Degrees

Please note that students entering after Fall 2011 will pursue degree in Comparative Literature under the Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture Program. Below refers to degrees begun before Fall 2011.

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The below reflects the M.A. and Ph.D. requirements as they appear in the 2013-2014 catalogue. Students on earlier catalogue years should consult their catalogues for their degree requirements. Past catalogues can be found here.

Master of Arts in Comparative Literature

(Although the department does not admit candidates for the M.A., it awards the degree either as a terminal degree or as a transitional degree in the course of Ph.D. study.)

Course Requirements

Completion of at least eight courses (29-32 units) distributed as follows: (1) three courses in one major literary tradition, which is understood to be a national literature (e.g., Russian or Japanese); several literatures of one language (e.g., Francophone literatures of Europe, Africa and the Americas; peninsular and Latin American literatures in Spanish); or a bilingual tradition like classics (Greek and Latin); (2) at least two courses in a minor field, (3) three courses in comparative literature, including COLT 502. No more than one of the required eight courses may be in directed research (COLT 590). COLT 502 must be completed by the end of each student's second semester in the program.

Students may transfer up to four units toward the M.A.

Major Field Examination

The major field examination is a written examination on the student's major literary tradition. For this examination the student will prepare, in consultation with the graduate advisor, an individual reading list based on COLT reading lists. It is normally taken at the end of the semester in which course work is completed and after language requirements have been met.

Foreign Language Requirement

The successful completion of at least two advanced courses (400-level or higher) in the original language of a literary tradition other than the Anglophone.

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature

Course Requirements

A minimum of 15 courses or 60 units. The courses are to be distributed as follows: (1) at least six courses in the student's major literary tradition, which is understood to be a national literature (e.g., Russian or Japanese); several literatures of one language (e.g., Francophone literatures of Europe, Africa and the Americas; peninsular and Latin American literatures in Spanish); or a bilingual tradition like Classics (Greek and Latin); (2) at least two courses in a second literary tradition; (3) at least six courses in comparative literature or comparative fields relating to the student's program, including COLT 502. Normally, students will also take an additional course in a third literary tradition, as outlined below under "Foreign Language Requirements." No more than three of the required 15 courses may be in directed research (590 or 790). COLT 502 must be completed by the end of each student's second semester in the program and a minimum of B must be earned on the final exam in that course.

Students may transfer up to 30 units toward the Ph.D.

The Department's Graduate Studies Committee periodically reviews the progress of all students in the program and may recommend to the department that a student not be allowed to continue if examinations, grades, or other forms of evaluation indicate inadequate performance.

Foreign Language Requirements

Students must successfully complete at least three advanced courses (400-level or higher) in the original languages of two literary traditions other than Anglophone (two courses in one language and one in the other). In rare circumstances, students may combine the successful completion of two such courses in one literary tradition with an examination administered by the Comparative Literature Department demonstrating a linguistic ability and literary knowledge equivalent to an advanced course in the third literary tradition. Where Anglophone literature constitutes a student's major literary tradition, advanced course work in two other literary traditions is required without the option of examination in the third language. In some cases the Graduate Studies Committee may require special preparation in languages essential to the student's program (e.g., Latin or Greek for specialization in the Renaissance).

Students will also complete a literary analysis exercise in their strongest non-native language outside their major literary tradition. This exercise is normally done in conjunction with the major field examination.

Screening Procedure

The department conducts a thorough review of the course work of all first-year students at the end of the second semester. To be permitted to continue doctoral work, students must receive a satisfactory evaluation in this review.

Major Field Examination

The major field examination is a written examination on the student's major literary tradition. For this examination the student will prepare, in consultation with the graduate advisor, an individual reading list based on departmental reading lists. It is normally taken at the end of the fourth semester (for students entering with a B.A.) or at the end of the second semester (for students entering with an M.A. earned in their major literary tradition).

Comparative Field Exercise

This exercise, which is normally completed in the year following the major field examination, consists of a 30-40 page paper with bibliography in a comparative field related but not central to the major literary tradition in which the student plans to write his or her dissertation. The paper is evaluated by a three-member committee chosen by the student. There is an oral defense of the comparative field paper with the designated committee.

Guidance Committee

Upon successful completion of the comparative field exercise, students will form a five-member guidance committee in accordance with Graduate School guidelines. The chair and two other members of this committee must be department faculty; at least one member must come from outside the Comparative Literature Department. The committee will advise the student on the compilation of a reading list that will be the basis for the written part of the qualifying exam.

Qualifying Examination

When all required courses or units, all language requirements, the major field examination and the comparative field exercise have been completed, the student must pass an examination on the area of his or her proposed dissertation. The examination consists of a six-hour written examination and an oral examination. Both the written and oral portions of the exam cover the proposed dissertation topic as defined by a reading list and a dissertation prospectus that are prepared for this exam in consultation with the guidance committee.

Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student will form his or her dissertation committee.

Dissertation Defense

An oral defense of the dissertation, in the presence of the dissertation committee, must be satisfactorily completed before the dissertation can be filed with the Graduate School.


  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • USC Dornsife
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 161
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0353