The Ph.D. in Slavic Languages (track in Russian Literature with a Certificate in Comparative 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 (Transfer Credit):

GSAS expects students to complete the Ph.D. program before the end of their seventh year in the program (six for students with Advanced 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 students to do so.

This degree is a prerequisite for the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in Slavic Languages. Students must complete their MA essay by the end of their second semester; they can continue taking courses during their third semester.

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



30 points at the graduate level (numbered 4000 and above), 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 completion of 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 course in Slavic Linguistics, when offered;
  • two additional elective courses. Note that ICLS encourages students to take Introduction to Comparative Literature and Society (CPLS GR6100) for a letter grade during the first year of study; this course may be counted as one of the electives for the M.A. in Russian Literature.

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.


Additional Russian language study at Columbia, or in summer programs elsewhere, if the Department's placement indicates such a need.

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. For further information, see M.A. Essay guidelines.  All ladder faculty of the Department evaluate the essay as part of the process of confirming a student for continuation to the M.Phil. degree.



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.  At the end of their first semester, M.A. students consult with the Proseminar instructor and the DGS to identify an adviser for the Masters Essay.  Once the project is under way, a second reader is chosen.  After the Masters Essay has been completed, the student, in consultation with the DGS, selects a mentor, 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 several faculty members in the Department.

Students pursuing the Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society must consult regularly with the Director of Graduate Studies in ICLS as well.  Detailed information about ICLS Certificate requirements and the ICLS worksheet for tracking progress to the Certificate are available at: literature-track/

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.

Degree: 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. in Slavic Languages (or two Residence Units in transfer credit) and formal approval by the Slavic Department and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

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

The 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 toward a Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society. Note that four Residence Units beyond the M.A. (for a total of six) are required for the M.Phil. degree.



Students should take those of the required courses below that were not taken at the MA level:

  • Five courses in Russian literature of 19th and 20th-21st cc. (3/2 split depending on interests);    
  • Practical Stylistics (RUSS GU4434);
  • All courses (minimum of six) required for the Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society for a total of 20-24 points (12 of which must be taken for a letter grade) at the graduate level (4000 and higher), including: 
    • (1) Introduction to Comparative Literature and Society (CPLS GR6100) for a letter grade, preferably during the first year of graduate study;
    • (2) two doctoral seminars in comparative topics with CPLS designation (one for a letter grade);
    • (3) two courses (one for a letter grade) in a language other than Russian, reading texts in their original language (even when class is conducted in English);
    • (4) one seminar on literature and/or literary theory with a CPLS designation.
  • Directed research (2 points) in fall of third year to develop bibliography in field[s] of study for the ICLS Certificate, at least one of which should be relevant to the prospective dissertation. Leads to the Colloquium in the Major and Two Minor Fields (see below).
  • Directed research (2 points) in spring of third year with sponsor to prepare the dissertation prospectus/brief. Leads to the defense of the Dissertation brief (see below).

Students should work closely with the DGS of both Slavic and Comparative Literature and Society in choosing their courses and in determining which courses taken to fulfill the requirements for the primary field may also count toward the requirements for the certificate, as well as which of the certificate courses may be used to satisfy requirements for the M.Phil. in Russian literature.


As required for the Certificate in Comparative Literature.

Teaching requirement

Participation in the Slavic Department's instructional activities. Students gain exposure to teaching by participating in the Department's language and literature programs during the second, third, and fourth years of study.

Colloquium in the Major and Two Minor Fields

The student prepares for the Colloquium under the guidance of the instructor of the Directed Research course taken in the fall of the third year (in the fall of the second year for students with advanced standing);; the student develops bibliography in the fields of study, including that of the prospective dissertation, and writes literature reviews; this culminates in a 2-hour colloquium with three faculty members, chosen in consultation with the DGS of both Slavic and ICLS to correspond to the student’s three fields (the major and the two minors).  At least one member of the committee must be ICLS affiliated faculty.


Prerequisites for this degree are an M.Phil. degree in Slavic Languages with a certificate in Comparative Literature and Society and formal approval by the Slavic 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. 

A 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.   Either the sponsor or second reader must be ICLS-affiliated faculty.


Dissertation brief

Students are advised to review the ICLS guidelines for developing a dissertation project that is in some sense comparative: prospectus-review-and-defense-concentration- certificate/

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. The defended brief must then be submitted to ICLS for the dissertation prospectus review.  Note that ICLS has specific formatting requirements for the submission of the prospectus.

Please review the detailed instructions on the ICLS website: prospectus-review-and-defense-concentration- certificate/

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 a dissertation progress.   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.


For guidance on all aspects of the Dissertation, please set the GSAS Dissertation Tool Kit: