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

the graduate bookshelf

Poems from Buddha's Footprint
The Last Lover
Cuba in Splinters: Eleven Stories from the New Cuba
Uğultular
Threat Come Close
Parker
Mazohistka
Transatlantic German Studies

Poems from Buddha's Footprint

The first complete full-length translation of the renowned Thai poet Sunthorn Phu’s work to appear in thirty years. Translated by Thai Kaewkaen, a graduate student in Comparative Literature’s track for international writers, Buddha's Footprint was published by Singing Bone Press in 2016. 

The Last Lover

Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, a graduate student in the Comparative Literature Ph.D. program’s track for international writers, translated this extraordinary book by Chinese author Can Xue. The translation was the winner of the 2015 Best Translated Book Award for fiction presented by Three Percent, a resource for international literature.
In Can Xue’s book, we encounter a full assemblage of husbands, wives, and lovers. Entwined in complicated, often tortuous relationships, these characters step into each other’s fantasies, carrying on conversations that are “forever guessing games.” Their journeys reveal the deepest realms of human desire, figured in Can Xue’s vision of snakes and wasps, crows, cats, mice, earthquakes, and landslides. In dive bars and twisted city streets, on deserts and snowcapped mountains, the author creates an extreme world where every character “is driving death away with a singular performance.”

The translation was published by Yale University Press in February 2014.
 

Cuba in Splinters: Eleven Stories from the New Cuba

Rock 'n' roll, zombies, drugs, anomie and angst: these are generally not the first things that come to mind when Americans imagine Cuba. In Cuba in Splinters, a sparkling package of stories we're assured are fictional, however, that's exactly what you'll find. Eleven writers who are largely unknown outside Cuba depict a world that veers from a hyperreal Havana in decay against a backdrop of oblivious drug-toting German tourists, to a fantasy land where vigilant Cubans bar the door to zombies masquerading as health inspectors. Sex and knife-fights, stutterers and addicts, losers and lost literary classics welcome readers to a raw and genuine island universe that is generally closed to casual visitors.

Cuba in Splinters was comiled by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, a graduate student in Comparative Literature’s track for international writers, and published by OR Books in 2014.

Uğultular

Gönül Kivilcim (graduate student in Comparative Literature’s track for international writers) has published a new novel entitled Uğultular.  Uğultular was published in July 2017 by Iletisim.

Threat Come Close

In his debut collection, Aaron Coleman writes an American anthem for the 21st century, a full-throated lyric composed of pain, faith, lust and vulnerability. Coleman’s poems comment on and interrogate the meaning of home and identity for a black man in America, past and present. Guided by a belief system comprising an eclectic array of invented saints — Trigger, Seduction, Doubt and Who — Coleman’s quest locates new ways of being in the natural world where “[t]he trees teach me how to break and keep on living.”

Parker

In his new novel, Matthias Göritz tells exciting and inscrutable stories of perfidious intrigue, power and love, and of the irresistible lure and price of success. Parker was published by German publisher C.H. Beck in March of 2018.

Mazohistka

Designed as a historical novel, this pseudo-autobiography forges an intimate portrait of a young, tenacious woman who, in uncertain times of intricate political, social and cultural turbulences at the end of the 19th century, chose an uncertain path – the only path that could lead her to freedom. Mazohistka, or The Masochist, returns post-postmodernism to modernism and more than that it is a story of the Austro-Hungarian fin-de-siècle, contemplating the limits of female desire and freedom against the backdrop of ethnic, class and gender tensions of an empire yet unaware of its decline.

Transatlantic German Studies

The decisive contribution of the exile generation of the 1930s and '40s to German Studies in the United States is well known. The present volume carries the story forward to the next generation(s), giving voice to scholars from the US and overseas, many of them mentored by the exile generation. The exiles knew vividly the value of the Humanities; the following generations, though spared the experience of historical catastrophe, have found formidable challenges in building and maintaining the field in a time increasingly dismissive of that value. The scholar-contributors to this volume, prominent members of the profession, share their experiences of finding their way in the field and helping to develop it to its present state as well as their thoughts on its present challenges, including the question of the role of literature and of interdisciplinarity, pluralism, and diversity. Of particular interest is the role of transatlantic dialogue.

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