1 Tojagul

A Level English Literature Coursework Columbia

Major and minor areas may be chosen from the following literary fields: Medieval, Renaissance, Restoration and 18th-century English literature, 19th-century English literature, 20th–century English literature, Colonial and 19th-century American Literature, and 20th-century American Literature. The following may be used only for the minor field: Linguistics, Comparative Literature, Criticism and Theory, Southern Literature, Rhetoric and Composition, Children’s Literature, Women’s Studies, and History of the Book and Authorship. Students may design other minors in consultation with specialist faculty and the Graduate Director.

Specific Requirements

At least 24 hours of course work including at least two 800-level seminars, one class in critical theory (ENGL 732, 734, or an equivalent), and the 3-hour 691-692 pedagogy sequence. For students who have not taken a comparable course during their M.A. degree, ENGL 700 (Introduction to Graduate Study) is also recommended.

Twelve hours of Dissertation Preparation (ENGL 899).
Reading knowledge of two foreign languages (satisfied by passing the reading exam in each language) OR extensive knowledge of one foreign language (satisfied by passing a 400-level course in literature, not in translation, with a grade of B or better, or a 500-level course in literature, not in translation, with a grade of C or better). NOTE: You may also fulfill one foreign language requirement by passing both ENGL 702 (Old English) and ENGL 703 (Beowulf and Old English Heroic Verse) with a grade of B or better.

  • Admission to doctoral candidacy

  • Written Comprehensive Exams: one in the primary field and one in the secondary field

  • Oral Exam in the primary field

  • Dissertation and Oral Dissertation Defense

Transfer Credit

If you have had equivalent graduate courses at another institution, you may petition the Graduate Program Committee to transfer up to six hours credit in lieu of courses required for the Ph.D. However, these courses cannot be more than ten years old by the time you plan to graduate. A minimum of eight courses taken at USC is generally required of all students.


Up to two electives may be taken in other departments on subjects directly related to your course of study. These electives must be approved by your doctoral committee and/or the Graduate Director.

Program of Study

By the beginning of your third term, you must, in consultation with your advisor, fill out the Ph.D. Program of Study form and submit it to the Director of Graduate Studies; students will bring this form to the meeting to determine qualification for doctoral candidacy that you must schedule with the Graduate Director and major advisor no later than the start of the third semester (see description of this process, below). This form must be on file with the Dean of the Graduate School before you will be cleared for graduation. It will also help you and your advisor direct your progress toward the degree. The Program of Study should be amended periodically to reflect actual courses taken by filing the Adjustment form available through the forms library on the Graduate School’s website.

Minor Fields

Certain minors (Children’s Literature and Rhetoric and Composition) along with the certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies have an established curriculum (listed below); others provide more flexibility. Students often minor in a second literary field, or in specialized fields. To form your minor, you must work with an appropriate faculty member to assemble a specialized reading list and a committee for the minor field exam. Students are strongly encouraged to pursue relevant coursework. All minor fields must be approved by the Graduate Director.

Admission to Doctoral Candidacy

Admission by the Department of English for graduate study does not mean admission as a candidate in the English and American Literature Ph.D. program.

PhD students in the English Department are admitted to doctoral candidacy on the basis of their record and a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies and the major adviser, to be held no later than the beginning of the student’s third term. Prior to this meeting, the Graduate Director will review the student's class grades with the expectation of at least a 3.0 GPA over the course of the first year of study. The student will come to the meeting with a completed Program of Study form and an accompanying statement (5-6pp.) detailing progress toward dissertation and degree thus far and plans for future study and research. In the event of an unsuccessful review, the student will be put on probation, not be admitted to candidacy, and be required to maintain a 3.5 GPA for each of the following two semesters. Additionally, field faculty will meet at the end of the probationary student's second year in order to make a recommendation to the Graduate Director about the student’s future in the program. The Graduate Director will factor this recommendation and the student’s GPA into a decision about whether the probationary student should be admitted to candidacy at the end of the second year and allowed to continue in the program.

Doctoral Committee

No later than the end of your second year, you should notify the Graduate Office that you have assembled a doctoral committee of three or four professors in your areas of specialization by obtaining the necessary signatures and filing a Doctoral Committee Appointment Request form available through the forms library on the Graduate School website. Each committee should consist of three faculty members from the English Department along with one professor from outside the department with no departmental affiliations. In consultation with this committee, you must devise and file with the Graduate Office a reading list and tentative body of course work. This will be the basis of the formal Program of Study, initially submitted as part of the process of admission to doctoral candidacy at the start of the second term in the program. At any time, you may change the composition of your committee by advising the Graduate Director and any members removed from the committee (correspondence advising members of their removal should be copied to the Graduate Director) and by revising the aforementioned Doctoral Committee Appointment Request form.

Comprehensive Examinations

Students are required to take written comprehensive exams in both a major and minor field by the fall semester of their fourth year in the program but should ideally have taken them during the preceding spring. This 72-hour take-home exam will consist of a response to a question in the primary field and another response to a question in the secondary field. The completed exam should not exceed 7500 words in length.

There are no standardized reading lists for the Ph.D. comprehensive exams in literature; instead, you are required to compile your own reading lists in consultation with your committee.  The purpose of these lists is twofold:  these lists should cover the major texts, authors, and debates in your chosen fields of expertise, but they should also reflect your particular interests, investigations, and priorities for your emerging dissertation project.  It is your responsibility to strike this balance between field coverage and dissertation focus.  To do this, you should start consulting with your committee about your reading lists well in advance (ideally a year before you take exams).  No later than three months before you plan to sit the exams, you must secure your committee’s approval for a provisional set of reading lists, which you must then file with the Graduate Office.  By the beginning of the semester in which you plan to sit the exams, you must secure your committee’s approval for your final lists, which you should also submit to the Graduate Office.  Students who have not followed this procedure will not be allowed to sign up for the exams.

Questions for the primary field exam are written and graded by the qualified members of your doctoral committee. Questions for the secondary field exam are solicited from appropriate faculty by a member of the doctoral committee, who also calls on members of that faculty as graders (graders are notified that they are reading minor field exams).

Scheduling of Exams

In the semester you plan to take the comprehensive exams, you must sign up with the Graduate Office during the first week of classes. The exams will be offered once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester (usually in the fourth week of each semester) and will take place over a weekend—i.e., from Friday at noon until Monday at noon. Students will not be allowed to schedule alternative days or times in which to take the written exams.

Grading of Exams

To pass each exam, you must receive passing grades on each question from two of your three readers. To receive a pass with distinction, you must receive grades of pass with distinction from two of your three readers. Should you fail one part of the exam (primary or secondary field), you will only have to retake that part; if, however, you fail both parts of the exam, you are required to retake the entire exam. You have two opportunities to pass the written exam, and you must retake any failed portion of the exam within one year.

Oral Examination

You must take the oral comprehensive examination within one month of the time you are notified that you have passed the written examination. This exam typically lasts from one to two hours. The oral examiners will include departmental members of your doctoral committee, with the option to bring the outside reader in at this point. The exam covers only your primary field and will be limited to those texts that appear on your reading list for your primary field written comprehensive exam. If you do not pass the oral examination, you must take it again within a year. You have two opportunities to pass this exam.

Prospectus Meeting

Within thirty days of passing your oral exam, you must have a dissertation prospectus approved. This is done by submitting the written prospectus to your committee, including your outside reader, and then discussing it at a meeting with your full committee. The purpose of this meeting is to help you avoid problems in research methodology, scope of the project, etc., during the later stages of the process. Students should obtain the prospectus defense form from the Graduate English Office, bring it to the prospectus meeting, and obtain the necessary signatures at the end of the meeting. The prospectus defense form together with a brief description of the project should be filed with the Graduate English Office as soon as possible after the meeting.


Your dissertation committee is your doctoral committee in its final form; it includes your dissertation director, at least two specialists in your research area or areas, and one faculty member from an outside department. (English department faculty affiliated with other programs or with joint appointments may not serve as outside readers). The dissertation must be defended orally before the dissertation committee. At least two weeks before the defense is to be held, you must submit the dissertation in its final form, to the director and the rest of the committee. Be sure to consult the Graduate School for current requirements regarding the format of the dissertation as well as for information about electronic submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School.


Applicants who apply prior the first deadline (December 15), are admitted to this PhD program, and have completed 18 hours of graduate English course work will be considered for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship ('GTA'). Potentially renewable for four consecutive years, the Teaching Assistantship comes with a competitive stipend (currently $12,800 for 3 classes per academic year), in-state tuition status, and a tuition supplement.

Students awarded an assistantship by the Department of English are expected to

  • carry no incompletes;

  • earn no more than one grade below B during their academic career;

  • perform assigned duties in a satisfactory manner;

  • maintain a GPA of 3.5; and

  • make steady progress toward the degree.

Professional Opportunities at the University of South Carolina

  • Opportunities to present papers at conferences sponsored by USC graduate student organizations and by affiliated programs such as Women's and Gender Studies.

  • Opportunities for financial support to fund paper presentations at other local, regional, national, or international conferences.

  • Opportunities to teach undergraduate literature and writing courses.

    Eligibility for recognition and awards from The Graduate School (especially for presentations at Graduate Student Day).

  • Opportunities for editorial or other career-advancing internships within the university or outside it.

  • Guidance through the job search by an expert faculty committee, including CV workshops, presentation strategies, and mock interviews.

  • Opportunity to apply for lucrative year-long Bilinski Dissertation Fellowship




  • Registration: 2 Residence Units
  • Advising: 2 meetings per semester between student and assigned advisor
  • Coursework: 8 graded courses (30 points), with grades of B or higher, and which must include:
    • Fall: MA Seminar (GR5001x)
    • Spring: MA Thesis Tutorial (GR5005y)
    • Three 6000-level Seminars
    • One class (4000- or 6000-level) in pre-1700 literatures and cultures
    • One class (4000- or 6000-level) in post-1700 literatures and cultures
  • Certification of Proficiency in a Second Language
  • Positive Spring Semester Evaluation

Please note: the requirement of 30 points of credit is a state mandate and cannot be relaxed by the Department or the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).


There are two tracks through the MA program at Columbia: sequential and free-standing. Sequential students are admitted as potential candidates for the MPhil and PhD degrees. Free-standing students are admitted as candidates for the MA degree only.

This webpage is for sequential MA students. Click here for a guide to the free-standing MA program.

back to top


The Department of English and Comparative Literature follows the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences policy on transfer credit. Please note, however, that consistent with rules on departmental autonomy, the Department does not offer advanced standing toward the MA degree. Students on the MA-MPhil-PhD track must therefore wait until the second year of study before transferring credit from a previous course of study. In addition, transfer credit cannot be used to excuse students from the following degree requirements: MA Seminar, MA Thesis Tutorial, 6000-level Seminars requirement.

back to top


Sequential MA students must register each semester for a full Residence Unit (RU) in addition to their lecture and seminar courses.

For the sequential MA registration worksheet, click here.

back to top


The primary advisor for practical questions concerning coursework and degree requirements is Professor Austin Graham, the Associate Director of Graduate Studies (ADGS). Contact him by email: tag2133@columbia.edu .

In addition, during the first week of the Fall semester, all MA students are assigned a faculty advisor. Every attempt is given to match students with advisors from their own fields, though sometimes faculty research leaves or administrative duties make this impossible.

Advisors and advisees should meet in person twice per semester, once during the registration period and again before classes end. The first meeting will focus on course selection, while the second meeting gives the advisee a chance to say how things are going generally, to discuss any specific issues or problems, and to begin to think ahead to the next term.

back to top


Advisors have a responsibility to schedule meetings promptly and to respond to student inquiries made via email within a week, even during the summer and winter breaks. It is, however, the advisee's responsibility to communicate with the advisor and to initiate meetings. Advisors in turn are expected to make it a priority to find time to meet when asked, during office hours when mutually convenient, or otherwise at another time. At least twenty minutes should be blocked out for each of the two required meetings each semester. Both advisors and advisees should not hesitate to be in touch with the DGS or ADGS whenever necessary.

back to top


MA Seminar (ENGL GR5001x)

This 4-point seminar serves as an introduction to graduate work in literary studies. Generally, it has a broad focus on theory and method rather than on a single author or specific strand of theory. This class is only available in the Fall Term. Currently, two sections are offered and students are assigned to each section by the ADGS, consistent with their interests, class schedule, and the balance of students between sections. If you wish to move sections, or request a particular section, email the ADGS.

MA Essay Tutorial (ENGL GR5005y)

This class is a 4-point independent study designed to give the students time to research and write the MA Essay. Althought the ADGS is the instructor of record for the MA essay tutorial, your grade in this class will be assigned by the faculty sponsor under whose direction you write the MA Essay. Sequential MA students must take the MA Essay Tutorial in the Spring semester.

back to top


The Department offers three types of graduate classes:

4000-level Lectures (3 points)

These twice-weekly courses serve as introductions to the literature of a particular period (Medieval, Victorian, etc.) or literary movements (modernism, psychoanalysis, etc.). 4000-level lectures are offered to both graduate students and upper-year undergraduates. Professors may not require graduate students to write long research papers for 4000-level lectures.

5000-level Seminars (4 points)

This course number designation is used only for required classes for first year students: the MA Seminar and MA Thesis Tutorial.

6000-level Seminars (4 points)

Once-weekly seminar classes open only to graduate students and involving intensive explorations of special topics, specific authors, or distinct time periods. The reading load is demanding; in addition, students are generally expected to do some writing during the semester and to produce a long research paper (typically 20-25 pages) at the end of the course. Students are never advised to take more than 3 6000-level seminars in any given term.

back to top


In English and Comparative Literature, all graduate seminars (5000- and 6000-level) are worth 4 points of credit and all 4000-level lectures are worth 3 points.

However, some Columbia departments and programs apply different points values to their classes—e.g., 4 points for a lecture or 3 points for a seminar. Be sure to check that your course of study will add up to 30 points over two semesters and will not exceed 18 points in any one semester.


Lectures for Seminar Credit

If desired, a 4000-level course can be taken for seminar credit, with the permission of the instructor and ADGS. The student and instructor should agree on the writing of a seminar-style research paper, or its equivalent. The instructor should e-mail the ADGS and Graduate Coordinator to signal agreement to this plan. The Graduate Coordinator will then coordinate the student’s registration.

Seminars for Lecture Credit

Conversely, with the permission of the instructor and ADGS, a student can take a 6000-level seminar for lecture-course credit. Under such an arrangement, the student will do the reading and participate in discussion, but complete less demanding writing requirements. The instructor should e-mail the ADGS and Graduate Coordinator to signal agreement to this plan. The Graduate Coordinator will then coordinate the student’s registration.

Courses in Other Departments

Students may take relevant courses in other departments, but these courses must be approved by the ADGS if they are to count toward the degree. Students must submit a brief rationale, the course name, instructor, course description, and syllabus.

Courses through the Intra-University Doctoral Consortium (IUDC)

IUDC courses at universities such as NYU and Princeton are not open to MA students. On rare occasions—e.g., when faculty in a key research area are all on leave—MA students may petition to take an IUDC class. In this event, permission must be granted by the ADGS and by the Dean of Academic Affairs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

back to top


During the M.A., students must take at least one course in each of the following categories:

  • One class (4000- or 6000-level) in pre-1700 literatures and cultures
  • One class (4000- or 6000-level) in post-1700 literatures and cultures

Each year the department draws up a list of courses that fulfill each period requirement. When a course spans two periods, it can count toward whichever period serves as the basis for the student's primary written work.

back to top


The most extended piece of written work required of MA students is the MA Essay, which develops an extended argument over 25-30 pages. Most years, revised versions of some students' MA Essays go on to be published as scholarly articles.

Although the ADGS administers the MA Essay Program, students work primarily with a faculty sponsor who has knowledge of the essay topic. The sponsor assigns the student’s grade for the MA Thesis Tutorial, though the final essay is also evaluated by a second reader. (A third reader is added if there is a substantial divergence between the evaluations given by the sponsor and second reader.)

The MA Essay Program has the following requirements:

  • Attendance at the Fall semester MA essay workshop led by the ADGS
  • Securing a faculty sponsor before the late January deadline set by the ADGS
  • Regular advising meetings with sponsor, to a schedule satisfactory to the student and sponsor
  • Submission (with sponsor’s approval) of an MA essay proposal by the mid-February deadline set by the ADGS
  • Submission (to sponsor’s satisfaction) of a 20 page essay draft by a late March deadline set by the ADGS
  • Submission of a final essay draft by a late April deadline set by the ADGS

Failure to complete any of these requirements will affect a student’s grade for the MA Thesis Tutorial, up to and including receiving an “F” for this required course, with the result that the student will not receive the MA degree.

back to top


All MA students must demonstrate a solid reading ability in a language other than English. We accept in our program any language that will be relevant for a student’s scholarly work. This may include languages in which much theoretical and scholarly discussion is carried on (French, German, Spanish, Chinese), classical languages that English-language writers often cite (Greek, Hebrew, Latin), the other literary languages of the British Isles (Irish, Welsh, Scots Gaelic), and languages of major colonial and post-colonial populations closely engaged with England (Arabic, Hindi, Zulu). This list is not exhaustive. Any language may be offered, so long as it bears a clear relevance to the candidate's prospective work.

Students may not use proficiency in machine languages (e.g., Python, C++) to satisfy the MA language requirement.

Students arrange the completion of the language requirement with the Graduate Coordinator, who can refer them to the ADGS in any cases of uncertainty as to whether a language is appropriate. Our standard for proficiency is the ability to accurately translate a page of literary or critical prose in two hours, using a dictionary.

This standard is measured using one of three methods. Please note that, with the exception of foreign-language graduate courses (4000-level and above) that are taken for a grade of B+ or above, none of the following classes can be counted towards degree credit.

Language Exams

Several of the language departments offer periodic proficiency exams throughout the year. Consult with the Graduate Coordinator regarding the dates of exams.

Intermediate Undergraduate Language Classes

The language requirement can be fulfilled with a grade of B+ or better in an intermediate undergraduate language class designated as proficiency level (for example intermediate French II, but not intermediate French I). A grade of B+ or better in a graduate class whose language of instruction is the language in question can also serve; in both cases the language class must be taken during the student's enrollment in the Columbia graduate program—i.e., the language requirement cannot be met through transfer credit. Before enrolling for the course, contact the Graduate Coordinator for written permission that it will satisfy the language requirement.

"Rapid Reading and Translation" Courses

Rapid Reading and Translation Courses (e.g. Spanish 1113, Italian 1204, French 1206) are designed to give students proficiency suitable for graduate study. In some cases, these classes offer final exams that will satisfy the proficiency requirement.

back to top


Written Work

With the exception of the MA Essay, which may be developed from a paper originally written for course credit, no written work in the MA program may be submitted more than once for credit. Students are responsible for avoiding plagiarism and following the letter and spirit of the Graduate School's guidelines on academic integrity.

Letter Grades

Students and faculty should consider that both the A and the A- are truly positive grades. Grades of A- do not indicate a lack of satisfactory progress, but simply register good work that can be taken a step further in future. The grade of A+ is given rarely, and only to signal work of truly outstanding quality.

Grades of B+ signal work that raises concerns about the quality of a student’s thinking, writing, or work ethic. The grade of B is the minimum grade for counting a course toward degree requirements and is only used for work that is barely satisfactory.

Incomplete Grades

The Department’s policy on incompletes (INC) is stricter than that which applies to the GSAS students generally. The following rules apply:

  • MA students are not generally allowed to take incompletes.
  • In exceptional circumstances (e.g., serious illness, family emergency) MA students may request permission to take an incomplete. Permission must be given by the ADGS and the instructor of the course in question.
  • For incompletes taken in the Fall semester, all work must be submitted by the first day of the Spring semester.
  • For incompletes taken in the Spring, all work must be submitted by June 30.
  • Students who take incompletes in the Spring cannot take their MA degree until the October graduation ceremony. For this reason, Spring incompletes are especially discouraged. Permission to take them will be given only in the most exceptional circumstances.
  • The taking of multiple incompletes will affect the Committee on Graduate Education’s judgment of a sequential MA student’s suitability to continue to the MPhil stage of the graduate program.

These regulations take precedence over the common GSAS regulations.

End-of-the-Year Evaluation

Each spring the faculty members of the Committee on Graduate Education (CGE) meet to evaluate the work of sequential MA students and to certify them for graduation. This meeting takes place around May 10; all work must be completed in time for faculty to submit students’ grades by then.

The CGE also checks to see that each student has done work of high quality and made satisfactory progress, so as to be admitted into the MPhil program. It is our expectation that all sequential students will indeed have done so. The minimum standard as expressed by grades is an A- average both in coursework overall and on the MA Essay specifically; satisfactory progress is defined as having completed all coursework and fulfilled the language requirement by the time of the CGE's review.

Sequential MA students who finish the first year with unsatisfactory grades, unexcused incomplete coursework, or an unsatisfactory MA essay are not likely to thrive in our program and will be denied permission to advance to the MPhil stage. Such cases are infrequent, but the CGE considers it important for the student as well as the program to identify such cases and face the situation squarely.

back to top


If, having completed the MA program, you wish to defer entrance to the MPhil stage, you may petition the DGS for a leave of absence and the right to reapply for admission the following year. Under special circumstances, a further year's extension may be granted. After two years, admission to the MPhil program requires a formal review by the CGE. No deferral is permitted for students applying to the MPhil program from other schools.

See the GSAS website for rules regarding returning from a leave of absence.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *