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Doctor of Philosophy Program in Comparative Literature


Students entering the doctoral program with an M.A. degree in comparative literature from another institution must divide their points between a national literature or literatures, comparative literature, and if they choose (after consultation), appropriate courses from non-literature departments. Students entering with an M.A. degree in a national literature must show 40 points in comparative literature upon the completion of course requirements for the Ph.D. degree. For students completing the departmental M.A., continuation from the M.A. to the Ph.D.
is not automatic; successful and timely completion of the M.A. is minimally required for admission to the Ph.D. program.

The Ph.D. requires students successfully complete 72 points of coursework of which 40 points are in Comparative Literature, and 32 points are outside of the department as electives relevant to the student’s research and teaching goals. The following courses must be taken: COLIT-GA 1400, Seminar in Literature: Research Methods and Techniques – Practice and Theory, (this course must be taken during the first semester of enrollment); a literary criticism/theory class before 1800; a contemporary (20th century) literary criticism/theory course; and
a pre-1800 literature course; and Thesis Research, COLIT-GA 3991. Students taking a degree in comparative literature follow a program of courses corresponding to their proposed professional interests. Flexibility of choice is provided by a broad spectrum of offerings available in neighboring departments. When arranging the course of study, the student consults with the chair of the department or the director of graduate studies, as well as an assigned faculty adviser.

Students must prove proficiency in three non-English languages  or two non-English languages and, substituting for the third language, three doctoral level courses in a nonliterary discipline. There are several ways to prove language proficiency, including passing a translation exam, which NYU administers three times a year.

Once a student has completed 32 points of course work and satisfied the language requirements, a qualifying paper must be submitted to and approved by a committee of two faculty members. The paper is meant to be one which the student has already submitted for a seminar and would like to return in order to polish the argument to a “publishable” standard.   

Once all course work and language proficiency has been satisfied, students are required to pass a comprehensive exam. This Ph.D. examination consists of a comprehensive, written take-home examination on three topics chosen by the candidate, in consultation with a faculty committee: one topic is literary criticism and theory, a second topic includes the candidate’s major or teaching field, and the third is in a nodal field of critical, historical, generic, or period interest. The written examination is taken after the required course Thesis Research, COLIT-GA 3991, in which the topics for the exam are prepared. The written examination is followed within the next semester by an oral examination given by the same faculty committee of three, on the preliminary dissertation prospectus prepared by the candidate. The revised prospectus is then submitted, usually within six weeks, for final approval by its three readers. Following the exams, doctoral candidates should be prepared to write a thesis which must be concerned with comparative issues of language, discipline, or culture. The Ph.D. thesis must be approved by an adviser and two major readers; after completion and acceptance of the thesis, two further readers are invited to complete the oral defense jury.

Concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Studies: The concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Studies is interdisciplinary in nature and creates a framework and community for diverse approaches to the study of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It complements doctoral students’ work in their home departments with interdisciplinary study of the broad range of culture in the medieval and early modern periods, as well as of the theories and methods that attend them. The concentration is designed to train specialists who are firmly based in a traditional discipline but who can work across disciplinary boundaries, making use of varied theoretical approaches and methodological practices. The concentration consists of twenty credits distributed under the following courses: Proseminar in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, MEDI-GA 1100, Late Latin and Early Vernaculars, MEDI-GA 2100 or other approved course, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies Workshop, MEDI-GA 2000, 2 points per semester taken twice in an academic year. Students must also take one approved course in the area of Medieval and Renaissance Media: Visual and Material Cultures, and one approved course in a medieval or early modern topic. At least one course, not counting either the Proseminar or Workshop, must be taken outside a student’s home department. In addition, students pursuing the concentration will present a paper at least once either in the Workshop or in a conference offered by the Medieval and Renaissance Center.