The Ph.D. in Slavic Languages (track in Russian 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 the second semester; they can continue taking courses during their third semester.

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 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. 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.


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


  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 (4 pts)
    • RUSS GR6040. Eighteenth-Century Russian Literature (4 pts)
    • Five more courses in Russian literature of 19th and 20th - 21st cc. (3/2 split depending on interests);
  • Practical Stylistics (or equivalent); 
  • Courses for the Minor field (3 courses);
  • In addition, students take a Directed Research course for two semesters -- one to develop bibliography in the major field[s] of the prospective dissertation for the M.Phil. Major Colloquium (2 pts), and another to prepare the dissertation prospectus/brief (2 pts).

All courses should be 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

  • 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;
  • Interdisciplinary minor: developed in consultation with the DGS, and with the approval of the Department.
  1. 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.
  2. Teaching requirement:
    Three years of participation in the Slavic Department's instructional activities. As a rule, in the second, third, and fourth years of study, students gain exposure to teaching through participation in the Department's language and literature programs.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 be held 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.

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.

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 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.
  1. Dissertation

    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:
  2. 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.