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 Chair of the department or the Chair of Graduate Studies. 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 foreign language 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.