Skip to Main
The aim of our graduate program is to further interest, knowledge, and scholarship relating to Russia, Slavic Central Europe, and Eurasia, primarily through the cultural humanities. To this end we urge our students to explore new intellectual paths and approaches, having first provided them with a strong background in the Russian literary tradition, an introduction to major schools of theory, and the opportunity to conduct research abroad. (Please note that the program in Slavic Linguistics has been discontinued.)
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program is a five-year program. The student studies full time in residence during the first two years, selecting courses both from within the department and outside of it. The general examinations are usually taken during the first term of the third year. After general examinations, individual programs vary. Most students combine dissertation research with teaching. (Stipends are not contingent on teaching, but students are expected to teach first-year Russian at some point in their career and are strongly encouraged to teach precepts in literature courses.) Some students spend a term or a year doing dissertation research abroad. Ideally, this research is funded by outside fellowships, but if such funding is unavailable and the faculty deems the research essential, university fellowship stipends can be used to cover these expenses.
In the early years of graduate study, students use the summer to prepare for generals or to do additional language study abroad (usually in Russia or Eastern Europe). After generals, most use the time to continue researching and writing their dissertation.
Because we aim to admit only two students into the program each year, we are able to help them design a program of study and develop a research trajectory that accords with individual scholarly needs and interests. Choosing from a wide range of courses, entering students arrange their programs in consultation with the director of graduate studies and faculty advisers.
Graduate seminars in the department cover historical periods (e.g., Russian Realism, Symbolism, Acmeism, Futurism, Soviet and Post-Soviet Literature and Culture), specific authors (e.g., Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tsvetaeva, Pasternak), theoretical approaches to literature and culture (e.g., the Russian critical tradition from Belinsky to the Tartu school and Bakhtin), and core courses in the development of literary genres and film (the evolution of Russian poetic form; surveys of Russian theater and visual art; Russian film theory).
Sample of written work 20 pages maximum.
Optional: Applicants may submit a statement with their application, briefly describing how their academic interests, background, or life experiences would advance Princeton’s commitment to diversity within the Graduate School and to training individuals in an increasingly diverse society. Please submit a succinct statement of no more than 500 words.
Every student develops and pursues a course of study that provides a comprehensive background and branches into specific areas of interest. Until they pass the general exam, students are required to take at least one graduate seminar within the department each semester. They are encouraged to take additional courses designed to master the basic grammar and to read original texts in Slavic languages other than Russian (e.g. Czech, Polish, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian). Seminars offered by other departments (e.g., comparative literature, German, music, history, anthropology, art and archaeology) are often relevant to scholarly interests of our students, and we encourage the development of interdisciplinary connections and ideas. Course offerings are augmented by a graduate reading list of both required and recommended works intended to provide students with literacy in the field.
Students are expected to have a near-native knowledge of English and Russian. Beyond that they are encouraged, but not required, to achieve fluency in another language. That language is usually French, German, or another Slavic language.
In each of the first two years students take diagnostic tests in the Russian language to evaluate their progress. They take an additional diagnostic exam before teaching Russian language.
The general examination takes place at the beginning of the third year. It consists of two parts, each including a written section followed by an oral exam. The first is an exam on the history of Russian literature in its cultural context. It is based on a list of required readings. The second is designed to ensure that students have the ability to conduct independent research and to lead them to a productive and interesting dissertation project.
The examination process requires close cooperation between students and their committee (two faculty members chosen by the student and the DGS). By the summer of their second year, students should develop two fields of inquiry. In consultation with the faculty, they draw up (and read) a bibliography of approximately 75 items for each field.
The candidate then formulates four research questions, two concerning author and context and two concerning author and approach. From these, the examination committee chooses two questions, which they may adjust or reformulate. The candidate is given one week for each critical essay, which should be approximately 3,000 words (footnotes and bibliography excluded).
The first exam should take place early in the fifth semester; the second exam should take place toward the end of that same semester. Each exam is followed (ordinarily one week later) by a one-hour oral discussion with members of the student’s examination committee. In the second oral, the discussion should consider the feasibility of either essay to serve as the basis of a dissertation chapter.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after successfully passing all parts of the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that the following requirement is met: successful completion of at least ten approved courses, at least of eight of which must be graduate-level courses.
The department provides graduate students with supervised training in undergraduate teaching. Students normally teach at least two semesters. This experience takes the form of instruction in language courses (elementary or intermediate) and leading discussion sections of Russian literature and culture courses. Such teaching ordinarily begins only after students have completed general examinations.
After the general examination has been successfully completed, the student chooses a dissertation adviser (ordinarily — though not necessarily — one of the members of the student's general examination committee). In consultation with the adviser, the student prepares a dissertation prospectus (on the basis of the earlier bibliographies and the work already undertaken). The prospectus should be submitted within a month of the completion of the second exam. Students should have a prospectus and, optimally, a completed first dissertation chapter by the end of the sixth semester.
The dissertation normally emerges from work already undertaken in seminars or other courses under the guidance of department faculty and in the readings for the exams. It should be an in-depth essay on a subject that can be treated in 150 to 200 pages. After the dissertation has been approved by at least two readers from the faculty, the student advances to the final public oral examination. At the final public oral examination, the candidate defends the dissertation in the presence of department faculty and other informed or interested scholars, and is expected to demonstrate a mastery of the subject and effectiveness in oral discourse.
Michael A. Wachtel
Ellen B. Chances
Olga Peters Hasty
Simon A. Morrison
Serguei A. Oushakine
Michael A. Wachtel
Katherine M. Hill Reischl
Margaret H. Beissinger
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.