Program Requirements

Previously, the Department required Ph.D. students first to obtain an M.A. before proceeding in the Ph.D. program. There is no longer an M.A. requirement, and the procedure of the second year review is in place. All students in the program are admitted directly to the Ph.D., and cannot apply to a terminal master’s program. Please see Section 2 below for more information about the second year review and M.A. degree.

The Ph.D. program is designed to provide familiarity with one literature in comprehensive historical and critical ways and the demonstrated ability to do comparative work in three literatures. The Ph.D. is awarded upon the successful completion of a doctoral dissertation.

The Ph.D. program requires:

Students admitted from graduate programs elsewhere will have their courses evaluated by an advisor. A maximum of two earlier courses may be approved by the Head Graduate Advisor for credit towards the ten course requirement and “coverage.”

  1. A minimum of 10 courses taken at Berkeley distributed as follows:
    • Comparative Literature 200
    • Three additional graduate courses in the Department of Comparative Literature
    • Four graduate courses in the major literature
    • One graduate course in each of the two minor literatures
  2. Completion of the second year review. No later than the fourth semester, students meet with a committee of three faculty members to review progress toward the degree and plan the remaining work required for the Ph.D. For those students who wish to continue in the Ph.D. program with a formal master’s title, a master’s examination is required at this time.
  3. Historical coverage in the major literature as demonstrated by coursework or inclusion of items on the Ph.D. reading list.
  4. Knowledge of at least three foreign languages other than English.
  5. A Qualifying Examination for which the student prepares reading lists for one major literature and two minor literatures and indicates an area of focus via a statement of interest. The examination consists of both a written and an oral portion.
  6. A doctoral dissertation based on a prospectus presented the semester following successful completion of the Qualifying Examination.

Progress toward the Degree

The U.C. Berkeley Graduate Division has established a “normative time” of seven years for completion of the Ph.D. degree in Comparative Literature. Following is a recommended timetable:

  • * Second year review (and, if applicable, M.A. examination) completed by end of fourth semester
  • * Ph.D. coursework and Qualifying Examination completed by the end of the eighth semester
  • * Dissertation completed by the end of the fourteenth semester

While students are urged to stay within this timetable, the department also recognizes that there are legitimate reasons for deviating from it. Students are required to review their progress with their advisors during the enrollment period each semester, as progress toward the degree is an important factor weighed by the department when making fellowship evaluations and hiring Graduate Student Instructors.

Fellowships and Financial Aid

We try to fund as many students as possible with fellowship/teaching packages through campus-wide and departmental funding sources. All applicants should be aware of the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship, which can be applied for directly on the online graduate application. In addition, we encourage applicants  to explore outside funding opportunities such as the Mellon programs, as well as other funding sources that may be found on the internet. All students who are accepted to the program will be told, in their admission letters, all relevant details of the funding support being offered to them.

The Office of Financial Aid (201 Sproul Hall) provides information on Federally Insured Student Loans, University Loans, and Emergency Loans, as well as on Grants-in-Aid, the National Direct Student Loan Program, College Work-Study and Educational Fee Deferments.

Employment of Graduate Students

Teaching appointments provide a significant component of the financial support available to graduate students who are making good progress toward their degrees. Comparative Literature employs continuing graduate students, i.e. those who have completed at least one year in the program (although occasionally students may be offered teaching positions in their first year), as Graduate Student Instructors to teach undergraduate reading and composition courses. Students may also find employment in other language and literature departments on the Berkeley campus. Research assistantships and reader positions may also be available in Comparative Literature and other departments.