The Ph.D. in Slavic Languages (track in Russian Literature with a Certificate in Comparative Literature) (effective fall 2020)

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 GSAS policy on Advanced Standing

According to GSAS rules, students are expected to complete the Ph.D. program before the end of their seventh year of graduate study; the maximum time allowed for the satisfaction of all requirements is nine years of continuous registration.  The current program makes it possible to finish in five or six years, and the Department encourages students to do so.

The DGS, in consultation with chair, may adjust a timetable for students with Advanced Standing within the limits of the GSAS requirements (see the table below):

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. The quality of the essay is essential for the continuation of the graduate studies. All ladder faculty of the Department have to approve the essay as sufficient for the degree.   For further information, see M.A. Essay guidelines.



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 and 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.

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/

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 current program allows 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. Changes to the suggested timetable can be worked out with the help of the DGS.

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

Three years of participation in the Slavic Department's instructional activities. As a rule, 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.

Students are expected to complete the Ph.D. program before the end of their seventh year of graduate study; the maximum time allowed for the satisfaction of all requirements is nine years of continuous registration.  Students granted two RUs of advanced standing are expected to finish by the end of year six; for these students the maximum allowable time to completion is eight years of continuous registration.

For the duration of the program, each student 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 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.


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. Students should complete, defend, and deposit their dissertation no later than required by the regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. See:

Dissertation distribution, defense, and deposition: see

Defense committee: In addition to the student’s Dissertation committee, the Defense committee includes two external examiners/readers, one of whom can be from the department and another must be from outside the department; they are chosen by the sponsor, in consultation with the student.

Distribution: final copies of the dissertation are to be distributed to five members of the Defense committee no later than four weeks before the defense.

Defense is scheduled by the Department at least two weeks prior to the intended date. No defense shall be scheduled until the dissertation sponsor and Department chair or the DGS have signed the defense application. The defense normally lasts two hours. Resultantly, members of the Defense committee cast their votes in one of four categories: “Approved as Submitted,” “Approved Pending Revisions,” “Referred,” or “Fail.” If a dissertation receives two votes in the “Referred” and/or “Fail” categories, it is submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for review.

Revision: Students who receive a vote of “Approved Pending Revisions” are given a maximum of six months to complete these revisions and deposit their dissertation.

Deposition: Dissertation has to be properly formatted according to the GSAS Formatting Guidelines and uploaded to the Electronic Deposit Gateway. Prior to the deposition, the student has to receive the approval to deposit from the sponsor and Department chair or the DGS.