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M.A. Program in Comparative Literature


The department considers applicants with a BA degree (or its equivalent) in Comparative Literature or one of the individual languages and literatures. Applicants in related fields in the humanities and social sciences, such as anthropology, art history, environmental studies, film studies, history, international affairs, linguistics, music, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s studies, who demonstrate a strong interest in literary and interdisciplinary studies, as well as highly-motivated, highly-qualified candidates from other disciplines, such as international business, law, journalism and education, who demonstrate a strong interest in intercultural studies will also be considered .

MA Course Requirements:

A minimum of 30 credit hours are required, distributed as follows: 

I. 15 hours of graduate CMLT courses
II. 9 hours of graduate courses appropriate to the student’s program of study in other literature and related departments (e.g., Anthropology, Art History, Drama, History, Philosophy, Women’s Studies)
III. 3 hours of additional graduate credit
IV. 3 hours of CMLT 7300 (Thesis).

Credit for CMLT 8980 (Independent Study) and CMLT 7300 (Thesis) may not be counted in category I. All students must enroll for 3 hours of CMLT 7300 the semester in which they are to receive their degree.
At least 3 hours of credit in category II must come from a course in which substantial use of a foreign language is required, as opposed to courses in English or those involving literature primarily in translation.

Students whose native language is not English may not satisfy this foreign language course requirement by courses in their native language, but may do so by courses in the English department or courses in other departments using English translations.

The additional course in category III may be in CMLT, another literature, or a related field in the humanities or social sciences that is relevant to their individual program of study (e.g. art history, music, film, history, international affairs, international law, international business, international education and journalism, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, anthropology).

For MA students, the Graduate School requires that 12 hours of credit be in courses open only to graduate students, exclusive of research (7000) and thesis writing (7300). A maximum of 6 hours of 7000 may be applied toward the 30-hour requirement.

All incoming graduate students are required to take the departmental Proseminar (CMLT 7100), which does not count towards the minimum 30 hours, but can be used toward the Graduate School requirement of 12 hours in courses open only to graduate students.

All new TA’s are required to take the teaching practicum, GRSC 7770, which cannot be counted toward the required 30 credit hours.

The Graduate School requires that students maintain at least a 3.0 average in all courses taken for the degree. Credit will not be awarded for any grade lower than a “C”.

These are minimum course requirements for the degree. Students are encouraged to take additional courses, including courses in related fields and extra independent study, but such additional course work will not count toward the minimum requirements. Courses beyond the minimum MA requirements may eventually be counted toward the PhD degree, even if they are taken before the MA degree is awarded.

Selection of Advisory Committee and Major Professor:

During the second semester of residence students should select an advisory committee of three members, including a major professor who serves as advisor. In accordance with Graduate School policy, the committee is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, upon the recommendation of the graduate coordinator. Students should participate in the process of selecting faculty members with appropriate areas of interest. It is the duty of the major professor to act as the student’s general academic advisor and to direct the thesis. The major professor will normally be a full-time member of the Comp. Lit. faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher. In exceptional circumstances a student may petition to have a major professor from another department, to be approved by the Comp. Lit. graduate faculty. In such cases the other two members of the committee must be from the Comp. Lit. department.

Program of Study:

By the start of the semester in which they expect to graduate students must submit a program of study listing the 30 hours of minimum course requirements, including 3 hours of 7300. The program of study must be approved by the student’s major professor, committee members, and the graduate coordinator.

Residence and Time Limit:

The minimum residence requirement is two semesters which do not have to be consecutive. All requirements for the MA must be completed within six years beginning with the first registration for graduate courses on the program of study. An extension may be granted only for conditions beyond the control of the individual.

Language Requirements for the MA:

Candidates for the MA are required to pass a proficiency exam in at least one foreign language relevant to their individual program of study and, specifically, to the topic of their thesis. The exam requires an acceptable translation into idiomatic English of a passage of prose or verse in that language. Proficiency exams may be administered by a departmental examining committee, which shall be sole judge of the acceptability of the translations. Students are urged to take these language exams at the earliest possible date. Proficiency in a foreign language may also be satisfied by a letter from the professor of a graduate course taken in that foreign literature. Working knowledge of a second language related to the candidate’s specific research program, although not required, is highly desirable and can be demonstrated by inclusion of bibliography and citations in the original language, incorporated in a candidate’s written work such as the MA thesis.

MA Exam:

The MA exam is an hour-long oral exam, based on a general reading list of influential literary and other works, representing a balanced combination of African, Asian, Western, and multicultural literature. To this general reading list, students shall add works directly relevant to their research, in consultation with, and subject to the approval of, their MA advisory committee. (See sample reading lists on file in the departmental office). The exam should be taken in the second year of residency. In the event of failure, the advisory committee may permit a student to retake the exam once, the following semester. No more than one re-examination shall be given.

MA Thesis:

Candidates for the MA are required to write a thesis on a comparative topic and pass a 30-minute oral final examination on their thesis.

The MA thesis should demonstrate the student’s ability to employ research methods and critical skills in the study of literary and other texts in several cultural traditions. The major professor must agree to direct the thesis and approve the topic. Unlike the PhD dissertation, the thesis is not necessarily expected to be an original contribution to the general body of knowledge in the discipline.

Before beginning the thesis, students must submit a prospectus describing briefly the nature, scope, organization, and purpose of the thesis. The prospectus must be approved by the major professor and the other members of the advisory committee. Students should consult with their major professor as well as the other members of the advisory committee in the process of writing the thesis. After the major professor has approved the thesis, it is given to the other members of the advisory committee for final evaluation.

Instructions regarding the format and electronic submission of the thesis are available from the Graduate School. It is the responsibility of candidates to make themselves aware of these instructions and to meet all deadlines set by the Graduate School for the receipt of the degree in a given semester.

Final Examination/Defense of Thesis:

The final oral exam, or defense, consists of thirty minutes of questioning on the thesis by the advisory committee. The date of the exam will be arranged by the major professor only after the thesis has been read and approved by the other members of the advisory committee. At least seven days must pass between the day on which the arrangements for this exam are first specified and the day on which it is actually held.

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