Masters in Comparative Literature

MA Admission Standards and Application

An Honors B.A. with a minimum average of B+ (78%) for the last two years of study is the normal requirement for admission to the program with financial support. In addition to proficiency in English, the Program requires for admission proficiency - at a level sufficient to read original texts and pursue graduate-level work - in a language in which research can be supported by the Program's core faculty. If the applicant's transcript does not reflect adequate study in a second language, he or she may be required to demonstrate it through a language test. Applicants whose first language is not English must provide TOEFL scores as part of their applications.

MA 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 Master’s 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 the undergraduate degree. Equivalent qualifications may be considered based on the standards of the discipline or profession.

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 of your travel expenses will be paid for by the program.

A complete application package 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 these questions is to assess your knowledge in different languages.  To view our levels of language proficiency please click here.

  • 5. Application Fee Payment
    application fee to the Master's Program in Comparative Literature is $115.
    • Western accepts two methods of payment in order to process your application.
      • Credit Card (Visa/MasterCard)
      • Money Order in Canadian Funds

  • 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, sample of previous academic work (written work ie: previous essay), and your required Statement of Interest (Letter of Intent). This statement is typically between 300-1000 words (or 1-2 single-spaced pages). This letter should address:
    • *Your specific area of academic interest (the research topic you want to work on and with whom),
    • *How your past education and other experiences have prepared you to be successful in our graduate program,
    • *What you hope to achieve in our graduate program,
    • *Why our program is the best place for you to pursue your interests.
  • 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, 2018.

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 31st.

Program Requirements

The MA program in Comparative Literature progresses from course work and thesis prospectus development (terms 1-3) to the composition and oral defense of an MA thesis (terms 4-6). The recommended period for completing the program is two years (= six funded terms).


1. Overview

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

Use the MA Progress Chart 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 second (and final) year of funding. Any student who fails to meet these requirements in a timely fashion without good reason may be required to withdraw from the program.


2. 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 4.0 credits is required in the MA program. Eight graduate half-courses (8 x 0.5 = 4.0 credits) or the equivalent should be completed by the end of the fourth term of study.

2a. Three Required Comparative Literature Courses                                                         
The following half-courses (worth 1.5 credits) must be taken by all MA students:

     CL 9501A/B [Fundamentals of Comparative Literature, Part I];

     CL 9502A/B [Fundamentals of Comparative Literature, Part II];

     CL 9503A/B [Thesis Project and Professional Writing].

2b. Three Additional Comparative Literature Courses                                                    
Three graduate half-courses (worth 1.5 credits) are to be chosen from the list of optional offerings in Comparative Literature.

     NOTE: Topics covered by the optional courses vary from year to year. Current offerings can be found HERE.
     Courses for the next academic year will be posted in the late spring and summer of the current academic year.

2c. Two Further Courses                                                                                        
Two more graduate half-courses (worth 1.0 credit) must be taken.  The student may choose

     both half-courses from the offerings in Comparative Literature;
     both half-courses from the offerings in other graduate programs;
     one half-course from the offerings in Comparative Literature and the other half-course from the offerings in other
     graduate programs.

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 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.  Students selecting a course outside the Department must fill in the "Request to Enrol in a Graduate Course Outside Home Program" form which can be found HERE.

     NOTE: 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.

     NOTE: One and only one graduate course marked Pass/Fail (i.e. CL 9503B: “Thesis Project and Professional Writing”) 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.


3. Thesis Prospectus

In the second term, each MA student will be required to draft a thesis prospectus as an assignment in CL 9503B [“Thesis Project and Professional Writing”]. The instructor of this course will provide advice about the formal structure of an MA thesis prospectus. Advice about the contents of the MA thesis prospectus (including valid research questions, argument design, and bibliography) will be provided by the student’s supervisor.

In the middle of the second term, when research questions for the MA thesis are being developed, each student should consult with the Graduate Chair about the selection of an appropriate thesis supervisor and (if needed) a second reader for the intended field of research. The main supervisor must be a member of the core faculty in Comparative Literature. Working closely with the CL 9502 instructor and with the supervisor, the student formulates a tentative set of research questions relevant to a specific topic within the chosen field and writes a thesis prospectus (10 pages maximum, double-spaced).

The principal aim of the thesis prospectus 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 thesis prospectus 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. Chapter Outline: structuring the argument across 2-3 chapters (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 successful MA thesis prospectus can be found HERE.

     NOTE: The thesis prospectus is not an actual excerpt from the thesis. It is an informative “pitch” designed to convince
     the members of the Graduate Committee (1) that the thesis project is feasible; (2) that the structure of the 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 thesis prospectus is the end of the second term. After revisions for form and content have been completed to the satisfaction of the supervisor, the student submits a PDF of the thesis prospectus to the Graduate Chair for distribution to the members of the Graduate Committee early in the third term. Approval of the thesis prospectus by the Graduate Committee must be obtained before the student embarks on the writing of the thesis. If this scheduling advice is followed, the student will have a good stretch of time—i.e. terms four through six--in which to write, revise, and defend the MA thesis. The Graduate Chair strongly recommends that the student resist the temptation to delay the writing phase until the sixth term.

4. Thesis Writing

Ideally, the writing phase can commence at the beginning of the fourth 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 thesis 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 thesis 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 an MA thesis is approximately 100 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 years. 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 Modern Languages and Literatures
Phone: (519) 661-2111, ext. 85828 or 85862/Fax: (519) 661-4093
E-Mail: Professor James Miller