The Ph.D. in Slavic Languages (track in Russian Literature)

This program in Russian Literature is structured as a three-degree sequence: M.A./M.Phil./Ph.D.   Students with an equivalent M.A. from elsewhere are granted one or two Residence Units of transfer credit for their previous graduate work, at the discretion of the department, and enter the program at the M.Phil. (or advanced M.A.) level.

Please see the GSAS policy on Advanced Standing

GSAS expects all students to complete the Ph.D. program before the end of their seventh year in the program (six for students with Advenced Standing); the maximum time allowed for the satisfaction of all requirements is nine years of continuous registration (eight for students with Advanced Standing). The Slavic program makes it possible to finish in five or six years, and the Department encourages studens to do so.

This degree is a prerequisite for the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in Slavic Languages.Students should complete this portion of the program in two semesters.

Note that two Residence Units (RU) are required for the M.A. degree.


  1. Coursework: 30 points of required and/or relevant courses at the graduate level (4000 and higher), including:
  • three courses in Russian literature;
  • the Proseminar in Literary Studies (SLLT GR8001) - an introduction to critical theory and methods, to be taken during the first semester of graduate study;
  • Four points of Directed Research for the Master's Essay; to be taken with the M.A. Essay adviser, during the first year.
  • EITHER one graduate-level Russian language course, such as Practical Stylistics (RUSS GU4434), a course from the Chteniia po russkoi literature or Chteniia po russkoi kul'ture series, or any other Russian language course at the 4000 level or above; OR one Slavic linguistics course, when offered;
  • two additional elective courses. Students considering the certificate in Comparative Literature and Society should consider taking CPLS GR6100 in the first year of study; it may be counted as one of the elective courses.

All courses required for the M.A. are to be selected in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Relevant courses taken at the M.A. level count toward the distribution and other requirements for the M.Phil. One of the literature and one of the elective courses may be taken for R (registration) credit; all other courses should be taken for a letter grade.  Courses taken P/F (pass/fail) normally do not count toward the degree.

  1. Languages: Additional Russian language study at Columbia, or in summer programs elsewhere, if the Department's placement test indicates such a need.  A second Slavic language is encouraged but not required.  
  2. M.A. Essay: An independent research project (30 pages) completed under the guidance of an adviser and submitted before the end of the second semester of study. All ladder faculty of the Department evaluate the essay part of the process of confirming a student for continuation to the M.Phil degree. For further information, see M.A. Essay guidelines.


Advising:  Students in the M.A./M.Phil./Ph.D. program work closely with advisers at every stage.  The Director of Graduate Studies meets with all students pursuing the M.A. and M.Phil. in advance of each semester to discuss course selection and degree requirements, as well as throughout the academic year as the need arises. M.A. students consult with the Proseminar instructor nd the DGS to choose a specific adviser (and second reader) for the Masters Essay.  After the Masters Essay has been completed, the student selects a mentor, the faculty member who serves as a dedicated adviser until the student identifies a Dissertation Sponsor (and two additional committee members) at the completion of the M.Phil.  By the time students finish the Ph.D., most will have had the opportunity to work with all regular faculty members in the Department.

Good Standing:  To be in good academic standing in the sequential Ph.D. program, students must make demonstrable progress toward the degree, hold no more than one mark of Incomplete at any given time, and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above.  One or more course grades of B- or below will be cause for serious concern and may lead to academic probation. Departmental standards for minimum grades supersede any school-wide expectations posted on the GSAS website.

The students must apply for graduation in order to receive their MA degree. Degrees are awarded three times a year— for the schedule of conferral dates and corresponding application deadlines see:

Prerequisites for this degree are the M.A. degree in Slavic Languages (or two Residence Units in transfer credit) and formal approval by the Department.  

The GSAS rules and requirements for the M.Phil degree are set forth here:

The Slavic program enables students to complete the M.Phil. program before the end of their sixth semester of graduate study.  Those who enter the program with two RUs in transfer credit and proceed directly to the M.Phil. can complete all M.Phil. requirements before the end of their fourth semester in the program. If necessary, changes to this timetable can be worked out with the approval of the DGS and chair, but all students must meet the GSAS deadline for completion of the M.Phil., which is the end of the fourth year (third year for those with Advanced Standing).

Note that four Residence Units beyond the M.A. (for a total of six) are required for the M.Phil. degree.

For the duration of the program, each student works closely with a faculty mentor who, as a rule, is distinct from the student's M.A. adviser.

Students work in their major field as well as their minor field.


  1. Coursework:

Students take the courses needed to complete the requirements below. (They will have begun to fulfill these requirements in their coursework at the MA level)

  • Distribution requirements by historical period:
    • RUSS GR6105. Old Russian Literature, or CLSL6201, Culture of Kyivan Rus'
    • RUSS GR6040. Eighteenth-Century Russian Literature 
    • Five more courses in Russian literature of 19th and 20th - 21st cc. (3/2 split depending on interests);
  • Practical Stylistics (or equivalent); 
  • 3 courses for the Minor field (options for the Minor Field are below;
  • In addition, students take a Directed Research course for two semesters: the first to develop bibliography in the major field[s] of the prospective dissertation for the M.Phil. Major Colloquium (2 pts), and the second to prepare the dissertation prospectus/brief (2 pts).

All courses should be at the graduate level (4000 and above), should be chosen chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and should be taken for a letter grade. Elective courses may be taken for R credit. Courses taken P/F (pass/fail) normally do not count toward the degree.

Minor fields (students choose one of the options below):

  • Second Slavic literature (Czech, Polish, Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian, or Ukrainian): candidates are expected to demonstrate proficiency in the language of the chosen literature, a general knowledge of the literary tradition, and a firm grasp of one selected period, genre, or theme. One of the required courses toward this minor may be satisfied by six points of language above the elementary level.
  • Non-Slavic literature: candidates are expected to demonstrate proficiency in the language of the chosen literature, a general knowledge of the literary tradition and a firm grasp of one selected period, genre, or theme that links that literature to Russian Literature;
  • Russian history and culture: candidates are expected to take graduate-level courses in Russian history, art history, film, music, philosophy, religion, or another relevant field, and to demonstrate a general knowledge of Russian intellectual history with a focus on either a specific period or a particular discipline, as it applies to Russian culture;
  • Slavic Linguistics: candidates are expected to take CLSL GR6100 (Comparative Grammar of Slavic Languages) and other graduate-level courses in Slavic linguistics and Slavic medieval studies, as well as courses in general linguistics; one of those courses may be an advanced course in a (non-Russian) Slavic language;
  • Jewish Studies: candidates may take courses related to Jewish culture and experience offered by the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies and in a variety of departments; one of the required courses toward this minor may be satisfied by six points of language (Yiddish; Hebrew) above the elementary level.
  • Interdisciplinary minor: developed in consultation with the DGS, and with the approval of the Department. Candidates may also choose a certificate in a Center or Institute, such as the Harriman Certificate or the Graduate Certificate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality.

    2. Language (in addition to Russian): A reading knowledge of one of the following:  French, German, a second Slavic language, or another language of demonstrable importance to the student's research. Proficiency is established by departmental examination or completion of the relevant department's course in Rapid Reading and Translation with a grade of B or better.  The research language should be chosen in consultation with the DGS.

    3. Teaching requirement: Participation in the Slavic Department's instructional activities. In the second, third, and fourth years of study, students gain exposure to teaching through participation in the Department's language and literature programs.

    4. Major Field Colloquium: The student prepares for the Colloquium under the guidance of the instructor of the Directed Research course; the student develops bibliography in field[s] of the prospective dissertation and writes a 10-15-page literature review; this culminates in a 2-hour colloquium on the material with the instructor who chairs the committee, and two other relevant faculty members.

    The Major Field Colloquium should take place by the end of the fall semester of a student's third year in the program; for those with Advanced Standing, it should take place by the end of the fall of the second year.

    5. Minor Colloquium: This is the student's opportunity to exhibit the work (the "portfolio") completed in the minor field(s) and to reflect on its relationship to the major field and its role in the student's intellectual development.  Three faculty members take part in the discussion with the student. Students normally work with their mentor when preparing for the Minor Colloquium; their mentor also chairs the colloquium. (For a full description, please see the Guide to the Minor Colloquium on the Slavic Department website.) Minor Colloquium should take place before the completion of the M.Phil. requirements.

Prerequisites for this degree are an M.Phil. degree in Slavic Languages and formal approval by the Department.

GSAS expects all students to complete the Ph.D. program before the end of their seventh year of graduate study (eligibility for housing in Columbia Residential and for additional funding from GSAS or Arts and Sciences runs out then); the maximum time allowed for the satisfaction of all requirements is nine years of continuous registration.  On this GSAS policy, please see:

Students granted two RUs of advanced standing are expected to finish by the end of their sixth year (eligibility for housing and additional GSAS or Arts and Sciences funding runs out then); for these students the maximum allowable time for completing the degree is eight years of continuous registration. 

Students should take note of the GSAS rules on eligibility for funding beyond their funding packages. See:

The Slavic program is designed so that students are able to finish in five or six years, and the Department encourages students to do so. 

Each student writing a dissertation works closely with a faculty sponsor and two other faculty members who serve as second and third readers on the student's dissertation committee.

Educational goals

Students will develop an independent research project for a doctoral dissertation; produce an original work that substantially contributes to the field of Russian/Slavic studies.


  1. Dissertation Brief:

    The dissertation brief should
  • articulate the core idea of the dissertation (the questions and insights that drive it, the argument that is emerging);
  • identify the material to be drawn upon in the analysis;
  • characterize any methodological or theoretical perspectives that will be brought to bear on the material;
  • establish the scholarly significance of the study, situating it in the field(s) to which it aspires to belong;
  • outline the dissertation’s projected structure.

    Approximate length: 12 - 15 pages, exclusive of bibliography. For further specifications, see Dissertation Brief guidelines.

    The student prepares the dissertation brief under the guidance of the instructor of the Directed Research course. The course takes place in the spring semester of the third year (second for students with advanced standing).

    The candidate defends the brief before a committee consisting of the sponsor and two other faculty members whose expertise is relevant to the dissertation topic. Upon receiving their approval, the candidate proceeds with the dissertation. Students should defend the brief before the end of the third year of graduate studies; those who enter with advanced standing should do so before the end of the second year in the program. For GSAS policy and deadlines on the Defense of the Prospectus, please see:


    Beginning in the semester after defending their brief, students will meet once each semester with their sponsor and at least one other member of their Dissertation committee to review and discuss progress on the dissertation. For this process and the timetable, see:

    Every year, students also present their work at a Dissertation Workshop in the department.

    Students should complete, distribute, defend, and deposit their dissertation according to the deadlines and regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as set forth here:

    and here:

    For guidance on all aspects of the Dissertation, students should use the GSAS Dissertation Tool Kit: