Comparative Literature Graduate Program

The Ph.D. program in Comparative Literature is committed to providing students the resources and training needed to successfully complete a challenging and rewarding intellectual project. By "resources" we mean not only formal classes, libraries, and financial support in various forms, but also an open community of scholars and learners, both within Comparative Literature and the broader Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL), and also across a rich array of other departments, schools, and interdisciplinary programs, and tapping into our vibrant Stanford Humanities Center and its global online platform, ARCADE. The size of our graduate student community is small, which facilitates interpersonal dialogue and conversation. 

By "training" we mean formal classes on pedagogy, a regular and year-long colloquium where students present and discuss each others' work, close work with mentors and advisors, and workshops on topics suggested by both faculty and students. Finally, by "success" we mean not only satisfying departmental and university requirements, but more importantly achieving a sense of personal fulfillment at completing an original and creative exploration of a question of importance to the student.

Comparative Literature at Stanford believes in the importance of linguistic skills in at least three languages, deep historical thinking, and an understanding of the main currents of literary criticism and theory, past and present, and with an eye on emergent knowledge that may embrace fields outside of traditional literary studies. Our faculty includes specialists in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian, English, Hebrew, Russian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and covering broad historical periods. We have a particularly well-established program in Philosophy and Literature, and welcome interdisciplinary projects that involve areas such as film studies, gender studies, studies in race and ethnicity, environmental studies, human rights, and other topics.

At base, the Ph.D. program is designed for 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.

Before starting graduate work at Stanford, students should have completed an undergraduate program with a strong background in one literature and some work in a second literature studied in the original language. Since the program demands an advanced knowledge of two non-native languages and a reading knowledge of a third non-native language, students should at the time of application have an advanced enough knowledge of one of the three to take graduate-level courses in that language when they enter the program. They should be making enough progress in the study of a second language to enable them to take graduate courses in that language not later than the beginning of the second year, and earlier if possible. Language courses at the 100- or 200- level may be taken with approval from the Director of the department. Applicants are expected to take an intensive course in the third language before entrance.

The Ph.D. minor is designed for students working toward the Ph.D. in the various national literature departments. Students working toward the Ph.D. in English are directed to the program in English and Comparative Literature described among the Department of English offerings.

For more detailed information on our program, please see the corresponding pages in the Stanford Bulletin:


Graduate Program Application Details

My experience in the Comparative Literature Ph.D. program was filled with intellectual exploration, learning new skills, and amazing mentorship in both research and teaching. Also, having had scholars from other departments to talk through my ideas and my professional plans, especially in ILAC and History, was instrumental for my success in pursuing the career I wanted.
Leonardo Velloso-Lyons
Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, 2022
Russell Berman

Russell Berman
Director of Comparative Literature
Pigott Hall, Bldg 260, Rm 201
(650) 723-1069
berman [at] (berman[at]stanford[dot]edu)

John Giammalva - Profile Photo

John Giammalva
In Memoriam, Student Services Manager
Pigott Hall, Bldg 260, Rm 127
(650) 279-3630
dlclstudentservices [at] (dlclstudentservices[at]stanford[dot]edu)