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Since the founding of the graduate program in 1964, comparative literature has evolved to include not only Western cultures, both ancient and modern, but also Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic. The department, in cooperation with the various literature departments and programs, offers a wide array of courses in literature, literary theory, and cultural studies.

The faculty includes 30 members of professorial rank with appointments wholly or partly in the department. As members of a medium-sized department in a relatively small university, graduate students enjoy unusual opportunities for close contact in and outside of the classroom. Students receive close guidance, including job–search preparation. The program accommodates a wide range of individual emphases in literature and culture, periods, genres, history, criticism, and theory. We hold several colloquia, lectures, and forums each year.

Admission Requirements

  • Writing Sample: Required (10 pages maximum; we cannot read longer samples). Applicants must show high proficiency in two languages whose literatures are taught at Brown, and must also develop competence in a third language. Applicants are expected to have substantial undergraduate training in at least one national literature in addition to English.
  • GRE General: Required
  • GRE Subject: Recommended

Application Deadline: December 15

Ph.D. Completion Requirements

Fifteen courses; three languages, one of which may be the candidate's native language; four semesters of teaching; professional competence in a major literature and in two others; major literature examination; a comparative project in the third year; dissertation and defense.

Department of Comparative Literature
Brown University
Box 1935
36 Prospect Street
[email protected]

Visit the Department of Comparative Literature


Department Chair: Marc Redfield

Director of Graduate Studies: Esther Whitfield