The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures offers graduate students the opportunity to study in depth the literatures, cultures, and languages of Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. The department offers interdisciplinary and comparative work across the cultures of the Slavic world.
Doctoral candidates specialize in linguistics or in literature, but are required to have some knowledge of both fields. All students study Old Church Slavonic and practical linguistics courses as part of the preparation to teach language courses. Students work closely with faculty in their major fields to create a program oriented around particular interests; coursework is possible in allied fields as well.
Faculty in the department teach a wide range of courses, from the medieval to the contemporary. These courses take many different approaches, incorporating the theories of cultural studies, formalism, gender studies, linguistics, philology, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, semiotics, structuralism, and visual studies, among others. The program aims to provide students with a broad knowledge of the field as well as a sense of historical depth. We emphasize the ability to write well, to do innovative scholarly and critical work, and to make effective presentations at conferences and symposia. Teaching effectively is a skill we seek to cultivate in all our students, preparing them for both literature and language courses. The program takes from five to eight years to complete, with most students completing the PhD degree in six or seven years.
The department maintains close working ties with other department and groups studying the Slavic world at Harvard, including the Regional Studies Program, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Ukrainian Studies Program of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. The Harvard Film Archive houses an extensive and unique collection devoted to Russian and Ukrainian cinema, which includes 35- and 16-millimeter films.
The department requires that doctoral candidates work as teaching fellows in its language and literature courses, regarding such experience as an integral part of doctoral training. Students normally teach in the third and fourth years of study, and often beyond.
If you are interested in a terminal master’s degree, please review information on the master’s degree in Regional Studies: Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia (REECA) offered by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
We welcome applicants with traditional and non-traditional preparation in the field, as long as their foreign-language, linguistic, and literary-studies skills are strong. Applicants should show knowledge of Russian (or the language of the student's major field) equivalent to the Harvard class “Advanced Russian II: Reading, Composition, and Conversation.”
Formal training in literature or linguistics is highly desirable for admission. In order to anticipate the language requirement, the candidate for admission should also have a reading knowledge of French or German, although this is not a prerequisite.
No application for admission will be considered complete unless accompanied by a recent and extensive sample of the student’s written work in English.
The department ordinarily interviews finalists for admission by Skype in late January and early February. Admitted students are encouraged to come to campus whenever they are able for a one-day visit in February or March to meet with the faculty and graduate students and to find out more about programs of study available within the department. We strongly urge applicants who may be out of the country in the spring to so inform the department and try to visit Cambridge before their departure.
We also welcome potential candidates who wish to come to Cambridge for informational interviews during the spring or fall before submitting an application. Contact the department administrator to arrange meetings with individual faculty members. In such cases, candidates should also arrange to meet with the current director of graduate studies for Slavic and possibly the department chair.