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Literature Department and PhD Program Overview

Updated September 2020

The Literature Department is governed by a Chair and Vice-Chair, elected by the ladder-rank faculty.  They are advised and assisted in their duties by an Executive Committee of elected representatives of the ladder-rank faculty.

The Department of Literature is comprised of four specializations (for the purposes of graduate study): Literatures in English, Literatures in Spanish, Literature/Cultural Studies, and Comparative Literature.  Although all students receive a Ph.D. in Literature, each of these specializations has its own set of requirements that students must fulfill to earn the degree.  Each section’s faculty is responsible for ensuring that courses are included in the yearly curriculum that will aid students in fulfilling these requirements.

Below is an overview of the department-wide resources, policies, and procedures that apply to the PhD Program.

Faculty Advisors

The Department Chair appoints the faculty member who serves as the Director of Doctoral Studies and the faculty members who serve as Section Heads and Graduate Advisors for each section.

Students enter the program in a particular specialization.  For the first phase of their study (until they begin to prepare to qualify), they are advised by the Section Head and/or Graduate Advisor for their specialization, as well as the Director of Doctoral Studies. 

Once students constitute their Doctoral Committee (see “Program: Year 2” for more information), their primary advisor(s) become the Chair or Co-Chairs of their Doctoral Committee.  The Doctoral Committee Chair or Co-Chairs serve as the primary reader(s) of the dissertation manuscript.  They also supervise the overall progress to degree, oversee the qualifying exam process, arrange and conduct the dissertation defense, and offer advice about the job search.

Literature Doctoral Student Committee (LDSC)

The Literature Doctoral Student Committee (LDSC) is a student-only departmental committee that represents all Literature PhD students.  The LDSC consists of six members, including one Chair, one Co-Chair, and four representatives—one from each section of the PhD program in Literature (Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, English, and Spanish).

All members have a vote in the LDSC business.  In the event of a tie, the LDSC Chair will cast the deciding vote.  The LDSC meets at least once each quarter during the academic year and can be called into special session by the LDSC Chair or by petition of any three PhD students in Literature.  All PhD students in the Department are allowed to attend LDSC meetings.

The LDSC represents student interests concerning all Departmental policy decisions that affect PhD students.  It also makes suggestions on graduate seminar offerings.  It takes the responsibility, when necessary, of asking the Department Chair to modify section offerings to accommodate student needs (based on a survey of student opinions).

The LDSC appoints two of its members to serve as non-voting representatives on the faculty Doctoral Affairs Committee (DAC) and to convey LDSC concerns to the Director of Doctoral Studies (DDS) and to the DAC in its quarterly meetings.  However, the two LDSC representatives will be recused from participation when the DAC meetings discuss doctoral student awards, grants, fellowships, and other financial support and employment issues.

The LDSC Chair may be invited to attend the Executive Committee (EC) meetings when discussions concern matters affecting doctoral students.  The LDSC Co-Chair may be invited to attend the EC meeting as an alternate if the LDSC Chair is not available to attend.  However, the LDSC Chair and Co-Chair have no voting privileges in such meetings and will not be invited when the EC meetings discuss doctoral student awards, grants, fellowships, and other financial support and employment issues.

PhD Program Overview

The Department of Literature Ph.D. Program is interdisciplinary in focus, although students may write dissertations on any topic or in any field in which members of the faculty do research.  The Program allows students a large measure of independence; at the same time it encourages a community of scholar-critics whose concerns are not restricted to any single literature or critical tradition.

The years in the Literature Ph.D. Program are approached with the following three distinct purposes:

Year 1Acquire the breadth of knowledge foundational to Ph.D.-level work.  In this timeframe, students come to know the faculty, their research areas and methods.  During this first year, students take six seminars.  In the course of these seminars, they complete the required theory sequence and they make progress on the historical breadth and language requirements

Year 2Begin to define their own specialized research interests.  During the second year, students take six seminars.  In the course of these seminars, they complete the historical breadth and language requirements.  During this time, they also begin to identify their own specialized interests to prepare for the more focused study of Year 3.  This includes forming their Doctoral Committee, creating their reading lists and research paper abstract, and holding their Pre-Qualifying Meeting.

Year 3:  Further define the focus of their research and prepare for the qualifying examinations.  In the beginning of the third year, students will write their qualifying research paper.  For most of the third year, students will be completing required courses, taking additional seminars, and preparing for the qualifying examinations.  At the end of the third year, students will complete their qualifying exams.

Years 4, 5, & 6:  Research and write the dissertation.  The dissertation defense is held by the end of Year 6.

 

Literature Graduate Seminars

Each student in a graduate seminar will participate by doing at least one project, such as an oral presentation, bibliographical work, seminar paper, or other similar project.  The specific nature of the project(s) is set by the instructor and announced in advance.  Seminar papers must be submitted before the end of the quarter, and they should be relevant to the material covered in the seminar and not "recycled" from previous seminars.

Students must strive to keep up with seminar readings, assignments, and papers.  Failure to submit seminar papers in the quarter they are due will result in an “F” grade.  Likewise, erratic attendance and failing to complete readings and other assignments may result in an “F” grade.

Specialization Requirements

Students are admitted to the doctoral program in a particular specialization (also referred to as their “section”): Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, Literatures in English, or Literatures in Spanish.  There are corresponding “PhD Requirements Worksheets” for use in monitoring academic progress.  They can be found on the “Forms” page of the website.  Students should maintain an accurate record of their course completion.  It is expected that students will meet with the PhD Coordinator each quarter to review their up-to-date PhD Worksheet and plan their next quarter’s registration.  The PhD Coordinator will confirm that courses have been applied to the requirements accurately and alert the student to any need for course petitions.  Students who do not keep an up-to-date PhD Worksheet (and receive the PhD Coordinator’s confirmation of accuracy) risk failing to qualify on time.  The PhD Worksheet must be finalized and approved prior to completion of the qualifying examinations.

  • COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
    18 seminars
    • 3 seminars: Introductory theory sequence (LTTH 210ABC)
    • 4 seminars in primary literature *
    • 2 seminars in literature in secondary language *
    • 1 seminar in literature in tertiary language *
    • 4 seminars in theory (LTTH), cultural studies (LTCS), literature in the secondary or tertiary language, comparative literature (LTCO), or composition studies (LTWR)*
    • 2 independent study courses (LTCO 298) in preparations for the qualifying examinations
    • 2 seminars open to choice *
    • Two of the eighteen seminars above must also fulfill the Historical Breadth requirement (texts or cultural practices prior to 1800)

      * At least four of the courses taken in any of these categories must be in Comparative Literature (designated LTCO). The two LTCO 298 courses taken in preparation for the qualifying exam do not count towards this total.  LTCO seminars used to fulfill primary literature, literature in secondary language and/or literature in tertiary language must be substantially focused upon the relevant language and deal with materials in the original.
  • CULTURAL STUDIES
    18 seminars
    • 3 seminars: Introductory theory sequence (LTTH 210ABC)
    • 5 seminars in cultural studies or theory (LTCS)
    • 4 seminars in primary literature
    • 2 seminars in literature in secondary language
    • 2 independent study courses (LTCS 298) in preparation for the qualifying examinations
    • 2 seminars open to choice
    • Two of the eighteen seminars above must also fulfill the Historical Breadth requirement (texts or cultural practices prior to 1800)
  • LITERATURES IN ENGLISH
    18 seminars
    • 3 seminars: Introductory theory sequence (LTTH 210ABC)
    • 4 seminars in primary literature (LTEN)
    • 2 seminars in literature in secondary language
    • 4 seminars in theory (LTTH), cultural studies (LTCS), literature in the secondary language, comparative literature (LTCO), or composition studies (LTWR)
    • 2 independent study courses (LTEN 298) in preparation for the qualifying examinations
    • 3 seminars open to choice
    • Two of the eighteen seminars above must also fulfill the Historical Breadth requirement (texts or cultural practices prior to 1800)
  • LITERATURES IN SPANISH
    18 seminars
    • 3 seminars: Introductory theory sequence (LTTH 210ABC)
    • 4 seminars in primary literature (LTSP)
    • 2 seminars in literature in secondary language
    • 4 seminars in theory (LTTH), cultural studies (LTCS), literature in the secondary language, comparative literature (LTCO), or composition studies (LTWR)
    • 2 independent study courses (LTSP 298) in preparation for the qualifying examinations
    • 3 seminars open to choice
    • Two of the eighteen seminars above must also fulfill the Historical Breadth requirement (texts or cultural practices prior to 1800)
Transferring Specializations (or “Sections”)

If a student finds compelling reasons why they want to request a change to a different specialization, they must successfully complete one year of graduate study before petitioning to change.  They would need to write a detailed statement of purpose which explains their reasons for requesting the change.  They will also need to collect written statements from three faculty from the new section: one stating their commitment to work with the student as the Doctoral Committee Chair and two stating their commitment to work with the student as members of the Doctoral Committee.  These written statements must accompany a Transfer Section Petition and be submitted to the PhD Coordinator.  See the “Forms” page of the website.

Critical Gender Student Specialization

The Department also has a partnership with the Critical Gender Studies (CGS) program on campus.  Students whose research focus overlaps with the research within the CGS program may add a CGS specialization on their PhD degree.  The degree would be named “Literature with a Specialization in Critical Gender Studies.”  Students who would like to pursue this option will still need to choose a Literature PhD specialization (Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, Literatures in English, or Literatures in Spanish) and complete all the requirements for that PhD.  In addition, they would need to complete a supplementary set of requirements for the CGS specialization, with a maximum of two course overlapping with their Literature PhD requirements.   Already-admitted Literature PhD students will apply to the CGS specialization through the CGS program’s website (http://cgs.ucsd.edu/graduate-specialization/admission.html).  If admitted, they will work with the CGS Program Coordinator to complete those requirements.  The CGS Program Coordinator will work with the Literature PhD Coordinator to process the addition of the specialization and validate the completion of the requirements for the purposes of graduation.

Teaching Requirement

The Department requires that each Ph.D. student acquire apprentice teaching experience before completing the degree.  The minimum amount required is three academic quarters of 50% teaching assistantships.  This teaching, with the guidance and support of a supervising professor, includes conducting discussion sections and related activities in a variety of undergraduate courses.  Academic credit is granted for the training given under the apprentice teaching program (4 units of credit towards the 12 unit minimum for each quarter).  Most students enrolled in the Literature Department Ph.D. program can expect to teach in one of the college writing programs or in the language or linguistics programs.  See the “Financial Support” portion of the handbook for more information.

NOTE:  If you are teaching in the Revelle College Humanities Program, HUM 200 may be required; however, HUM 200 does not count towards the Literature PhD seminar requirements.  If you are teaching in the Eleanor Roosevelt College Making of the Modern World Program, MMW 200 may be required; however, MMW 200 does not count towards the Literature PhD seminar requirements.

Qualifying Examination

In a narrow sense, the exam determines whether or not the student is qualified to produce the sort of original research required for the doctoral dissertation.  From a broader perspective, the qualifying exam marks a turning point in a graduate career, as students complete their course work and move closer toward becoming members of the profession. 

As future faculty members of research universities, students will be required to teach and publish.  Thus, the exams are designed to enable students to demonstrate substantial knowledge in fields that they may draw on for future teaching, and to demonstrate their ability to conduct independent research and to write a paper of publishable length with a sustained argument. 

The Director of Doctoral Studies sponsors an annual colloquium, usually held in the winter or spring quarter, devoted to answering student questions about the qualifying examination.  At this event, advanced graduate students answer questions about the exam process.

Dissertation

The last written requirement before receiving the Ph.D. is the presentation of a suitable dissertation.  This may be a critical and scholarly study of a single subject or it may consist of two or more integrally related essays.  While there is no prescribed (or proscribed) length, the usual length is 40,000 to 50,000 words.

For examples and as guides to conceiving a dissertation, students may consult dissertations previously completed in the Department.  These are filed in the Special Collections area of Geisel Library.

PhD Program Advising
(858) 534-3217
litgrad@ucsd.edu

Director of Doctoral Studies
Daisuke Miyao

Doctoral Affairs Committee
2020-2021

Daisuke Miyao (Chair)
Hoang Nguyen
Dan Vitkus