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
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 International Center for Writing and Translation, 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.
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.
Some special fellowships are also available:
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.
This grant is among the most prestigious in the Humanities; when
given by Comparative Literature, it consists of an $18,000 stipend in the first year and a summer stipend as part of a five-year package
including guaranteed TAship and a full-year dissertation fellowship.
Also included is a readership and study space in the René Wellek
Collection at the UCI Library, priority housing, and access to
The Schaeffer Fellowship provides $20,000 plus fee remission for
2 years to Ph.D. students in Comparative Literature for whom translation
will be a crucial element of dissertation work. Students translating
literary or historical texts or archival materials not previously
reliably available in English as part of their dissertation research
are eligible. Multiple fellowships per year may be awarded. This fellowship will not be available next year.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
UCI On The Road
If you are unable to visit the campus, you may want to see if there is a representative from UC IRvine in your area by going here.