Program Requirements

UCLA’S Comparative Literature program requires full-time attendance, and classes are held during the day. The Department requires all degree candidates to demonstrate linguistic, historical, and critical competence in two or more literatures. Candidates for the Ph.D. degree are examined in three fields. These fields may include three literatures with an emphasis on a single period, or two literatures and, by petition, a related interdisciplinary field such as Music, Film, or Art History.

Literary proficiency in the major and minor languages is an essential prerequisite for courses and degrees in Comparative Literature. Students should be able to take graduate courses conducted in the languages of their specialization, speak the major foreign language adequately, and read literary texts in that language with literary proficiency (in other words, with sensitivity to stylistic nuances).

Before completing the Ph.D. degree, students must demonstrate knowledge of two foreign languages. Proficiency in one language must be certified by completing two or more upper division and/or graduate literature courses in the appropriate language department. Students must prove more than elementary language competency in order to take these courses. The second language requirement may be satisfied by completion of one upper division literature class. In rare cases where sufficient courses are not available, students may substitute a translation examination administered by a departmental faculty member in place of coursework.  In such cases, departmental approval is required.


A minimum of 16 letter graded seminar courses (and one pedagogy course taken at UCLA) are required for the Ph.D. degree, distributed as follows:

  • Comparative Literature 200A and 200B
  • Five additional graduate courses in Comparative Literature
  • Six graduate courses in the major literature (of which two can be upper division)
  • Three graduate courses in the minor literature/field (of which two can be upper division)
  • 495 Teaching Practicum Course

Students admitted from graduate programs elsewhere will have their courses evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies and approved for credit (up to three graduate courses) towards the ten-course requirement and “coverage”.

All course work must be completed by the end of the third year.  The recommended breakdown of course load is the following:

First year: Two seminars in the first quarter at UCLA, followed by a three seminar load for the following two quarters of the first year, in addition to any language work required, and in addition to CL 495 to be taken in the spring quarter.

Second year: For all teaching graduate students, the recommended course load (not including language) is two seminars per quarter.  Altogether, a minimum of 13 seminars should be completed by the end of the second year and before the second year review.

Third year: In the third year, students should ideally take seminars only in the fall quarter (two-three) and complete all course work no later than the winter quarter of the third year to ensure enough time for preparing their reading lists and Ph.D exams.

*GSRM courses cannot be counted towards departmental course requirements.

*Under special circumstances and with approval from the Director of Graduate Studies, courses in the 500-series (596 or 597) may be applied towards the graduate course requirements.


Graduate advisers may be contacted at the departmental office. Students should meet at least quarterly with one of the advisers. Student records are reviewed on a regular basis by the core department faculty. Students whose grade-point average falls below 3.4 are sent a warning by the chair and may be placed on departmental academic probation.


Students in the Department of Comparative Literature are required to have a Second Year Review by the end of their second year or, at the latest, by the fall quarter of the third year. Prior to the review students must complete all the course work for the first two years (altogether, a minimum of 13 seminars) and show significant advance in fulfilling their language requirements. The requirements for at least one of the two foreign languages must be completed prior to the review.

At the date set for the review (students are required to coordinate the review in advance); students shall meet with a committee of three faculty members (one of which must be the Director of Graduate Studies and at least one other must be from Comparative Literature) to review progress toward the degree and plan the remaining course work required for the Ph.D.  All students are required to choose two of their strongest seminar papers, carefully revise them and circulate them among the review committee in advance. The papers shall serve as writing samples that will be discussed during the review. If successful , at the end of the review, students are granted an M.A., which is required before they can move ahead towards completing the Ph.D. program.

In cases in which the review committee determines that it is necessary, an M.A. exam would be added as a pre-condition for receiving the M.A. and continuing in the Ph.D. program. In such cases a date will be set for the M.A. exam, which will then be read by the three members of the review committee. At that point the review committee may approve the student’s continual study in the Ph.D. program or grant the student a terminal M.A.. Upon receiving a terminal M.A. degree, the student may not continue his/her studies in the Ph.D. program.

The M.A. exam (offered only upon the recommendation of the Second Year review Committee) is made of 2 written exams, each limited to 3 hours. Part one includes a critical theory reading list based on the readings included 200A and 200B (modifications may be made with the approval of DGS). Part two would be based on a literary field and must include texts in at least two languages). Both exams can be taken in the same day or in separate times within the frame of one week.


During the third and fourth years of study, the study plan combines the work in a major and a minor field by focusing on a limited area in which these fields may be explored. These areas may be a literary period or a particular aspect common to several literatures (for example, a genre like tragedy or the novel, or a phenomenon like neoclassicism or the baroque). They may also concern a critical or theoretical problem, involving analyses of styles or modes of interpretation; comparisons of classical and modern genres and themes; questions about the artistic process in different art forms; or problems in literary aesthetics or epistemology. The minor can be a second literature as described above, or another discipline such as art history, film, or gender studies, but in all cases knowledge of the relevant language(s) and literature(s) must be demonstrated. Students must have their major and minor fields approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.


In addition to the course requirements for the major and minor fields, students must have literary proficiency in at least two foreign languages before taking the qualifying examination, to be demonstrated either by examination or by having taken upper division or graduate courses in that language. Additional details on fulfilling the requirement are included under Master’s Degree. A reading knowledge of a third foreign language is strongly recommended. A classical language is usually necessary for anyone majoring in a period prior to the 19th century.

Students who select a non-literary minor must still demonstrate the ability to read literature in two foreign languages. Students are examined in at least one foreign language as part of the course and examination requirements for the doctoral degree, and must also demonstrate literature reading proficiency in a second foreign language by taking an upper division course in that language. For example, a student who selects French (major) and film (minor) as areas of specialization is expected to demonstrate literature reading proficiency in another foreign language, for example, Spanish,German, Arabic, etc.


Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass University written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations the University oral qualifying examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee. In addition to University requirements, some graduate programs have other pre-candidacy examination requirements. What follows in this section is how students are required to fulfill all of these requirements for this doctoral program.


A Qualifying Examination for which the student prepares reading lists for one major literature and one minor literature/field.  The examination consists of both a written and an oral portion.  All course work and laguage requirements must be completed before the exam.  In rare cases that require approval from the Director of Graduate Studies, students may take their exams during the quarter in which they are completing their course work.  All reading lists must be approved by the field examiners and the graduate advisor by the end of the quarter preceding that in which the examination is given.  It is the student’s responsibility to constitute an examining committee of which two members must be Comparative Literature faculty in the quarter preceding that in which the examination is given.

The exam consists of a written part made up of a 72 hour take home examination in the major and minor fields based on a reading list of 50 works in the major field and 25 works in the minor field; 15-20% of these lists will be theoretical works related to each field.  In rare cases that require Director of Graduate Studies approval, an on-campus, shorter exam may be substituted for a home exam.  The major reading list must cover a vast range of genres and periods covering at least 150 years or more depending on the particular field.

Written exams consist of one long or two shorter questions for the major field exam and one question for the minor field.  Altogether, students are expected to produce about 25-30 page answers during the 72 hour exam period and they may not include in these pages any excerpts of previously written seminar papers.

An oral exam follows the written exam (no later than two weeks after the submission of the written portion).  The student is responsible for setting up a three-member faculty committee (which includes the faculty member who wrote the major examination and at least two faculty members from Comparative Literature).  A student may attempt one or both parts of this examination a maximum of two times.


After completion of the written and oral exams, students enroll in a 597 course with their major adviser to begin work on the dissertation prospectus. This 35- to 50-page prospectus includes a substantial bibliography, a review of the relevant secondary literature, and a critical or theoretical perspective.  Students should nominate their exam committee (which is normally the Ph.D. committee) at least two months in advance of the prospectus defense.  The committee should be composed of three Comparative Literature faculty and one faculty member outside the department.  The defense consists of a two hour University Oral Qualifying Examination that is based primarily on the prospectus.


Students are advanced to candidacy and awarded the Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil.) degree upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.


Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study. The dissertation committee should consist of three certifying members (two in Comparative Literature and one outside the department).  The decision to file the dissertation must first be confirmed and approved by the Chair of the dissertation.  The Director of Graduate Studies and all dissertation committee members must be notified of this plan, and the final draft of the dissertation must be submitted for review to all committee members no later than two months prior to the planned filing date to allow sufficient time for final revisions.


Not required for all students in the program. The decision as to whether a defense is required is made by the doctoral committee.


Year one: By the end of the third quarter, students must have completed seven to eight courses.  For students entering the program with an M.A., a second year review must be scheduled before the end of the spring quarter of the first year.
Year two: By the end of the sixth quarter, students must have completed a minimum of 13 courses and have completed their second year review.
Year three: The remaining course work (two-three courses) must be completed by the end of the winter quarter of the third year.  During the fall and winter quarters, students should devote most of their time to preparing their reading lists in conjunction with their advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies. The field exams should be scheduled towards the end of the spring quarter of the third year after the student had the winter and spring quarters to prepare and read all the material on their lists.  In some cases and upon approval by the Director of Graduate Studies, field exams may be scheduled for the fall quarter of the 4th year.
Year four: By the end of the fall quarter of the fourth year, all students must complete their field exam and nominate their prospectus committee.  The prospectus exam should take place during the winter quarter or at the latest during the spring quarter of the 4th year.
Years five and six: The dissertation normally takes about two years to complete.  Normal time to degree completion may extend for up to seven years.

Visit UCLA’S Graduate Division for official program requirements.