Comparative Literature

Honors Program in Comparative Literature

The honors option offers motivated Comparative Literature majors the opportunity to write a senior honors paper. During Spring Quarter of the junior year, a student interested in the honors program should consult with the Chair of Undergraduate Studies and submit a thesis proposal (2-5 pages), an outline of planned course work for the senior year, and proof of a 3.5 GPA or higher within the student's Comparative Literature course work to date.

Major Requirements

All majors in Comparative Literature (including honors) are required to complete the following courses:

Ph.D. Minor in Comparative Literature

The department participates in the Graduate Program in Humanities leading to a Ph.D. degree in Comparative Literature and Humanities. At this time, the option is available only to students already enrolled in the Graduate Program in Humanities; no new students are being accepted.

Qualifying Procedures and Colloquium

Qualifying Procedures—The department meets at the end of each year to review student progress. Performance on the first one-hour examination, together with class performance and general progress, are taken into consideration. Students are admitted to candidacy upon completion of the first one-hour examination and departmental review. As soon as the student has completed the qualifying procedures, the chair recommends the student for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D.


Three examinations are required. The first two are one-hour exams, taken at the end of the first and second year of study. The first of these is on literary genre, designed to demonstrate the student's knowledge of a substantial number of literary works in a single genre, ranged over several centuries and over at least three national literatures. This exam is also designed to demonstrate the student's grasp of the theoretical problems involved in his or her choice of genre and in the matter of genre in general.

Degree Requirements

Residence—A candidate for the Ph.D. degree must complete three years (nine quarters) of full-time work, or the equivalent, in graduate study beyond the B.A. degree. The student must take 135 units of graduate work, in addition to the doctoral dissertation. At least three consecutive quarters of course work must be taken at Stanford.

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature

The Ph.D. program is designed for a small group of students whose linguistic background, breadth of interest in literature, and curiosity about the problems of literary scholarship and theory (including the relation of literature to other disciplines) make this program more appropriate to their needs than the Ph.D. in one of the individual literatures. Students take courses in at least three literatures (one may be that of the native language), to be studied in the original. The program is designed to encourage familiarity with the major approaches to literary study prevailing today.

Application Procedures


Competition for entrance into the program is keen. The program is kept small so that students have as much opportunity as possible to work closely with faculty throughout the period of study. Because of the special nature of comparative literature studies, the statement of purpose included in the application for admission should contain the following information besides the general plan for graduate work called for on the application:

About the Department of Comparative Literature

The Department of Comparative Literature differs from most national literature departments. While it seeks to prepare its students for reading and research in the languages and histories of different societies and periods, it is also dedicated to their critical and cultural analysis. Literary theory in all its forms helps to break down the borders between national literary fields, as well as between literary studies and other disciplines.

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