Graduate Program

an innovative and interdisciplinary PhD for pathbreaking research

The PhD Program

Just as, historically speaking, comparative literature arose from the emergence of nationalism (borders can’t be crossed if none exist) the field today cannot prosper without strong national literature departments. But for both students and faculty, comparative literature appeals to the pervasive desire to transcend the merely national point of view, to engage with great imaginative works of literature from different places and times. Mandating an intense immersion in at least one foreign language and literature, and with courses on literature in translation that seriously engage non-western literature as well as western texts, comparative literature provides to its students a serious, sustained understanding of cultures beyond their own, and helps them become better global citizens. Comparative literature is well situated to study, as no single national literature department can, relationships between literary cultures as they involve influence, encounter, exchange, and translation.

WashU does not offer an MA in comparative literature. Students entering the PhD program without an MA, however, may earn an MA in the course of pursuing the PhD.

Choose your path

Comparative Literature

The Committee on Comparative Literature provides students admitted into the program with full financial support for a minimum of five years as long as the student remains in good academic standing. Funding includes full tuition remission and a generous stipend ($25,696 in 2018-2019, over 11 months). In most cases, the Committee on Comparative Literature provides students admitted into the Ph.D. program with a University Fellowship for the first academic year as well as full tuition remission for two semesters ($52,400 in 2018-19, for 12 units= 4 courses per semester). Our admission package also includes a health fee subsidy.

International Writers Track

This PhD track aimed at international writers proceeds from the conviction that advanced study and credentials in literary studies support and enhance the intellectual and creative work of writers by complementing and informing their endeavors with comparative historical, cultural, linguistic, and theoretical frameworks. It offers highly qualified international students the opportunity to advance their careers with academic training in comparative literary studies in the United States.

More about the International Writers Track

Fully-Funded Program

The Committee on Comparative Literature provides students admitted into the program with full financial support for a minimum of five years as long as the student remains in good academic standing. Funding includes full tuition remission and a generous stipend ($25,696 in 2018-2019, over 11 months). In most cases, the Committee on Comparative Literature provides students admitted into the Ph.D. program with a University Fellowship for the first academic year as well as full tuition remission for two semesters ($52,400 in 2018-19, for 12 units= 4 courses per semester). Our admission package also includes a health fee subsidy.

Travel Funding

All graduate students are eligible to apply for additional funding for conference participation and study abroad. A dissertation travel fund is available from the Graduate School for students working on their dissertations.  Our funding package is competitive with those of other top-ranked institutions, and we are committed to ensuring that financial considerations play no role in student decisions about where to pursue their degrees.

University Fellowships

WashU also offers two competitive fellowships with year-round funding for outstanding students in select target groups, and both require separate applications. Those who are eligible may apply for an Olin Fellowship for Women in Graduate Study, or a Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship for students bringing a strong sense of diversity to the university. Additionally, international students at partner universities may apply to the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

How to Apply to our Programs

Complit Graduate Studies Program

The following are required as part of the admission file for all students:

  • Current GRE scores (Please note: the University will consider only scores from tests taken within the last five years.) Prospective students applying to the Track for International Writers may have the GRE requirement waived.
  • A personal statement
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts for all academic work since secondary school
  • A writing sample consisting of an essay
  • Evidence of language proficiency in the major language, in English, and a minimum of reading knowledge of a third language
  • TOEFL scores for students who do not speak English as their native language (Please note: the University will consider only scores from tests taken within the last two years.)

All documents must be in English or accompanied by English translations. For students entering with the B.A. or its equivalent, formal admission to the combined Ph.D. programs is contingent upon successful completion of the M.A. degree or appropriate qualifying and review procedures. 

The application deadline is January 5, 2019. The Committee on Comparative Literature will try to give an answer to each applicant by the beginning of March.

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Joint PhD Programs

Comparative Literature offers joint doctoral programs with Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, and Hispanic Studies. Completing a doctorate in a joint program with Comparative Literature means gaining the expertise to think about literature across languages and cultures, geography, historical periods, and means of production and transmission.

Prospective students interested in pursuing a joint program with Comparative Literature should apply through the pertinent home department. On your application you will be able to find a degree program for all of the joint degrees, with the home department listed first and Comparative Literature listed second. When you go to "Select A Program," you will first choose "Graduate School of Arts and Sciences" as the Academic Division from the top drop-down menu, then under the department of Romance Language and Literatures, you will see Program Options for: Spanish and Comparative Literature, and French and Comparative Literature. Under the German Department, you will see the German and Comparative Literature program option. Under English, there is an English and Comparative Literature option. Finally, under the department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, program options include Japanese and Comparative Literature as well as Chinese and Comparative Literature. You should send your application materials to the home department. It will, however, be vetted by both the home department and Comparative Literature.
 

Applying for a Joint PhD

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