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

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

Please see GSAS policy on Advanced Standing

This degree is a prerequisite for the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees. Students normally complete this portion of the program in two or three semesters. 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, normally during the third semester;
  • 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, such as Introduction to Old Church Slavonic (SLLN GU4005), History of the Russian Literary Language (RUSS GR6225), or Structure of Modern Standard Russian (RUSS GR6021);
  • 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). 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 or progress examination indicates such a need.

M.A. Essay 

An independent research project (30 - 60 pages) completed under the guidance of an adviser and submitted before the end of the third semester of study. 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. At the end of their first semester, 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: 


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. Students are expected to complete the M.Phil. program before the end of their eighth semester of graduate study. Those who enter the program with two RUs in transfer credit and proceed directly to the M.Phil. must complete all M.Phil. requirements before the end of their sixth semester in the program. 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.



at least 30 points beyond the M.A. degree. Specific requirements are as follows:

• four courses in Russian literature for a letter grade;

• Practical Stylistics (RUSS GU4434), if not taken at the M.A. level;

• 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

Two additional elective courses. 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.


Proficiency in two additional languages of demonstrable importance to the student's research. These research languages should be chosen in consultation with the Directors of Graduate Studies in both programs.

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.

M.Phil. Examination

Students are expected to take the qualifying examination for the M.Phil. degree during their fourth year of graduate study, preferably at the beginning of the seventh semester; students with transfer credit who enter the program at M.Phil. level are expected to take the comprehensive exam during their third year in the program, preferably at the beginning of the fifth semester. The examination is conducted by a board of three examiners, 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. The student works with the relevant committee member to develop the topic and reading list for each field. The written examination entails timed responses to four questions, two on the topic of the major field and one question on each of the minor field topics. Approximately one week after the written examination, the student meets with the committee for the oral portion of the examination, which lasts up to two hours. The written portion of the examination serves as the point of departure for a discussion that ranges across the three areas of study.

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 Research Seminar

A required two semester seminar meant to facilitate the preparation and defense of the dissertation brief and the transition to dissertation research and writing. All students should enroll in it for R credit, preferably in the fourth year (year three for students who enter with advanced standing).

Dissertation brief

Students are advised to review the ICLS guidelines for developing a dissertation project that is in some sense comparative:

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.

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:

Students must defend the brief before the end of the fourth year of graduate studies; those who enter with advanced standing must do so before the end of the third 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 internal committee to review and discuss a dissertation chapter. Students should complete, defend, and deposit their dissertation in accordance with the regulations of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, normally by the end of the seventh year of graduate study; those who enter with advanced standing should complete, defend, and deposit the dissertation by the end oftheir sixth year in the program.