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This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in Modern Thought and Literature

University requirements for the Ph.D. are discussed in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.

A candidate for the Ph.D. degree in Modern Thought and Literature must complete three years (nine quarters) of full-time work, or the equivalent, in graduate study beyond the B.A. degree. He or she is expected to complete at least 18 courses of graduate work in addition to the dissertation. Students may spend one year of graduate study abroad.

Requirements for the Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature are:

  1. MTL 334A,B, Concepts of Modernity 1 and 2 (5 units each).
  2. MTL 299, Edgework: New Directions in the Study of Culture (2 units, Spring Quarter), required of all first-year students.
  3. A coherent program of eight courses of advanced work in literary studies to be worked out with the adviser, of which at least six must be regularly scheduled courses in literature. Courses in the teaching of composition (ENGLISH 396, 397), ad hoc graduate seminars (MTL 395), research courses (MTL 398), and thesis registration (MTL 802) may not be counted among these six courses; MTL 396L, 397, 399, 802 may not be counted toward these requirements under any circumstances.
  4. Eight courses of advanced work in non-literature departments, the core of which is completion of either a departmental minor or an interdepartmental concentration, typically consisting of six courses. Departmental minors are available from the departments of Anthropology, Art and Art History, Communication, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, and Sociology (see the relevant information in those sections of this bulletin). Approved interdepartmental concentrations have been established in popular culture, ethnic studies, feminist and gender studies, and science and technology studies (specific course requirements are available from the program office). Individually designed concentrations may be approved by petition to the director. In addition to the required six courses in a minor or a concentration, two additional courses from non-literature departments are chosen in consultation with each student's academic adviser. Course restrictions noted above in item 2 also apply.
  5. Qualifying Paper: this certifies that students are likely to be able to undertake the quality of research, sustained argumentation, and cogent writing demanded in a doctoral dissertation. The qualifying paper must be a substantial revision of a seminar paper written at Stanford during the first year and should embody a substantial amount of independent research, develop an intellectual argument with significant elements of original thinking, and demonstrate the ability to do interdisciplinary work. Each paper is evaluated by two or three readers (designated before the end of the first year of graduate study), one of whom must be a member of the Committee in Charge. Qualifying papers must be submitted to the program office no later than the end of the third week of the fifth quarter of enrollment, normally, winter of the second year.
  6. Teaching, an essential part of the program, is normally undertaken in conjunction with the Department of English. Candidates are required to demonstrate competence in teaching.
  7. Students must demonstrate, by the end of the third quarter of the first year, a reading knowledge of one foreign language and, by the beginning of the first quarter of the third year, a reading knowledge of one other foreign language. Reading knowledge means the ability to make a genuine scholarly use of the language: that is, to read prose of ordinary difficulty.

    Students may not take the University oral examination before completion of the foreign language requirement.

  8. Candidacy: at the end of the second year, students apply for candidacy. The following qualifications are required before candidacy can be certified: the earlier submission of a satisfactory qualifying paper; demonstration of a reading knowledge of one foreign language; satisfactory progress in course work; a list of courses applicable to the degree, distinguishing between courses appropriate to the literary component and courses appropriate to the interdisciplinary component; designation of a departmental minor or an interdisciplinary concentration; and the submission of a statement outlining the scope and coherence of the interdisciplinary component of the program in relation to the literary component, and noting the relevance of the course work to that program.
  9. Annual Review: the program and progress of each student must be approved by the Committee in Charge at the end of each academic year.
  10. University Oral Examination: this examination, covering the student's areas of concentration, normally is taken in the third year of graduate study. It is a two-hour oral examination administered by four faculty members specializing in the student's areas of concentration, and a chair from another department. The exam is based on a substantial reading list prepared by the student in conjunction with the faculty committee and designed to cover the areas of expertise pertinent to the student's dissertation project.
  11. Colloquium on the Dissertation Proposal: sometime after the University oral examination, or in conjunction with that examination, the dissertation committee assembles for up to one hour to discuss the dissertation proposal with the student. Prior to this meeting, the student should have consulted each member of the committee to discuss the proposal and compile a bibliography.
  12. Dissertation: the fourth and fifth years are devoted to the dissertation, which should be a substantial and original contribution acceptable to the Committee on Modern Thought and Literature. The subject is drawn from the literature of specialization and the area of nonliterary studies.


The program participates in the Graduate Program in Humanities leading to a Ph.D. degree in Modern Thought and Literature and Humanities. This option is available only to students already enrolled in the program. The Graduate Program in Humanities is no longer accepting new students.

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