[ PhD | Master’s | undergraduate program | courses | faculty ]

110 Literature Building, (858) 534-4618

110 Literature Building, (858) 534-3217

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice. Updates may be found on the Academic Senate website:

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 scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) achieved within the past three calendar years. The Subject Test is not required.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Writing sample (twenty-five page minimum) required for all applicants.
  6. 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. Those planning to apply should take the GRE/TOEFL far enough in advance so that the scores will be available to the admissions committee in 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 200A-B-C), which has an interdisciplinary and theoretical emphasis. 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 Graduate Studies must be obtained.

The third year is spent taking seminars and preparing for the qualifying examinations. During this year, students will register for two four-unit independent study courses (298). The first 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 Graduate 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 first quarter of the third year. The adviser, in consultation with the student, will form a qualifying examination committee. The student and the qualifying examination 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 examinations, the student will take a two-hour oral 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 freshman and sophomore courses. Academic credit is granted for the training given under the apprentice teaching program.


The only grading option for literature graduate courses is Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U). Students receive written evaluations of their performance in seminars. 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

PhD students entering the program with a BA may be supported (either by employment or fellowships) for six years. Students who have an MA and have been given transfer credit may be supported for five years. Such support depends upon the funds available, the number of students eligible, and the rate of progress.

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 200A, 200B, 200C (twelve units). A required introductory theory sequence generally taken during the first year in the PhD 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.

    • Sixteen units of course work in primary literature of concentration.
    • Eight units of course work in secondary literature (in a language other than that of the student’s principal concentration).
    • 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-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 co-exists 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 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 post-baccalaureate 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: