The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures offers graduate students the opportunity to study the literatures, cultures, and languages of the Slavic world, including especially Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. The department offers interdisciplinary and comparative courses across the Slavic cultures, encouraging a wide variety of specializations from literature to film, art, and visual culture.
Most of our doctoral candidates specialize in literature, working closely with faculty in their major fields to create a program oriented around their particular interests; coursework is possible in allied fields (such as History, Anthropology, Government, Film, and Music) as well. Many of our students also do work in linguistics; all students study Old Church Slavonic and take a practical linguistics course as part of their preparation for teaching language courses.
Faculty in the department teach a wide range of courses, from medieval to contemporary culture. These courses take many different approaches, drawing on cultural studies, formalism, gender studies, linguistics, philology, political theory, 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, often including dissertation research abroad.
The department maintains close working ties with other departments and centers studying the Slavic world at Harvard, including the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (which sponsors its own Master’s Degree program in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia) and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. The Harvard Film Archive houses an extensive and unique collection devoted to Russian and Soviet 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, it helps for a candidate to have a reading knowledge of French, German, or a second Slavic language, although this is not a prerequisite.
No application for admission will be considered complete unless accompanied by a recent and extensive sample (usually 20-25 pages) 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, usually in February or March, to meet with the faculty and graduate students and to find out more about our programs of study.
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.