General Requirements

General requirements for all graduate students in the department

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program provides rigorous professional training in Slavic languages, literatures and cultures in a supportive atmosphere and interdisciplinary framework. Taking advantage of the rich opportunities for cross-disciplinary inquiry at the University of Chicago, including such venues as graduate workshops and the Franke Institute for the Humanities, many students in the Slavic Department forge innovative programs of study that cut across traditional boundaries. The Department's academic program, faculty-student mentoring, training in pedagogy and support for research have consistently produced fine scholars who have succeeded in the highly competitive academic job market.

Courses in Russian, Polish, Czech and other Slavic/East European literatures and cultures are taught by accomplished faculty with a broad variety of specializations, from the classic realist novel and modernist poetry up to current cultural production in post-communist societies. We offer broad preparation in the relationships among the visual arts, cinema, media, folk and popular culture, with an emphasis on the study of the history and criticism of interdisciplinary approaches to literature and the visual arts. The University of Chicago has particular strength in the cinema of Russia and Central/Eastern Europe, as well as anthropology and intellectual history. Throughout these mediums and disciplinary frameworks, our program emphasizes the place of texts and images in deep cultural history and in tandem with the development of critical theory in Eastern and Central Europe.

Completion of the program requires a minimum of fifteen courses overall; advanced proficiency in the major language; and reading knowledge of French and German. The standard time-frame for successful completion of the PhD is six years.


The First Two Years of Study

In the first year students are required to complete the Proseminar in Russian and East European Studies, the Introduction to Interdisciplinary Approaches, and at least three courses in the area of specialization.

By the end of the first year students develop a plan of study, to be approved by their Qualifying Exam Committee. In order to continue in the program students must file copies of their examination lists with the Department’s administrator and submit them to their exam committee by the third week of Autumn Quarter of the second year, and complete the exams by the end of the second year. Students receiving a High Pass for the qualifying exam then commence work on the Qualifying Paper.

In addition to the courses required before the Qualifying Exam, students must take the following courses: four approved courses in Slavic or East European arts and cultures and three courses in a minor field of study (which may be a second Slavic language). Completion of the program requires a minimum of fifteen courses overall. Advanced proficiency in the principal Slavic language (according to the ACTFL scale) and exams demonstrating a reading knowledge of French and German (or another approved language) are also required before achieving candidacy in the PhD.

Before teaching a language, students must also successfully complete the department’s course in Slavic language pedagogy, which counts towards the total number of courses.


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 the student’s field of study. The paper is generally 7000-9000 words 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, and evaluated after a formal 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 standard Ph.D. requirements. 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.