Comparative Literature at UCI
Graduate Program

Grafitti ImageGraduate Program

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 Classics, East Asian Languages and Literatures and Cultural Studies, German, 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 Studies, Critical 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.



The Department of Comparative Literature is committed to supporting its graduate students through fellowships and graduate teaching assistantships. We have been successful in offering first year students full or partial fellowships, and/or teaching assistantships. Multiple-year teaching assistant packages in combination with generous fellowships are available to first year students. These fellowships cover in-state fees and in many cases non-resident tuition, and health insurance.

The Murray Krieger Endowed Fellowship in Literary Theory is awarded to an outstanding entering graduate student pursuing the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature or English whose main interest is theory.


Application to the Ph.D. Program

The deadline for application (including payment of fees) for students who plan to enter in the following Fall is December 15 of the previous year. Applicants must use UCI's on-line application form (which requires a Statement of Purpose and a Personal History Statement). We recommend you submit three letters of recommendation via the on-line system though you may still submit them in paper form.

In addition to the on-line application, you must also complete and submit directly to the Comparative Literature Department: Statement on Foreign Language Competence, one official transcript from each college or university you have attended and a writing sample of 15-20 pages:

Ph.D. in Comparative Literature
Department of Comparative Literature
243 Humanities Instructional Building
Irvine, CA 92697-2651

Please address any questions to Bindya Baliga at (949) 824-7968 or We look forward very much to hearing from you.

Requirements for the M.A. in Comparative Literature

Nine courses and an examination are required to complete the M.A. degree. The normal academic load for both M.A. and Ph.D. candidates is three courses a quarter; teaching assistants take two courses in addition to earning credit for University teaching. Only in exceptional circumstances will students be permitted to undertake programs of less than six full courses during the academic year.

The M.A. exam is normally taken by the fifth quarter. For the examination, the candidate submits an M.A. paper and a statement of purpose outlining past and future coursework and preliminary plans for the Ph.D. qualifying examination. The M.A. exam consists of a discussion of the paper and the statement of purpose. In practice, it resembles an extended advising session, with particularly close attention to the paper.


Requirements for the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature

Normally, students who have not done graduate work at another university must complete at least 18 courses. Upon completion of course work, the student takes an examination on four areas: (1) Primary field (2) Secondary field (3) Special topic (4) Theory. Students formulate reading lists for each field in consultation with their faculty committees. The topics should combine historical breadth and some generic variety with specialization leading toward the dissertation. The examination is part written and part oral, and as a whole should reflect ability to work in at least two languages.

After passing the qualifying examination, the student forms a dissertation committee, articulates a dissertation topic in consultation with them, and submits a prospectus for the dissertation before embarking on the dissertation itself.  The structure of the program enables students to complete the Ph.D. in six years.


Careers for the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature

UC Irvine’s Comparative Literature Ph.D. prepares students for a career in university teaching and research. Over the last few years, 52-60% of our graduates have found employment in tenure-track positions or have been awarded major postdoctoral fellowships (which are in turn good indications of future tenure-track jobs)—a rate comparable to programs at Stanford University and Duke University. Graduates of our program currently hold tenured or tenure-track positions at Columbia University, Brigham Young University, Cornell University, Princeton University, the University of California at Riverside, Seneca College, SUNY-Buffalo, Tulane University, and the University of Victoria, among many others.

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