Dissertations + Comparative Literature

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Berkeley’s Department of Comparative Literature has produced the winner for the past 7 years in a row and 10 of the winners over the past 13 years.

I spoke with two winners of the prize, Ramsey Mc Glazer (2016 winner) and Katie Kadue (2018 winner), to learn about what made their dissertations stand out and what unique aspects of Berkeley’s Department of Comparative Literature helps graduate students regularly produce the best dissertations in the country.

The thesis must show that the student is capable of critical analysis and reflection, appropriate use of primary sources and secondary literature, and of conducting independent research. To graduate before the end of any academic year, the final draft must be submitted to the supervisor no later than 30 June.

Every year, the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) accepts nominations for the best dissertation in Comparative Literature in the country and bestows the winner with the Bernheimer Prize.

The proposal must also be submitted to the board of examiners by 1 March.

Research and writing In principle, students will already have made a start on their research in the course of formulating the research question.

For Mc Glazer, the structure of the program and approach to the discipline sets the department apart.

Ph D students at Berkeley take their qualifying exams later than at most universities, which means they complete more coursework.

Kadue (Ph D 2017), currently a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, wrote a dissertation entitled “Domestic Georgic from Rabelais to Milton,” which explores mundane domestic labor within intellectual and poetic spheres of a wide variety of early modern English and French literature.

She believes her dissertation stood out in particular for its connection to intellectual labor.

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