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CPLIT-PHD - Comparative Literature (PhD)

Comparative Literature Comparative Literature PHD - Doctor of Philosophy

Program Overview

Graduate Degrees describes university requirements for the PhD.

The PhD program is designed for students whose linguistic background, breadth of interest in literature, and curiosity about the problems of literary scholarship and theory (including the relation of literature to other disciplines) make this program more appropriate to their needs than the PhD in one of the national literatures. Students take courses in at least three literatures (one may be that of the native language) to be studied in the original. The program is designed to encourage familiarity with the major approaches to literary study prevailing today.

Before starting graduate work at Stanford, students should have completed an undergraduate program with a strong background in one literature and some work in a second literature in the original language. Since the program demands advanced knowledge of two non-native languages and a reading knowledge of a third non-native language, students should, at the time of application, have an advanced enough knowledge of one of the three to take graduate-level courses in that language when they enter the program. They should be making enough progress in studying a second language to enable them to take graduate courses in that language not later than the beginning of the second year and earlier if possible. Language courses at the 100- or 200-level may be taken with approval from the Director of the department or the Chair of Graduate Studies. 

Students are admitted under a financial plan that attempts to integrate financial support and completion of residence requirements with their training as prospective university teachers. However, some students pursue other career paths. Assuming satisfactory academic progress, fellowship support as a PhD student lasts five years. Under some circumstances, sixth-year funding may be available. 

Application Procedures

Competition for entrance into the program is exceptionally keen. The program is kept small so students have as much opportunity as possible to work closely with faculty throughout the study. Applicants should carefully review all course and examination requirements, advancement requirements, and teaching obligations before applying to the program. Because of the unique nature of comparative literary studies, the statement of purpose included in the application for admission must contain the following information:

  • A detailed description of the applicant’s present breadth of proficiency in each of the languages studied, indicating the languages in which the applicant is prepared to do graduate work at present and outlining plans to meet additional language requirements of the program.

  • A description of the applicant’s area of interest (for instance, theoretical problems, genres, periods) within literary study and the reasons for finding comparative literature more suitable to their needs than the study of a single literature. Applicants should also indicate their most likely prospective primary field, including the literatures on which they intend to concentrate.

  • An explanation of how the applicant’s undergraduate education has prepared them for work in our program. If there are any gaps in the applicant’s preparation, a plan to address those gaps should be discussed.

  • The applicant’s reasons for wishing to study in the department.

The application itself must also include:

  • A letter of recommendation that focuses on the applicant’s language skills, a current ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) certificate, or a critical paper written in a non-native language.

  • Recommendations from faculty members in at least two of the literatures in which the student proposes to work, if possible. 

  • A writing sample the candidate considers to represent their best work, preferably demonstrating a comparative analysis.

See Graduate Admissions for more information.