receiving culture. The thesis must include a critical introduction and a bibliography of works consulted.

The following are approximate guidelines for length, although quality and substance are more important than quantity:
• for prose (fiction or nonfiction) or drama, the manuscript would normally comprise of 60-80 pages of translation
• for poetry, the manuscript would comprise of 30-40 pages of translation

The critical introduction must address the following: (a) the author, their works, their place in the contemporary literary context, relationship to the literary traditions, influences, etc.; (b) the work and its critical/aesthetic reception in its original cultural/literary/historical context; (c) the work in the context of the receiving culture. It should also include: (a) a discussion of your translation experience of this particular work and the main challenges/opportunities that make this work compelling to translate; (b) analysis of the key or most significant translation methods/strategies you have deployed to convey the significant characteristics of the text (its language, style, form, voice). Ideally, the critical introduction should provide a broad ‘thesis’ about the work and the translation, deploying critical or translation theories or secondary sources as relevant.

Thesis Defense

After the thesis has been completed and submitted to all committee members, there is a thesis defense of two hours. The thesis defense is public and announced at least two weeks in advance to all members of the Comparative Literature faculty and graduate program. Questions at the thesis defense may also address the scope of the student's entire course of study for the M.A..

Immediately after the defense, the M.A. committee decides whether the student has submitted an acceptable thesis and defended it adequately, thus fulfilling the final requirements for the M.A. in the Translation Studies track. The decision is based on both the written thesis and the oral defense. The examiners choose from two possible outcomes: pass or fail. The recommendation of all but one member of the M.A. committee is required for the student to be eligible for receiving the M.A. The decision of the committee is made known immediately after the committee has conferred.

In the event of a negative decision by the committee, the M.A. committee consults with the Graduate Program Director during the week following the thesis defense. The Graduate Program Director thereupon informs the student either that permission to resubmit the thesis and to have a second and final defense has been granted or that termination of graduate studies will be recommended.

Terminal M.A. Degree

This M.A. track may be recommended to students based on performance in the program. A minimum of 11 courses or 33 credits is required with a GPA of 3.0 or above. In lieu of the thesis/translation, students must successfully complete two additional courses, subject to the approval of the Graduate Program Director.

Tips for Working on the M.A. Thesis

The thesis is the culmination of your M.A. studies, and the months you spend on it can be the best of times or the worst of times, if not both. You should have the satisfaction of drawing on much that you have been learning in the past semesters, and of finding or refining your scholarly voice and entering fully into the debates in your field; at the same time, you face the challenges of managing a scale of work than anything you have likely experienced before. How can you best structure your days, weeks, and semesters to keep yourself working productively at a pace suited to the length of the project, neither burning out nor letting the project extend into an indefinite horizon? Individual projects and schedules vary greatly, but a few basic guidelines can help make this the best of times for you, yielding an excellent written product within the time – and the funding – available.

1. Break it down. The best way to write a thesis (and, generally, a book as well) is one chapter at a time. You often will write chapters in the order in which they will appear in the finished manuscript, but this is not always the case. Usually the introduction and conclusion are best written at the end.
2. Pace yourself.
3. Make a plan.
4. Meet regularly with your committee. Your Chair and other committee members are there for you, but it is your responsibility to take the initiative to meet with them.
5. Share your work. Participate in writing groups and share your work with peers. The Program has funding to assist in conference expenses.

Incompletes

Students should avoid taking any Incompletes (INC). Incompletes damage your chances for receiving university and outside fellowships. Even worse, Incompletes often cause students to fall further behind in their coursework and other requirements in the following semester.
With the exception of medical, family, or other emergencies, students in Comparative Literature are not permitted to take more than one Incomplete per semester. Students who take two or more Incompletes in any given semester will automatically be put on Probation, which will render them ineligible for a teaching assistantship in the following semester. Such students will lose their teaching fellowships and other grants while on Probation. Students who are carrying two or more Incompletes at any given time will face the same penalties. They also risk being required to take a leave of absence or to withdraw from the program.

If confronted by medical or family emergencies or other extraordinary circumstances that prevent you from completing your coursework in the semester in which the course is taken, you are expected, before the end of the semester, to inform the GPD that you need additional time; the GPD will work with such students on a schedule for resolving INC that can be modified as circumstances warrant.

Incompletes must be completed before the end of the semester that follows the one in which the Incomplete was taken, unless the professor sets an earlier deadline. In the absence of extenuating circumstances, students who do not resolve their INC within this timeframe will be placed on Probation. See the section on Probation below.

Note: Often students take Incompletes because they believe the extra time will allow them to write better seminar papers. Paradoxically, this is usually not the case; sometimes an extra week or two may be necessary to produce higher quality work, but any more time than that quickly becomes counterproductive. Perfectionism often hinders academic progress.

Conference Funding

For domestic conferences, students can receive up to $300 in funding per event. For international conferences, students may receive up to $500 per event. All conference travel must be entered into the university online travel registry website PRIOR to travel for approval by the GPD. Students are required to send a brief email to the GPD if they decide not to attend a conference for which they requested funding so that the funding can become available to other students. Likewise, students must notify the GPD by email upon their return from a conference, confirming their attendance for program records.

MA Speaker Funding

The program allocates $300 per academic year to M.A. students towards inviting a guest speaker or organizing another event. Please contact the program director and GPD to apply for these funds.