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All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Graduate Program

Doctoral Degree Program

The department offers a single PhD in literature with concentrations in any of the fields in which members of the department do research. The CPhil (Candidate in Philosophy) is conferred upon all students who pass the qualifying examination and are advanced to candidacy. PhD students in the doctoral program may also qualify for the MA upon completion of their qualifying examinations. Applicants seeking only an MA are not accepted.


The following are requirements for admission to graduate study in literature:

  1. A baccalaureate or a master’s degree with a major in literature or a related field. Official transcripts required.
  2. Satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) achieved within the past two calendar years is required for international applicants.
  3. Competence in reading, understanding and interpreting both literary and critical texts as well as the ability to follow seminar discussions in a second language and, for comparative literature students, in a third language as well.
  4. Writing sample (twenty-five page minimum) required for all applicants.
  5. Minimum of three letters of reference.

Completed applications and supporting materials must be received by the deadline posted on the department website ( for admission to the following fall quarter. International applicants planning to apply should take the TOEFL far enough in advance so that the scores will be available to the admissions committee in early December.

Please refer to the department website ( for specific guidelines.

Course of Study

Formal study begins with course work including a three-quarter introductory sequence (Literature/Theory 210A-B-C), which has an interdisciplinary and theoretical emphasis. LTTH 210A-B are required to be taken in the first year of the program, while LTTH 210C is required to be taken in the first three years of the program. During the first three years, the course of study will include at least four seminars in one literature and two in another (students in comparative literature must take at least one seminar in a third literature); at least four seminars drawn from offerings in literary theory, the second or a third literature, cultural studies, comparative literature, or composition studies; and five additional seminars open entirely to the student’s choice (four for students in comparative literature). Such “open” seminars should generally be related to the intended dissertation field. At most, two seminars offered in other campus departments may be substituted for any of the latter group, with the adviser’s permission. Students must also fulfill a historical breadth requirement by completing two seminars dealing with texts or cultural practices prior to 1800. For students with MAs the initial three-year sequence may be reduced, depending on previous course work and on the students’ plans for doctoral study.

Students in comparative literature must take four of the above-described seminars in comparative literature or in other sections, provided that they be clearly comparative in nature. Comparative literature seminars taken for the first, second, or third literature requirement must be substantially focused upon the relevant language and deal with materials in the original.

Students wishing to take these courses in a literature for which seminars are not regularly offered may substitute independent study courses (298) or undergraduate courses enhanced by additional assignments. To do so, students must demonstrate through prior course work that they have already attained graduate-level competency in the literature and language in question. Approval from the comparative literature graduate adviser and the director of doctoral studies must be obtained.

The second and third years are spent taking seminars and preparing for the qualifying examinations. During these years, students will constitute their doctoral committees and register for two four-unit independent study courses (298). The first independent study course will be used to prepare reading lists for the subject-area qualifying examinations and the second will focus on the long paper required for the qualifying examinations.

The qualifying examination is usually taken during the ninth quarter of enrollment. It must be completed by the end of the tenth quarter. The fourth, fifth, and sixth years will be devoted to preparation of the dissertation.

Students may write dissertations in any of the fields in which members of the department do research. These fields may include English, American, French, German, Italian, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Chicano, Asian American, and African American literature, comparative literature, literary theory, women’s studies, cultural studies, early modern studies, and composition studies.

Language Requirements

Graduate students are expected to read literary and secondary texts and to follow seminar discussions or lectures in a second language (a language other than the one in which the literature of their intended specialization is written). Students in comparative literature should have in-depth knowledge of a second and third language.

To satisfy the language requirements, students must demonstrate language proficiency via completion of two graduate seminars in the literature of the second language. In addition, comparative literature students must complete one seminar in the literature of the third language. With the approval of the director of doctoral studies, students may satisfy the language requirement by substituting an upper-division undergraduate course enhanced by additional assignments (grade of A must be received). If upper-division courses are not available, students may take independent study courses (298) in the language. These options are only allowed when there is no graduate seminar offered in the chosen language.

Students must pass an examination in reading, interpretation, and translation in each of the two (or three in the case of comparative literature) courses taken to satisfy the second language requirement. The language requirements must be satisfied prior to the qualifying examination.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students should choose a PhD adviser no later than the second quarter of the second year. The adviser, in consultation with the student, will form a doctoral committee. The student and the doctoral committee will jointly determine the nature of the long research paper (approximately thirty pages) and the two areas of specialization on which the student will be examined in writing. After satisfactory completion of the paper and the written qualifying examinations, the student will take a two-hour oral qualifying examination. On passing the oral examination, the student is declared eligible for advancement to candidacy for the PhD. The CPhil is conferred upon successful advancement. Students may also be eligible for the MA upon advancement, if no previous graduate degrees have been awarded in the same field.

Students whose preparation for the qualifying examinations or whose performance during the course of the qualifying examinations is deemed unsatisfactory, will not be permitted to continue in the graduate program.


The department requires that each PhD student participate in apprentice teaching before the completion of the degree; the minimum amount required is equivalent to the duties expected of a half-time teaching assistant for three academic quarters. This teaching involves conducting, with the guidance and support of a supervising professor, discussion sections and related activities in a variety of undergraduate courses. Academic credit is granted for the training given under the apprentice teaching program.


The only grading option for literature graduate courses is a letter grade. Upper-division undergraduate courses must be taken for a letter grade; students must receive a grade of A to maintain acceptable graduate status and continuation of funding.

Departmental PhD Time Limit Policies

Students must be advanced to candidacy by the tenth quarter of study. Departmental normative time is six years. Total registered time at UC San Diego cannot exceed eight years.

Financial Support

All applicants who are admitted to the doctoral program will be provided a financial support letter, which details what support the program is guaranteeing. The support may come in the form of guaranteed teaching assistant positions on campus, other forms of campus employment, non-employment financial awards, or any combination of the three. As the actual financial support package for each admitted student may vary, applicants should refer to the financial support package letter that they received upon being admitted.

Specialization in Critical Gender Studies

Students in the doctoral program in literature may apply for a specialization in critical gender studies to complement their course work and research in literature.

The Critical Gender Studies Program is built on the intellectual foundations of intersectional feminist thought and queer studies, and incorporates the interdisciplinary methodologies, intersectional frameworks, and transformational epistemologies central to contemporary gender and sexuality studies. The graduate specialization in critical gender studies provides specialized training in gender and sexuality for students currently enrolled in a UC San Diego doctoral program. Through advanced course work in critical gender studies and its affiliated departments, graduate students in the specialization develop an understanding of gender as necessarily linked to other social formations, including sexuality, race, nation, religion, (dis)ability, and structures of capital. At the same time, doctoral students engaging gender and sexuality studies have the opportunity to develop their work among peers who take up similar questions in their scholarship.

Admitted students are required to complete five courses in addition to their home department’s core requirements, consisting of two core courses and three electives. The core courses are Advanced Studies in Critical Gender Studies (CGS 200), to be taken shortly after admission to the specialization, and Practicum in Critical Gender Studies (CGS 299), to be taken in the student’s final two years of dissertation writing. Electives may be chosen from a list of preapproved seminars in participating departments (students may petition other courses with significant gender/sexuality studies content) and may be taken at any time during the student’s tenure at UC San Diego. Admitted students must also include at least one member of their dissertation committee from the list of CGS core or affiliate faculty.

For more information about the graduate specialization in critical gender studies, please visit

Master’s Degree Program

Please note: Although PhD students complete the course requirements for an MA during the PhD program and will be awarded the MA if eligible, we do not admit students into a terminal master’s degree program in literature.

The requirement for the MA is completion of forty-eight total units distributed as follows and passing the comprehensive exam:

1. LTTH 210A-B-C (twelve units). A required introductory theory sequence generally taken during the first year in the PhD program, although LTTH 210C may be taken in any of the first three years in the program.

2. Twenty-eight units of graduate seminars. Students may take a maximum of twelve units of enhanced upper-division course work, when graduate seminars are not available in student’s specialization. A maximum of eight units may be taken outside of the Department of Literature.

    • Twenty-four units of graduate-level course work (200-level or higher) to fulfill the primary and secondary literature concentrations. The course of study must be approved by the faculty adviser.
    • Four units of course work open to the student’s choice.

3. Eight units of guided research (LTXX 298), culminating in an acceptable written and oral comprehensive examination.

Master of Fine Arts Program

The master of fine arts (MFA) in writing is a two- to three-year residency program that offers interdisciplinary approaches to verbal art. Its cross-genre curriculum allows students to explore poetry and prose and encourages the exploration of writing that falls between or beyond genre categories. The program is also distinguished by a commitment to community building, nontraditional forms of literary distribution, investigation of experimental aesthetics, and the relationships between formal innovation and ethical intervention. In that same spirit, the MFA Program in Writing values and promotes alternative pedagogy (including cross-genre studio/theory workshops), literary translation, and transborder exchange. With its diversity of methodologies, small artist cohorts, close working relationships with faculty mentors, and a collegial atmosphere, UC San Diego’s program is unique in the MFA landscape.

The MFA program is small, with typically four to eight new students admitted each year. The intimate nature of the program allows students to work very closely with the writing faculty, as well as to receive support in the form of research assistantships and/or teaching assistantships.

The MFA in writing is part of the Department of Literature, which also offers a doctoral program in literature that emphasizes cultural studies, gender studies, postcoloniality, and critical theory. The MFA is a terminal degree and has no progressive relation to the PhD program.

The MFA program coexists with a thriving undergraduate writing major, and benefits from a long-established reading series and the university’s Archive for New Poetry, which holds the papers of Rae Armantrout, George Oppen, Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe, Alice Notley, James Schuyler, Ron Silliman, and many other important figures. With strong ties to the Departments of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance, and Music, and situated at one of the top-rated science campuses in the country, the program encourages its students to generate writing informed by other disciplines and media. In recognition of the diverse community we serve, our location on the border with Mexico, and the resources offered by our faculty, we look forward to offering bilingual workshops in Spanish and English as the program develops.

The MFA Program in Writing offers students a unique opportunity to develop as writers in a community that integrates a multiplicity of collaborative, interdisciplinary, and theoretical approaches by which to complete a literary project.


The graduate program in writing is designed to be completed in two to three years. The MFA is awarded upon the satisfactory completion of at least six quarters of registration, seventy-two units of required course work, a preliminary reading or presentation after the first year, a completed manuscript or project, and a final reading or presentation.

  1. LTTH 250 and LTTH 255 (eight units).
  2. Four to twelve units of graduate seminars in literature (or, with permission, upper-division courses or guided independent study in literature).
  3. Four to twelve units of graduate-level courses (or, with permission, upper-division courses or guided independent study) in either an art practice or theory outside of literature (this could be in the Departments of Visual Arts, Music, or Theatre) or in graduate seminars offered by the Department of Literature in a language other than English.
  4. Twenty units of LTWR 215 Cross-Genre Workshop.
  5. Four to twenty-four units of apprentice teaching at UC San Diego.
  6. Eight to twelve units of guided thesis research culminating in an acceptable manuscript.

Additional program information available at the department website (


The following are requirements for admission to the MFA program:

  1. A baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education, with training comparable in standard and content to that provided by the University of California. Official transcripts are required.
  2. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 in course work completed in the final two years of undergraduate study and any postbaccalaureate study.
  3. Satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (if applicable).
  4. Writing sample.
  5. Three letters of recommendation.

Completed applications and supporting materials must be received by the application deadline. Additional information is available at the department website