Literature Track

Courses in Russian, Polish, Czech and other Slavic/East European literatures are taught by accomplished faculty with a broad variety of specializations, from medieval Slavic literature and the classic realist novel and modernist poetry up to current cultural production in post-communist societies. Our program emphasizes the place of literary texts in deep cultural history and the development of critical theory in Eastern and Central Europe. The standard time-frame for successful completion of the PhD is six years.

Requirements to qualify for the Ph.D. program

Nine quarter courses (including Proseminar in Literary Theory and Methods and at least three courses in the literature of specialization) and a comprehensive examination in the literature of specialization. This exam serves as a Qualifying Examination for admission to the Ph.D. program. Advanced proficiency in the principal Slavic language (according to the ACTFL scale) and an exam demonstrating a reading knowledge of French or German are required.

The Qualifying Exam

By the sixth week of Spring Quarter of the second year, the student must take the Qualifying Exam, based on a department reading list on the major literature. Successful completion of the Qualifying Exam allows the student to receive an MA as a terminal degree or as a qualification toward the PhD. In order to continue in the program students must file copies of their examination lists with the Department’s administrators and submit them to their exam committee by the third week of Autumn Quarter of the second year. Students receiving a High Pass for the qualifying exam then commence work on the Qualifying Paper.

Requirements towards the PhD Degree

Remaining required courses will be those needed to prepare for the Qualifying Paper as well as the successful completion of at least one advanced seminar and three courses either in a second language of the region or in a minor field of study distinct from the major literature. Reading knowledge in both French and German is required.

The Qualifying Paper

The Qualifying Paper is an extensive research paper, which should demonstrate the ability to conduct independent research and represent an original, publishable contribution to the student’s field of study. The paper is generally 35-40 pages (double- spaced) in length and must be submitted by the seventh week of the spring quarter of the third year. It is written under the guidance of a faculty member of the Slavic Department and in consultation with one additional faculty member. Its evaluation includes a one-hour-long discussion, during which the student responds to the committee’s questions. The committee then recommends to the faculty whether the student should progress to candidacy in the PhD.


The dissertation serves as both a capstone of the student’s graduate education and her first major contribution to the profession. The topic is developed by the student in close consultation with a committee, led by the dissertation advisor and two or three additional faculty readers. The committee may include faculty from other departments at the University of Chicago and other universities. Effective topics approach a clearly defined object of study with a focused theoretical question, with the intention of illuminating and refining both the object and the concepts being employed.  Usually the dissertation is proposed in the fourth year of study and takes two or three years to complete. The dissertation is presented at a public defense before being submitted to the University.

Joint Ph.D. programs

Students who apply to Slavic Languages and Literatures as a second Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago are required to fulfill all the Ph.D. requirements either in the literature or interdisciplinary studies track. Students in a joint Ph.D. program can satisfy the requirement of a minor field using courses from their primary program of Ph.D. study.