Comparative Literature

2014-15 Tuition

$29,500

Application deadlines

Fall, Jan. 10; no spring admission

Requirements summary

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • three recommendations
  • GRE general test
  • writing sample
  • statement of purpose
  • proficiency in two foreign literatures

Degrees

  • Ph.D.

Subjects

  • Comparative Literature (Ph.D.)

Major concentrations

  • comparative literature

The Field of Comparative Literature at Cornell offers a Ph.D. degree in all major areas of literary study and on literary and cultural theory. Because the field is small (about twenty students), it is possible to plan diverse and interdisciplinary programs of study.

Entering students design a program in consultation with the Field Committee, which is chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies. Areas of concentration and principal advisors (the Special Committee) should be selected by the end of the first year of residence. Because course work is completed within three years, the student should have proficiency in two foreign languages. Those intending to specialize in a foreign literature are strongly encouraged to acquire fluency in the relevant language. Students normally take fourteen courses. All candidates are required to do at least one year of classroom teaching as part of the doctoral program.

The Second-Year Review takes place in the third term. Its aim is to enable students to begin focusing on the topics and the fields of research that will form the basis of their A exams. The Admission to Candidacy (A) examination is usually taken in the third year of study and is both written and oral.

The department does not offer a terminal M.A. program (and consequently does not admit students seeking only that degree), but an M.A. degree is granted after satisfactory completion of the A examination. The student then begins work on a dissertation, which upon completion is defended at the oral final (B) examination, administered by the Special Committee.

Application:
Applicants are required to submit GRE general test scores, a writing sample, a statement of purpose and to demonstrate proficiency in two foreign literatures (through, for instance, course work or study abroad).

Leslie Adelson -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: German literature; critical theories of culture
Frederick Ahl -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: epic poetry; tragic theater; wordplay in literature; theory of translation
Andrea Bachner -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Literary and cultural theory; Sinophone cultures: Mainland China and its regional and ethnic differences, Taiwan, Chinese Malaysia, Hong Kong, diasporic Sinophone writing in Europe and the Americas; Latin American cultures (in Spanish and Portuguese); Major European cultures and their (post)colonial legacies (England, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal) and minor European cultures (Catalonia)
Anindita Banerjee -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: literature and film of Russia and South Asia with emphasis on science and technology; the production of space; construction of religious, ethnic, and national identities
Anne Berger -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: enlightenment; modern poetry and poetics; psychoanalytic theory; deconstruction; feminist criticism; the politics of language; the politics of Maghreb
Bruno Bosteels -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modern Latin American literature and culture; contemporary European philosophy and political theory
Susan Buck-Morss -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: comparative literature; theory
Timothy Campbell -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: futurism; biopolitics; Italian political cinema; modernism
Calum Carmichael -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: law and literature in Antiquity, especially Biblical and Talmudic
Cathy Caruth -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests:
Debra Castillo -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modern Latin and Latina American and Latino narrative; gender theory; visual studies
Cynthia Chase -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: European romanticism; nineteenth-century poetry and fiction; women's literature; literary theory
Walter Cohen -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: history of European literature in a global context; the Renaissance (especially Shakespeare); Marxist criticism and theory
Jonathan Culler -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: literary theory; nineteenth- and twentieth-century French and English literature
Brett de Bary -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modern Japanese literature and culture; postmodern criticism
Laurent Dubreuil -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: European philosophy (in Greek, Latin, French, German, English and Italian), especially ethics, metaphysics, politics; literary theory and criticism (Antiquity-present); classical Greek, French and Francophone literature; American poetry; postcolonial studies; theory of language; epistemology and poetics of the discursive disciplines; intersections between the humanities and the sciences; visual studies (cinema, comics, fine arts)
Pedro Erber -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Brazilian literature and culture; Japanese literature and culture; comparative modernisms
Andrew Galloway -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: literary criticism and history
Peter Gilgen -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: European philosophy and literature; German idealism; aesthetics and ethics; lyric poetry; media theory
Mitchell Greenberg -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Baroque and Classical periods (1580-1700); psychoanalysis; modern criticism; comparative literature
Edward Gunn -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: literature and culture in China, including Taiwan and Hong Kong
Peter Hohendahl -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modern European literature and history, especially German; critical theory and aesthetics
William Kennedy -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Renaissance and Baroque literature; rhetoric and poetics; history of literary criticism
Richard Klein -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modernism, contemporary French thought, cultural history and critical theory
Petrus Liu -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Chinese, German, Latin, and Thai literatures; film; comparative postcolonial studies; South-South literary relations; Marxism; gender
Barry Maxwell -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: literature of the Americas; German critical theory; Marxism and literature
Thomas McEnaney -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Comparative Literature; the novel; sound and radio studies; Latin American Literature; French Literature; literature and language
Tracy McNulty -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: twentieth-century literature; critical theory; psychoanalysis; political theory
Natalie Melas -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: theories of comparison; colonialism and modernism; modern French and English literature; Anglophone and especially Francophone Carribean literature and theory; Atlantic and Mediterranean countermodernities; C.P. Cavafy
Jonathan Monroe -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modern and contemporary poetry in English, French, German, Spanish; philosophy of language; cultural criticism and critical theory
Timothy Murray -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: film, video, and digital art; performance; French/British early modern literature and art; psychoanalysis
Karen Pinkus -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Italian literature and culture; visual arts; literary theory; environment and literature; technology
Nancy Pollak -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Russian poetry and poetics; Robert Frost; versification
Masha Raskolnikov -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: Middle English literature; allegory and medieval rhetoricical theory in general; history of subjectivity; feminist and queer studies and contemporary critical theory
Neil Saccamano -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: eighteenth-century literature, philosophy, and aesthetic theory; print culture; poststructuralist theory
Naoki Sakai -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: translation studies; nationalism; visual and aural/oral signifying practices; ideographic characters and phoneticism
Anette Schwarz -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: romanticism; realism; modernism; literary theory; philosophy of language; psychoanalysis
Gavriel Shapiro -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: 19th-century Russian prose, specifically Gogol; 20th-century Russian prose, specifically Nabokov; interaction between literature and fine arts; history of culture
Matthew Wilson Smith -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modern theatre; relations between theatre and other media; relations between high art and mass culture
Deborah Starr -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: modern Arabic and Hebrew literature; Middle Eastern cinema; cosmopolitanism
Shawkat Toorawa -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests:
Antione Traisnel -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: American literature, continental philosophy, literary theory, French literature, German literature, animal studies
Marie-Claire Vallois -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: eighteenth-century French literature; the Revolution; romanticism; cultural studies; women's studies
Amy Villarejo -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: feminist and queer film/video; television; postcolonial film/video; Marxism; cultural studies
Geoffrey Waite -- Concentrations: comparative literature; Research interests: eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature and philosophy; postmodern art, cinema, and cultural theory

Graduate School Professors (emeritus)

Edgar Rosenberg -- Concentrations: Research interests: nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction; Anglo-Judaic studies; Germany in the 1930s
Winthrop Wetherbee -- Concentrations: Research interests: medieval English, French, and Italian literature; medieval Latin literature and literary theory; the classical tradition

Graduate Assessment

Comparative Literature at Cornell is a highly selective, interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. Students receiving the degree go on to teach in a variety of different academic departments or to pursue work in a variety of creative fields.  We value a diversity of approaches and concentrations in our admissions process. Therefore, it is rare that any two students will follow the same paths in their choice of courses, composition of Special Committee, or areas of expertise. Moreover, it is impossible to generalize about what makes  a successful Comparative Literature Ph.D. Indeed, one of the features that distinguishes Comparative Literature from other humanities or literature/language degrees in general is that there are few academic positions for assistant professors designated as purely “Comparative Literature”. Rather, many comparatists find teaching positions in national foreign language departments, in English, film and media studies, critical theory, area studies or world literature and culture departments. 

Learn more about graduate assessment for the Comparative Literature PhD degree.