Program in Comparative Literature

Advising, Examinations, Candidacy

The Area Adviser

As already indicated, students will be heavily involved in choosing and organizing their own areas of study. When they enter the Program, they must identify what will be considered their first foreign language and literature. They should also specify a field of study (e.g., European Romanticism, Post-colonial Literature, Literature and Film) which will serve as the focus of their studies. To make sure students get the best possible advice for their academic careers, the Graduate Adviser will suggest names of possible Area Advisers who share the particular academic interests of the students. Normally, an Area Advisers will be a member of the Comparative Literature Graduate Studies Committee or one of the Affiliated Faculty of the Program.

Students are responsible for arranging to meet with an Area Adviser and must notify the Graduate Adviser of their choice. If a student's interests change, the Area Adviser may, of course, be changed as well. The responsibility of the Area Adviser is to offer advice--both general and specific--as to what constitutes proper preparation in the student's field of interest (especially with regard to course selection, reading lists, examinations, and writing projects). Note, too, that the Area Adviser may or may not end up being someone with whom the student will continue to have an academic relationship (as, for example, a thesis or dissertation supervisor). The student should meet with the Area Adviser at least once a semester (preferably well in advance of preregistration for the following semester), the two should provide the Graduate Adviser with written notes of that meeting, so that the latter can responsibly supervise the student's academic progress.

The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is a written examination taken at the beginning of the spring semester of the student's second full academic year in the Program, following the completion of the two-semester course Theories of Literary Criticism (CL 385 and CL 390). Note that students may not take the Qualifying Examination if they have "incomplete" grades for coursework. Failure to take the examination on time (or if the Graduate Adviser has not approved a delay for substantial reasons) may constitute grounds for dismissal from the Program.

During the spring and fall semesters of the student's first and second year (respectively), the student and the Area Adviser will compose a draft of the student's reading list for the explication part of the Qualifying Examination. This list should include 20 to 30 works at the core of the student's first foreign literature, from one of which the Qualifying Committee will select a passage for the examination. The examination has two parts, each lasting two hours. The first part involves a question of literary theory based on the work done in the two required Comparative Literature theory courses, the second requires the student to explicate a poem, a prose extract, or an episode from a play from the student's first foreign literature. Both portions of the examination are designed to test the student's knowledge of literature and literary theory as well as analytical and synthesizing abilities, in order to determine whether the student will succeed in the Program and, in particular, will be able to pass the Comprehensive Oral Examination and then write a doctoral dissertation based on original research. Both portions of the examination are intended to be predictive not only of the student's success in the Program, but later on in the profession as well.

General overview of pertinent information about the Qualifying Examination (PDF, 131K)

Detailed explanation about the Qualifying Examination (PDF, 159K)

The Comprehensive Oral Examination

The CE is taken after all Ph.D. coursework is completed (or in the same semester the coursework is completed). Generally speaking, students entering with an MA in a related field should plan to take the CE at the end of their second year. Students entering with a BA should plan to take the CE at the end of their third year.

Students must compile a reading list comprising 3-4 areas in conjunction with their Committee upon which the CE will be mostly (but not exclusively) based. Both the Committee and the Graduate Adviser must approve the list. Students will be responsible not only for the texts on the reading list, but also for knowledge of the contexts and the relevant traditions (especially major critical literature and approaches) involved. For detailed information about the reading list, please see the Comprehensive Examination & Ph.D. Qualifying Procedure document, available online through the C L website and from the Graduate Coordinator. The supervisor and at least two other committee members must be from your department and must be Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) members. At least one committee member must be from outside your GSC. It is expected that all members of the committee attend the defense, either in person or via teleconference.

The goal of this examination is to ascertain if the student possesses the breadth of knowledge (outside the dissertation specialization) appropriate for future activities as a teacher and scholar; thus, the CE Committee will assess the student as a potential junior colleague. It will look for evidence of the student's ability to discuss fundamental issues in literary and critical traditions, since such ability will qualify the student to enter the critical debates of chosen specialties.

The Committee Supervisor should report the outcome of the examination on the Comprehensive Examination Results form to the Graduate Coordinator of C L. Usual results are "pass with distinction," "pass," "fail," "fail, with recommendations."

It is the students responsibility to schedule the exam in a timely fashion, ensure that the minimum number of committee members will be present, (see procedures document at bottom) and complete all required forms.

More information, such as scheduling details, about the Comprehensive Examination (PDF, 105K)

Students may also obtain sample reading lists and necessary forms from the Graduate Coordinator of the Program.

The Prospectus Presentation

Within one long semester of the date of the CE, the student, working closely with his or her dissertation committee, will complete a Dissertation Prospectus of 10-20 pages in length. The Prospectus should represent a detailed working outline for the dissertation.It should consist of a detailed introduction (indicating the student's methodology or approach, an explanation of why this project is significant, and a description of the materials and problems to be discussed and the kind of conclusions expected), as well as short descriptions of each chapter.

The Prospectus is intended to represent the student's ability to undertake work on a topic in depth, within the context of existing scholarship and critical methodologies. At the same time, the Prospectus demonstrates the student's ability to apply a breadth of knowledge to a project leading to future scholarly and teaching specializations.

Usually one hour in length, the presentation begins with the student introducing and outlining the dissertation orally (15-20 minutes), and is followed with a question-and-answer session.The presentation will be considered successful if the student can offer a coherent project focus and strategy for writing, and can answer possible fundamental questions or objections to that strategy or focus. It is a work-in-progress seminar, intended to be diagnostic and constructive.In order for the student to proceed to candidacy, the committee will need to approve the prospectus and recommend to the Graduate Advisor that the student be advanced. The supervisor and at least two other committee members must be from your department and must be Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) members. At least one committee member must be from outside your GSC. It is expected that all members of the committee attend the defense, either in person or via teleconference.

More information, such as scheduling details, about the Prospectus Presentation is available online (PDF, 84K)

Ph.D. Candidacy

In addition to completing all required coursework, students must do four things to qualify for Ph.D. Candidacy:

  1. Satisfy all foreign language requirements
  2. Organize and pass a Comprehensive Examination.
  3. Write and present a Dissertation Prospectus.
  4. Organize a Ph.D. Committee and apply online for candidacy as required by the Graduate School.

The Dissertation

Each Ph.D. student in the Program will write a dissertation which may be: a comparison of works, traditions, themes, authors, or periods from two or more literatures, a study of the theory of literary criticism, a study of the interrelationship between literature and some other discipline, a substantial translation (the original text is subject to prior approval of the supervisory committee), together with a general introduction analyzing the work translated and/or discussing problems and theory of translation, and with detailed explanatory notes, or some other project which the student designs under the supervision and with the approval of the dissertation committee.

The Graduate School requires that dissertations be written in English, unless special permission is granted prior to undertaking the project.

Please refer to the Graduate Catalog for all rules governing progress and completion of the dissertation.

Important Information about the CE and Dissertation Committees

The two committees need not be same, though they often are.  The CE Committee must consist of 4 faculty members.  The dissertation committee must consist of at least 4 members, but not more than 6.

The supervisor of the CE committee must be a member of the Comparative Literature GSC.  It is not required that other CE committee members belong to the Comparative Literature GSC.  However, students should keep in mind that the Graduate School *requires* that at least 3 of the 5-6 members of the dissertation committee must be members of the Comparative Literature GSC.

Therefore, when planning a CE committee, it is strongly recommended that students ensure at least three of the members are C L GSC members if they are also to serve on the dissertation committee.

Below is a brief chart summarizing the requirements for CE and Dissertation committees.

CE Committee

Dissertation Committee

4 faculty members

4-6 faculty members

Supervisor must belong to CL GSC

Supervisor must belong to CL GSC

Others do not have to be CL GSC

Co-supervisor optional, does not have to be CL GSC member

At least 2 others must be CL GSC

1 non CL member – must submit CV to OGS

If off campus – must submit CV and no-expense letter to OGS

The Dissertation Defense

The supervisory committee is responsible for approving the dissertation, which the student defends in an oral examination between one and two hours in length. This examination is conducted by the committee (at least four of its members must attend) and is open to the university community. The defense covers the dissertation, the general field of the dissertation, and other parts of the student's program, as determined by the committee.

Forms are available from the Graduate School website both to apply for the granting of the Ph.D. and to request the official scheduling of the Defense (called the "Final Oral").

Checklist of all necessary procedures (pdf)

Detailed explanation of all necessary procedures (pdf)

Additional CL coursework petitions and forms are also available.