- Course Work
- Language Requirement
- Prospectus and Dissertation
- Progress Towards the Degree
- Good Standing and Evaluation
CLS graduate students take between 15 and 18 graduate courses of which at least 6 are in the “home department.” All CLS graduate students, regardless of “home department” take the CLS theory sequence (410, 411, 412) in their first year. The general aim of these three courses is to prepare students for an oral examination conducted at the end of the first year (or before the beginning of the second year). The remaining 6-9 courses can be taken in CLS, the “home department,” or any other graduate program. Students admitted through a “Cluster Initiative” have to take 3 courses in the cluster.
Students can apply for a credit transfer of up to 3 courses at the time they apply or during their first year; all requests will be evaluated by the Graduate Committee. Transfer credits do NOT count towards the Graduate School Residency Requirement of 8 quarters of course work (i.e. two years two summers).
CLS graduate students take an oral theory exam at the end of their first year (or before the beginning of the second year). The exam is based on a list of works ranging from classical antiquity to contemporary theory (see list below). Students prepare for the exam through the theory course sequence (410,411,412); in advance of the exam, students develop two "threads" in which they identify large-scale problems to which several texts on the list respond. Students are allowed to "block out" up to 10 items on the list; that is, they will not be examined on them.
Reading list for oral exam:
Plato, The Republic (books 3 and 10), The Phaedrus, The Ion
Horace, Ars Poetica
Longinus, On the Sublime
Dante, De Vulgari Eloquentia
Sidney, "Defense of Poetry"
Diderot, “Paradox of the Actor”
Kant, Critique of Judgment (Introduction, Critique of Aesthetic Judgment)
Schiller, Letters on Aesthetic Education
Hegel, Lectures on Aesthetics (Introduction)
Wordsworth, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”
Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (chapters 1-15), "On Truth and Lying in an
Arnold, Culture and Anarchy
Baudelaire. "The Painter of Modern Life"
Mallarmé. "Crise de vers"
Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (chapters 2 and 3), "The Uncanny,"
"On Narcissism," Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"
Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (parts 1 and 2)
Benjamin, The Origin of the German Mourning Play, "The Work of Art in the
Age of Its Technical Reproducibility," "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire"
Brecht, "The Modern Theater is an Epic Theater"
Lukács, Theory of the Novel
Jakobson, "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles"
Auerbach, Mimesis (selections); "Figura"
Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism
Bataille, "The Notion of Expenditure"
Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art"
Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel,"
Adorno, "Cultural Criticism and Society"
Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (selections)
Lacan, "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious," "The Mirror Stage,"
"Seminar on the Purloined Letter"
Fanon, Black Skins/White Masks (excerpts), "On National Consciousness" from
The Wretched of the Earth
Barthes, S/Z, “Structural Analysis of Narrative”
Burke, The Rhetoric of Motives (excerpts)
Blanchot, "Literature and the Right to Death"
Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"
Derrida, “Signature, Event, Context,” “Plato’s Pharmacy”
De Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric," “Genesis and Genealogy (Nietzsche),”
"The Resistance to Theory"
Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Said, The World, The Text, and the Critic
Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition
Deleuze, Towards a Minor Literature
Gallagher and Greenblatt, Practicing New Historicism
Irigaray, The Sex That is Not One
Butler, Gender Trouble
Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?"
Bhabha, The Location of Culture
Ngugi, "The Language of African Literature"
All students take an exam in their “home department.” Students need to consult with the DGS of their “home department” about the scope and structure of the exam.
The third exam is in the form of a public presentation of a paper. In their third year students present in a public forum a research paper that contains a distinctly comparative dimension. The paper should thus concern itself with literature in more than one literary-cultural tradition or with the relation of literature to another medium, mode of art, or scholarly discipline.
CLS graduates students have to show proficiency in two languages other than their native language. A primary foreign language requires two levels of examination (reading and writing; advanced reading in no-longer-spoken languages); this requirement is normally met through graduate level course work. A secondary language requires only a single level of examination; this requirement is met through a reading exam, administered by CLS, and taken not later than the end of the fourth year.
Prospectus and Dissertation
Before qualifying to write their dissertation, students are expected to develop a dissertation proposal of about 8-10 pages. This proposal serves as the basis for the student’s prospectus, in which both the structure and the general argument of the dissertation are made apparent. The prospectus is usually around 12-15 pages, along with a detailed bibliography, and it should be completed during the fall quarter of the student’s fourth year. It is submitted to the graduate committee in CLS for review and approval.
Upon completion of the dissertation, students defend their work in a public forum.
Progress Towards the Degree
YEAR 1: Students take 3 courses each quarter, including the required theory sequence (COMP LIT 410, 411, 412). They are encouraged to start taking courses in their home department as well as literature courses in CLS. At the end of the year (or before the beginning of the Fall quarter of the second year) they take the oral exam in theory.
YEAR 2: Students start TA'ing and hence take only 2 courses each quarter, in their home department, CLS, or other graduate programs. They prepare for the home department exam and, if possible, take it by the end of the year.
YEAR 3: Students complete their coursework and continue to TA. They take their home department exam no later than the Winter quarter; they also give a public presentation of a comparative paper. By the end of the year (or before the beginning of the Fall quarter of the fourth year) they submit an 8-10 page draft prospectus to their advisor.
Students need to qualify by the end of their third year. In order to qualify, they must have completed their course work, taken the theory exam and the home department exam, and delivered their public presentation.
YEAR 4: Students either teach or are on fellowship (internal or external). By the end of the Fall quarter they should expand the prospectus proposal into a 12-15 page prospectus, along with a detailed bibliography. Upon approval of the prospectus by the CLS graduate committee students start writing their dissertation. By the end of the year, students should fulfill the language requirement.
YEAR 5: Students either teach or are on fellowship (internal or external). They continue working on their dissertation and defend it.
Note on Registration:
Students register for a minimum of 3 and maximum of 4 courses every quarter.
In years 2 and above, when students typically TA and hence do not take the full load of courses, they register for one unit of COMP_LIT 490 each quarter they teach.
After students have completed their required course work (typically in years 3 and above) they register every quarter for TGS 500 (if funded by the university) or TGS 512 (if not funded by the university), as well as one unit of COMP_LIT 490 for each course they teach.
In order to receive summer support, students need to register for Summer quarter. Student should register for 3 units of CLS 590 until he/she completes 8 quarters. After 8 quarters, if he/she is still being funded, he/she should register for TGS 500 (1 unit). If student is no longer receiving summer support, he/ she need not register for summer.
Teaching is an essential element of the education and training experience of PhD students at Northwestern. The Graduate School requires that all PhD students serve in some instructional capacity for at least one academic quarter during their graduate education at Northwestern. This teaching requirement is unique to American higher education, and is an integral aspect of professional development. TGS expects students teaching work comparable to other students within their program, and strives to ensure teaching demands are as similar as possible across academic programs.
There are three basic forms of teaching in which students participate in teaching our undergraduates: assisting with a class taught by a CLS faculty member or faculty from a related department; participating in language instruction (usually but not always the language of the “home department”); teaching a small seminar of one’s own. The mix of teaching depends on a number of factors, most especially each individual student’s evolving academic profile; but it generally includes all three of these forms.
Good Standing and Evaluation
Students’ funding depends on their being in “good academic standing,” as defined by TGS: Students cannot carry more than 2 incompletes at any given quarter and must clear all incompletes before they can advance to candidacy. They must advance to candidacy no later than the end of their 3rd year.
CLS evaluates students’ progress every year. The theory exam (at the end of the first year), the home department exam (typically in the second year) and the public presentation of a comparative paper (in the third year) are all occasions for evaluating students’ performance. In addition, at the end of their first year students are asked to submit two representative papers to the Graduate Committee; in subsequent years students are required to fill out a progress report (see below) and have it approved and signed by their advisor and/or the DGS.