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Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

Each student works with an ad hoc committee of three faculty members who help to design a coherent, individual program of studies. During the first two years the candidate works closely with each of his or her advisors. The course of studies, seminars, and tutorials leads to three area examinations administered by the advisory committee. During the second year, qualified students are invited to teach under faculty supervision, and on occasion advanced students have been allowed to offer undergraduate seminars of their own design.

Program in Comparative Literature

Normally, candidates for the Ph.D. in comparative literature should be competent in three national literatures and have a general familiarity with critical theory. Students in this program are encouraged to spend at least one year of study abroad, usually as members of groups working in Paris, Florence, Hamburg, Geneva, or Madrid in programs sponsored by the modern language departments and the Center. The Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures maintains regular programs of faculty exchange.

Students in the comparative literature program can apply for a joint major with the German Program in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures. They become supervised teaching assistants in that department and receive a master's degree in German upon completion of the field examinations, before the doctoral degree in comparative literature. On a more ad hoc basis, similar arrangements for well-qualified candidates can generally be made with the Department of Classics and the programs in the Romance languages and literatures.

Program in Intellectual History

The center's doctoral program also allows flexibility in the construction of a course of study in intellectual history involving comparatist and interdisciplinary approaches. Candidates should also note related special programs at Hopkins, such as the program in political theory and the research facilities of the Institute of the History of Medicine.


Upon their arrival, entering students should select, in consultation with the Director, a member of the Center's faculty to serve as their academic advisor, pro tem. As time goes on and their interests further define themselves, they may wish to change advisors and may very well wind up working most closely with faculty in another department; should this become the case, they should nevertheless meet regularly -- that is, each semester -- to discuss their progress with whomever in the Center is serving as Director of Graduate Studies.

Course Work

During their first two years, students are expected to take two seminars for credit each semester, in addition to whatever language courses they may enroll in and to whatever courses they choose to audit. They should select seminars-- which need not be restricted to Humanities Center offerings-- in consultation with their advisors. Students arriving after having taken graduate courses elsewhere should discuss with the Director of Graduate Studies the possibility of having that work counted towards satisfying the Center's course requirements.

Third-Year Review

At some point during their third year of residence-- after completing all outstanding seminar papers, and preferably by mid-year-- students will have their work reviewed by a faculty committee composed of three teachers from among the Humanities Center faculty and from among the faculty from the other departments with whom the student plans to conduct field exams. The purpose of the review is to allow the faculty to assess the student's progress, to clarify her/his status as regards remaining course work, and to define future fields. In preparation for this review, the student will circulate, in advance of the meeting, materials that the student judges to be work that will best serve the purpose of the review.

Field Examinations

Students are expected, in their third and fourth years, to complete three field exams. The purpose of requirement is two-fold: the exams may serve to help a student refine her/his thinking about a dissertation topic, or they may be a means of extending and deepening a student's knowledge of an area of studies in which s/he proposes to teach and conduct research. The examinations themselves may take a variety of forms: one could work further on a project begun in a seminar and produce a longer paper that would become part of a dissertation; one could read one's way into and across a particular field, writing a series of short papers on one's reading, or else sitting for a written or oral examination on the material studied; one could design and teach an undergraduate course in one's area of interest; one could complete the requirements for a M. A. degree in another department, as a way of strengthening one's claim to teach in that field. These are choices to be discussed with one's committee at the third-year review.

Undergraduate Teaching

During one's years at the Center one will have a number of opportunities to develop one's skills and confidence as a teacher. In the second year and thereafter, students will ordinarily serve as assistants in courses taught by the Center's faculty or, if appropriate, in courses in other departments: in the past, our students have taught in the French and German language programs, in English composition and literature courses, as well as assisting in history, philosophy and political science courses. More experienced students are encouraged to teach courses of their own invention-- as a way of completing a field exam, or in competition for one of the Dean's Teaching Fellowships, or simply to add to the Center's array of offerings.

Dissertation Review

A secondformal review of a student's work will take place after the completion of field exams, either in the fourth or in the fall semester of a student's fifth year. The aim of this review is to bring the student together with thefaculty with whom s/he will write a dissertation. This review will not take place until the student believes that s/he has a substantial piece of work associated with the dissertation, e.g., the draft of a chapter. This work will be circulated before the review, along with a prospectus of 10 - 40 pages, to the faculty the student wishes to have as dissertation advisors. (If all of these advisors are from outside the Humanities Center, one of the Center's faculty, selected by the student, will also sit in on the review.) This discussion is not intended to replace the Graduate Board Oral, which will take place after the dissertation has been completed, but will serve to mark the transition from work on the field exams to the preparation and writing of a thesis.

Departmental Presentations

Late in a student's work on a dissertation--preferably in the fifth year or the beginning of the sixth--s/he will be asked to give a talk on material from her/his dissertation to the assembled students and faculty of the Center and invited guests. The aim of this requirement is to give students experience in the more formal presentation of their work, to make possible a wider range of response to that work than a dissertation committee can provide, and to allow all students of the Center--whose research interests vary widely--to become better acquainted with each other's projects.

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