Graduate Handbook

This handbook is an introduction to the Graduate Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania and a gathering of procedural regulations and miscellaneous information regarding studies in the Program. For official amplification, clarification, and possible revisions, consult the Program's Chair, members of its Executive Committee and/or individual faculty advisors. The Program is generally designed to be extremely flexible, and students are encouraged to be creative and proactive in their journey through the PhD.  If in doubt about anything, please ask the Chair and/or your advisors!

The Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at Penn offers opportunities for the study of literature and other cultural products across a diversity of languages and traditions. As its name suggests, the Program features critical theory as a core component of the curriculum, thereby encouraging research in a broad interdisciplinary range of topics across philosophy and aesthetics, material and intellectual history, psychoanalysis, Marxism, gender studies, sociological and ethnographic methods, and other relevant fields. The Program at Penn gives its students the opportunity to design courses of study that reflect their individual interests in light of emerging fields of research within literary and cultural studies and related disciplines. Its degree requirements have been designed to insure that its students are well prepared for academic careers in their chosen disciplines.

Critical Theory and Method

During the first year, a required course in Critical Theory, COML 5010.401, taken in the fall, bolstered by independent study and group discussions with peers and faculty in the spring, leads to the M.A. Exam at the end of the year. Each student in the program must master a common list of foundational texts in theory and method as well as three additional modules, representing areas of concentration for that particular student. Students in the Program are expected to become aware of the major questions informing current theoretical and methodological discussions in literary and cultural studies, and as their studies progress, to become conversant with particular intellectual formations, key concepts, and critical junctures. There are particular strengths in the teaching of theory and method at Penn, including postcolonial theory, studies in race and class, diaspora studies, feminist theory, queer theory, gender studies, narratology, poststructuralism, semiotics, psychoanalysis, cinema studies, digital humanities, environmental humanities, translation studies and the history of material texts. The study of theory and method during the first year has a strong historical component, so that students will understand how current scholarly discourses have been shaped by earlier debates in philosophy, aesthetics, political and social thought.

Principal Literary and Cultural Traditions

Major coursework is completed in the course of the first two years of study in the program, during which all students in the Program must acquire a strong knowledge of either one or two linguistically and historically coherent literary and cultural traditions -national or regional traditions corresponding to recognized disciplinary fields of study (Latin American, Slavic, French, Global Anglophone, American, Jewish Literatures, etc.). Occasionally, in consultation with the Chair and individual faculty mentors, students may focus on a tradition that crosses national and historical boundaries, if there exists a US institutional/job market structure for it--such as Poetics. Students may concentrate on one such tradition as a single "major" or may elect to study two. In this latter case, students either designate one tradition a "major" area of concentration and the other a "minor,"  or they may study both traditions equally as "majors." In the spring semester of the second year, students are tested on their knowledge of their selected tradition(s) in a Ph.D. Qualifying Exam. Students organize their studies of the principal literature with maximal diachronic depth and attention to a broad array of literary genres and forms of cultural production. In view of the current organization of academic departments, it is necessary that graduates in comparative literary studies be well prepared in at least one linguistic or national tradition, and our program is designed to insure this level of expertise. Penn has graduate course offerings in English, American, French, Peninsular Spanish, Latin American, Italian, German, Slavic, Jewish Studies, Classical, Near Eastern, East Asian, and South Asian.

The Dissertation

The Program encourages dissertation topics that combine scholarly rigor with interdisciplinary and experimental creativity, as is apparent from our list of recent graduates In their third year in the Program, each student forms a dissertation committee consisting of 3-4 faculty members, the majority of them in the Program's Graduate Group. With the advice of the committee, the student articulates a pre-dissertation bibliography, which she or he studies during the course of the academic year. The pre-dissertation bibliography assembles the primary and secondary materials that will be fundamental for the dissertation. It should include the major literary and cultural works in the period(s), genre(s), or field(s) and particular theoretical and methodological texts relevant to the student's developing focus of research. In the second semester of the third year, students enroll in a dissertation prospectus workshop and develop their prospectus in consultation with their committee. The prospectus must be approved by the dissertation committee and the graduate chair before the conclusion of the third academic year. The fourth and fifth years in the Program are devoted to focused work on the dissertation. In accordance with the rules of the university, the dissertation committee should consist of at least three faculty members, including at least two members of the Graduate Group; one may be from a different program, department or institution.


In order to apply to the program in Comparative Literature, please use the online form. In selection of applicants, the admission committee seeks evidence of: a coherent set of goals for graduate study; evidence of a high level of theoretical sophistication; excellent analytical writing; fundamental preparation in the field(s) relevant to a given student's research goals; all linguistic skills needed for a given course of study, for writing and communicating in English at an advanced level, and for the successful teaching of anglophone students. For further general information regarding graduate studies at the University, consult the Graduate Admissions catalog. Please note that the application deadline for the fall semester is DECEMBER 15.

Only Ph.D. candidates can be admitted to the Program. A terminal M.A. degree will be awarded to qualifying students who transfer to another university or who, for whatever reason, cannot continue their course of study. Admissions are only for the fall semester. No student will be admitted to begin in the spring semester. Students who enter the Program with an M.A. from another university must fulfill all the Program's requirements, including the mandatory course in literary theory and method, but are eligible for transfer credits (see below). All students, upon admission, are expected to have proficiency in English and at least one other language relevant to their course of study. Non-native speakers are required to submit their scores on the TOEFL or DUOLINGO examinations to demonstrate their competence to engage in graduate studies conducted in the English language. Non-native speakers who have passed at least two courses at English-language universities need not take the TOEFL or DUOLINGO exam.

With their application students should submit a sample of their critical writing no more than 30 pages long. The online application now accepts scanned writing samples and transcripts. Please do not exceed our 30 pp. writing sample limit. You must first begin the application in order to be prompted for all scanned materials, letters of recommendation, and the application fee. If you are unable to scan your materials, please mail hard copies to the Comparative Literature and Literary Theory Program, University of Pennsylvania, 720 Williams Hall, 255 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-6305.

All applicants (U.S. citizens and foreign nationals) will automatically be considered for fellowship awards. No special forms need be submitted. The Program supports all students in good standing for SIX years. The norm in SAS in humanities programs is five years, but we offer six, because we believe that students should be supported financially for the entirety of the program without the anxiety of being unsure of sixth year funding.  Successful applicants will be awarded the Benjamin Franklin fellowship. These prestigious fellowships pay tuition and a sizeable stipend of at least $38,000, paid at the end of each month for six years. Summers are funded for the first five years. During years two and three students on fellowship are required to TA or teach TA one course per semester as part of their training to work as educators.

Our students sometimes gain mid-career fellowships that extend their funded years, such as the Price Digital Humanities fellowship or the Fulbright.   Students awarded grants that offer full support for an academic year or more may pause their Penn fellowship packages, thus extending their full support for further time if needed.  

Students beyond the sixth year can also apply for Penn-specific funding opportunities, including the Wolf Humanities Forum Graduate Assistantship, the Andrea Mitchell Center fellowship, the Communication Within the Curriculum Fellowship, the Gender Studies and Women's Studies fellowship, or the Dissertation Completion Fellowship.


The Chair is principal adviser during the student's first year in the Program.  At the outset of the second year, the student chooses, in consultation with the Chair, a committee of one principal and two secondary advisors. These may or may not be changed as the student approaches the dissertation stage. Each semester, the student's choice of courses must be discussed with his or her principal advisor, who must indicate approval by signing the student's course record form. Students in the Program should meet with their principle advisors in person at least once per semester, and should remain in continuous contact with the members of their advisory committees and the Graduate Chair.


Note that students may, and often do, work with at least one faculty member outside the Graduate Group, or outside Penn, for first or second year exams, and/or for the thesis committee. Students are encouraged to be proactive about considering which faculty, at Penn or elsewhere, might be the most useful interlocutors. The Program is committed to providing remuneration (at least $400 per year, may rise as needed/ as possible) for external faculty who work with our students as official exam-mentors or thesis-committee mentors, and we are also committed to providing travel expenses as needed, for external faculty to travel for the thesis defense of their advisee.

We do not usually do official credit transfers, because it is bureaucratically annoying, and we have very few required courses in any case.  But students who have completed an M. A. at another university are allowed to take no further seminars after the second year in the program.  The third year is then devoted entirely to development of the thesis project (plus teaching). Seminars in the third year may also be waived even for students without an M. A., depending on the student's own wishes and needs and the advice of faculty mentors and the Chair about the student's best interests.  In order to qualify as full-time students in the pre-dissertation stage, these students may have to register for extra "independent study" credits.  This should be done in consultation with the Graduate Chair.

Master of Arts Degree - 8 course units required, including:

At least two courses from the Comparative Literature offerings

At least three courses in the student's major and minor literary and cultural traditions, balanced with regard to periods and genres

COML 5010.401 Comparative Literature Proseminar

COML 9810.001 M.A. Exam Prep

No more than one independent study (9980)

NOTE: We do not have a terminal MA course, but students who leave after at least a year of the PhD program will be awarded an MA, and the MA is awarded automatically en route to the PhD.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree - 8 course units beyond those required for the M.A., including:

At least two more courses from the Comparative Literature offerings

At least three more courses in the student's major and minor literary and cultural traditions

COML 9990.051 Dissertation Prospectus Workshop

Exceptions to these course requirements should be made only with the approval of the Graduate Chair.

At the end of the second semester of study, students must take a two-hour oral exam. The exam tests knowledge of the ten theoretical texts assigned as the core material for study in the mandatory first-semester course COML 5010, Comparative Literature Proseminar. In addition, each student should select three additional Theory Modules of 15 items each, representing areas of special concentration. Modules are curated by groups of Comparative Literature Faculty according to their areas of expertise, and/or may be adjusted or invented by students, in consultation with faculty mentors. Study of these modular lists, as well as continued study of the foundational list, takes place in the context of the independent exam preparation course COML 9810.001 M.A. Exam Prep. 

The examining committee consists of four members, one of whom must be either the Graduate Chair or the instructor of COML 5010 Comparative Literature Proseminar. The other three are selected by the student, subject to the Chair's approval, with the help of faculty mentors appropriate for the areas the student has elected to study.

The oral exam is designed to test the student's mastery of the assigned theoretical texts, ability to synthesize and compare different ideas and theorists with one another, ability to respond to challenges, ability to contextualize, and ability to communicate clearly and effectively.  The exam is imagined as training for the skills required in the classroom and in conferences and job interviews (such as ability to provide a clear, accurate, engaging account of complex ideas, and appropriate self-presentation).

A satisfactory performance on the examination is a requirement for an M.A. degree in the Program. A superior performance is a requirement for continuation in the Program as a Ph.D. candidate. The exam is graded Pass/Fail. A student who fails to perform at a superior level may in some cases be allowed to take it again the following semester, based on the decision of the examiners, the Chair and the Executive Committee, but it may not be taken more than twice. A student who has not successfully completed the exam by September of the second year will automatically be no longer enrolled in the program; see below.

Every student in the Program has two "service  years." These are usually fulfilled by teaching, which is for most students the most useful preparation for the future job market, although in rare cases other forms of service are possible. Students should consult with the Chair about possible teaching opportunities, and also communicate with faculty in relevant departments, depending on their specific needs and expertise. Usually, students in the Second Year will serve as Graders or TA's, under the guidance of a faculty member; students in the Third Year usually teach a stand-alone class, which is in many cases a language class, but may in other cases be a content-based class, such as World Literature.

Summer teaching is sometimes available, and can be sometimes be used to fund the fourth summer of the Program. Students should discuss possibilities with the Chair.

During the first year, in consultation with the Graduate Chair and other members of the Comparative Literature Faculty, students are to designate their specializations in either one or two coherent literary and cultural traditions. These may be national or regional traditions, or other large literary areas corresponding to recognized disciplinary fields of study (Latin American, Slavic, French, Global Anglophone, American, Poetics, etc.). Note that the majority of students in our program designate an area or areas that correspond to a national and/or linguistic tradition (like Francophone Literature, from Medieval to Modern), which allows them to compete on the job market against those who have trained in an area studies or language-specific program (like a French Department rather than Comparative Literature).   This training is one of the purposes of the second year lists, for many students. But it is also possible, in individual cases where it may make sense, to choose a canon that crosses national and linguistic boundaries (like Modernisms or Post-Colonial Literature).  The area or areas chosen should ideally be legible for a possible future job market in a specific area, and help train the student for a teaching career in a particular area. Students are encouraged to discuss possibilities with faculty advisors and the Chair, to ask questions, to garner advice about the specific expectations and norms within their own area, and to be creative as well as pragmatic in designating their areas of second-year specialization.

Most of the texts on these lists should be "primary" or "literary" -- broadly conceived, such that films, for example, can be "texts" – in contrast to the lists of the first year, which are mainly theoretical.  The texts can be sections of longer books, to make them manageable.  There is a great deal of flexibility about what counts as a "text", and students should take advantage of this flexibility to devise lists that will be maximally useful to their own specific training -- in consultation with their mentors.

Students may concentrate on one area or tradition as a single "major" or may elect to study two. In the latter case students either designate one tradition a "major" and the other a "minor" area of concentration, or alternately they may study both areas or traditions equally as "majors."

In consultation with the Graduate Chair and faculty advisors, each student will direct coursework during the first two years towards achieving historically complete diachronic and cross-generic knowledge of major and minor traditions, or the equivalent kind of breadth and knowledge of a deep canon, as appropriate for their particular training.  Given that some disciplines and specialties and projects require greater historical breadth within a single linguistic tradition, and others require greater geographical or generic or linguistic breadth across national boundaries, students are encouraged to acquire whatever equivalent of such broad training is appropriate for their specific intellectual trajectory and professional training.  The Chair and faculty advisors will offer mentorship to help students achieve successful, useful and rigorous training, without rigidity about the particular shape of any specific "area" for the second year lists.

To receive an M.A. degree, each student must demonstrate proficiency in at least one non-English language relevant to his or her program of study and mastery of the language of one "major" literary and cultural tradition. To receive a Ph.D., each student must demonstrate proficiency in at least two non-English languages relevant to his or her program (one of which must be "modern") as well as mastery of the languages of all "major" literary and cultural traditions. Proficiency is defined as the ability to conduct research on literary and critical texts in that language. Mastery is defined as the ability to teach, as well as to conduct research on, literary and critical texts in that language, and to write in it. Linguistic competence in a foreign language is demonstrated by (a) the level of the student's performance in at least two graduate literature courses taught in that language and/or (b) performance in a translation exam to be arranged in consultation with the graduate chair. In all exceptional cases, the Chair of the Program will determine whether the student is to be considered as having fulfilled the appropriate language requirements. The Chair (whoever they may be) is committed to using flexibility and common sense in making this determination.  For instance, a bilingual student is not required to do an exam in their native language, but will be considered to have already passed that language. 

In the fourth semester of study, students must pass their Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D. This is a two-hour oral exam in the literary and cultural history of the student's major and minor traditions, administered by a committee. See above on Designation of the Major and Minor traditions; there is room for flexibility in the identification of these areas or traditions or canons.  In studying for the exam, the student should be concerned with general coverage of literary and cultural history, and/or the broad scope of a literary or cultural field, in order to prepare for a future career as a teacher in a literature or literature and culture department, where faculty are expected to have fundamental knowledge of a whole tradition. Note that both the Chair and faculty in COML recognize that what counts as a "whole tradition" is variable from one field to another, and that for some students, it may make sense to focus on an area that has more geographical than historical breadth, for example.  Flexibility, and the specific usefulness of a canon-list for a particular young scholar, should be guiding principles in mentoring and examining students in these areas.  Both students and examiners should keep in mind that the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam does not assess the knowledge of the student's area of specialization (the student will demonstrate this knowledge in the dissertation), nor of theory and methodology (this is the purpose of the M.A. Examination).

As early as the end of the second semester of study and in all cases before the end of September of the third semester of study, each student is to form a Qualifying Examination Committee, which is to oversee the student's preparation and to administer the exam. The Committee should include at least one member of the Comparative Literature Faculty. For students who have elected to concentrate on a single major tradition, all members of the Committee should be specialists in that same tradition. For students who have elected to concentrate on a major tradition and a minor tradition, the Committee should consist in two specialists in the major tradition and one in the minor tradition. For students who have elected to concentrate on two major traditions, the Committee should consist of two specialists in each tradition.

In consultation with the Committee, each student is to prepare a Qualifying Examination List of works to be discussed in the context of the exam. The List is to be approved by the Committee and the Graduate Chair before the end of October in the third semester of study. Students who have elected to concentrate on a single major tradition should include 50 items from that tradition in the List. Students who have elected to study a major tradition and a minor tradition should include 40 items from the major tradition and 20 items from the minor tradition in the List. Students who have elected to study two major traditions should include 40 items from each tradition in the List. In any case, the List should include important texts (however the "importance" of a work is to be gauged) representing major developments in the literary and cultural history of the relevant tradition(s). It should offer broad diachronic and formal coverage. It should not be compiled according to thematic threads or rationales.

In preparation for the exam, students should enroll in COML 9990.041 Reading for the Qualifying Examination during both the third and the fourth semesters of the Program. In addition to studying all the works included in the List, students should familiarize themselves with the entire scope of their chosen tradition(s), usually by reading standard and up-to-date literary historical references. Students should be prepared to answer rigorous questions concerning the works on the List and their place in literary history.  As with the MA exam, the oral exam should test the student's knowledge and capacity to communicate that knowledge effectively (skills essential for the classroom as well as for professional academic conferences).

As with the MA exam, a superior performance at this stage of the Program is required continue in the PhD track. In cases of weak exam performance, the Committee, in consultation with the Chair and the Executive Committee, may decide to offer the option of one retake at the start of the following semester; the exam may not be taken more than twice. A student who has not successfully completed the exam by September of the third year will automatically be no longer enrolled in the Program; see below.

As early as the end of the fourth semester of study and in all cases before the end of September of the fifth semester of study, each student is to form a Pre-Dissertation Committee of at least three members, one of whom must be a member of the Comparative Literature Faculty. The chair of this Committee should be the student's advisor. Commonly, this committee becomes the Dissertation Committee following the approval of the Dissertation Prospectus, yet changes in the make-up of the Committee are to be considered as completely normal as well.

In consultation with the Committee, each student is to prepare a Pre-Dissertation Bibliography, which must be approved by the Committee and the Graduate Chair before the end of October in the fifth semester of study. The Pre-Dissertation Bibliography is to include 30-35 primary and secondary texts relevant to the likely field of the student's dissertation. In the remainder of the fifth semester and during the early portions of the sixth semester, the student is to study the Bibliography. In preparing and studying the Bibliography, students should enroll in COML 9990.061 Reading for the Dissertation Prospectus during both the fifth and the sixth semesters of the Program. In the third year, students will normally teach or TA one class per semester, and take two seminars and one 9990 (for reading/research time) in the fifth semester, and the Prospectus Workshop (9990) plus two seminars, or a seminar and another 9990, to represent extra research and reading time, in the sixth semester. Students who enter the program with MA may receive advance credit and may, in consultation with the Graduate Chair, do fewer or no seminars in the third year; they will then will their roster of three course units per semester with "9990's" to represent the time spent reading towards the thesis project.

In the sixth semester of study, the student enrolls in COML 9990.051 Dissertation Prospectus Workshop. In consultation with the instructor of the Dissertation Prospectus Workshop and his or her Committee, each student must produce a Dissertation Prospectus. The dissertation proposal should be at least 2000 words in length. A revised Bibliography should be included as an appendix. The Prospectus is to set forth, as clearly and concisely as possible, some or all of the following:

  •  Any background information pertinent to the subject
  • A close exposition of the subject and its value within the field of study
  • The proposed methodology to be adopted and a justification of its relevance to the subject
  • Some notice of previous scholarship and of its relation of the proposed work
  • Some ideas as to how the argument will be structured in the dissertation, with a tentative indication of the table of contents
  • Any special research needs or likely research problems to be faced.

The student should schedule a Prospectus meeting with his or her Committee and with the Graduate Chair by the end of April in the sixth semester of study. Suggestions from this meeting should be incorporated into a final draft of the proposal, which must be approved by the dissertation director and the Graduate Chair before the end of the semester. No student may progress to the fourth year of the program without an approved Dissertation Prospectus.

As with previous exam milestones, students who have not completed a satisfactory Prospectus, approved by three faculty advisors, by September of this year will automatically be no longer enrolled in the PhD Program, and will be asked to leave at the end of that semester, barring extenuating circumstances and the decision of the Committee and Executive Committee.

Fall semester:
Four courses, including COML 5010.401 Comparative Literature Proseminar
Spring semester:
Four courses, including COML 9810.001 M. A. Exam Prep.
The M.A. exam is taken in spring Penn Exam period of the first year; whenever possible, all students in a given year will take the exam on the same day. (See above: "M.A. Examination.")
Designation of major and minor traditions of concentration takes place before the conclusion of the academic year. (See above: "Designation of Major and Minor Literary and Cultural Traditions")
At the conclusion of the semester, students should begin to form a Qualifying Examination Committee and drafting a Qualifying Examination List. (See above: "Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D.")
The summer following the first year should be used to complete drafting the Qualifying Examination List and to begin reading towards the Exam. (See above: "Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D.")

Fall semester:
Teaching, usually as a TA in a lecture course.
Three courses, including COML 9990.041 Reading for the Qualifying Examination.
The Qualifying Examination Committee must be approved by the Graduate Chair by the end of September.
The Qualifying Examination List must be approved by the Committee and the Graduate Chair by end of October. (See above: "Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D.")
During the second year, each student is recommended to attend at least one professional conference, preferably presenting work derived from a graduate seminar, and preferably in (one of) his or her major field(s) of concentration.
Spring semester:
Teaching, usually as a TA in a lecture course.
Three courses, including COML 9990.041 Reading for the Qualifying Examination.
The Qualifying Examination must be taken the spring Penn Exam period of the second year; whenever possible, all students in a given year will take the exam on the same day. (See above: "Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D.")
At the conclusion of the semester, students should begin to form a Pre-Dissertation Committee and drafting a Pre-Dissertation Bibliography. (See above: "Pre-Dissertation Bibliography and Dissertation Prospectus")
The summer following the second year should be used to continue drafting the Pre-Dissertation Bibliography and to begin its study.

Fall semester:
Teaching, usually as the sole instructor in a writing or language course.
Three courses, one of which will be COML 9990.061 Reading for the Dissertation Prospectus.
The Pre-Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Graduate Chair by the end of September.
The Pre-Dissertation Bibliography must be approved by the Committee and the Graduate Chair by Thanksgiving Break. (See above: "Pre-Dissertation Bibliography and Dissertation Prospectus")
During the third year, each student is recommended to prepare and submit at least one article for publication, preferably in a peer-review journal in (one of) his or her major field(s) of concentration.
Spring semester:
Teaching, usually as the sole instructor in a writing or language course.
Three courses, of which one course is COML 9990.061 Reading for the Dissertation Prospectus and another is COML 9990.051 Dissertation Prospectus Workshop.
Students must schedule a Dissertation Prospectus Meeting with their Committee and the Graduate Chair during the spring Penn Exam Period of the third year; whenever possible, all students in a given year will take the exam on the same day.
A finalized Dissertation Prospectus, approved by the Committee and the Graduate Chair, must be submitted by the end of the semester. (See above: "Pre-Dissertation Bibliography and Dissertation Prospectus")

(Summer after Third Year and Years Four and Five)

Drafting the Dissertation and Preparing for the Job Market

Once the student's Dissertation Prospectus has been approved and submitted and all outstanding coursework and other programmatic obligations have been completed, he or she becomes a candidate for the Ph.D. During the fourth and fifth year, candidates should devote the vast majority of their time and energy to writing the dissertation. With the advice and approval of the Graduate Chair and Dissertation Committee, however, the candidate may engage in additional teaching in the context of one or another of the University's programs, or may devote time to conference presentations and preparation and submission of articles for publication. It is expected that candidates should be able to complete the dissertation in two years.

To maintain good standing, the Graduate Division requires candidates and their advisors to file an Annual Dissertation Progress Report. The Graduate Division sends information about this to students and their advisors in advance of the yearly deadlines, usually in December. Further information about timely progress towards the degree for Ph.D. candidates may be found in the Graduate Catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania, under Time Limit for Completion of the Ph.D.

In many cases the completed dissertation need not be longer than 150-200 pages. Three hundred pages should be the greatest anticipated length. The principal academic adviser of a Ph.D. candidate will direct his or her dissertation research and supervise the writing of the dissertation. Other members of the dissertation committee may read preliminary drafts and suggest changes and may serve as special consultants on particular areas of specialization within the dissertation project.

By September of the fifth year, candidates should have drafted at least three substantial chapters (or well over half) of the dissertation and should be making steady progress towards a complete draft. In the fall of the fifth year, candidates will embark on the process of applying for academic jobs and postdoctoral positions. Students should be aware that this process is itself extremely time-consuming. Thus they should plan ahead to have a considerable portion of the dissertation complete before embarking on the job application process. The Supervisor, Committee and Chair are on hand to advise about the job market and to schedule practice interviews and practice job talks.

The program and its requirements have been set up to enable all students to complete the dissertation by the summer of year five, that is, within the tenure of the five-year fellowship package. Candidates who require to take a sixth year to complete the dissertation must apply for additional funding, either an internal fellowship from the Graduate Division or some other University program or external funding. Students who secure external fellowship funding at other points in their graduate career (either upon entry or at a later point) will also be able to add this onto their fellowship package, giving them an extra year of support.


Completing the Dissertation, its Defense and Submission


When the candidates are ready to produce the full and nearly complete drafts of their dissertations, they should consult the University of Pennsylvania rules governing the form in which dissertations are submitted, provided by the Graduate Division. NB: the Graduate Division has in the past refused to accept dissertations with excessively narrow margins, incorrect pagination, or other flaws, thus delaying the awarding of Ph.D. degrees. Doctoral candidates in the final stages of dissertation writing should also be sure to consult the calendar published in the Graduate Studies Bulletin in order to know the various deadlines for applying for the degree, submitting finished dissertations to their first and second readers for their approval, and depositing the completed thesis at the Graduate Division.

When the dissertation is near completion and the advisor and readers have had the opportunity to read a full draft, the student should schedule a dissertation defense. This is a public event to which the student may invite friends and family. It consists of a public presentation of the dissertation, in which the candidate offers a prepared oral statement, followed by a period for questions from the audience, followed by a private conference including only the student and his or her Committee. The defense should be scheduled at least several weeks in advance of the anticipated filing date for the term in which the student plans to submit the finished dissertation, to allow the student to undertake final revisions and formatting.

Following the defense, the student must make changes as recommended by the Committee. In all cases the finalized dissertation must be read and approved by the candidate's adviser and other members of the dissertation committee before filing. It is the responsibility of the candidate in person or his or her adviser to deposit the dissertation.

As noted above, the student's Supervisor and Committee Members, as well as the Chair and other members of the Graduate Group, and Penn Career Services, are ready and willing to help advise students on the transition from graduate school to the job market. We are always happy to read materials, schedule mock interviews and arrange practice job talks for academic positions and post-docs. We are also glad to encourage and support students who are applying for jobs outside the academy.  We are aware that a PhD in Comparative Literature trains students in skills--such as capacity to conduct research, high-level oral and written communication, language training, theoretical, philosophical and ideological sophistication, global awareness, a detailed understanding of modes of representation, and nuanced understanding of cultural and social diversity--that can be very useful for a wide range of different positions and careers.

At the end of each of the first three years, the Graduate Chair, in consultation with each student's teachers and faculty mentors, will assemble a report on the student's work and share it with the student, in the form of a written report and follow-up conversation. The purpose of this report and conversation is to praise and acknowledge the strengths and successes of our students, to be aware early of any possible issues, to make sure that both faculty and students themselves are conscious of strengths and weaknesses, and to work to improve in relevant areas. In the context of this report, at the end of every academic year, the Graduate Chair, Executive Committee and, where relevant, the student's Committee or other faculty mentors, will determine whether or not each student remains in "good standing."

In order to stay in good standing and remain eligible for continued funding from the Graduate Division, students must do the following:

     --Achieve a strong performance n seminar work

     --Serve successfully as teachers or TA's during the two service years

     --Perform at a superior level at all benchmark exams (see above)

     --Work productively with peers and faculty mentors

     --Fulfill all milestones in the Program on time--such as completion of seminar papers on time, completion of bibliographies and Prospectus, formation of Committees, and timely progress with the writing of the Dissertation

Students must abide by the Graduate Division's policy on incompletes. Incompletes can be carried over for only one semester. Course work for incompletes must be completed and submitted to the professor before the beginning of the corresponding semester of the following year. Thus, for example, incompletes from a fall semester must be made up before the start of the following fall semester. Students risk a block on enrollment and the suspension of stipends if incompletes are not removed from the record according to the Graduate Division's timetable.

If a student has not successfully passed one of the benchmark exams--the first year MA exam, or the second year Qualifying, or the third year Prospectus Meeting--by September 30th that same year, the student will automatically be considered to be no longer enrolled in the PhD program, but will be eligible to leave with an MA. Such a student will remain enrolled for that fall semester as a grace period, s/z/he plans for the next stage of their career. A student who completes the missing work or exam during this semester may be eligible to re-apply, at the discretion of the student's advisors and the Executive Committee, but this is not guaranteed. A similar procedure will apply, at the discretion of the student's advisors, the Chair and the Executive Committee, for students whose work in any other aspect of the program is problematic, as revealed and articulated in the Yearly Report, or for students who fall seriously behind schedule in the writing of the Dissertation.

The vast majority of our students perform brilliantly in all aspects of our Program.


The Program's Executive Committee is made up of the graduate and undergraduate chairs, five other faculty members appointed for a term of three years by the Chair with the approval of the Graduate Group, and one graduate student representative from the CLAS. The graduate student representatives on the Executive Committee have the same rights and responsibilities as the faculty members in deliberations on all matters concerning educational policy. They do not participate in deliberations on personnel matters such as admissions and financial aid.

CLAS, which was founded by students in 1980 and is open to all students in the Program, sponsors a colloquium in the spring (COMPLICOL), visiting lecturers, discussion groups, translation workshops, and student readings. The association elects its own officers and delegates two students to represent the group at meetings of the Program's Executive Committee. It also provides advice and assistance to visiting applicants and incoming students and is consulted by the Chair in all matters concerning the Program's policies and regulations.

Students are encouraged to attend the lectures, symposia, and other activities sponsored by the Program. They should also check regularly for mail and announcements in the Program's office, 720 Williams Hall, where miscellaneous books, journals, reprints and other texts are available for browsing and borrowing, and coffee, tea and conversation are always free for the asking.

Especially in the case of students whose major literature is foreign, the Program often recommends a year's study in the relevant country. The Chair will help students find funding agencies to support such study and to subvent the research activities of dissertation students working abroad.

Housing forms for dormitory housing will be sent upon request to any student entering the Program. The majority of our students prefer to make their own housing arrangements. Good rental apartments are easily available within walking distance of the University at rents that are surprisingly low for a big city.