African Cultural Studies

College of Letters & Science
HomeDegree ProgramsGraduate Programs Ph.D. in African Languages and Literature

Ph.D. in African Languages and Literature

Prospective graduate students should note that we are in the process of changing the name of all of our degree programs to "African Cultural Studies," to match the name of our department. Admitted students should expect that their degree will be in African Cultural Studies rather than African Languages and Literature.

The Ph.D. program involves at least one year advanced study of an African language, study of at least one additional language related to intended research, required coursework, a preliminary exam prior to achieving Dissertator status, and a doctorate-level dissertation. Students who are pursuing a Ph.D. in other departments may obtain a minor in African Languages and Literature.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

All Ph.D. students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress and the African Languages and Literature program requirements published in the Graduate Catalog at the time of matriculation. However, the most basic Ph.D. program requirements are outlined below. 

Degree Requirements

1. M.A. in a relevant subject prior to admission.

2. One year's study of an African language beyond second year level. Students may petition for an exemption if they have an equivalent level of proficiency in an African language.

3. Four graduate-level courses: in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Thesis Committee chair, each student is expected to define an area of focus within African Cultural Studies, e.g., literature, music, film, critical applied linguistics, drama, critical theory, diaspora studies, new media. Within that area of study, students will take:

  • Two graduate seminars
  • Two additional courses to be chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Thesis Committee chair

4. Coursework statement. Doctoral students must submit a short statement (2-3 pages) at the end of their third semester, discussing how the courses that they have taken so far, as well as those that they plan to take in the future semester(s), relate to their area of focus and inform their dissertation research and their envisioned career path. The statement should be approved by the advisor, then submitted by the advisor at a faculty meeting for feedback.

4. One additional course in a language relevant to the student’s doctoral research and/or geographic area of focus, other than English. The language must be chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

5. Completion of a Ph.D. Minor

6. Preliminary Examination:

  1. Written  Exam
  2. Dissertation Proposal
  3. Oral Defense

Admission to Candidacy

Official admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree occurs when the student has passed all three steps in the Preliminary Examination process.

Advisor and Committee Requirements

Doctoral students are required to meet with the Director of Graduate Studies and/or another faculty member who has agreed to chair their Dissertation Committee every semester prior to enrolling for the next semester. Failure to meet this requirement will result in a hold on the student's enrollment.

Students must have at least three professors from within our Department on all committees. For preliminary exams and proposal defenses, additional outside members, if included, do not have voting rights. At the time of the dissertation defense, committees must have at least one outside member, and that member will have voting rights.

Satisfactory Progress

Expectations for timely completion vary depending on whether the MA was earned at UW-Madison or elsewhere.

For students who earned an MA elsewhere:

  • Coursework should be completed in six semesters. Students who need more time to complete coursework must make a written request and justification for an extension by the end of the fifth semester, to be presented by their adviser at a faculty meeting for approval by the faculty. No more than one such extension will be granted.
  • By the beginning of the sixth semester, the candidate proceeds to the Preliminary Examination.
  • Students who have not scheduled their Written Preliminary Exam by the beginning of the sixth semester must write a brief request and justification for a one-semester extension, to be presented by their advisor at a faculty meeting for approval by the faculty. No more than one such extension will be granted.
  • A student who has not attempted the Written Preliminary Exam by the beginning of their seventh semester, or passed it by the end of the seventh semester, will leave the program with an MA (provided they have at least 30 credits).

For students who earned an MA at UW-Madison:

  • Coursework should be completed in four semesters. Students who need more time to complete coursework must make a written request and justification for an extension by the end of the third semester, to be presented by their adviser at a faculty meeting for approval by the faculty. No more than one such extension will be granted.
  • By the beginning of the fourth semester, the candidate proceeds to the Preliminary Examination.
  • Students who have not scheduled their Written Preliminary Exam by the beginning of the fourth semester must write a brief request and justification for a one-semester extension, to be presented by their advisor at a faculty meeting for approval by the faculty. No more than one such extension will be granted.
  • A student who has not attempted the Written Exam by the beginning of their fifth semester, or passed it by the end of the fifth semester, will leave the program.

For all students, the Preliminary Examination has the following components:

  1. Written Exam
  2. Dissertation Proposal
  3. Oral Defense

After passing the Written Preliminary Exam, the student will write the dissertation proposal and defend it by the end of the same semester. Students who have not scheduled their Oral Defense by the end of the semester in which they pass the Written Qualifying Exam must write a brief request and justification for a one-semester extension, to be presented by their advisor at the last faculty meeting of that semester (typically December) for approval by the faculty. No more than one such extension will be granted. A student who has not passed the Oral Defense by the end of their seventh semester will leave the program with an MA.

Official admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree occurs when the student has (a) passed the preliminary examinations, and (b) defended his/her dissertation proposal.

Questions?

See our FAQs.

Current graduate students, see useful deadlines.

For more information about applying, see our Graduate Applications page.