Comparative Literature Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Comparative Literature

Program Description

The Field of Comparative Literature at Cornell offers a Ph.D. degree in all major areas of literary study and on literary and cultural theory. Because the field is small (about twenty students), it is possible to plan diverse and interdisciplinary programs of study.

Entering students design a program in consultation with the Field Committee, which is chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies. Areas of concentration and principal advisors (the Special Committee) should be selected by the end of the first year of residence. Because course work is completed within three years, the student should have proficiency in two foreign languages. Those intending to specialize in a foreign literature are strongly encouraged to acquire fluency in the relevant language. Students normally take fourteen courses. All candidates are required to do at least one year of classroom teaching as part of the doctoral program.

The Second-Year Review takes place in the third term. Its aim is to enable students to begin focusing on the topics and the fields of research that will form the basis of their A exams. The Admission to Candidacy (A) examination is usually taken in the third year of study and is both written and oral.

The department does not offer a terminal M.A. program (and consequently does not admit students seeking only that degree), but an M.A. degree is granted after satisfactory completion of the A examination. The student then begins work on a dissertation, which upon completion is defended at the oral final (B) examination, administered by the Special Committee.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-2445

240 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • comparative literature


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Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 10; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

Applicants are required to submit a writing sample, a statement of purpose and to demonstrate proficiency in two foreign literatures (through, for instance, course work or study abroad).

Learning Outcomes

  1. Broad knowledge of methods of literary and cultural analysis
  2. In-depth knowledge of a particular methodology or area of criticism
  3. In-depth knowledge of literary/cultural traditions in at least one national linguistic tradition/genre/cultural practice
  4. Knowledge of literary/cultural traditions at least one second national linguistic tradition/genre/cultural practice
  5. Ability to undertake advanced research in chosen fields of study (this may include archival work with original materials such as rare books and manuscripts; popular cultural artifacts; bibliographic skills)
  6. Ability to develop original conclusions in writing
  7. Ability to articulate the importance/originality of work
  8. Ability to recognize and evaluate key problems in the field
  9. Ability to be an effective teacher of literary/cultural texts to undergraduates AND/OR ability to teach a foreign language
  10. Ability to complete a lengthy and original dissertation that includes in-depth research and makes original conclusions