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Slavic Languages and Literatures

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

The First Two Years

Sixteen four-credit courses are required for the PhD and these must be completed before the general exam. 

Through the pre-generals period and until the time a prospectus is approved, the director of graduate studies advises all graduate students. At the beginning of each term, all graduate students are responsible for meeting with the director of graduate studies prior to the enrollment deadline to have their Crimson Cart course registration electronically signed. 

When students submit their prospectus to the department, they name a primary advisor to direct the dissertation and recommend the second and third readers as well.

Major Field 

The major literature constitutes seven required courses. During their first two years of study, students will be required to enroll in seven 200-level Slavic Department "starred" seminars in literature and culture, including a course in Old Church Slavonic and one course in the Medieval period, as well as the Graduate Proseminar in their first year.  

Minor Field 

In addition to the major field, students will select a minor field consisting of four courses.  The minor field may focus on a second Slavic language and literature, comparative literature, performing arts or fine arts, cultural studies, film studies, a well-defined theoretical or interdisciplinary field, Russian and East European history, or Slavic linguistics. 

Elective Courses 

The remaining five courses are elective courses, chosen in consultation with the DGS. Students often use these electives for language study or for courses taken outside the Slavic Department. 

Foreign Language Requirements

Students must demonstrate a command of Russian equivalent at the fifth-year level. Before the beginning of fall term in their first year, graduate students will take a Russian placement exam administered by the director of the Slavic Languages Program. If further Russian language study is needed, students will use some elective courses for this purpose. 

Students are expected to demonstrate a reading knowledge of a second research language in addition to the language of their major field. Many students choose to pursue a second Slavic language (Ukrainian, Polish, Czech or Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian [BCS]). Preferably this study should begin in the first year, perhaps followed up by a summer program abroad after the first or second year of study. Students may opt to study French or German or another language central to the student's research interests, with departmental approval.  

Policy on Course Incompletes  

Students are strongly encouraged not to take any incompletes. Students may possibly be granted one Incomplete during their first two years and must ask permission of the DGS as well as the instructor of the relevant course. The Incomplete must be made up by the end of the next term. Students may not teach or take their general examinations if they have an unresolved Incomplete in a required course.  

Good Standing

The minimum standard set by the department for satisfactory work by graduate students is an A-/B+ average (as many As as Bs). Students who fall below this level must, in the following term, demonstrate their ability to meet this minimum in courses taken within the department. Only students who remain in good standing are eligible to take the general examinations, teach, and receive Harvard fellowships. Each year, the department chair writes a letter to students assessing their progress in the program, recording any milestones and other achievements, and setting forth goals for the coming year. 

General Examinations 

Students begin preparing for their general exams in the late spring of their second year and take the exams at the end of their third year.


The prospectus should provide a good sense for the proposed dissertation project and reflect the work the student has done to establish the foundation for a large project of this kind. The dissertation prospectus must be submitted for review and approval by all members of the department. 

Students will submit a first draft of their prospectus to their emerging dissertation committee at the end of September of the G-4 year and are expected to submit a complete and revised prospectus for review by the entire Slavic department faculty by early December.  


The dissertation must give evidence of original research or of original treatment of the subject and must be in good literary form. It should be completed within three years after the general examinations. Each year, the department will set the due dates for submitting a final polished draft of the dissertation to all committee members—one for students wishing to finish their degree in the fall, one in the spring, and one in the summer.  

To qualify for a dissertation completion fellowship as a G-6 student, students will need to have two chapters drafted by February of the G-5 year.  


As part of their preparation, candidates are required to teach. Students teach during the G-3 and G-4 years, both language courses and literature/culture. Some G-5 graduate students also teach. It is expected that all graduate students will take Slavic 126 (Structure of Russian) either before they begin teaching language or concurrently with their first term of teaching language. 

Program Timeline 

The expected timeline for our PhD program is six years as follows: 

Graduate students complete their coursework (16 courses) during their first two years in the program. 

Graduate students begin teaching in their third year and are guaranteed teaching assignments in both language and literature/culture for their third and fourth years. The Department is also able to provide teaching for students in their fifth year, although some of these students may fund all or part of this year if they are awarded an internal or external fellowship (e.g., Merit, Traveling). 

Graduate students take their general examinations at the end of their third year. 

Graduate students submit a dissertation prospectus draft by the end of September in their fourth year and a revised draft of their prospectus by early December for approval by department faculty.  

If students qualify with two completed dissertation chapter drafts by early February of their fifth year, they will hold a Dissertation Completion Fellowship in their sixth year. 

Master of Arts (AM)

The department does not admit candidates for a terminal AM degree.  However, PhD candidates may apply for an AM degree after having completed with satisfactory grades the eight four-credit graduate level courses, including the Proseminar, that satisfy department requirements. The degree may also be offered to students who choose not to complete the PhD, assuming they have met the course requirements. 

Contact Info 

Slavic Languages and Literatures Website

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