Skip to main content
Skip to main menu Skip to spotlight region Skip to secondary region Skip to UGA region Skip to Tertiary region Skip to Quaternary region Skip to unit footer


Ph.D. Program in Comparative Literature


Under normal circumstances the department admits to the doctoral program only qualified students with an MA degree (or its equivalent) in Comparative Literature, or in one of the individual languages and literatures, or in a related field in the humanities and social sciences. The department may also admit highly motivated and highly qualified students without an MA degree, in which case they need to obtain this degree by the end of the second year in order to continue their doctoral studies.

PhD Course Requirements:

A minimum of 30 credit hours are required beyond those required for the MA, distributed as follows: 

I. 18 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, English, History, Philosophy, Women’s Studies)
III. 3 hours of CMLT 9300 (Dissertation).

No more than 3 hours of CMLT 8980 (Independent Study) may be counted in category I. All students must enroll for 3 hours of CMLT 9300 the semester in which they are to receive their degree.

At least 6 hours of credit in category II must come from courses 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.

For PhD students, the Graduate School requires that 16 or more hours be in 8000- and 9000-level courses in addition to research (9000) and dissertation writing (9300).

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”.

Selection of Advisory Committee and Major Professor:

Before the end of the first year of residence PhD students, in consultation with the graduate coordinator, must choose a major professor and an advisory committee consisting of a major professor and two other members. The advisory committee may remain unchanged during a student’s entire doctoral program, though changes in the original committee will sometimes be necessary. It is most important that those who serve on the advisory committee when the dissertation research is undertaken be faculty members knowledgeable in the areas of the student’s research.

The major professor must be a member of the graduate faculty, and will normally be a member of the Comp. Lit. faculty. In exceptional circumstances a student may petition to have a major professor from another department, to be approved by a majority of the Comp. Lit. graduate faculty. A student may also choose to have co-chairs of the advisory committee who serve jointly as major professor, and who must then both be graduate faculty members. The other members of the advisory committee must also be members of the graduate faculty. A total of two members of the advisory committee must be part of the Comp. Lit. faculty. There may be one external member, not affiliated with the University, on the advisory committee. A dissertation must be accepted by two of the three committee members.

The advisory committee, in consultation with the student, is charged with planning the student’s program of study. It is also charged with approving the program of study, arranging the comprehensive written and oral examinations, approving the prospectus for the dissertation, approving the completed dissertation, and approving the defense of the student’s research. The committee should advise the student of required research skills and other requirements.

Program of Study:

A preliminary program of study must be submitted to the Graduate School during the student’s first semester of the second year of residence. This program of study is submitted to the Graduate School through the graduate coordinator, and requires the approval of the student’s advisory committee and the graduate coordinator.

A final program of study, likewise approved by the advisory committee and the graduate coordinator, must be submitted prior to notification of the comprehensive examinations. It must show all graduate courses relevant to the doctoral program and not just courses satisfying the minimum course requirements.

Residence and Time Limit:

At least two consecutive semesters of full-time course work must be spent in resident study. A maximum of six full academic years shall be permitted from the time of the student’s first semester in the PhD program up to admission to candidacy. A maximum of five full academic years shall be permitted for the writing of the dissertation. Progress toward the satisfaction of minimal PhD course requirements shall be at a rate of at least 3 hours per semester in residence until the requirements are satisfied.

Language Requirements for the PhD:

Candidates for the PhD are required to pass proficiency exams in at least two foreign languages, relevant to their individual program of study and, specifically, to the topic of their dissertations. The language exams require an acceptable translation into idiomatic English of a passage of prose or verse in those languages. A student who has passed a fluency exam in a language for the MA will be considered to have also passed it for the PhD. Proficiency exams may be administered by a departmental examining committee, which shall be the sole judge of the acceptability of the translations.

Students are urged to take the language proficiency 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, or proof of a successful study-abroad term in the corresponding language. In no case shall the PhD preliminary exams be arranged, or a student be admitted to candidacy, before all language requirements are satisfied. Working knowledge of a third 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 term papers, written exams, or doctoral dissertation. 

Entrance Exam for the PhD Program:

Students who have not received an MA from this department are required to pass a one-hour oral exam comparable to the MA oral exam in Comparative Literature, to be taken before March 1 of the first year of residence. The MA exam taken by students who did receive an MA in this department satisfies the requirement of an entrance exam, and such students are considered qualified for the doctoral program. In case of failure, the entrance exam may be taken again by the end of spring semester of the same year. A second failure will result in dismissal from the PhD program.

PhD Comprehensive Examinations:

The PhD exams call upon students to demonstrate the knowledge, both general and specific, within the boundaries of their chosen fields, which they have acquired through course work and independent study during their residency in the program. The exams consist of both written and oral components to be taken altogether within a 3-week period, usually at the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth year of residency. For the written exam a student shall have 2 weeks to write three typed papers of 10-20 pages (i.e., 2500-5000 words), one in each of the following three fields:

I. History of literary criticism, literary theory, and methodology of comparative literature and intercultural studies in an interdisciplinary and global context
II. A major literature, seen in a cultural historical as well as a global, intercultural context
III. A period or genre, considered from the perspective of literary and other artistic productions in at least three different languages or geographical areas.

The papers will discuss and illustrate topics, or a choice of topics, which are set at the beginning of the 3- week period by the student’s major professor and the other members of the advisory committee, on the basis of reading lists in each of the three fields. Students are responsible for drawing up their reading lists in consultation with, and subject to the approval of, their major professor and committee, about one year before taking the exams (see sample reading lists on file in the departmental office). In addition to having read the works on these lists, students will also be expected to be familiar with the historical and intellectual background relevant to their areas of concentration, and to have consulted histories of literature and the major interpretations of items on their lists.

Students must have passed the written component before taking the two hour-long oral exam, to be held one week after the three papers are turned in. The oral will cover the same topics as the written exam. Both the written and oral exams are graded by the advisory committee on a pass/fail basis. Each of the three papers on the written exam, as well as the oral exam, must be passed by two of the committee members in order to pass the comprehensive examinations as a whole. If any part of the written exam is failed, the advisory committee will decide whether a student should be required to retake the entire PhD exams, or only the part or parts which were failed. At least one semester must elapse before taking the exams again; no more than one re-examination shall be given.

Admission to Candidacy:

Application for admission to candidacy must be filed with the Graduate School at least two semesters before the date of graduation. Admission to candidacy occurs after all course work has been completed, the language requirements have been satisfied, and the comprehensive examinations have been passed.

The Dissertation:

The candidate is responsible for choosing a dissertation topic that is comparative in nature and should be connected with the student’s major field of study. The candidate’s major professor serves as the dissertation director. Although the dissertation normally will be a work of critical analysis and research, the department may on occasion accept as a dissertation a scholarly translation of a major work of literature, furnished with an adequate introduction and critical annotation.

Before beginning the dissertation, the student must submit a prospectus within three months of having passed the Comprehensive Examinations, describing briefly the nature, scope, organization, and purpose of the dissertation. The prospectus must be approved by the major professor and the other members of the advisory committee in a meeting with the student.

When the dissertation has been approved by the major professor, it must be submitted to the reading committee (which consists of the other members of the student’s advisory committee), one of whose members (who must be a member of the graduate faculty) will be designated chairman of the reading committee. The major professor may not serve on this committee. The reading committee will represent the graduate faculty in determining the acceptability of the dissertation and will report to the major professor if the dissertation is approved. No more than one dissenting vote may be allowed for the approval of the dissertation. If the reading committee declines to approve the dissertation, the major professor and the Graduate School must both be notified. The candidate must submit the dissertation to the reading committee no later than the third week of the semester in which the degree is to be awarded.

Final Examination/Defense of Dissertation:

Once notified by the reading committee that the dissertation has been approved, the major professor will arrange the time and place of the final oral examination in consultation with the graduate coordinator. This examination must be scheduled no later than three weeks before the end of the semester. The examination is administered by the advisory committee, with the major professor as chairman. The student will be examined on the subject matter of the dissertation and required to defend the dissertation. The advisory committee must approve the defense with no more than one dissenting vote.

The Graduate School must receive the Final Defense Approval form and an electronic submission of the corrected dissertation no later than two weeks prior to graduation. All requirements for the degree must be completed and reported to the Graduate School no later than one week prior to graduation.

Support us

We appreciate your financial support. Your gift is important to us and helps support critical opportunities for students and faculty alike, including lectures, travel support, and any number of educational events that augment the classroom experience. 

Click here to learn more about giving.

Every dollar given has a direct impact upon our students and faculty.