Graduate Program in Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature at UC Irvine is especially strong in critical theory and postcolonial studies, and also offers the whole array of comparative fields and periods. The Department is committed to its historic strength in theory, and is like no other department nationally in the number and richness of theory courses we offer. Many seminars in psychoanalysis, political theory, queer theory, and narrative theory, for example, are taught each year (please browse some of these course descriptions). Our postcolonial faculty includes eminent senior scholars such as Ackbar Abbas (whose research has focused on Hong Kong and globalization) and Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Africa and the Caribbean, minority discourse, and translation). At the same time, we pursue comparative European studies, literary, film, and media studies, and the history of ideas. We encourage interdisciplinary work, and place no restrictions on the kinds of courses that students can take as part of their coursework.

Comparative Literature Ph.D. students may pursue a collaborative degree with other departments, including ClassicsEast Asian Languages and Literatures and Cultural StudiesGerman, and Spanish. We are one of the only departments in the country to offer a Ph.D. Emphasis in Translation Theory and Literary Translation. Requirements for the various departmental Emphases can be found here. Many of our students participate in UC Irvine School of Humanities Emphases in Asian American StudiesCritical Theory, Feminist Studies, and Visual Studies as well as in courses in the Ph.D. Program in Culture and Theory. Additional research collaborations and institutes include the UCI Group for the Study of Early Cultures, the Rhetoric and Writing Studies Collaborative, and the Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture. Across the program, we integrate theory with inquiry into historical and contemporary sociopolitical problems. There are various forms for current graduate students to help them keep on track within the program.

The atmosphere of the graduate program is very friendly, and its cultural life rich and vivid; each quarter brings distinguished speakers and conferences. There are forums for local work in progress that faculty and students attend together. Our graduate students host an annual graduate conference, and participate actively in Department governance. WATCH VIDEO

The M.A. degree is considered a step toward the Ph.D.; only students intending to complete the doctorate are admitted to the program. Applicants must hold a B.A. or equivalent degree and should normally have majored in Comparative Literature, English, or another literature. Majors in other disciplines (e.g., philosophy, political science, visual studies, women’s studies, anthropology) will be considered, provided that sufficient preparation for the field and in at least one foreign language is demonstrated.

For the graduate student in Comparative Literature, language proficiency is essential. Ability to study texts in original languages is expected; current Irvine Ph.D. students work in such languages as Mandarin, Farsi, French, German, Korean, Norwegian, Pima, Portuguese, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. Competence in two languages other than English is required for the Ph.D. and verified through examination.

The Department recognizes that most of its graduate students intend to become teachers, and believes that graduate departments should be training college teachers as well as scholars—that teaching and scholarship complement one another. All Ph.D. candidates gain supervised pedagogical training as part of the seminar work required for the degree, and all have access to TAships.