Graduate Language Requirements

Students who obtain a PhD in Comparative Literature, including those in all of the joint programs, need to demonstrate (as a minimum), in addition to superior skills in English, superior ability in at least a second language and reading skills in a third language. The choice and number of languages required correspond to the students’ three areas of concentration. 

  • Major literature: Proficiency in the language of the major literature means native or near-native language proficiency and also the preparation necessary to conduct dissertation research in that language. The latter normally involves at least four advanced (400- or 500-level) courses and seminars in the target language. The student is expected to complete the same assignments in the same language as do graduate students earning a degree in the respective programs. 
  • Minor literature: To meet the minor literature language requirement, candidates normally take two 400-level literature courses or seminars in the target language. The student is expected to complete the same assignments as do graduate students home-based in the respective programs. If written work is required in the target language in these courses, the student may choose to complete this work in English in one of these courses.
  • Third literature/area: To fulfill the third language requirement, candidates should demonstrate, as a minimum, the ability to read in the target language. They may take two 400-level literature courses devoted to the literature of the target language read in the original. All requirements for these courses except written assignments must be completed in the target language. Students may also demonstrate third-language competence by completing Washington University reading courses for graduate students (presently available in French, German, or Spanish); by taking a suitable summer language course elsewhere with the approval of the DGS; or by passing a Washington University departmental language qualifying examination.