Ph.D. Qualifying Examination in Comparative Literature

Recommended time-line

One year (or at least three quarters) before the examination date:

  • Student constitutes a committee of five faculty members. At least three should be from within the department or its “cooperating members,” and one must be from outside the department. This “external” member does not participate formally in preparation or pose written questions but makes sure there are no irregularities.
  • Student submits appropriate form, available from Seabrook, with signatures from all five committee members, agreeing to serve on the committee and committing to the approximate date of the exams.
  • Student begins working with each of the four committee members who are framing questions. For each of the four sections of the exam, the student and the faculty member create a list of materials to be prepared. These may include books, articles, films, etc. The list in the major literature is intended to ensure both breadth and depth of preparation in that literature. The other lists may be more specific, focusing on a genre, a theoretical issue, a period, or some other significant grouping, usually having to do with the student’s dissertation project.
  • Each list should be introduced by a title and a 250-500 word précis highlighting the student’s analytical focus, followed by an alphabetized list of texts.

Two quarters before the examination date:

  • Student’s committee chair should receive the preparation lists and point out potential problems, such as too much overlap among topics or lists.
  • Student may enroll in 291 course during this or any other quarter in the year preceding the qualifying examination for the purpose of preparing for the exam.

At least one week prior to the date of the first written exam:

  • Committee members submit their questions to the committee chair. For each list the student will be given several questions from which to choose. The chair will be responsible for ensuring that the questions meet the proper requirements and will submit the revised questions to the GSAO (Seabrook).
  • Four days are scheduled for the written examination. Each exam lasts three hours and is usually taken in the departmental library. The four sections address the student’s three areas of concentration plus theory and criticism.
  • Within a week of completing the written examinations, the student meets with the committee for an oral examination, usually lasting between two and three hours.