PhD in Comparative Literature

Ph.D. Admission Standards and Application

An M.A. with a minimum average of A- (80), normally in Comparative Literature or a national literature

Proficiency in two languages in addition to English, at a level sufficient to do graduate-level work on texts in those languages

Students judged by the Graduate Committee to be making exceptionally good progress in Western's 2-year M.A. program in Comparative Literature may apply to transfer into the Ph.D. program after completing the first year of the M.A.

Ph.D. Applications

No application will be considered until it is complete. The responsibility rests with the applicant to ensure that all documents (i.e. transcripts, letters of reference, test results) are submitted by the program’s deadline for application.

Completed applications will be evaluated by the program, which makes the admission decision. The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies sends out offers of admission and handles all administrative aspects of registration.

For admission to the Doctoral program, applicants must possess a Master’s degree or equivalent from an accredited university and provide evidence of research potential. The program requires at least a 80% average in the Master’s degree. Equivalent qualifications may be considered based on the standards of the discipline.

Although applications are processed centrally, applicants are encouraged to contact individual faculty members to discuss their research interests and possible research projects where applicable. However, individual faculty members do not directly admit students.

If you are interested in visiting the department after submitting your application, please contact us to make arrangements. In many cases, some or all of your travel expenses will be paid for by the program.

A complete application consists of the following:

Online Application

To apply for admission, a completed application must be submitted, providing Western with the following:

  • 1. Personal Information

    • We ask for basic information concerning your identity and contact information. 
  • 2. Academic History

    • We ask that you supply Western with a listing of all post‐secondary schools you have attended.
  • 3. References

    • We will email your referees within 24 hours of entering or updating your reference information. Each reference will be collected by Western and distributed alongside your application once it arrives. No paper reference letters are required.
  • 4. Supplementary Questions

    • Our supplementary questions help us to determine if our graduate program and available resources are appropriate for your area of interest. The responses you provide are made available to the program during the assessment process.  One of theese questions is to assess your knowlege in different languages.  To view our levels of language proficiency please click here.
  • 5. Application Fee Payment
    application fee to the Doctoral Program in Comparative Literature is $100.

    • Western accepts two methods of payment in order to process your application.
      • Credit Card (Visa/MasterCard)
      • Cheque/Money Order
  • 6. Supplemental Documents

    • Western makes it possible for you to submit your supporting documents in a digital format. This includes an academic record/transcript from each school you note in your Academic History, English proficiency test results, and your required writing sample..
  • 7. Proficiency in English Scores, if applicable (You must have the testing service send your score electronically to Western.)


Western accepts digital academic records within your application however if you are offered admission you are required to provide one official academic transcript* from each post-secondary institution you have attended. These documents should be mailed directly to The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

  • Past or current students of The University of Western do not need to provide transcripts for their academic history at Western. This information will be obtained internally.

*Western considers a transcript official only if it is received in a university envelope that is sealed and signed on the flap by the official person in the office issuing the transcript. If the transcript and degree certificate are not in English, a certified translation must also be included. (Non-English transcripts from institutions within Canada do not require a translation.)

All documents and transcripts submitted to The University of Western Ontario become the property of the University and will not be returned.

The deadline for first consideration applications is February 1, 2017.

All applications submitted after this date may be reviewed but cannot be guaranteed admission for the specified term regardless of your admissibility. Early applications are strongly recommended.


Ontario Graduate Scholarship

Applicants to the graduate program in Comparative Literature are strongly advised also to apply to the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) Program through Western University. For more information, please consult the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The University's application deadline for OGS applications is January 31.

Program Requirements

The PhD program in Comparative Literature is a four-year program requiring course-work, comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation.

Times for the completion of each part of the program are indicated in italics below. Please note that a student who fails to meet these milestones may be required to withdraw from the program.


2.5 credits are required. Specific course requirements are determined on a student-by-student basis. Final course selections are completed in consultation with the Graduate Chair.

It is expected that students complete their prescribed courses by the end of the second term of study in the PhD program.

Comprehensive Examinations

Students are required to pass three examinations before proceeding to the doctoral dissertation. The first is a written examinations (“area examination”) in areas of literary history or in literary theory to be selected in consultation with the Program Chair.

The second examination requires students to write and orally defend a field paper (30-40 pages, double-spaced), or an academic article (c. 20 pages) ready to be submitted for publication, which deals in depth with a topic adjacent to their thesis project.  The Oral defense of the field paper will have a structure similar to that of a thesis defense, comprising a committee of three examiners and a chair of the examination.  The defense usually takes 1-11/2 hours.

 The third (“thesis prospectus examination”) is an oral examination, based on a written prospectus and bibliography assembled by the candidate, in the area of the candidate’s proposed doctoral dissertation. It is expected that this prospectus (20-30 pages, double-spaced), which should include a discussion of the main argument(s) of the dissertation and a sketch of the chapter structure and bibliography will be prepared in consultation with the dissertation supervisor(s), who must be identified before work on the area of concentration can begin. The supervisor(s) must have membership in the core faculty of the Comparative Literature program.

The oral defense of the prospectus will have a structure similar to that of a thesis defense, comprising a committee of three examiners and a chair of the examination.  The defense usually takes 1-11/2 hours.

It is expected that students complete their area examinations by the end of the fifth term and their area-of-concentration examination by the end of the sixth term (the second full year) of study in the PhD program.

Doctoral Dissertation

A pass in the area-of-concentration examination implies the program's approval for the student to proceed with the proposed dissertation. Each student will continue to work with the nominated dissertation supervisor, as well as with one or more additional faculty members with expertise in the area of the dissertation. Together, these faculty members form the student's Advisory Committee.

When the committee is satisfied that the thesis is ready for examination, it will be examined by and examining board, including an external examiner, according to the guidelines for examination of PhD theses set by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

It is strongly anticipated that each student will give a formal, public lecture, organized by the Comparative Literature program at UWO, in the area of his or her dissertation during this phase of the degree program.

Finally, it is expected that students complete their doctoral dissertation by the end of the twelfth term (the fourth full year) in the program.

Other Activities

In addition to the course work, comprehensives, and the dissertation, each PhD student is encouraged to participate both in the fall-term Comparative Literature Research Forum, in the winter-term graduate thesis seminars, in which MA students present and discuss their research projects, and in the Annual Graduate Student Conference.


Visit the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Graduate Calendar

For further information about any aspect of the program, please contact:
The Graduate Chair, Comparative Literature
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Phone: (519) 661-2111, ext. 85828/Fax: (519) 661-4093
E-Mail: Prof. James Miller