PhD in Japanese and Comparative Literature Requirements

A PhD in Japanese is offered jointly with the Program in Comparative Literature. The focus of this program is comparison of the contents, theoretical bases, and methodologies Japanese literature and a second literature (Western or non-Western), within the context of a familiarity of the cultural context and historical background of the literatures, and the critical and historical methodology of modern literary study.

  1. Language Requirement: Students are normally required to have completed at least four years of modern Japanese language study and two semesters of classical Japanese for entrance into the PhD program. Language placement examinations are administered upon students' entrance in the program.
  2. Course Requirements: The joint PhD requires a total of 72 graduate units. Students who have completed their MA at Washington University may transfer up to 30 units; students coming with a similar MA from another American university may transfer up to 24 units. Transfer credits for students from non-American universities are treated on a case by case basis. Post MA students will take a total of 42-48 semester hours (for a total of 72 units for the PhD) including the following:
    • 12 credit units in Japanese literature including two seminars at the 500 level
    • 12 credit units in a second literature or other field to be determined in consultation with advisor.
    • 12 credit units comprising comparative literature core requirement, including Comp. Lit. 402 (Introduction to Comparative Literature) and three additional courses distributed among designated categories.  For a full description of this core, see here
    • 6-12 elective credit units which may focus on dissertation research (Comp. Lit. 590, Japan 592)
  3. Qualifying Evaluation: toward the end of the first year of the PhD program, students submit a portfolio including all research papers written for classes taken in the first semester and work in progress for the second semester as determined in consultation with the advisor and advisory committee.  Students subsequently meet with the committee to discuss the contents of the portfolio and their progress in the program.  During the discussion, the student will also be asked to describe future research goals. The second element of this qualifying evaluation assesses students' progress in their primary languages. (This will be waived in the case of native speakers of Japanese.)
  4. Foreign Language Requirement: reading knowledge on at least the research level of a third language is required. Students should select these languages in consultation with their advisory committee. Mastery of the language must be demonstrated before students undertake their comprehensive examinations.
  5. Comprehensive Examinations: near the end of formal courses, normally at the end of the third year of full-time study, students complete three Comprehensive Examinations on:

1) Major field: premodern or modern/contemporary Japanese literature,

2) Minor field: premodern Japanese literature in the case of students whose major field is modern literature; modern and contemporary Japanese literature for those whose major field is premodern, and

3) A comparative and/or theoretical field relating to the candidate's are of research specialization, defined in consultation with and approved by the advisory committee. 

To meet the requirements of the Comparative Literature Program, one of the essays included in either exam 1 or 2 above, will incorporate a comparative approach.  The examiners for this examination will include a faculty member from a second department.  In addition, the examination of the approved field, as well as the dissertation prospectus (see below), will involve a comparative element.

Following successful completion of the three examinations, students will present their dissertation prospectus in a public forum before a panel of relevant faculty.

Probation and Dismissal Policy: Refer to the EALC Probation and Dismissal Policy for details.

  1. Candidacy/ABD Status: Students enter the candidacy/ABD (All But Dissertation) stage when they have completed the following:

  • 72 graduate units which will include any dissertation research credits students are scheduled to complete
  • Completion of the Qualifying Exam
  • Completion of Language Requirements
  • Completion of MTE requirement for the Comp. Lit. component
  • Completion of the three Comprehensive Exams
  1. Dissertation: The dissertation is a core element in the PhD training process. As a major example of original research that displays the student's scholarship, command of materials, writing ability, and analytic strength, the importance of the dissertation for students' successful completion of their programs and for their future academic careers cannot be overemphasized. For this reason students should keep the following points in mind.
  • Choose the subject carefully. Precious time can be wasted by choosing a subject too large and ambitious or too small and superficial. Don't be too hasty in choosing a subject. It is better to take the time initially to research possible topics than to embark upon a topic and have to change later.
  • Choose a primary advisor carefully. This person will be your mentor during the extended period of dissertation research and writing. He or she will also be your primary mentor for the decade after you complete the dissertation, during winch you will seek jobs, apply for grants, and seek to obtain tenure. For these reasons make sure that you choose an advisor with whom you are intellectually and personally compatible.

In this department the dissertation must be of a comparative nature and must demonstrate mastery of primary and secondary materials and relevant historical, cultural and critical background in the literary traditions under study. The student works with the primary advisor and the other two members of the advisory committee. At the final stage of the dissertation process, the oral defense, the original advisory committee is expanded to five or more members (including at least two external referees) whom the Department, Committee, and Graduate School may consider appropriate.

Students should see the Graduate School for its guide on doctoral dissertations and oral examinations which describes many of the formal- and format-oriented aspects of the final dissertation preparation process.

The stages of the dissertation process are as follows:

  • Choice of topic: (see above)
  • Prospectus: once the topic is agreed upon by the student and the primary advisor, the student submits a prospectus of five to ten pages, plus a tentative table of chapter contents and a selected bibliography. This prospectus and bibliography form the basis of the topical examination.
  • Topical Examination: upon submission of the prospectus, the advisory committee meets with the student for a short oral topical examination (approximately one hour).
  • Dissertation Writing Period: students must stay in close contact with their primary advisors and committees. They must submit a written report describing the status of the dissertation three times each year (at the end of each academic semester and at the end of the summer). Conversely, the primary advisor must maintain close contact with the student, including prompt and timely written responses (normally within one month) to dissertation chapters submitted for feedback and comment. Students must submit each chapter of their dissertation to their advisors upon its completion.
  • Thesis Title, Scope and Procedure Form: the student must obtain from the Department or the Graduate School a Notice of Title, Scope, and Procedure form, which must be completed and returned to the Graduate School at least six months before the month in which degree is expected to be conferred or before the beginning of the 5th year of full-time enrollment in the Graduate School, whichever is earlier.
  • Intent to Graduate Form: Candidates must file for the semester in which they intend to graduate. Check the academic calendar on the Graduate School's website for deadline. Submit online through WebStac.
  • Oral Examination: the oral examination committee consists of the students advisory committee expanded to five or more members to include outside referees. Each member of the oral examining committee must be given a copy of the dissertation, in final form, at least two weeks before the oral examination. For details, consult the Graduate School's Doctoral Dissertation guide.