Graduate Program Description

The Graduate Program in Comparative Literature offers opportunities for talented and independent students to explore a variety of questions about the nature and history of global expressive forms. Transcending national and linguistic boundaries, and drawing on a richly diverse faculty, the program helps students analyze the complex field of relations underlying concepts such as genre, medium, movement, and canon. In this respect, areas of particular importance for the program include literary theory, the social history of cultural production, and the relationship of literature with other fields. Beyond the provinces of academic specialization, however, it is the very distinction between literary and nonliterary discourses that Comparative Literature ultimately puts in question, and thus redefines, through a curriculum which, while carefully constructed, allows students to follow their own interests.

The faculty's diversity and commitment to the program's goals create a uniquely stimulating and innovative intellectual environment. In addition to a common interest in theories of literature and in the very possibility of comparison, our faculty supervise projects in such areas as East/West and North/South poetics, the practice of translation, philosophical thought, the literatures of migration and diaspora, colonial, postcolonial and decolonial thinking, ecocriticism, cultural studies, ethnic and critical race studies, film, performance and media studies, and gender, sexuality, queer and trans studies (among others). Many students elect classes at Columbia, CUNY, NYU, Princeton, and Penn through the Graduate Consortium to which Rutgers belongs.

Graduate students receive guaranteed funding for five years, two of which take the form of a teaching assistantship. Following four or more semesters of course work, each student selects the members of an examination committee, who then will assess the student's readiness to undertake the dissertation. Stipends for summer research travel are available through the program and the Graduate School. Extra funding (whether through competitive grants or additional teaching) makes it possible for the student to complete the degree in the sixth year. Recent PhD's hold tenure-track and other academic appointments as well as positions in secondary education and the arts.

Despite (or because of) the fact that Comp Lit projects are inherently dissimilar, students in the program form a tight-knit community. See the links at right for Rutgers Comp Lit - The Magazine and the Graduate Student Handbook for a sense of what student life is like.

Admission to the program remains highly competitive. In recent years, the three or four students who matriculate each fall comprise 6-8% of the total applicant pool.