Master of Arts in Comparative Literature

The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Comparative Literature combines the objectives of graduate study in foreign languages and literatures with an emphasis on the intercultural and international aspects of literature.

Why Choose This Program?

The goal of the program is to provide graduate training in subjects common to more than one national literature. Research work in the program is directed toward the analysis of cultural, historical, literary, linguistic, ethical and social concerns in literature, as approached through comparative methods of analysis informed by literary and cultural theory, as well as theories and practices from a variety of disciplines including psychology, sociology, anthropology, history and others.

Because of the benefits of reading literature in the original language, the M.A. program requires students to have sufficient proficiency in at least one foreign language to take graduate literature seminars in that language.

The M.A. in Comparative Literature is of particular value for students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree in comparative literature or in a foreign language and literature, or who plan to teach literature at the K-12 or community college levels. Some upper-division courses in Comparative and World Literature (CWL) or English (taken as part of the degree program electives) may apply to subject matter preparation for the Single Subject Teaching Credential in English (CWL Emphasis).

For information about the Teaching Credential, please consult the Credentials Office in the College of Education.

Map of south pole

Crossing boundaries—between literatures, languages, theories and disciplines.

View the PDF of our M.A. information.

Explore literature, culture, language, and history through comparative analysis informed by literary theory and interdisciplinary approaches. The program serves as a stepping-stone to Ph.D. programs, teaching at high school or college levels and other professional goals.

Core Faculty

Dane Johnson (Stanford)
Literature of the Americas. Literary and critical theory, including literary value. Histories and theories of censorship in Europe and the Americas.

Persis Karim (UT Austin)
Iranian diaspora studies. US ethnic literature. Global and comparative literature. Literature and film of migration, exile, and diaspora. Middle East Studies.

Shirin Khanmohamadi (Columbia)
European medieval literature. Literary encounters between Europe and the Middle East. Travel literature. Literary and critical theory.

Christopher Weinberger (UC Berkeley)
Japanese and English literatures. Metafiction. New Media. Literary and critical theory, including ethical criticism.

Minimum Total Units for Master of Arts (30 Units)

In addition all students must complete a portfolio in accordance with Department guidelines.

Core Requirements in Comparative Literature (12 units)

Foreign Literature Requirement (9 units)

Graduate seminars (courses numbered 700 and higher) in a single foreign literature, 9 units

Note: "Foreign Literature" means a literature and language other than the student's native language; e.g., a native speaker of Japanese must complete seminars in a literature other than Japanese.  English may count as the foreign literature for non-native speakers of English.

Program Electives (6 units)

Upper-division or graduate courses other than that of the Foreign Literature Requirement.  Electives can include courses in English literature, Comparative Literature, Humanities, a second foreign literature read in the original language or in translation, or courses in pedagogy (e.g., courses for the Certificate in the Teaching of Composition), 6 units.

Culminating Experience (3 units)

CWL 896 - Directed Reading in Comparative Literature and comprehensive Oral Examination, 3 units

must be taken together with

CWL 896 EXM - Culminating Experience Examination, 0 units


CWL 898 - Master's Thesis and Prospectus, 3 units


Comprehensive Oral Examination

Upon completion of course work, the student not writing a thesis must pass a comprehensive oral examination administered by a committee of at least two faculty members based on the current department's Master of Art Reading List and additional authors selected by the student as a Specialty Area, in consultation with the examination committee chairperson.


Master's Thesis and Prospectus

A written and oral presentation of the thesis prospectus is required before the writing of the thesis. The student's committee of a minimum of two faculty members must approve the prospectus.


Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One

Satisfactory performance on a substantial research paper presented in the student's first departmental graduate seminar, as determined by the instructor in consultation with the Comparative Literature Graduate Committee. If any deficiency is found, the student may be required to take remedial course work and to resubmit the research paper to the instructor and Committee.

Level Two

Satisfactory completion of a M.A. thesis or a seminar paper from the final CWL seminar, if student chooses the oral examination as the culminating experience.

In order to be admitted to the Master of Arts (M.A.) program students must:

  • Have an undergraduate major in literature (English, world literature, comparative literature or any foreign language and literature).
  • Have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 in the undergraduate major.
  • Have sufficient proficiency in a foreign language taught at the graduate level at San Francisco State University so that the student can take graduate literature seminars in that language.  ("Foreign language" means a language other than the student's native language. Normally, the minimal requisite proficiency is the equivalent of an undergraduate minor in the foreign language.)
  • Submit a two- to three-page statement of purpose, including information on proficiency in foreign language(s) and literature(s), and an eight- to ten-page formal writing sample of literary analysis to the Department of Comparative and World Literature.

Students who have not met all of the requirements may be considered for admission to the program conditionally, with the consent of a graduate adviser. Any conditions of admission and the time limit for fulfilling the conditions are stated in writing when a student is accepted into the program. Failure to fulfill the conditions within the specified time limit can result in denial of permission to continue taking courses toward the M.A. degree. All conditions must be satisfied before the student submits an "Admission to Candidacy" (ATC) form prior to graduation. For additional information about filing the ATC, please consult the Graduate Studies website.

We are pleased to be part of the Western Regional Graduate Program, which allows students from many western states and territories to attend SFSU without paying out-of-state fees.  For more information, please visit

The Master of Arts Student Portfolio Checklist

As an incoming student, you should begin compiling a portfolio of your graduate career. The portfolio should reflect your own statement of goals as well as the program statement of goals. It will enhance your work in the program by helping you recognize your accomplishments and will be useful in the future when you apply for jobs or further study. The M.A. Student Portfolio Checklist is intended to guide you through the creation of this portfolio.

Download Master of Arts Student Portfolio Check List (pdf)

Comprehensive Oral Examination CWL 896 (Directed Reading)

One option for your Culminating Experience is to take an oral exam, for which you prepare by taking CWL 896, Directed Reading, with the chair of your oral exam committee.

View the details about the Comprehensive Oral Examination

Master of Arts Reading List

Students enrolled in CWL 896 (Directed Reading) must select and read thirty works from a list of core works. On this page, you can access information about these requirements as well as the list of core works among which students can select their readings.

View the Master of Arts Reading List

List of the past Masters' Theses written by alumni of the Master of Arts (M.A.) Program.

Information on more recent theses is available through the department office.

  • Settell, Jon-David Wesley. 2015. Carnivalized Desire and the Cult of the Flesh: The Erotic Ethos of Grotesque Realism.
  • Allgire, Nikita. 2014. Unfolding the Ravens-Duck: The "Pun-of-the-Father" in Gogol and Poe.
  • Boughanmi, Soumaya. 2014. The Exilic Condition in Slow Man and Disparition de la Langue Française.
  • Dilts, Rebekkah Roberta. 2014. The Role of Irigaray's Angel in Notre Dames-des-Fleurs and Teorema.
  • Perry, Chris Lynne. 2014. The Forgotten Story: Memory, Narrative, and Trauma.
  • Quattrin, Rudraigh Callaghan. 2013. Ars Morphei: Examining Comics Through Horace and Gaiman.
  • Cardona, Luis Francisco. 2012. American Dispensations: The "New" World Orders of Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and Cotton Mather.
  • Cranford, Nathan. 2012. Against the Law: Non-Identity and the Crisis of Individual Autonomy in World Literature.
  • McCabe, Thomas Michael. 2012. Evolution, Literature and Critical Theory.
  • Snaebjornsson, Magnus Thor. 2012. Aesthetics, Politics, and Value in Martin Eden and La Vorágine.
  • Loomis, Suzanne MacBride. 2011. Written in Time of War.
  • Matthews-Mendez, Shanna Shalene. 2011. Woman. Immigrant. Storyteller: Representing & Resisting in Poniatowska, Danticat and Cisneros.
  • Russell, Patrick James. 2011. The (Un)writing of the Self in Two Experimental Narratives.
  • Bummer, Angelo Lloyd. 2010. Six Characters & Seven Madmen: Transforming the commedia in Pirandello and Arlt.
  • King, David Thomas. 2010. World Literacy: Teaching College Reading with Sociocultural Reading Theory and World Literature.
  • Mendoza, Bernabé Sebastian. 2010. Sex and the Politics of Masculinity in Hwang's Butterfly and Puig's Beso.
  • Frick, Adrianna E. 2009. Impotent Authorities: Gender Dynamics and Political Metaphor in Impotence Poetry.
  • Kaminsky, Norma Gabriela. 2009. South African and Argentine Narratives of Repression.
  • Tashlitskyy, Roman. 2009. Translator’s Voice in Cultural Communication (Based on Ukrainian Translations of “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare).
  • Sapp, Sophia Laël. 2008. Food Fight: Consuming Power and Cannibalistic Gastronomy in Greenaway and Chamoiseau.
  • Weiss, Vered. 2008. Nineteenth-Century Gothic Otherness in English and Hebrew.
  • Arighi, William Scott. 2007. The Recurring Nightmare: Henri Christophe in Twentieth-Century Literature of the Americas.
  • Seward, Sarah Annette. 2007. Encouraging Historical Discovery: A Narratological Approach to Cola De Lagartija [The Lizard’s Tail] and Slaughterhouse-Five.
  • Bao, Celene. 2006. Reading The Dream of the Red Chamber and Lolita with ‘A Mirror for the Romantic’.
  • Lore, Elisabeth Marie, 2006. Speech Switch: A Look at Code Switching in Chronique Des Sept Miseres and The Colour of Forgetting.
  • Wilkins, Nora Beatriz. 2006. Translating Kasida: Memories De Una Argentina.
  • Donnelly, Damien M. 2005. Comparative Analysis of English Translations of Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing.
  • Lynn, Morgan. 2005. Textualizing Gender/Feminizing Poetics: Rupturing the Voice and Re-Creating the Body in Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Alejandra Pizarnik.
  • Stephanides, Julia. 2005. A Comparative Study of Leandros and Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister.
  • Doubiago, Shawn Colleen. 2004. Resisting Divisions: Narration, Gender, and Conflict in Etel Adnan’s Sitt Marie Rose and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee.
  • Evans, Mary Christina. 2004. Narrative, Musicality and Context in El sombrero des tres picos: a comparison of the novel and ballet.
  • Kakar, Jolie Maria Fareshta. 2003. Imagined Nation.
  • Lanam, Douglas Henry. 2002. Gender Experiments: Alternative Visions in Works by Le Guin and Suzuki.
  • Love, LaNita. 2002. Conceptions of Personal Identity in Moll Flanders and La vie de Marianne.
  • Masumitsu, Kazuko. 2001. Woman’s Autonomy and Eros in Chopin and Tamura.
  • Austin, Lisette Davies. 1999. British and Italian New Woman Novelists: Models of Femininity.
  • Broemer, Marlene Carol. 1999. Poetic Response to War & Repression in Valéry, Akhmatova & Seferis.
  • Alsowaifan, Sabah Habes. 1998. The City of Winds.
  • Ringwald, Marian. 1996. The Fairy Tale Narrative: A Transcendental Opportunity.
  • Clark, Sharon Anne. 1995. The Clash Between Sorcery and Science in Postcolonial Magical Realism.
  • Hsu, Angela. 1992. The Allotment of Tears.
  • Hayes, Daniel J. 1991. The Heroic Tradition.
  • Jerome, Linda. 1991. Civilization and Barbarism: A Study of Foreign Influences in Three Fictitious Latin American Dictatorships.
  • Maher, John Michael. 1985. Three Deaths: A Comparative Survey.
  • Maskaleris, Mina. 1985. Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and the Margarita and its Affinities with Goethe’s Faust.
  • Mirabaud, Irène. 1983. The Mythical Voyage in Alejo Carpentier’s Los Pasos Perdidos and Homer’s Odyssey.
  • Pasek, Ann. 1980. Discourse in the Prose of Freud and Beckett.
  • Nunn, Marie Downs. 1977. Profile of a Poet – Jeno Platthy.
  • Van Duyn, Julie. 1968. The Tribunal as Metaphor in the Works of Franz Kafka.

Time Management

The following documents contain useful information and techniques concerning time management:

  1. A Method for Setting Priorities
  2. Time Management
  3. Joan Bolker, Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day
    It would take a long time to write a thesis at this rate; what the book is really about is psychological tips for working on a large project, such as breaking the work up into manageable bits.

Thesis Writing

The following documents contain useful information and techniques concerning thesis writing:

  1. Dissertation Workshops
  2. Narrowing the Field: Tips on Choosing Your Topic
  3. Choosing Your Thesis or Dissertation Topic (pdf)
  4. Choosing Your Major Adviser (pdf)
  5. Ups and Downs on the Dissertation Road (pdf)
  6. How to Survive the Dissertation (pdf)
  7. Taming the Dissertation (pdf)
  8. Writing Your Dissertation (pdf)
  9. The View from the Other Side of the Desk
  10. Several links under the Graduate Division's "Current Graduate Students" page explain thesis writing and the general process of finishing your degree.
  11. The All-But-Dissertation Survival Guide

Please note that most of these links refer to writing a doctoral dissertation. Writing a master's thesis involves significantly less work and less time, so don't be misled into thinking that a master's thesis will take years of work.

Current CWL Graduate Students
Name Info
Achierno, Jeffrey  
Baldwin, Erick  
Barger, Alexa

Alexa Barger is in her first year of graduate study at SF State. She works with literatures in English, French, Italian and Spanish, with an emphasis on contemporary novels and non-fiction prose. Her research interests include global feminist theory and women's writing, literary representations of immigration, exile, belonging and digital humanities.

Campbell, Scott  
Dirmit, Yildiz  
Filippetti Hunter, Rachel

Rachel is in her second year of graduate study at SF State. She works on French and English literature with a special interest in the U.S. South, Francophone literature, post-colonial studies and ecocriticism. She is also interested in Feminist theory and literature relating to motherhood, childbirth and domesticity.

Galvan, Ann  
Garvey, Sarah  
Gholamali, Bita  
He, Pei

Pei He is a second year comparative literature M.A. student at SF State. She works on ancient Greek, Latin and Chinese literature with a focus in affects and emotions. She is also interested in the poetic form and its related phenomenology.

Hollocks, Emily  
Huynh, Annie  
Jimison, Marisa

Marisa Jimison is in the second year of her Comparative Literature M.A and finishing her Certificate in the Teaching of Composition. Her research interests include Latin American and LatinX literatures as well as feminist, postcolonial, gender, and critical theory. Currently, she works as a reading, writing and study skills tutor at SF State’s Learning Assistance Center. Marisa also volunteered with 826 Valencia as a high school writing coach and interned in San Francisco’s Office of Education and Family Services of the late Mayor Edwin M. Lee, as a Willie Brown Jr. Fellow. As a future English language and literature teacher, she strives to offer the best to her students. She has a particular interest in working with immigrant and urban youth and would like to use her accumulated professional experience to venture into policy-planning and development in the future. She hopes her efforts in teaching and beyond will help make local educational institutions more equitable to at risk populations.

Kiehl, Paige

Paige is a first year M.A. student studying at SF State. She works on Spanish and English literature with a focus on the representation of female archetypes, hybrid landscapes and identities, and borderland narratives in the Americas. She is also interested in feminist literature, trauma and healing, and translation theory.

Kwong, Megan  
Labaree, Sophie  
Mejia, Jessica

Jessica is a second year M.A. student studying in Spanish and English, and a 2017-2018 California Pre-Doctoral Scholar. She focuses on late 20th century prose and poetry of the Americas, and her additional interests include studies in literary value, translation, poetics and resistance literature. Jessica is also a poet and frequently organizes literary events in the Mission district. Her poetry explores the transformative nature of the family unit, music as an element in trauma and healing, and the Salvadoran diaspora.

Paz, Margaret  
Peña, Karen

Karen Peña is a part of the Comparative Literature M.A. cohort of 2018 and is sitting President of the Comparative Literature Student Association. She studies Spanish and English literary traditions with an emphasis on the literature of the Americas. Her research interests include resistance literature of the 20th and 21st century, testimonio, metafiction and confessionals, as well as writing center theory pedagogy, ecocriticism, narrative, feminist and queer theory. Karen also works as a writing, reading and study skills tutor at the Campus Academic Resource Program, which is a free, student-led, tutoring center specializing in inclusive pedagogy. During the Spring Semester of 2019, Karen will be the instructor of record for one section of a lower division literature class she calls “Trapped in Literature".

Peralta, Ederlyn

Ederlyn Peralta is a current graduate student in the M.A. Comparative Literature Program. Her languages are English and Japanese. Her research interests include classical Japanese poetry, medieval love lyrics, 20th to 21st-century literature, issues on romance and love in literature, cosmology/astronomy, popular culture and media, and digital literature. In her spare time, Ederlyn does freelance writing and editing.

Santos, Melanie

This is Melanie's first year studying in the graduate program. She works with English and French literature. Her research interests are still developing, but she enjoys exploring modern literature, the uncanny, trauma, memory, feminism and alterity.

Sheehan, Christopher  
Sheetz, Haley

Haley Sheetz is currently pursuing an M.A. in Comparative Literature with a focus on French literature from the Medieval period. Some of her areas of interest are troubadour love ballads, feminist critique and cross cultural relations. She also works in the writing center at Cañada College and enjoys helping students at all levels improve their writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys volleyball, cooking and Jeopardy.

Soysal, Gunes

Gunes is a current student in the M.A. Comparative Literature Program. Her research focuses on relating literary and artistic productions to wider systems of power/domination and examines their role in the reproduction of ideologies. She has a particular interest in humor studies and methods of discourse analysis.

Tedder, Camila  
Trinh, Brian  
Tsukanov, Aleksey  
Villafuerte, Javier

Javier Villafuerte is a first year M.A. student in CWL that works with literatures in Spanish, English, and, at times, Italian. He is interested in historical fiction produced in the late 20th and early 21st centuries by Latin American and Latinx writers in both Spanish and English and the relationship between historical fiction and historiography. He is particularly interested in the relationships between the Mexico, Central America and the United States and how they are represented in fiction.

Williamson, Laura

Laura's literary interests are still quite broad, but she is currently enjoying exploring post-colonial texts as well as literature of migration and diaspora. With French and Spanish as her foreign languages, she is particularly drawn to Francophone and Hispanic traditions, and has recently discovered Caribbean immigrant narratives. This semester she has had the opportunity to work as a Graduate Teaching Associate on the FR101 course (beginner’s French).