Masters in Comparative Literature


The newly streamlined MA Program: Duration and Funding

In April 2019, the Senate of Western University officially approved a series of major modifications to the MA program in Comparative Literature. The program previously required six terms, spread over two academic years, to complete. Henceforth it requires only three terms. This streamlining occurred in tandem with an important change in funding policy. Domestic applicants (i.e. Canadian citizens and permanent residents) who are offered admission to the MA program in Comparative Literature will receive a funding package to help cover the term-by-term costs of the program. International applicants who are offered admission will receive a one-time-only entrance scholarship of $3000.

MA Admission Standards

An Honors BA with a minimum average of B+ (78%) for the last two years of study is the principal requirement for admission to the MA program in Comparative Literature. In addition, applicants are required to provide documentation of proficiency in two languages, one of which must be English. As for the second language, it should be one in which research can be supported by the Comparative Literature core faculty: e.g. French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian, Latin, Ancient Greek. If the applicant's transcript does not reflect adequate study in a second language at an advanced or intermediate level, he or she may be required to demonstrate it through a language test. Applicants whose first language is not English must provide an approved ELP score (see list below) with their applications.

Admission Process

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

Completed applications will be evaluated by the Comparative Literature Graduate Committee, whose members (including the Graduate Chair) make the admission decision. The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) sends out offers of admission and handles all administrative aspects of registration.

For admission to the MA program, applicants must possess a four-year degree from an accredited university. The program requires at least a 78% overall average in the last two full-time years of undergraduate study. As a rule, the subject of undergraduate study should fall within the broad range of studies within the Arts and Humanities: e.g. the literature of a national language on its own; the literatures of two or more languages studied comparatively; or literary studies combined with philosophy, history, politics, or any other social science. Applicants whose previous degrees are in media studies, medieval studies, cultural studies, women’s studies, art history, architecture, business, or some other professional program are welcome to apply, though admission (if offered) may be conditional on the completion of introductory courses in Comparative Literature. Equivalent qualifications may be considered based on the standards of the discipline or profession.

Although applications are processed centrally, applicants may contact individual faculty members to discuss their research interests and possible research projects. However, individual faculty members do not directly admit students, and even if a faculty member agrees (in advance) to supervise an applicant’s thesis, an informal preliminary agreement between a faculty member and an applicant does not guarantee admission to the program.

If you are interested in visiting the department after submitting your application, please contact us to make arrangements. The program may cover some of the travel expenses for department visits.


Online Application

To apply for admission to the MA program in Comparative Literature, you must complete an online application and submit it by the deadline determined by the Comparative Literature Graduate Committee. As a rule, the deadline is February 1st of the year in which you seek admission. 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.

For example, if you wish to start the program in September 2024, the application portal will open on October 15, 2023 and you must apply by February 1, 2024. The online application portal for the year in which you seek admission normally opens in the middle of October of the previous year.

A complete application package contains the following:

  1. Personal Information
    We ask for basic information concerning your identity and contact information.


  1. Academic History
    We ask that you supply Western with a list of all post‐secondary schools you have attended.


  1. 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 with your application once it arrives. Paper reference letters are not required.


  1. Supplementary Questions
    A set of supplementary questions helps 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 Graduate Committee during the assessment process. One of these questions is to assess your knowledge of different languages. To view our levels of language proficiency, please click here.


  1. Application Fee Payment
    The application fee for the MA program in Comparative Literature is $150. Western accepts two methods of payment in order to process your application: credit card (Visa/MasterCard); or money order in Canadian funds.
  1. Supporting Documents
    Western makes it possible for you to submit your supporting documents in a digital format. Supporting documents include (1) an academic record/transcript from each school you note in your academic history; (2) English proficiency test results; (3) a sample of written work, e.g. an essay from your previous program; and (4) a statement of research interests in the form of a letter of intent. The letter of intent is typically 300-1000 words in length (1-2 single-spaced pages). In it, you should discuss how you came to be interested in Comparative Literature; which lines of research you hope to pursue for your thesis; who among the Comparative Literature core faculty would make an appropriate supervisor for your work; how your past education and other experiences have prepared you to be successful in our MA program; what you hope to achieve in it; and why our program strikes you as the best place for you to pursue your interests.
  1. English Proficiency Scores
    If you need to submit evidence of English proficiency, you must have the testing service send your score electronically to Western. The Comparative Literature Graduate Committee accepts results from two testing services:
(a) The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Western's TOEFL ID is 0984. A minimum score of 610 on the paper version, 255 on the electronic version, or 102 on the internet version required for entry.
(b) The International English Language Testing Service (IELTS)  of the British Council. A minimum overall score of 7.5 is required for entry.


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 Western University do not need to provide transcripts for their academic history at Western. This information will be obtained internally. Western considers a transcript to be official only if it is received in a university envelope that is sealed and signed on the flap by the administrator in the office issuing the transcript. If the transcript and degree certificate are not in English, a certified translation must also be included. All documents and transcripts submitted to Western University become the property of the university and will not be returned.

Application Deadline

As of October 15, 2022, the portal is open for entry into the program for September 2023. The deadline for first consideration applications will be February 1, 2023. 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.


Program Requirements

The MA program in Comparative Literature takes three terms to complete, progressing from course work and thesis prospectus development (terms 1-2) to the composition and evaluation of the Major Research Paper (term 3). The recommended period for completing the program is one academic year.

1. Overview

A term-by-term overview indicating the recommended completion times for the various program requirements can be found HERE .

Use the chart of Progress Expectations in the MA Program as a guide for setting your goals for each term in the program. Though rates of progress will vary somewhat from student to student, the planning goal for every MA candidate should be to meet all the requirements for the program by the end of the third term.

2. Policy on Timely Progress

Any MA student who without good reason fails to meet the department's standard progress expectations will receive a Letter of Concern from the Graduate Chair requesting a meeting to discuss strategies for getting back on track. If the Letter of Concern goes unheeded, or if the negotiated plan for resuming progress fails to be implemented within one term, then the Graduate Chair, acting on behalf of the Graduate Committee, will notify the student that within two weeks of receiving the notification he or she must either show clear evidence of progress towards the degree (e.g. a section of the Major Research Paper submitted to the Director) or voluntarily withdraw from the program. If this notification is ignored, the Graduate Chair, acting on behalf of the Graduate Committee, will take the necessary administrative steps to expel the student from the program.

3. Courses

Course selections are determined on a student-by-student basis in consultation with the Graduate Chair. The approval of the Graduate Chair is required for formal registration in the selected courses. A total of 2.0 credits is required in the MA program: four graduate half-courses (4 x 0.5 = 2.0 credits) or the equivalent should be completed by the end of the second term of study.

  1. Two Required Comparative Literature Courses (1.0 credits)
    The following two half-courses (worth 1.0 credits in total) must be taken by all MA students:
    (1) either CL 9501A (Fundamentals of Comparative Literature, Part I) or CL 9502B (Fundamentals of Comparative Literature, Part II);
    (2) CL 9503B (Propaedeutics for Comparatists).
  2. Two Optional Courses (1.0 credits)
    Two graduate half-courses (worth 1.0 credits in total) are to be chosen from the list of optional offerings in Comparative Literature or from the course lists in related graduate programs. Topics covered by the optional courses vary from year to year. Current offerings in Comparative Literature can be found HERE. Courses for the next academic year will be posted in the late spring and summer of the current academic year. If a half-course from a program outside Comparative Literature is selected, the student must seek permission to enrol in it from both the Graduate Chair in Comparative Literature and the Course Instructor in the appropriate department. Related programs include (but are not limited to) English and Writing Studies, French Studies, Hispanic Studies, Women's Studies, Critical Theory, Political Science, Philosophy, Anthropology, MER, Environmental Studies. Students selecting a course outside the Department must fill in the form entitled "Request to Enrol in a Graduate Course Outside Home Program," which can be found HERE. A 1.0 credit undergraduate language course at any level counts as a 0.5 credit towards the requirements of the graduate program. Each MA student may elect to take one and only one undergraduate language course for credit. Undergraduate half-courses in a language or any other subject (worth 0.5 credit) will not be approved. Graduate students taking an undergraduate course are subject to all undergraduate regulations as they relate to the course. One and only one graduate course marked Pass/Fail (i.e. CL 9503B: Propaedeutics for Comparatists) is to be taken for credit at the MA level. Any other Pass/Fail course (e.g. SGPS 9500: The Theory and Practice of University Teaching) may be audited.

4. Major Research Paper: Prospectus and Composition

In the second term, each MA student will be required to draft a prospectus for the Major Research Paper as an assignment in CL 9503B (Propaedeutics for Comparatists). The instructor of CL 9503B will provide advice about the f ormal structure of the prospectus for the Major Research Paper. Advice about the contents of the Major Research Paper (including valid research questions, argument design, and bibliography) will be provided by the student’s Director.              

In the middle of the second term, when research questions for the Major Research Paper are being developed, each student should consult with the Graduate Chair about the selection of an appropriate Director. The Director must be a member of the core faculty in Comparative Literature. Working closely with the CL 9503 instructor and with the Director, the student formulates a tentative set of research questions relevant to a specific topic within the chosen field and writes a prospectus for the research project (10 pages maximum, double-spaced).

The principal aim of the prospectus for the Major Research Paper is to articulate and refine the research questions so that a comparative literary argument can emerge from the student’s working hypotheses (i.e. the tentative answers to the research questions). The working hypotheses will later be confirmed or modified or replaced in light of the evidence collected during the research process.                                   

The prospectus for the Major Research Paper must contain the following sections:
a. Introduction: defining the topic within the field (1 p.);
b. Literature Review: charting previous scholarship on the topic (1.5 pp.);
c. Research Questions: establishing the originality of the thesis project (1 p.);
d. Critical Approach: justifying the choice of methodology (1 p.);
e. Argument Overview: structuring the argument across 2-3 sections (3 pp.);
f.  Language Preparation: determining the languages required for the thesis (0.5 p.);
g. Bibliography: listing the main primary and secondary sources (2 pp.).

An example of a prospectus for the Major Research Paper can be found HERE .

NOTE: The prospectus is not an actual excerpt from the Major Research Paper. It is an informative “pitch” designed to convince a prospective Director (1) that the research project is feasible; (2) that the structure of the proposed argument is logical; and (3) that the MA candidate is both intellectually and linguistically prepared to produce a solid work of scholarship in the chosen field.The recommended time for completing the composition of the prospectus is the end of the second term.

Ideally, the writing phase can commence in the second month of the third term. Since the student’s research lies within the field of Comparative Literature, the project of the thesis is expected to involve comparative literary analysis in at least two languages [see section 5].

Though a high degree of originality is not required for a competently researched and solidly argued research paper at the MA level, each student will be expected to produce a cogently reasoned and lucidly expressed argument guided by the research questions formulated in the prospectus. Editorial care should be taken to ensure that the thesis is written with grammatical precision, orthographic consistency, and correct punctuation in formal English expository prose. See the Graduate Chair for advice about how to improve proficiency in writing graduate-level English prose.

Annotations should follow the guidelines of the latest edition of either the Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Style Manual. The length of the Major Research Paper is approximately 40 pages (double-spaced), not including the bibliography.

5. Language Requirements

Though proficiency in English and one other language is required for admission to the MA program in Comparative Literature, successful completion of the MA program requires a high degree of competence in graduate-level essay writing which in turn depends on a high degree of editorial acumen. Any student who wishes to improve editorial skills in English prose writing (for instance, revising sentence structure) should consult the Graduate Chair for information about the range of workshops, drop-in clinics, voluntary diagnostic tests, and private tutoring options available within and beyond Western.

A third language is not required for students in the MA program. However, if advancement to a PhD program in Comparative Literature (either at Western or at another university) is desired, then training in a third language should be given serious consideration during the MA year. For instance, if a student enters the MA program with native proficiency in Spanish, say, and a solid training in English, then an undergraduate course in a third language such as French or Japanese (depending on the student’s research interests) might be selected as a 0.5 graduate credit in preparation for applying for admission to the PhD program. 


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 Languages and Cultures
Phone: (519) 661-2111, ext. 85828 or 85862/Fax: (519) 661-4093
E-Mail: Professor James Miller