PhD in Japanese Language and Literature Requirements

The PhD in Japanese Language and Literature at Washington University provides students with a solid foundation in all periods and forms of Japanese literature while requiring expertise in one’s research concentration.  Students select a complementary minor field in a second Asian literary tradition or another area of Japanese Studies as appropriate. Given present faculty strengths, students are encouraged to focus on Japanese literature of the twentieth century, while appreciating the strong “traditionalist” current that marks much of this literature.

I.  General Degree Requirements

The primary focus of this doctoral program will be the study of classical, pre-modern, and modern Japanese literature, with a secondary focus in an appropriate minor field, bolstered by relevant methodologies.  Doctoral students will be afforded a range of teaching experiences as part of their professional training, with extensive hands-on instruction in pedagogical methodology.  Some students may have the opportunity to teach in related programs outside the Department as well.  Toward the end of their program, students will conduct research in Japan.

PhD candidates:

1)  Complete 72 hours of graduate units, which may include up to 12 hours of dissertation research credit. 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.  The total will include:

  • A maximum of 48 units from courses, comprised of seminars and advanced classes selected so as to yield a broad and deep familiarity with Japanese literary and cultural history and one’s area(s) of concentration.
  • Of the 48 required units, the following distribution will apply:
  • 9 units of required courses in literary and cultural theory, methodology, and pedagogy to be determined in consultation with advisor.  (May include CompLit 402 Introduction to Comparative Literature: Theory and Methods; Japan 537 Proseminar; Japan 573 Seminar in Japanese Language Teaching.) 
  • 6 units must comprise Japan-related courses offered through other departments and programs.  Students will either concentrate on one discipline for their secondary area or take courses from several in order to broaden their expertise.
  • 6 units must comprise courses in the literary and cultural traditions of China or Korea.

2)  Demonstrate native or near-native competence in both Japanese and English.

3)  If needed for research in the chosen area of specialization, achieve sufficient proficiency in one or more languages in addition to Japanese and English (normally French or German among the European languages, Chinese or Korean among Asian languages).

4)  Successfully complete the Qualifying and Comprehensive examinations. 

5)  Successfully complete a doctoral dissertation based on extensive research on a literary or cultural topic that produces new knowledge of publishable quality in the field of Japanese studies.  Normally dissertation research and writing is completed in the last two years of graduate study.


  • 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.)

  • 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, preferably in a single semester, on: 1) Major field: premodern or modern/contemporary Japanese literature, 2) Minor field: premodern Japanese literature in the case of students whose major field in 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 area of research specialization, defined in consultation with and approved by the advisory committee.  For guidance and preparation of their field exams, students will prepare a comprehensive bibliography.  Following successful completion of the three examinations, students will present their dissertation prospectus in a public forum before a panel of relevant faculty.

  • In conjunction with the Comprehensive Examinations, and before the beginning of the fourth year, students must submit a Dissertation Prospectus for committee approval.

Implementation Plan for the Japanese Literature PhD
Advanced level communication

In order to give our graduate students ample opportunity to experience advanced level communication, the faculty in the Japanese Literature PhD program will conduct the following:

1) require presentations in graduate-level seminars.

2) actively encourage participation (paper presentation, panel organization) in regional and national conferences, such as the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs.  In addition, we encourage participation in annual graduate-student-organized conferences (Columbia University, University of Colorado-Boulder, etc.)  We also expect our students to participate yearly in the symposium sponsored by the Comparative Literature Program.

3) in preparation for these conferences we arrange for our students to give small-group readings of their work.

4) we develop symposia and seminars on campus, and expect our students to participate actively.  We arrange for them to have lunch or otherwise interact with the guest speakers.

5) in preparation for job interviews, we arrange for our students to conduct mock interviews and job talks.

6) following committee approval of the dissertation prospectus, we require students to offer a colloquium-style presentation of the dissertation project

Probation and Dismissal Policy

Refer to the EALC Probation and Dismissal Policy for details.

II. Selection of Candidates and Admissions Criteria

Applicants for this program will be expected to have advanced proficiency in modern Japanese and a demonstrated ability to write analytically and to think critically in English.  Applicants should have completed the MA degree in: a) Japanese literature or cultural studies, b) East Asian Studies with focus on Japanese literature/culture, or c) another relevant field.  Additionally applicants will be screened for their commitment to the study of Japanese literature and culture, and their interests in areas of research strength among our faculty (early modern, modern, and contemporary Japanese literature). The Japanese Graduate Committee, comprised of tenure-line Japanese literature faculty in East Asian Languages and Cultures, will choose candidates from among applicants for recommendation to the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences.

III. Resources and Support

The Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences will provide the usual support in the form of A&S Fellowships.

Washington University has several special fellowship programs such as the Olin Fellowship for Women or the Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship Program for outstanding and diverse American students interested in careers as college or university professors. The McDonnell International Scholars Academy may also be an additional source of support for candidates in this program, given the strengths of the Academy’s connections with top-ranked Tokyo University.

IV. Language Study and Research Abroad 

The Department maintains ties with other institutions in this country and abroad where the students might carry out their advanced studies and research.  Exchange arrangements may be made with Tsukuba University near Tokyo, where students may apply for government-sponsored funding.  Faculty may also be able to assist students in making arrangements with Dôshisha University in Kyoto.