Master in Comparative Literature


Read more about this programme on the school's website

Programme Description

The MLitt in Comparative Literature explores the transnational understanding of literature and culture, providing students with a critical evaluation of theoretical approaches combined with the intensive study of an extremely broad range of European texts and their relations to other literature.

The MLitt in Comparative Literature is a one-year taught programme run by the School of Modern Languages. The programme explores the transnational understanding of literature and culture. It aims to provide training in traditional and new research techniques.


  • Students receive training in traditional and new research techniques and have the opportunity to broaden their language portfolios.
  • Small class sizes of no more than 20 students provide a close-knit postgraduate community and friendly environment.
  • A wide range of optional modules provides the opportunity to take modules from other disciplines or to learn a third language.

Teaching format

The taught portion of the course consists of four compulsory modules and a range of optional modules held over two semesters, plus a 15,000-word dissertation. Classes are delivered through a mixture of lectures (with around 20 students) and seminars (which vary from individual one-to-one teaching up to ten students). Modules are assessed through coursework; there are no final exams for this programme.


Each module typically comprises:

  • two hours per week of lectures, seminars or practical classes
  • coursework assessment 100%


  • Apples and Oranges: Issues in Comparative Literature: explores the most pressing questions which arise when different texts are put in contact, using pairings of texts to reflect on different kinds of relations.
  • Research and Professional Skills: introduces students to a range of skills which are essential to advanced researchers and key to many other non-academic workplaces.
  • The Contemporary Canon: Why Books Sell: analyses the meaning of the word 'contemporary' as applied to literary texts based on three disciplines (including, but not limited to, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Persian, Russian, Spanish).
  • Theory and Practice of Literary Research 1.

An additional module is compulsory for the language pathway:

  • Specialised Reading and Translating for Comparative Literature: combines language and content elements in the form of directed study and aims to prepare students who are taking the language pathway of the Comparative Literature MLitt for the independent research they will undertake in their dissertation.


  • French Literary Revolutions: explores contexts that have shaped literature and culture in the French-speaking lands from the Renaissance to the present day.
  • Generations in Russian Literature and Culture: investigates issues in Russian culture and history through the lens of genealogy, drawing on the expertise of researchers in the Department of Russian.
  • German Literary and Cultural Contexts: examines contexts that have shaped literature and culture in the German-speaking lands from the Middle Ages to the present day.
  • Italian Literary and Cultural Contexts: investigates the issue of Italian identity through seminal works by Italian writers from the thirteenth century to the present day.
  • Middle Eastern Literary and Cultural Contexts: studies the key elements of classical and modern Arabic and Persian literature and cultures from pre-Islamic times to the present.
  • Patterns in Hispanic Literature and Film: a high-level introduction to research areas of Hispanic literature and film.
  • Research and Cultural Contexts.
  • Specialised research in French, German, Italian, Middle Eastern, Russian, or Spanish and Latin American Studies: offers students the opportunity to develop their skills of literary and textual analysis through directed reading on a topic of their choice.

Additional optional modules for the language pathway includes undergraduate language modules.

Optional modules are subject to change each year, and some may only allow limited numbers of students.


You will spend the summer months focusing on researching and writing a final dissertation of no more than 15,000 words. Student dissertations will be supervised by members of the teaching staff who will advise on an agreed topic covering at least two different inter- or intracultural areas and provide guidance throughout the research process. The completed dissertation must be submitted by a date specified in August.

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MLitt, there are exit awards available that allow suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MLitt.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2019 entry.


Modern Language postgraduates go on to careers in the academic field or in other areas, for example as cultural advisors, translators, or in the public or civil service.

Recent graduates have secured posts such as:

  • university teacher,
  • research assistant,
  • postgraduate recruitment officer at GCHQ,
  • professional translator,
  • adviser to the CBI,
  • television subtitler.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

Entry requirements

  • A good 2.1 Honours undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • One language taught at the School of Modern Languages (Arabic, French, Italian, German, Persian, Russian or Spanish) to Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Level 7, Common European Framework Level B1, or equivalent.
  • English language proficiency.

The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • CV.
  • personal statement (optional).
  • a sample of academic written work (2,000 words).
  • two original signed academic references.
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates.
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).


Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.


The Arts and Humanities Research Council offers scholarships which cover fees and stipend at RCUK rates for students applying for research degrees in the Arts and Humanities in Scotland.

Last updated Apr. 2020

About the School

As a 600-year-old institution, it's no surprise that the University of St Andrews is known across the globe as a world leader in education. We are Scotland’s best university ranked by the Complete Uni ... Read More

As a 600-year-old institution, it's no surprise that the University of St Andrews is known across the globe as a world leader in education. We are Scotland’s best university ranked by the Complete University Guide 2019, and 2nd overall in the UK (Guardian Good University Guide 2019). Read Less
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