Graduate Program - Ph.D.

We are introducing a revised graduate program in Fall 2021 with a new emphasis on close work with individual students and programming tailored to meet their needs. Incoming students will clarify their professional interests and work together with faculty to design a program that makes the best use of our resources toward reaching their goals. While many of our students will continue to train for academic positions, we are building in greater flexibility to allow students to train for other fields.

The main thrust of our program is interdisciplinary approaches to culture, with an emphasis on literature and the visual arts. Russian, Polish, Czech, and Balkan languages and literatures are taught by accomplished faculty with a broad variety of specializations, from medieval Slavic literature and the classic realist novel to modernist, socialist-realist, and post-communist cultural production.

We work carefully from the point of admission to meet the learning objectives of our students, and in return ask that our students commit to achieving their own goals and satisfying departmental expectations, including timely progress toward the degree (typically within six years). Under a new funding model, students now teach only as necessary for professional training and receive a full stipend for the duration of their time in the program.

Requirements for the first two years

  • Ten graduate level quarter courses, including Proseminar in Literary Theory and Methods and at least three courses in the literature of specialization.
  • Advanced proficiency in the principal Slavic language
  • Reading knowledge of one research language
  • Pedagogical/Professional Training
  • Completion of the Qualifying Paper

The Qualifying Paper

The Qualifying Paper is an extensive research paper, which should demonstrate the ability to conduct independent research and make original, publishable contributions to the 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 Ph.D.

The Comprehensive Exam

Students are normally expected to take the Comprehensive Examination not later than the end of the fall quarter of the third academic year. If unsuccessful, the Examination may be repeated at the Department's discretion.

The exam will include a) an oral discussion based on a general list of (about fifty) essential works in literature and theory from the region, b) a written examination including a passage or passages in the principal language for close critical analysis, and c) an oral examination covering factual and interpretive matters relating to the history of the literature/culture of the principal language of specialization.

Minor Field Examination

Preparation in the minor field, typically a secondary discipline (film, environmental studies, etc.) or the literature/culture of a second Slavic or regional language, is demonstrated in a ninety-minute oral examination with faculty, which can be taken any time before advancement to candidacy.

In preparation for the minor field exam, students pursuing comparative Slavic must acquire intermediate proficiency in a second Slavic or other regional language (usually achieved after two years of study) and knowledge of an area or period of literature or culture produced in that language. Those pursuing other secondary fields, such as film, visual arts, or performance, queer, or environmental studies, must acquire knowledge of its fundamental theoretical apparatus and key works. It is recommended that at least three graduate level courses (hybrid or graduate seminar) be taken in that area of study, though more auto-didactic methods may be applied.


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 our Ph.D. requirements, though courses from their primary program of Ph.D. study can be used to satisfy the minor field requirement.