Ph.D. Comprehensive Exams

The Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies degree requires passing written and oral comprehensive exams. The written exam concentrates on 1) the candidate’s areas of specialization, and 2) three areas in world literatures and cultures. The oral exam will be focused on a defense of the candidate’s dissertation prospectus and related materials. The exams are based on the candidate’s coursework and a list of readings approved by the program director and the student’s examination committee. The exams should be taken during the last semester of required coursework or during the next spring or fall semester after that completion. Early in that semester in which the examinations will be taken, students should contact the program director to discuss the reading lists and schedule the exam. Each of the components of the comprehensive exams is graded on a pass/fail basis, and all three must be passed in order to move on to the writing of the dissertation. If failed, each of the component exams may be repeated once.

Examination Committee

Prior to developing reading lists and taking the comprehensive examinations, each student must establish an examination committee consisting of a committee chair and two other faculty committee members, subject to the approval of the program director. The examination committee will typically also serve as the student’s dissertation committee, though changes can be made with the approval of the program director.

READING LISTS

Each student in the doctoral program in the Program in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies must develop the following reading list in conjunction with his or her examination committee, subject to the approval of the program director.

Specialty Lists

Each student will prepare a list of works in each of two areas of specialization. Each area of specialization should include approximately 20-25 texts or works. The focus will be on primary works in the student’s fields of specialization, though crucial associated critical and theoretical works may be included as well. The lists must be approved by the program director and the student’s examination committee.

World Literatures and Cultures Lists

Each student will prepare readings lists in three areas in world literatures and cultures, covering different historical periods, geographical areas, or genres. These areas should be outside the student’s areas of specialization. However, minor overlaps may be acceptable. And the areas should be appropriately chosen to supplement the student’s specializations. Each of the three world literatures and cultures areas should cover approximately 15-20 primary works, though some key critical or theoretical works may be included as well. Candidates who completed the M.A. Program in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Arkansas must prepare two new areas in world literatures and cultures, though one of their areas can be repeated from that used in their MA comprehensive exams.

COMPREHENSIVE EXAM FORMAT

Each of the two written comprehensive exams will require the student to answer 1-2 essay questions in the form of a 72-hour, open-book, take-home examination. The World Literature examination questions will address the three World Literature lists together; the Specialty examination will address the two Specialty lists together. Students may take the exams in either order; however, most students will be best served by taking the World Literature essay exam first and the Specialty exam second, because the latter leads directly into the oral exam and into work on the dissertation. Unless given special approval by the program director, the two written exams should be taken within six weeks of each other. As a rough guideline, the student’s response to each of the two essay examinations should be a total of approximately 25-30 pages in length, typed and double-spaced, and should include a list of works cited within that length.

The oral exam will consist of a meeting of up to three hours between the candidate and the full examination committee. Prior to that exam, the student must submit to the committee a full dissertation prospectus, consisting of a proposed outline of the dissertation, 15-20 pages of explanatory text to support the outline, and a bibliography of associated works. Questioning in the exam will address all aspects of the prospectus and will be designed to ascertain whether the student is prepared to move forward with the actual writing of the dissertation. Unless given special approval by the program director, candidates should take the oral exam within six weeks of the completion of the written exams.

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