Comparative Literature (MLitt) 2023 entry

The MLitt in Comparative Literature explores the transnational understanding of literature and culture, providing students with a critical evaluation of classical and contemporary theoretical approaches combined with the intensive study of a broad range of texts across national, cultural and linguistic borders, and the relations between them.

Start date
September 2023
End date
September 2024
One year full time
School of Modern Languages

Application deadline

Thursday 10 August 2023

Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

“It’s a stimulating environment – engaging with different perspectives and having my views challenged has been beneficial to me both personally and to my academic growth. I’ve had the chance to meet new scholars, organise conferences, build my academic portfolio and teach. Be prepared to work hard but also you will have the best time of your life.”
- Livorno, Italy

Entry requirements

The qualifications listed are indicative 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)
  • sample of academic written work (2,000 words)
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

English language proficiency

If English is not your first language, you may need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. See approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

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 engage with traditional and new approaches to comparative literature, deepening their understanding of the field, and working with texts both in their original languages and in English translation. 
  • Small class sizes provide a close-knit postgraduate community and friendly environment. 
  • Innovative core and optional modules allow students to explore new approaches to reading texts and reflecting on their own critical practices. 
  • A wide range of optional modules provides the opportunity to take modules from other disciplines. 
  • One-on-one specialist dissertation supervision is available from across the broad range of research interests within the School of Modern Languages. 


Each module typically comprises: 

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

For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2022-2023  academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2023 entry. 

  • Apples and Oranges: Issues in Comparative Literature: explores, critiques and contextualises a range of traditional and more recent comparative theories and methodologies, ranging, typically, from literary geographies, postcolonial theories and digital humanities to the transnational, petrofictions and animal studies. 
  • Comparative Literature: Research in Practice: offers students specialised supervision to develop a research project on a comparative topic of their choice, while learning and putting into practice a range of key skills, including building bibliographies; writing abstracts and research proposals; oral presentation skills; and disseminating research for diverse audiences. 

Here is a sample of optional modules that may be offered. 

  • Comparative Literature Project: allows you to carry out work, applied or creative or both, based on a range of theories and critical methodologies associated with Comparative Literature. 
  • Reading Literature: New Comparative Approaches: an innovative module which questions the possibilities and limits of comparison, exploring how we might carry out critical readings of literary texts by bringing them into contact with other texts potentially drawn from any field or discipline. 

The following may also be available, subject to appropriate competency in the relevant languages. 

  • Cultural Expression in the Chinese Diaspora: addresses literary and visual texts and practices created outside of China by migrants and their descendants. 
  • French Literary Revolutions: advanced knowledge of contexts that have shaped literature and culture in the French-speaking lands from the Medieval period to the present day. 
  • German Literary and Cultural Contexts: advanced knowledge of 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 how Italian identity has been constructed in cultural production from the 13th century to the present day. 
  • Middle Eastern Literary and Cultural Contexts: provides students with a comprehensive knowledge of important elements of classical and modern Arabic and Persian literatures and cultures from pre-Islamic times to the present. 
  • New Approaches to the Russian Literary Canon: explores how the ‘Russian literary canon’ has been constructed over the past 200 years. 
  • Patterns in Hispanic Literature and Film: a high-level introduction to research areas of Hispanic literature and film. 
  • Problems of Culture and Identity 1: through the study of a broad range of particular cultural traditions, seeks to enhance understanding of the concepts and mechanisms involved in the formation of collective identity as such (the 'poetics' of cultural identity). 
  • Problems of Culture and Identity 2: focuses on personal, rather than group identity. Particular topics treated may include: the dialectical relationship between personal and collective identities, the self and alterity, narrative and identity formation, situatedness and corporeality, transnational identities and problems of autobiography. 
  • Research Methods in Chinese Cultural Studies: provides training in the Chinese language and other China-specific research tools and methods. 

Students may have the opportunity to take an optional module delivered by another academic School. Students will first need to seek permission from their academic adviser. 

Optional modules are subject to change each year, and some may only allow limited numbers of students (see the University's position on curriculum development). 

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 2023 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.


The taught portion of the course consists of two compulsory modules and a range of optional modules held over two semesters, plus a 15,000-word dissertation. 

Classes are delivered primarily via small group seminars and occasionally through lectures. 

Modules are assessed through coursework; there are no final exams for this programme.


The School of Modern Languages is the largest modern languages department in Scotland and one of the largest in the UK. 

The School is distinguished by the breadth of its research which spans language, literary, and cultural studies across eight distinct language areas – Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Persian, Russian, and Spanish – but also a range of cultural-historical epochs from the middle ages to the present day.

This expertise is complemented by the School’s comparative literature scholarship. 

The School hosts a year-round programme of research seminars which postgraduates are invited to attend. Opportunities to engage with the School’s wider research community are also provided through its four research centres and institutes and its highly successful Byre World series, an annual programme of events bringing modern languages and cultural studies research to the local community. 




More information on tuition fees can be found on the postgraduate fees and funding page.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews is committed to attracting the very best students, regardless of financial circumstances. Find out more about the scholarships and postgraduate loans available.

All taught postgraduate scholarships

After your degree


Alongside your academic learning, you will develop your broader capabilities and employability. All Masters students have access to the Professional Skills Curriculum, a flexible programme of workshops, lectures, and online materials to help you develop your personal and professional skills. 

Graduates have gone on to careers in fields including: 

  • consulting 
  • energy resource management 
  • international development 
  • journalism 
  • UN interpreting 
  • public policy 
  • publishing 
  • the civil and diplomatic services 
  • University academics and administrators. 

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Further study

The MLitt provides academic learning and research skills training for students intending to continue to a doctoral or other research degree.  

As well as the PhD degree, the School of Modern Languages offers supervision for two research-based Masters degrees – the Master of Studies by Research (MSt (Res)) and the Master of Philosophy (MPhil).  

Postgraduate research

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Postgraduate virtual days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online visiting days.

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 2961
School of Modern Languages
Buchanan Building
Union Street
St Andrews
KY16 9PH

School of Modern Languages website