Graduate study in the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies (CLFS) emphasizes the active research into and theorizing of the comparative, the literary, the folkloric, and the cultural in a global context. CLFS faculty and students investigate cultures within, across, and beyond linguistic, regional, and national boundaries. The comparative and pluri-lingual nature of CLFS at UW–Madison enables the careful and informed study of new and evolving theories and cultural methodologies as well as of prior, present, and emerging cultural and literary practices and phenomena.

CLFS students study problems and create public projects exploring culture, genre, literary and cultural movements, mode, performance, periodization, theory and criticism, tradition, translation, and transmission. They engage problems and questions concerning the interaction and shifting boundaries of 'elite' and 'folk' literatures and other forms of creative expression and their transformation in their interaction; folklore and literature with other arts or other disciplines; and the relationships between creative expression and economic, sociopolitical, traditional, and other historical structures and issues, including ideological and value formations.
In addition to professional research and communication in the academic fields of comparative literature and folklore studies, CLFS is committed to public humanities projects that place professional expertise in the service of communities and publics.

Graduate study leads to the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in CLFS and must be in either a comparative literature named option or a folklore studies named option.

The department also offers doctoral minors in comparative literature and in folklore to interested Ph.D. candidates in other degree programs. At the beginning of study in the minor program, all students seeking a comparative literature or folklore doctoral minor should contact the CLFS director of graduate studies concerning coursework for the minor. Completion of the minor will be certified by either the director of graduate studies or the department chair.

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Doctoral Degrees

Ph.D., with available named options in Comparative Literature, and Folklore Studies

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Successful completion of the Ph.D. requires 51 credit hours of coursework. This requirement includes that at least 50 percent of these credit hours must be received in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions, provided this coursework relates directly to the student's CLFS graduate studies. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree may not be used to satisfy the CLFS degree requirements.

To apply credit for prior graduate coursework toward requirements the student should furnish the student's advisor and the director of graduate study with a transcript of the coursework and copies of work done in courses and syllabi, if available. This task should be completed in anticipation of the Second Year exam. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to the doctoral degree may not be used to satisfy the CLFS degree requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

All M.A. requirements; COMP LIT 822 Seminar-Translation; at least two other graduate seminars in comparative literature and folklore studies; the requirements for a Ph.D. option; demonstration of proficiency in a third language by passing an intermediate literature course with a grade of AB or better; successful completion of the Ph.D. preliminary examinations; successful completion of the dissertation; successful completion of the oral dissertation defense.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

All doctoral students are required to complete a 12-credit minor. Students may pursue a concentrated minor including the Option A or a distributed minor (Option B). Students in either of the named options in the CLFS Ph.D. program may pursue minors in their department so long as they do not have the same name as their named option.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.5 GPA required

Other Grade Requirements


Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of three options:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

Advisor / Committee

Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. The advisor also serves as the dissertation advisor. An advisor is assigned to incoming student but can be changed. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

Assessments and Examinations

Comprehensive Examinations

The comprehensive examinations, or "prelims," consist of three written examinations based on reading lists that have been approved by the advisor and the reading committees followed by an oral defense.


The dissertation is a written, substantial, and original contribution to knowledge guided by a dissertation committee consisting of the student’s advisor and two members of the faculty of the department. The student will submit to the dissertation committee for approval a written proposal that will include a bibliography of primary and secondary source materials.

Upon completion of the dissertation, the student will be examined in an oral defense of the dissertation and related areas by members of the dissertation committee in concert with two additional members, at least one of which must be from a related discipline outside of the department.

Time Constraints

Comprehensive examinations must be taken only on completion of the requisite minimum degree credits.

Within six weeks of successful completion of the comprehensive examination, candidates must submit a working draft of a dissertation proposal their dissertation committee members.

The dissertation must be deposited within two weeks of completion of all degree requirements.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

Second language: An examination in a second language (other than English) must be taken by the end of the second semester of graduate study and before the Second Year Examination.

In the event that the linguistic tradition under examination cannot be covered by a member of the comparative literature and folklore studies faculty, the advisor will invite an appropriate member of the UW–Madison faculty to assist in the administration of the examination.

Third Language: A third language (other than English and the second language) proficiency must be demonstrated by the completion of an appropriate intermediate or advanced literature course with a grade of AB or better. This requirement must be satisfied before the Comprehensive (or "prelim") Examinations.

Fourth Language Reading Requirement: For students pursuing the Comparative Literature Ph.D. option, each candidate must demonstrate reading knowledge of at least one of the following languages: Sanskrit, Hebrew, Classical Greek, Latin, a Medieval language, or a major Asian or African language. This requirement is satisfied by the completion of an appropriate course with a grade of AB or better.

Applicants to the graduate program in the CLFS should submit to the department a statement of purpose for graduate study, transcripts, letters of recommendation, a writing sample (in English) of no more than 15 pages, a list of foreign language and literature coursework, and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. (International applicants should consult the department and the Graduate School website for information and additional application requirements regarding TOEFL, MELAB or IELTS tests.)

Admission to graduate study in the comparative literature named option requires advanced foreign language work at the literary level in at least one language other than English; the student's academic record should demonstrate the ability to work critically in at least two literatures (one of which may be English).

All entering students are admitted into one of the two named options in the M.A. program. Students are accepted into the Ph.D. program upon successful completion of the Second-Year Examination.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, and practice in comparative humanities.
  • Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge in comparative humanities.
  • Creates research, scholarship, or performance that makes a substantive contribution.
  • Demonstrates breadth within their learning experiences.
  • Advances contributions in comparative humanities to society.
  • Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.

Professional Conduct

  • Fosters ethical and professional conduct.

Faculty: Professors Dharwadker, Gilmore (also Landscape Architecture), Layoun, Livorni (chair, also French and Italian), Rosenblum (also Jewish Studies); Associate Professors Livanos, Statkiewicz; Assistant Professors Fielder, Grunewald, Neyrat, Wells. Affiliate Faculty: Adler (German, Nordic, and Slavic), Casid (Art History),  Garlough (also Gender and Women's Studies), Goodkin (French and Italian), Guyer (English), Kern (Asian Languages and Cultures), Longinovic (German, Nordic, and Slavic), Valentine (Linguistics); Associate Professors Kapust (Political Science);  International Affiliate Faculty: Ramalho de Sousa Santos (University of Coimbra, Portugal). See also Faculty on the department website.