General Info

  • Faculty working with students: 16
  • Students: 26
  • Students receiving Financial Aid: 93%
  • Part time study available: No
  • Application terms: Fall
  • Application deadline: November 30
Application Info


Roberto Dainotto
Director of Graduate Studies
Program in Literature
Duke University
Box 90670
Durham, NC  27708-0670



Program Description

The Graduate Program in Literature (GPL) endeavors to train future scholars in theory and global culture. Originally conceived as a critical expansion of "comparative literature" beyond its founding Eurocentrism and its (near) exclusive focus on literature and language, the GPL hosts a robust range of scholarship and teaching in a variety of areas, ranging from feminist and gender studies to political theory and Marxism, from psychoanalysis to cognitive studies and neuroscience, from philosophy of language and experimental literature to media studies in the digital age, and from global cinema and film theory to visual culture and postcolonial studies. The program defines itself through its diverse investment in theory and is dedicated to understanding literary and cultural history as a complex and evolving exchange between the past and the (future-oriented) present.

The immense geopolitical changes of the last decades have challenged the logic of the traditional disciplines, altered the status of the arts, and interrogated classical aesthetic values. With its broad and open-ended embrace of global cultural objects and processes, the GPL seeks to theorize the cultural upheaval of recent times in all of its contemporary richness.  By questioning the traditional conception of literature as a privileged cultural domain, and of the literary text as an isolatable aesthetic object, the GPL adopts a "post-textualist" approach to culture - including literature - that engages the profusion of diverse modes of production across received boundaries. We encourage our students to explore the connections between theory and innovations in other disciplines - anthropology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, art history, film and media, gender and sexuality studies, religious studies, the history and philosophy of science and technology, law - that share an investment in narrativity, structure, communication, and interpretation.


Application Information

Application Terms Available: Fall

Application Deadline: November 30

Graduate School Application Requirements
See the Application Instructions page for important details about each Graduate School requirement.

  • Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts required with application submission; official transcripts required upon admission
  • Letters of Recommendation: 3 Required
  • Statement of Purpose: Required
  • Résumé: Required
  • GRE Scores: GRE General (Optional)
  • English Language Exam: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test required* for applicants whose first language is not English
    *test waiver may apply for some applicants
  • GPA: Undergraduate GPA calculated on 4.0 scale required

Department-Specific Application Requirements (submitted through online application)

Writing Sample
The submission of a writing sample (limited to 15-25 pages) is required.  It should be an essay (nonfiction), preferably a critical or scholarly essay submitted as an academic requirement in a course related to literary/critical theory broadly understood.  The writing sample should be uploaded in the Departmental Requirements section of the application.

We strongly encourage you to review additional department-specific application guidance from the program to which you are applying: Departmental Application Guidance