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Comparative Literature

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Questions about these requirements? See the contact info at the bottom of the page. 


The adviser–student relationship

Primary advisers and advising committees constitute a crucial resource for students as they move forward in the program, but students are not confined to their advisers or advising committee members for advice or mentoring. Some students will have the same faculty member serve as field adviser and then the principal dissertation adviser (PDA) from their first year through the completion of the dissertation, but most will not. It is perfectly natural for a student to have several principal advisers over the course of their graduate career and changes are easily made.

The directors of graduate studies (DGS) and your field adviser(s) provide the backbone of your guidance through the program, and it is important for you to turn to them on a regular basis. Yet you aren’t at all confined to these sources of advice and mentoring. You are strongly encouraged to speak about your progress and academic plans with other faculty members in the department and across the University and beyond. You should seek out professors whose scholarship complements your own, even when you aren’t able to take their courses. All professors not on leave are required by the University to hold weekly office hours, and most professors are available to meet outside office hours as well. You shouldn’t be shy about contacting faculty members. If you email a professor and don’t receive a response within three business days, you should feel free to write to that individual again. By the same token, you should respond promptly to messages from your advisers. Should a student or faculty member find after five business days that they have received no reply to an email or to a request for a meeting, they should contact the DGS.

To foster a sense of community among the graduate students, field advisers are encouraged to meet with all their advisees as a group at the beginning of each term. The Department Administrator will send field advisers an up-to-date list of their advisees at the beginning of each academic year to facilitate this.

Primary advisers, committee members, and other faculty members will be important advocates, collaborators, and colleagues throughout your graduate career, and often beyond. They also direct students to resources for help and counseling if and when students need them (e.g., medical issues, personal emergency, changes in life circumstances, psychological well-being, etc.).

It is important to develop a good working relationship and set mutual expectations early on. Once students are admitted into the program, it is the shared responsibility of students and advisers to have an open discussion in order to establish expectations, boundaries, and channels of communication. Don’t hesitate to discuss and clarify advising protocols with your current or prospective advisers early on, with the goal of establishing mutually satisfactory and productive working relationships.

To facilitate this discussion, we suggest the following examples as some of the topics of conversation that faculty members are expected to clarify and that you are encouraged and entitled to ask directly:

  • choice of courses and fields of study
  • students’ entitlement to free expression of their views
  • the sense of community among graduate students
  • the adviser’s philosophy of graduate student teaching and advising
  • the ways whereby advisers and students can build a relationship of trust and maintain honest and open communication
  • frequency of meetings outside of courses
  • expectations regarding feedback on graduate student written work
  • the adviser’s own graduate experience and reflections on how this may influence the adviser’s teaching and advising style
  • the process whereby students arrive at their research/dissertation topics
  • students’ freedom in choosing fields of research and dissertation topics
  • teaching opportunities and pedagogical training for graduate students
  • expectations regarding the duties and rights of teaching fellows
  • the adviser’s current advisees and their research directions
  • the adviser’s sabbatical schedule over the next few years and expectations around working with students while on sabbatical
  • the adviser’s research interests, especially in relation to possible course offerings
  • the adviser’s administrative duties and other commitments that may affect his or her availability
  • the process of applying for outside grants and fellowships
  • the best ways to prepare for the job market
  • professional training
  • preparation for giving papers and publications.

Although graduate student colleagues are excellent sources of information, you should also consult the DGS directly, at any time, with any questions about program requirements and policies. If you experience difficulty with their advisers, you should contact the DGS; if students experience difficulty with the DGS, they should contact the Chair, or, if you prefer, a trusted tenured department faculty member.

The department is committed to protecting individuals from retaliation for speaking out, engaging in good faith reporting, or objecting to any activity by a community member that they believe to be unlawful, unethical, or in violation of University policies. Faculty should take the initiative in discussing their commitment to this policy and creating an environment of free and open discourse.

General expectations

Some general guidelines for students and advisers:

  1. Prompt response to communication is important. Both faculty members and students should respond to emails within three working days.
  2. Students can expect to receive comments on their seminar papers within two weeks after submitting them according to agreed-upon deadlines. Students and advisers should discuss and agree upon a set of shared expectations for reading and commenting on dissertation chapters. As a general guideline, students should expect comments on new chapters, or substantially revised chapters, within one month.
  3. Requests for recommendation letters should not be last minute. Students should plan to make requests and send the relevant materials (e.g., writing sample, application letter, grant proposal) at least one month before the deadline.
  4. It is the responsibility of faculty to ensure that students have the freedom as well as the guidance to develop their ideas in a supportive environment.
  5. Students have the choice of changing their advisers or members of their advising committees. They can also seek resources from other departments or outside the University when they are considering a third or fourth reader for their dissertations.
  6. Faculty members are not to retaliate against students for voicing complaints or for changing their advisers or members of their advising committees.

The G1 and G2 years

All first- and second-year students have two official advisers: (1) the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), who for the 2023–2024 academic year is Professor Verena Conley (, and Professor Luis Manuel Girón-Negrón (; and (2) a field adviser, who is most often a faculty member in the Department of Comparative Literature. All incoming students choose a field adviser for their first and usually second years (the “G1” and “G2” years in campus parlance). Students have the option, at the start of the G2 year, of continuing with the same field adviser as during the G1 year, or of choosing someone else. The department understands that academic interests change, so if at any time during the G1 or G2 years you would like to change your field adviser, you should contact the DGS. At the same time, you are welcome to consult other faculty members within and beyond the department for advice throughout your graduate career, including in their first two years. The DGS and field adviser work together to ensure that G1 and G2 students are enrolled in the courses most appropriate for their career plans (i.e., that they are receiving rigorous training in their respective fields, including relevant national languages and literatures); that they are on track to fulfill course and language requirements; that they are planning productively for their second-year paper; that they are formulating appropriate orals fields and lists; and that they are preparing themselves for teaching. The duties of the DGS and field adviser overlap, but they can be distinguished as follows.

The DGS signs off on my.harvard for G1s and G2s (approving course selections for the fall and spring terms) while making certain that students are attending to department requirements. The DGS meets individually with all G1s and G2s at least once each term to offer advice and ascertain that students are making satisfactory progress to the degree. During these years and beyond, you should also contact the DGS about any academic difficulties and especially if you are unable to finish coursework or meet deadlines. You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the DGS’s office hours. If you have classes during the DGS’s office hours, you should email the DGS to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet.

In addition, the DGS, with the assistance of the Department Administrator, regularly updates all students’ digital records and reviews everyone’s progress every spring, as part of the Annual Review of Student Progress; every June, the DGS sends each student a letter via email regarding their progress.

Whereas the DGS has overall responsibility for course requirements and the fine points of the program’s structure (matters that individual faculty members don’t always know in detail), the field adviser is a faculty member chosen, in consultation with you, because his/her field of expertise is similar to your own. Often, your field adviser will be a member of the Department of Comparative Literature, yet your adviser can be someone based entirely in another department with experience working with Comparative Literature students. (Please note: Any professor listed on the department website under “Faculty” is fully available as an adviser, whether or not they hold a joint appointment with another department. In contrast, lecturers, College fellows, and others on short-term appointments do not serve as field advisers for graduate students.)

The field adviser’s primary function is to help students determine the most appropriate courses, summer opportunities, second-year paper topic, orals fields and lists, and teaching opportunities, in light of their developing scholarly interests and with an eye to rigorous preparation in marketable fields. You should contact your field adviser and initiate discussion of these items of professional development on a regular basis. Field advisers should meet with their advisees at least twice a year, preferably at the beginning of each term. If you have difficulty getting in touch with your field adviser, or find that your field adviser is unable to assist you with the matters listed above because of changing scholarly interests or other reasons, you ought to inform the DGS.

The G3 year (Orals)

In the third year, students have one official adviser—the field adviser—who sometimes is the same faculty member who served in this role during the student’s G1 and/or G2 years, but often is not the same person because of the student’s changing interests. The field adviser for G3s is responsible for releasing the electronic advising hold during the G3 year, for advising students on orals lists and fields as well as on teaching, and in particular for guiding students to a potential dissertation project. The field adviser will often supervise the student's major orals field, but need not necessarily do so. You should inform the DGS if they would like to change your field adviser.

G4 and beyond (after Orals)

Following the completion of orals (typically at the end of the third year), the G3 field adviser, or another faculty member, will become the student’s PDA in years G4 and above. For more on the role of the PDA, see the sections in the Guide on formulating the dissertation prospectus and writing the dissertation. Students whose PDA is not a member of the Department of Comparative Literature should also choose a department academic adviser, usually another member of their dissertation committee, who will sign off in my.harvard and advise on departmental matters.

Advising summary

Advisers play a crucial part in the development of their advisees as young scholars and future colleagues. They should meet regularly and be in frequent close contact; both students and advisers should answer emails within three business days. Whenever possible, faculty members should reply to student emails within two business days, even if just to say that a more comprehensive reply is forthcoming. If students do not receive a response within three business days, they should write that faculty member again, making clear that they would appreciate a response. If five business days after a second attempt has passed and the student still has not heard from the faculty member, they can contact the DGS. This page provides a basic summary of expectations for advisers and students at different stages of the graduate program.

Field adviser (G1 and G2)

  • meets individually with advisees at least once a term
  • helps advisees determine the most appropriate courses, summer opportunities, second- year paper topic, orals fields and lists, and teaching opportunities
  • meets at the beginning of each year or term with all their advisees as a group.

Second-year paper readers (G2)

  • meet with the student to guide them on the approach to the paper, with a focus on developing it into a publication in an appropriate journal
  • participate in the second-year paper conference with the student in April
  • read the paper and provide feedback on the second-year paper by September; meet with the student to discuss the paper in October or November
  • more details: see Graduate Student Guide, pp. 17–18.

Field adviser (G3)

  • meets with the advisee at least once a term and release the my.harvard hold
  • advises on orals lists and fields (often including serving as reader of the primary orals list); on teaching; and on working toward a potential dissertation project.

Orals committee members (G3)

  • guide the student through constructing, revising, and reading their orals lists; offer official approval of the relevant list(s) to the department
  • meet periodically (at least every six weeks) with the student to discuss progress
  • more details: see Guide pp. 18–20.

Principal dissertation adviser (G4+)

  • meets with the advisee at least once a term, ideally rather more often
  • advises on the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation, as well as professional development, the job market, grant and fellowship opportunities, and applications
  • communicates faculty feedback on the dissertation prospectus to the student
  • offers timely (within one month) written and/or oral feedback on chapter drafts (usually in the context of a chapter meeting).

Dissertation committee members (G4+)

  • meet with the advisee at least once a term
  • advise on the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation, as well as professional development, the job market, grant and fellowship opportunities, and applications
  • offer timely (within one month) written and/or oral feedback on chapter drafts (usually in the context of a chapter meeting).

Course Requirements

The number of courses required for the PhD in Comparative Literature is 16, of which at least 8 must be graduate (200-level) seminars. You can arrange to produce extra work, typically in the form of a graduate-style research paper, to receive 200-level credit for courses that are listed at the 100-level in my.harvard. Such arrangements must be made early in the term when the course is being taken, ideally within the first two weeks of classes because your plans must be approved by both the course instructor and the DGS. The necessary approval form is available from the Department Administrator in Dana-Palmer House or may be downloaded from the department intranet (a link to the intranet can be found at the bottom of our main webpage:

Your remaining eight courses will include 100-level courses, 200-level seminars, a maximum of three 300-level courses (Reading and Research courses; these courses are graded SAT/UNS and do not generally require a seminar paper), and a maximum of four language courses (language training at any level).

Please note that the Registrar does not allow graduation credit for language courses taken SAT/UNS; the only SAT/UNS courses that count toward the 16 required for graduation are 300-level Reading and Research courses (which must be taken as SAT/UNS). Most 300-level Reading and Research courses do not require papers, providing an excellent opportunity for students to do research in a particular topic without the pressure of writing an additional paper.

During your first two years in the department, you must balance coursework in the following manner: at least four courses in the Department of Comparative Literature (one of these courses must be CL 299ar, the Comparative Literature Proseminar; the remaining three can include up to two 100-level Comparative Literature courses and, occasionally, at the discretion of the DGS, courses with a comparative focus offered in other departments); and eight courses in three literatures—most students will take four courses in their first literature, two in their second literature, and two in their third literature, but other combinations are possible, everything from 3-3-2 to 6-1-1, based on a student’s background and needs. You are also required to take Professing Literature 1, 2, and 3 your G1–3 years; these are one-credit courses that address career development topics relevant to the G1, G2, and G3 years, respectively. Professing Literature is a course, and attendance at the relevant sessions is mandatory. This course meets regularly on Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m. and students are advised to make arrangements to clear their schedule for this time block.

Students are advised that most academic employment opportunities are in national literature or area studies departments; there are very few full-time comparative literature positions in the United States. Thus, you are strongly encouraged, from the beginning of your graduate studies, to develop expertise in a particular national literature or other marketable field (e.g., theater, film) in addition to your comparative focus. You also should make certain, guided by the department’s many faculty members with joint appointments in comparative literature and national literature/area studies departments, that you are completing the coursework and orals reading, as well as formulating a dissertation topic that will make you competitive on the national literature job market. For more on academic employment, see the section "Going on the Job Market" below.

You are expected to write two or three substantial seminar papers each term during your first two years. Two is the minimum (and quite sufficient) expectation, for a total of at least eight seminar papers by the time you finish your G2 year. Three is the maximum number of seminar papers you should undertake in any given term so you have time to write quality work and avoid taking INC (incompletes—for more on INC see below).

Most students will write their seminar papers for their 200-level courses (with the exception of CL 299ar), but some students will find it more appropriate to write seminar papers for certain of their 100-level courses, particularly when these courses are in fields in which they would like to publish articles. In the latter case, with the permission of the instructor, students often will have the option of taking 100-level courses for 200-level credit. Students can also write seminar papers for 300-level courses; these Reading and Research courses do not generally have a writing requirement, but, with the permission of the instructor, students can write papers for them.

The department discourages students from taking a course load that requires them to write more than three seminar papers in a term. If in any given term students must take four courses that all require seminar papers, they are strongly encouraged to speak with the professors of these courses about doing alternative assignments. When asked, faculty members often will permit a student to take a 200-level seminar as a 300-level Reading and Research course (i.e., students do all the reading and participate in class discussion, but do not write a final research paper). Sometimes, faculty members allow students to write two short papers rather than a long final paper, or, by mutual agreement with another faculty member, they accept a single expanded paper for two courses. In general, faculty members also readily help students think about their final papers early in the term. In all cases, you are encouraged to plan ahead.

Students taking four courses in a single term that all require major seminar papers should also speak with the DGS as soon as possible.

A course that is cross-listed in the Department of Comparative Literature will be counted either toward the Comparative Literature requirement or toward the requirement in the national literature in which it is offered (if the readings were done in the original language), but not toward both. In such cases, you should let the Department Administrator know how you want the credit to count.

One 300-level Reading and Research course can be used as one of the four required comparative literature courses. This Reading and Research course must be taught by a comparative literature faculty member, and it must have a comparative focus. If you do not write a research paper for this 300-level course, then you must write a paper on a comparative topic for one of your other courses, to be determined in consultation with the DGS. The reading list for a 300-level course used to count as one of your 200-level CL courses must be submitted to the DGS for approval during the first or second week of class.

Under exceptional circumstances, students will be permitted to use one lower-level undergraduate course (general education courses or courses numbered 1–99) for 100-level credit. For 100-level credit to be granted for the course, graduate students must write longer papers than the undergraduates in the course. To receive 100-level credit for general education courses or courses numbered 1–99, students must obtain approval from the DGS during the first or second week of class.

In cases where the University offers regular 100- or 200-level courses in a student’s first, second, and third literatures, the student generally may not use 300-level courses to satisfy first, second, and third literature requirements. But in cases where the University does not offer regular courses in one of your three literatures (e.g., Czech, Bengali), you will generally be permitted to use 300-level courses. You must, however, obtain the prior approval of the DGS.

To satisfy the literature requirements in the first, second, and third literatures, readings must be done in the original language. Class discussion may, however, be in English. If the department determines that work was not read in the original language, departmental credit will be withheld. Occasionally, students will declare as one of their literatures a literature in which the University does not offer sufficient courses that teach texts in the original language. In this case, if the student is a native speaker of the language, the DGS can make an exception and grant first, second, or third literature credit for a 100- or 200-level course in which readings are done in English translation. All exceptions must be approved by the DGS in the first or second week of the term. If students are not native speakers of the language, and there are no 100- or 200-level courses where reading is done in the original language, students must enroll in a 300-level course where readings are done in the original language.

The first literature must have a historical component whatever your area of specialization; that is, it must include at least one course in a period different from the period examined in the other courses in this literature.

Overall, your coursework must include a significant dimension of comparative historical or cross-cultural study. This dimension can be met by taking a minimum of three courses with a chronological or regional focus different from your primary area of focus. (In the case of chronological breadth, these three courses can include the historically diverse third course in the primary literature.) It is important that the focus of these three courses be distinctly different from the focus of your other work. Thus, someone concentrating on European modernism would not be able to fulfill this requirement with three courses in the European 19th century; either greater historical depth or a significant cultural range (e.g., modernism in East Asia) is expected.

Other coursework may include relevant courses in literature, language, or other disciplines relevant to your interests, such as philosophy, history, anthropology, religion, linguistics, art history, or media studies. Courses in these topics with a comparative focus occasionally can count toward the four required comparative literature courses. Which courses can count is at the discretion of the DGS, but the department aims to be as flexible as possible.

You are very strongly encouraged to take at least one course on the literature/culture of a world region different from that of your focus. While students specializing in non-European literatures generally do at least some of their coursework in European literatures or in literatures outside their immediate region of focus, those specializing in European literatures have tended not to take classes on non-European literatures. However, it is important to remember that Europe is as much a world region as are Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia, and in our global world it is essential to have at least basic exposure to the literature/culture of a non-European region.

Students are expected to fulfill all course requirements by the end of the G2 year, with the exception of those who need additional language training to take courses in their first, second, or third literatures. These students can take a limited number of required courses into their third year. Other exceptions are at the discretion of the DGS.


PhD candidates are required, in each year, to receive more As than Bs; no grade lower than B- can be counted toward the degree. More than one grade below B- clearly indicates unsatisfactory progress in the program. Students should take comfort in the fact that grades below a B are highly unusual at Harvard. If you find yourself receiving low grades in a particular course, you should speak with the DGS right away.


You should avoid taking any incompletes (INC). Incompletes are administrative nightmares that mar the transcript and damage your chances for receiving Harvard and outside fellowships. Even worse, incompletes taken in one term often have a snowball effect that causes students to fall further behind in their coursework and other requirements in the following term.

With the exception of medical, family, or other emergencies, under no circumstances are students in comparative literature permitted to take more than one incomplete per term, and, with the exception of medical, family, or other emergencies, under no circumstances are they permitted to take an incomplete in the proseminar (CL 299ar).

Students who take two or more incompletes in any given term or an incomplete in the proseminar will automatically be put on "grace" academic status for the term, until the grades are recorded for these courses. Students on grace status remain eligible for institutional aid and teaching fellowships (but not federal Title IV loans and/or work study).

Beginning with the class admitted in fall 2019, all INC courses incurred during a term must be made up no later than six weeks after the start of the next term. Any INCs not cleared by that point will become permanent. If the presence of a permanent INC causes the student to fall below the number of courses needed for satisfactory progress, the student will be placed on grace academic status for the following term, until an added course has made up for the Incomplete.

For those students admitted before fall 2019, incompletes must be completed before the end of the term 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 "unsatisfactory" academic status, which will render them ineligible for financial support from the department and the University. Such students will lose their summer stipends, academic-year stipends, teaching fellowships, and other grants. They also risk being required to take a leave of absence or to withdraw from the program.

All students, regardless of entry year, risk being placed in unsatisfactory academic status if they have not completed the coursework for these INC grades before the start of the term following the one in which the Incomplete was taken.

Students confronted by medical or family emergencies or other extraordinary circumstances that prevent them from completing their coursework in the term in which the course is taken are expected, before the end of the term, to inform the DGS and/or Department Administrator that they need additional time; the DGS works with such students on a schedule for resolving INC that can be modified as circumstances warrant.

With the exception of medical, family, or other emergencies, all incompletes must be resolved by the beginning of the G3 year. Students will not be permitted to register for the G3 year, nor will they be permitted to teach, if they have INC in courses being used to fulfill requirements. Likewise, students are not permitted to take orals if they are carrying incompletes in courses being used to fulfill requirements. Students with incompletes will be required to submit to the DGS a plan for completing their coursework. As in all cases, students having academic difficulties should see the DGS at their earliest opportunity.

Please note: Most 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 is not encouraged and in fact hinders academic progress. You also should keep in mind that balancing several papers (deadlines) and exams per term is excellent training for the academic life, where you will find yourself juggling far more responsibilities at once.

Language Requirements

In September of your first year, after consulting with the DGS and your field adviser, you will be required to prepare a list of four (or more) proposed languages; three of these, one of which may be English, will normally be primary languages for your first, second, and third literatures in which you will be doing coursework, while the fourth will often be an “instrumental” language, as described below. You should submit your list of proposed languages to the DGS no later than October 1 of your first year. Your list of proposed languages may be revised and resubmitted at a later date so long as it meets department guidelines, but it is important at the outset to develop a solid initial plan for the languages and literatures on which you will be focusing.

By the time you take your orals (by the end of the G3 year), you must be proficient in at least four languages related to your course of study and long-term interests; one of these four languages may be studied for only instrumental reasons. At least one language must stand in a useful cross-cultural or diachronic relationship to others (see below).

Language requirements must be finished by the end of the third year; students must complete all language requirements before taking orals.

Candidates who wish to receive an AM after the second year must complete language requirements in three languages before that degree can be awarded (for more on the AM degree, see below).

In exceptional circumstances—i.e., when students need additional time to gain competence in an unusually difficult language such as Arabic or Chinese, or when students change their focus significantly in their G2 year—the DGS may allow students until September of the G4 year to fulfill language requirements.

Instrumental Language

Your fourth language may be instrumental, that is, a tool for reading criticism, for engaging with philological and/or historical issues, or for making the first steps toward eventually studying the literature and attaining fluency. You may fulfill department requirements for the fourth language by taking an upper-level language course in your instrumental language. (In such cases you must consult the DGS for approval, as the necessary level of coursework varies by language. E.g., for many languages, two years of formal language training are required, while for languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, four years of formal language training are required). You also may demonstrate instrumental knowledge by passing a reading exam administered by the Department Administrator. You may take this exam as many times as needed, but you must pass it by the end of the G3 year. For more on this exam, see below. The instrumental language is an option that may appeal to students who seek in three languages a command that includes not just reading but also speaking, listening, and writing, and in one language a reading knowledge only; other students may choose to develop full command of all four languages.

Premodern or Cross-Cultural Language

One of your four languages must be either premodern (diachronic) or cross cultural. The term “premodern” implies that the language stands in a historically foundational or, in certain cases, diachronic relationship to one of the student’s other languages. Foundational languages would include classical Latin and Greek, biblical Hebrew, classical Arabic, classical Chinese, classical Armenian, Sanskrit, and Old Irish. Normally, the “premodern language” is not simply the “old” form of a modern language, which is studied in old, middle or medieval, and modern forms. In the event of uncertainty, candidates and/or their field advisers should consult the DGS. There are inevitably languages that are difficult to classify in this system. A case in point is classical Japanese. The department has considered this case twice and has decided both times that although classical Japanese (bungo) differs substantially from modern Japanese, the distinction is closer to the “medieval vs. modern” distinction that is found in other traditions (including the distinction between old and modern English). As a result, the department has determined that the standard foundational language for Japanese is classical Chinese. The department’s premodern requirement for students of Japanese can also be satisfied by demonstrating reading ability in kanbun. Even so, students of Japanese are strongly encouraged to take at least a year of bungo, formal training in which is needed to read pre-twentieth century and many early-twentieth century materials.

The term “cross-cultural” implies that this language is from a linguistic-cultural group different from that of your other three languages. Usually a candidate working primarily on European languages and literatures, and choosing not to study Latin or another classical Western language, would need to study a language such as Chinese or Arabic to meet this requirement. Normally, English will not count as a cross-cultural language. Turkish and Modern Hebrew, however, do count as cross-cultural languages for students whose other three languages are European.

In the academic year 2013-2014, the department revisited the question of what languages count as "cross-cultural" for students working on modern European literatures. In particular, the question was raised as to whether Russian (and other Slavic languages) would count for students working on Romance and Germanic languages, or whether a student working on English, French, German, and Russian (to give one example) would also have to study Latin or another language from outside modern Europe. Colleagues active in framing the department’s initial policy confirmed that longstanding department precedent had been that Russian had not counted as a cross-cultural language for students working on other European languages. During the academic year 2013-2014, faculty members determined, however, that beginning that year, students of Romance and Germanic languages can petition to have a Slavic language count as a cross-cultural language. The department agreed that the petition will be granted only if the spirit of the cross-cultural language requirement is maintained, namely that students venture considerably far outside their comfort zones, that they take on a language that not only is difficult for them but also gives them access to a considerably different corpus of literature/culture than those with which they are already familiar, and that their studies are significantly wide ranging. The department remains committed to producing PhD graduates who have a fundamentally broad understanding of languages and literatures.

Language Exams

Competence in languages can be demonstrated by taking 100- or 200-level courses in the literatures of the languages (not language-learning courses, but literature courses in the departments in which those languages are offered: arranging to do some of the required readings in the original language in a course taught in translation is not usually sufficient) or by taking a departmental translation examination. Under most circumstances, PhD candidates will demonstrate competence in three of their four literatures by meeting the course requirements for the first, second, and third literatures. For instance, a student who wishes to concentrate on literatures in English, French, and Spanish could take four literature courses in one of these and two in each of the others. Such a student would then also need to take an exam in Latin or another language from outside modern Europe to meet the requirement for a language that stands in a cross-cultural or diachronic relationship to the candidate’s other languages.

Students who wish to meet the requirement for a fourth language through an exam—be it to fulfill the premodern/cross-cultural requirement or to showcase instrumental knowledge of another modern language—are encouraged to take the exam as soon as they feel ready; students may take the exam as many times as necessary.

If the fourth language is modern (i.e. the student aims to either meet the cross-cultural requirement or else showcase instrumental knowledge of the same), the translation exam will consist of a two- to three-page passage from either a creative or a critical work that students are asked not to translate, but instead to summarize, discuss, or analyze. If the fourth language is premodern (i.e. a “classical” language to fulfill the diachronic requirement), the translation exam will consist of a much shorter selection from a primary source, which must be translated in full in order to showcase that the student can work through a literary passage with precise understanding of textual detail. In either case, students are permitted electronic dictionaries, but only to look up words or idioms, not to look up long phrases, sentences, or paragraphs. The exam will be on the honor system. Paper dictionaries will also be permitted. The goal of the exam is to demonstrate the ability to read the language in question effectively. Students are given one hour for the exam.

Students who wish to take a language exam should speak with the Department Administrator. In some cases, it may be possible for you to see copies of old exams to get an idea of their length, difficulty, and variety. The Department Administrator is responsible for scheduling the exam and, in consultation with the DGS, for approaching faculty members in the department who are most suited to provide and grade the exam. Students whose program of study requires more than the language training and coursework outlined in the Guide are encouraged to speak with their field adviser and the DGS as soon as possible to make appropriate arrangements.

Second-Year Paper

On the first Friday of the fall term of your G3 year, you will submit a second-year paper on a comparative topic of 25–30 pages (double space, Times New Roman font, 12-point type, 7,500–9,000 words). This paper can be a study of two literatures written in two languages, but it also can look at a single linguistic corpus through a transmedia perspective (e.g., examining French-language film, together with French-language literature, and other media in French).

The second-year paper can be an expanded version of a seminar paper you wrote during the previous spring term, or it can be an expanded version of a seminar paper you wrote in an earlier term. The second-year paper can also be developed on the basis of an individual 300-level reading course guided by a faculty member and taken in the second and, occasionally, the first year in the PhD program. Writing a second-year paper will demonstrate your ability to do a serious comparative project. Doing so also allows you to receive active faculty guidance on making the transition from doing coursework and writing seminar papers to writing publishable articles. The faculty member advising the second-year paper (typically the instructor of the relevant seminar or 300-level course) and a secondary reader (assigned by the department usually after recommendation by the student) will provide a pass or fail grade and written comments.

The guidelines for the second-year paper are as follows:

  • The DGS holds a brief required workshop for G2s (part of Professing Literature 2) on making the transition from writing seminar papers to writing journal articles.
  • Second-year paper proposals (two pages, double space) are due March 1 of the G2 year. The proposal must make clear the languages, literatures, and media involved. Students wishing to change their topics after this date require the approval of the DGS. These proposals must also be shared with the two faculty members who will serve as readers of the second-year paper, in advance of the second-year paper conference.
  • In April of the G2 year, students have a second-year paper conference with the two faculty members who will, the following fall, serve as readers of the second-year paper. By March 15, please confirm a possible date range (two weeks in April) with your faculty readers for this conference and then contact Department Coordinator Isaure Mignotte (, who will send a Doodle to your committee to schedule the final date and time. The second-year paper conference will resemble a dissertation prospectus conference, but special attention will be given to moving from writing seminar papers to writing journal articles.
  • Second-year papers will be due the first Friday of the fall term of the G3 year, giving students the summer after their G2 year to work on the paper. There will be no extensions, except in cases of family, medical, or other emergencies. Students who plan to be abroad for the summer without access to necessary research materials will be expected to plan accordingly. Students are welcome to turn in their second-year paper earlier in their graduate studies if they are prepared to do so.
  • Comments from department faculty members will be due by the end of September of the G3 year. Students are then encouraged, but not required, to meet with their second-year paper readers in October or November to discuss their papers.
  • For guidance, students should read the book Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks by Wendy Belcher, a professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton.

The second year is also an excellent time to begin speaking with faculty about publishing opportunities as well as presenting work at conferences. Faculty members are here to help, but it is your responsibility to initiate these conversations.

Master of Arts (AM)

Application for admission must be to the PhD program; students already in the program may receive an AM degree en route to the doctorate.

To obtain this degree, the candidate must complete eight term courses. One of these courses must be the Proseminar, another must be a 200-level Comparative Literature seminar, and the remaining six courses must include three in the first literature and two in the second literature. No more than one of the eight term courses may be a 300-level reading course. Students are required to have at least as many 200-level as 100-level courses, and only in rare exceptions will courses below the 100-level count toward the degree. The candidate must demonstrate proficiency in three languages, one of which may be English. One of the languages must be premodern or cross-cultural, as described in the requirements for the PhD.

In cases where students have activated transfer credit, it is understood that if they have fulfilled the department’s course and language requirements for the PhD, they will also be considered to have fulfilled the department’s course and language requirements for the AM degree.

The Third Year and Beyond

The third and fourth year requirements in the PhD program in Comparative Literature are the PhD orals examination and the prospectus conference, respectively.

Students are required to begin formulating orals fields and lining up examiners during the spring term of their second year. They should have all three lists drawn and approved by the end of May.

The PhD Orals Examination

The basic academic work for the third year consists of preparation for the PhD orals, together with initial formulation of the dissertation prospectus. Most students will also start teaching in the third year (for more on teaching, see below). Preparation for the PhD orals helps you build interaction with faculty members in your field (often there is some overlap with your subsequent dissertation committee), and the examination itself approximates a job interview or aspects of a campus visit. All three parts of the examination are taken together; when examiners are out of the country for extended periods, they may participate via Skype or speakerphone. It is much better to take your orals when you are most prepared, rather than to wait for faculty members to return from abroad.

All course/language requirements must have been completed before taking orals. This includes resolving incompletes for courses being used to fulfill requirements.

Orals should be taken by the spring of the third year.  Under exceptional circumstances (such as leaves of absence of key examiners), the DGS may approve an orals date in September of the fourth year. Regardless of when orals are taken, students must have their dissertation prospectus approved by the department no later than December of the G4 year. For more on the Prospectus, see below.

Orals are scheduled by Department Coordinator Isaure Mignotte ( Several months before taking orals, you should first agree on a date range (one to two weeks) with the members of your committee and then contact Isaure to help you set a precise date and time.

The oral examination takes two hours. It consists of a one-hour major field and two half-hour minor field examinations, each generally with one examiner, although you may arrange to have two examiners for your major field when a single examiner does not suffice to cover the material. An examiner can also be formally involved in more than one of your three fields, but you should have a total of three or four examiners. Although you develop each list and prepare it with the primary examiner(s) for that field, examiners often join in on the conversation throughout the oral examination. In general, at least one of the professors on your orals committee will be a member of the Department of Comparative Literature, but exceptions can be made when necessary.

During the 2014–2015 academic year, the department revised orals field requirements as follows:

  • The major field must include a reading list of at least 40 books (or the equivalent) selected in consultation with your major field examiner(s). The major field should provide the broad context for your eventual dissertation topic, while also preparing you for the job market and to teach a survey lecture course. Some students will choose a major field with a comparative focus, while others will choose a major field devoted to a single literature.
  • The two minor fields each involve a reading list of about 20 books or their equivalent. One minor field can be geared directly to your likely dissertation topic (in which case the minor field should not duplicate the issues raised in the major field); the other minor field may have a predominantly theoretical or interdisciplinary cast. If the major field concerns literature of a single period, one of the minor fields should be based in another period.
  • Together, the 80 books across the three orals lists must include at least 10 books in a first language, 10 books in a second language, and 10 books in a third language.

You must begin formulating orals fields and lining up examiners during the spring term of your second year. By May 15 of your G2 year, you must provide the department with the topics of your three fields as well as the names of the faculty members with whom you will be working on these fields. Ideally, you should also have all three orals lists drawn up and approved by your three examiners and the DGS by the end of May of your G2 year. Please also email your lists to the Department Administrator. At minimum, you must have one reading list approved by then so that you can begin systematic reading during the summer. All three reading lists must be approved by your three examiners and the DGS by September 15 of your G3 year.

During your third year, you are expected to meet periodically with your three examiners on whatever schedule fits your preparation, but you should make sure to have at least one meeting every two or three weeks with one or another examiner. Some faculty members prefer to meet regularly with students (e.g., every other week), while others will want to meet with you only two or three times before the orals exam. If you find that you need to meet more frequently than a particular faculty member has proposed, you should be certain to request more meetings. Be bold. Different students have different backgrounds and thus different needs, and faculty members might not always be aware of your circumstances. Should you experience any difficulties meeting with your examiners, please be in touch with the DGS as soon as possible. 

The oral examination is graded pass or fail. Exams are scheduled for two hours and ordinarily begin with a short discussion between examiners (while the student is not present) to determine the order of the questions. Each examiner typically takes 25–30 minutes. At the end, the student is sent from the room while the examiners discuss the exam and is then welcomed back to the room and given their grade.

In the very rare case of a failure in one or more fields, a student can repeat the examination on the field(s) in question at a date set by the examining committee, but no later than six months following the date of the initial exam. If the second attempt results in a failure in one or more fields, the student will be granted a terminal AM degree and withdrawn from the program.

For guidance on fields and examiners, talk with your field adviser, with the DGS, and with other faculty members. You need to be active in seeking out faculty members as your examiners and in setting up regular meetings with them as you prepare your lists during the spring of your G2 year and as you undertake your orals preparation over the course of the G3 year. Most departments have orals; the Comparative Literature format might differ from that of other departments, but most faculty members across the University are very familiar with orals.

Some faculty members will ask you to write your own orals list, which they then revise with you; other faculty members have set lists for particular fields. Orals can and should be deeply rewarding, as you move from taking classes to writing your prospectus and then your dissertation. Take advantage of this time to build a solid foundation for the dissertation and other future research, as well as teaching.

Prospectus Conference

Following the successful completion of the PhD orals, students develop a dissertation prospectus of 10–12 pages, plus bibliography (double space, Times New Roman, 12-point type). Longer prospectuses that do not meet these specifications will not be considered by the department. The prospectus must be approved by the department by December of the G4 year. This means that the prospectus itself needs to be completed no later than November 1 of your fourth year, so that you have time for a prospectus conference with your dissertation committee and the opportunity to make the revisions your dissertation committee requests before your prospectus is submitted to the department.

Department faculty members discuss and vote on prospectuses at faculty meetings throughout the year, not just in December; you should submit your prospectus to the department for approval when your committee determines it is ready but no later than December of the G4 year.

Your dissertation committee consists of a principal dissertation adviser (PDA) and two other committee members (readers). In most cases, at least one of the three members of your dissertation committee will be a member of the comparative literature faculty (more likely, two, or even all three will be members). The PDA can be the same person as your G1, G2, and/or G3 field adviser, but will often not be the same. If your PDA is a member of the department, then they also become your departmental academic adviser; if your PDA is not a member of the department, then you should choose a different departmental academic adviser, most likely another member of your dissertation committee. The members of your dissertation committee can be the same as the members of your orals committee, but they need not be. Be careful to choose faculty members with whom you have a good working relationship and who will offer you timely feedback. You can feel free to add a fourth faculty member to your committee at any time in the dissertation prospectus/writing process, however, you must inform your PDA before making any changes. If you want to remove a member from the committee, you must first consult with your PDA. Please also check with the DGS and the DA before making any changes.

A dissertation prospectus is a paradoxical object. It is not an abstract (i.e., a summary of a completed dissertation), nor is it a full-scale introductory chapter; instead, it is an attempt to describe what is planned before it has actually been done. Thus, it most closely resembles a grant proposal (in this case, a proposal for dissertation funding), and like any grant proposal it should set out the value of the topic and your approach in a concise and persuasive manner.

Your prospectus should provide a preliminary description of the proposed dissertation, delineating not only the topic you will discuss but also your primary arguments. You need to explain why this topic merits discussion and the importance of your proposed contributions. In addition, you should indicate your project’s relation to existing scholarship, describing your methodology, and outlining your planned structure of chapters.

Finding, defining, and communicating an argument that is at once significant and of realistic scope are tasks that require discussion and collaboration between you and your committee members, who should see and respond to drafts of your prospectus.

It is crucial for you to consult with faculty members early in the dissertation prospectus process. Even the most pathbreaking dissertation will not land you a job if it does not meet the needs of a hiring committee or convince a hiring committee that you have the skills they seek. Although many potential employers are quite flexible and welcome innovative comparative work, it is important to keep in mind that departments often are looking for faculty to meet specific department needs. The situation is especially tricky for students of comparative literature, since most will be hired by national language and literature departments. You need to be able to demonstrate to a hiring committee that your comparative literature training is an asset, rather than a detriment; that you have the key skills and knowledge needed in a specific national literature, enlivened and given new dimensions by the breadth of your comparative perspective. This is readily done as long as you plan ahead.

Prospectuses in comparative literature vary, but all should answer as best as possible at this early stage of research certain fundamental questions:

  1. What is the central problem that the dissertation will address, and what will be your major argument? The problem can be theoretical, critical, or historical, but it should, in most cases, be presented as a question or a related set of questions to which the dissertation will attempt to offer answers. It is important that this problem and your hypothetical answers (hypotheses) be stated from the outset, so that your research will not risk becoming random and your exposition will not lapse into mere description.
    When writing your prospectus, speak in terms of what you will “argue,” “contend,” or “claim,” rather than simply “explore,” “examine,” and “discuss.” It is fine to speak of “asking” or “inquiring,” but questions should, in general, be associated with an argument or hypothesis.
  2. Although you are writing a dissertation for a comparative literature PhD, your project may not be obviously comparative. The comparative nature of the project may lie in the way it interrupts or revises existing narratives of explanation using new materials. If you will be relying on an intellectual framework developed by a particular theorist or theoretical school, you should say something about how the theory will inform or be at issue in your work. What will count for you as evidence? Will your thesis aim at the revision of a paradigm or the utilization of one? What will you be “reading” and what will you be presupposing? How does your framework fit your problem, and why have you chosen it? Are you testing it or using it? What kind of end point are you after? Do you want to make us understand something about the text(s), the world, the art form, or the analytic enterprise—or about the inextricability of all of these? Here is where you should define clearly any concepts or terms that will carry important analytical energy for you, and perhaps briefly explain their genealogy or provenance, especially when you are using contested, general, or often-misunderstood terms.
  3. To persuade your reader that you are not just restating what has already been said before, you should include a brief review (about a page) outlining the present “state of the field” with respect to your topic and argument. How have previous scholars treated your topic; how have their arguments differed from yours? How does your approach differ from earlier approaches? Has there been new evidence (for example, a new primary source) that has come to light since previous treatments? For the sake of collegiality with previous generations of scholars, it is advisable not to play games of upstaging for the sake of self-promotion (“My predecessor blundered in not noticing what I have noticed”). Instead, remember that your work would not be possible without the work of earlier scholars.
  4. Your prospectus should include a chapter-by-chapter outline, with a paragraph or so describing each chapter. Naturally, the final arrangement of chapters may look different from the one developed in your prospectus: when new perspectives open up in the course of your work on the dissertation, you are free to revise the organization proposed in the prospectus. Nonetheless, outlining a sequence of potential chapters will help you to clarify your argument and check the balance of its parts in relation to one another. Chapters typically run anywhere between 30 and 60 double-spaced pages. If the major sections of your dissertation seem likely to exceed this span, plan to subdivide them. You might consider organizing your topic in terms of four or five main chapters, unless your topic is better served by a larger number of shorter chapters. The proposed chapters should be presented in your prospectus in a manner that allows your readers to form a clear overview of the project as a whole. You will probably find that developing this outline helps your thinking to move forward substantially, so that the actual writing of the dissertation will be more clearly focused.
  5. Dissertations vary widely in length, but a good target is around 250–300 pages, consisting of four or five roughly 50-page chapters plus your introduction, conclusion, and bibliography. A dissertation can have more chapters when appropriate and can run longer than 300 pages if necessary, particularly if substantial archival work is entailed, but longer dissertations often lose more in terms of focus and control of the topic than they gain in terms of amplitude of detail. You should ideally have 200 pages of your dissertation written when you go on the job market. Students planning to write dissertations of under 200 pages are advised that hiring committees are likely to be skeptical about uncompleted short dissertations; students writing short dissertations should plan to go on the market with a finished or nearly finished dissertation.
  6. Once you have drafted your prospectus under the guidance of your committee, you might want to have it read by someone who knows very little about your topic, to see whether you have clearly set out your problem and defined a workable method. Seeking out a general reader right at the start is a good reminder that though you may be writing on a specialized topic, your thesis should be written in clear, intelligible prose. Make sure you define the theoretical terms and categories you are introducing and try to avoid technical jargon unless it is necessary to the intricacies of your argument.
  7. Remember that you are undertaking to write a connected narrative. Therefore, you ought to think about that narrative as a whole rather than merely as a series of separate chapters. What overall message would you like people to take away from your dissertation? Try to formulate your subject and your intended destination in a simple sentence or two; make sure that you locate this sentence or two in a prominent place in your introduction.
  8. In thinking about your project, you would do well to situate it in the broader field to which it is addressed. By this point in your graduate studies you have developed a good command of current thinking about your dissertation’s overall field. Indeed, you are something of an authority. How is your argument going to change people's ideas, add to the present picture, or revise commonly held views? Thinking in these terms should help you formulate your project so that it is understandable for someone who is not immersed in this field, as well as showing people in the field why they should be interested in reading your work.
  9. The audience for an academic dissertation ranges from members of your own generation, to interested undergraduates, to advanced scholars. It also includes thinkers of the future, since most dissertations are readily accessible online, at least after an initial embargo. Be sure to explain your scope or focus. Describe how your work does or doesn’t fit into, develop from, or in some other manner deal with relevant (or only apparently relevant) work done by others. This will increase the chance of making your thesis the book you are likely to want it to become, as well as aiding you in deriving articles from chapters of the dissertation.
  10. Prospectuses (and then dissertations) tend either to lose themselves in detail or to be too general. To avoid these extremes, try to do what you would in any paper you write: Make sure that your main argument remains clearly above ground and that each paragraph has a clear connection with both the preceding and following ones. Enough care and stylistic grace should be exercised so that the prospectus clearly and concisely articulates the project, its arguments, methods, and special considerations in a manner that anyone in comparative literature (or literary studies in general) can grasp.

Prospectuses are expected to include a bibliography, which can vary in length. You do not need to have already read every source listed on your bibliography. However, you should have a sense of the most important works for your topic and have taken the time to become familiar with them. Remember that not every source requires scrupulous reading and note taking. At times it helps to annotate the bibliography with brief comments, at least for certain works.

Acceptance of the Prospectus

Once you have completed your draft prospectus you are required to have a prospectus conference with your three dissertation committee members (scheduled at your request by Isaure Mignotte, You must send your prospectus to your committee at least 10 days before the prospectus conference. This conference is a one-hour discussion both of the work leading up to your dissertation project and the prospectus itself, with the aim of ensuring that you are well prepared to move forward with the project and have developed both a viable conceptual structure and an appropriate outline of the chapters that will comprise the dissertation. The prospectus conference usually begins with students speaking for about five to seven minutes on their proposed project.

After the prospectus conference, the prospectus, revised if necessary, is circulated to the full faculty of the department for discussion and vote at a department meeting; please submit your prospectus to the department at least one week before the department meeting at which you would like it discussed. Department meetings are scheduled well in advance; dates can be obtained from the Department Administrator. You must have your prospectus approved by the department by December of your fourth year. Where appropriate, your PDA (or departmental academic adviser) will communicate to you any suggestions from the full faculty for changing the prospectus and the bibliography. If the department asks for small changes to the prospectus (“passed with minor changes”), there is normally no need for the members of the dissertation committee to reconfirm their approval. In some cases, the department will ask for more extensive revisions, in which case the student will be required to resubmit the prospectus to the department for approval at a future department meeting.

Ordinarily, the three faculty participants in the prospectus conference will be the three readers of the dissertation.

Chapter Meetings

Approximately once per semester and at minimum once each year, in order to remain in SAT status in the graduate program, you are required to have a chapter meeting with your dissertation committee. Most students use this occasion to discuss a completed draft of a new chapter, although you may occasionally have two chapters to discuss at a time or have a second meeting to discuss a chapter that needed substantial revision after the first chapter meeting.You also can use your chapter meeting to discuss your research/writing to date; this is recommended for those years that you do not produce two chapters. After you have circulated to your committee a draft of your work for discussion, contact Isaure Mignotte ( and she will arrange a mutually workable time for you and your committee to meet, typically two to three weeks after you have circulated your draft.

Chapter meetings usually take one hour. They begin with the student speaking for a few minutes on the chapter and where it fits in the dissertation as a whole; the remainder of the hour is spent discussing the chapter with the dissertation committee. The chapter meeting itself gives you the opportunity to receive sustained responses from your committee members, who will be able to hear one another’s advice and your responses and refine their advice in turn. Your committee members may also give you written comments in addition to the discussion at the chapter meeting. A committee member who is out of town may participate via Skype or a conference call; in unusual cases when this is impossible to arrange, written comments may be sent in advance of the meeting.

Faculty members are encouraged to provide written comments on chapters, but are not required to do so. Students should take careful notes during their chapter meetings, and they should feel free to contact their committee members after these meetings with any follow-up questions.

Poggioli Faculty/Graduate Student Colloquium

The Poggioli Faculty/Student Colloquium, directed by Professor Verena Conley, is an ideal forum in which to share one or more of your dissertation chapters.  Attending this forum also allows you to observe other students developing and discussing their work. Beyond campus, you should present your work at one or two conferences a year (more than that adds little and can slow your dissertation writing); the ACLA annual meeting is particularly recommended. The department has funding to assist in conference travel (see below), as do the Graduate School and several area Centers on campus (see the relevant websites for details). The department also very strongly recommends that while in graduate school you send out two articles for publication, one derived from your dissertation chapters and another drawing from work separate from the dissertation, which can show the breadth of your knowledge.

The PhD in Comparative Literature with a Special Program in the Study of Oral Tradition and Literature

The requirements for this special program are essentially the same as those listed above for the comparative literature PhD, except that at least one of the student’s three literatures must constitute or at least include a substantial corpus that is independent of written transmission and that derives from collections of performance recorded under strictly supervised conditions of fieldwork. A major resource for such purposes is the Milman Parry Collection at Harvard. Students in this program are overseen by the department’s Committee on the Study of Oral Tradition and Literature.

Secondary Fields

The Department of Comparative Literature offers comparative literature as a secondary field in Harvard Griffin GSAS to enrich the education of PhD students in other departments who seek to do research and teach across the institutional boundaries of national languages and literatures. When they become faculty members, individuals specializing in a national literature may be called on to teach comparative courses or courses in general or world literature. The secondary field in comparative literature prepares them to do so by introducing them to basic issues in the field.

Literatures in a single language constitute a coherent tradition, but comparative literature seeks to develop an awareness of how literary works move across borders, both in the original language and in translation. The department calls attention to theoretical issues shared not only across the boundaries of languages but also across very different traditions.


An ability to work in literatures in at least three languages. Normally this will be demonstrated by coursework in which at least some of the primary readings are in the original language.

In certain circumstances, the DGS may waive the requirement that competence in a language be demonstrated by coursework, and instead permit the student to substitute a translation exam. If English is used as one of the languages, the other two languages should show some breadth; that is, they cannot be closely allied, either linguistically or by academic convention (e.g., Spanish and Portuguese, Urdu and Hindi, classical and modern Chinese, or Greek and Latin). The judgment regarding what can legitimately count for the set of three languages is at the discretion of the DGS.


  1. Four courses in comparative literature, one of which must be the Comparative Literature Proseminar and two of which must be other Comparative Literature seminars at the 200 level. The remaining course requirements will be met by either 200-level seminars in comparative literature or 100-level comparative literature courses, approved for graduate credit.
  2. Successful completion of a second-year paper of 25–30 pages (7,500–9,000 words) on a comparative topic, as required for students in comparative literature. Students doing a secondary field in comparative literature do not need to submit the second-year paper by the beginning of the G3 year, but they are encouraged to submit this paper as soon thereafter as possible.

Contact Info

Comparative Literature Website

Professor Verena Conley 
Director of Graduate Studies 
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Professor Luis Manuel Girón-Negrón

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