PHD in Philosophy, Literature and the Theory of Criticism (PLC)

Philosophy, Literature and the Theory of Criticism (PLC) PhD Program

This program offers students a course of study responsive to the interdisciplinary nature of recent work in literary theory, literature and philosophy. It provides an extensive background in literary history and methods of reading, as well as significant preparation in philosophy and modern theories of language and interpretation informed by research from such fields as anthropology, the humanities, linguistics, psychoanalysis and semiotics. As a site for joint research and inquiry, the philosophy, literature and criticism group seeks to bring into focus such topics as the disciplinary articulation of knowledge and truth, the nature of epistemological and metaphysical foundations, the possibilities and limits of theory, and the politics of understanding and signification. It draws on exceptional campus resources in the areas of philosophy and modern theory of criticism, and seeks to bring these into vital interplay with literary research and work in the visual arts.

Students who enter with a BA earn a PhD in comparative literature with a specialization in the theory of criticism, as well as an MA in philosophy. Students who are admitted to the program with a master's degree have a choice between two tracks: the option to pursue a master's degree in philosophy and a PhD in comparative literature or to earn a PhD in comparative literature with a PLC specialization (without the master's degree in philosophy). Graduates are qualified for joint appointments in philosophy and literary programs and single appointments in comparative literature and national literature departments. Administered by the comparative literature department, the program is supervised by two co-directors, one from the comparative literature faculty and the other from the philosophy department, and a PLC program committee.


Qualified students holding a bachelor's or master's degree are eligible for admission (check web site of Binghamton Graduate School). An undergraduate specialization in philosophy or literature is desirable but not essential for admission. Students considered insufficiently prepared for work in the program may be required to do additional work to make up deficiencies.

During the first year of study, students entering with a BA are considered to be enrolled in a master's level program. At the end of the third semester, students take a qualifying examination. This is a take-home test based on a reading list, usually completed in the course of one weekend. (The reading list for this exam is available at the departmental office.)

Students entering with a master's degree will take a qualifying exam after the second semester of study. PLC co-directors may waive this requirement for qualified MA students.

Students who fail the qualifying examination may take it once again. Students not admitted to the doctoral program in PLC may continue work toward a master's degree in philosophy or comparative literature.


For students entering with a BA the minimum course requirements for the PhD are 60 credits; those who already hold an MA take at least 36 credits. All students are required to take COLI 592 (the Proseminar) and six courses with philosophical content, three of which should be taken in the philosophy department for students entering with a BA; those who already have an MA take at least 2 courses in the philosophy department. At the beginning of each semester, students should seek approval for their coursework from both PLC co-directors. In the final semester of coursework, all students take a 5 credit independent study with the committee chair in preparation of the dissertation proposal and comprehensive exams. Students may be asked to take additional courses in philosophy or in literature, depending on career goals and specializations, and should be aware that the program may require more time for completion than more traditional programs of study.

Language Requirement

Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in two languages other than English. The standard proficiency-level evaluations accepted by the Comparative literature Department are used. These, however, represent minimal requirements, and students are advised to develop stronger proficiency in languages essential to their dissertations. Students are expected to have satisfied the language requirements before they take their comprehensive exams.


PLC students take two examinations: The first is a qualifying examination (see "admission to the program" above) and the second is a comprehensive exam, which is taken at the completion of coursework (third year for students entering with BA degree; second year for those with an MA degree).

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination consists of four parts:

  1. A Dissertation Proposal (in the format of a substantial paper): This paper is expected to review primary and secondary sources and articulate the problem(s) that the student will focus on.

  2. Historical Construction of a Topic: This section of the exam is devoted to a theme that treats the student's area of expertise in its historical dimension. This is a take-home exam, normally taken in the course of one week-end.

  3. Minor Field: This is a second area of specialization that may be conceived in such a way as to complement the major area of expertise or to represent an altogether different focus. This is a take-home exam, normally taken in the course of one week-end.

  4. Oral Examination: This segment is based on the dissertation proposal and on the preceding portions of the exam and involves all of the examiners.

Students choose an examination committee (subject to the approval of the graduate director) with a minimum of three examiners. The graduate director must be informed of the student's intention to take the exam in the first week of the semester in which it is to be scheduled. Reading lists for parts two and three of the examination should be developed through close collaboration with the examiners and must meet with their approval. The approved reading lists must be handed in to the graduate director no later than four weeks before the proposed examination date. The dissertation proposal must be submitted no later than March 15 for an examination in the spring semester and Oct. 15 for an examination in the fall semester. The examination may be scheduled only after the graduate director receives the approved reading lists and the committee receives copies of the dissertation proposal. The oral examination should take place while classes are in session in fall or spring.

The student is formally admitted to candidacy once he passes the comprehensive examination.


The dissertation is similar in nature and scope to that required of students in the program in literary studies.

Translator Training

The certificate program in translator training is administered by the translation research and instruction program. 

Program Committee