MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation | University of Oxford
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MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation

About the course

The MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation is a nine-month, interdisciplinary course designed to give you critical, theoretical and research expertise in the intersecting fields of comparative and world literature and translation studies.

To take the course, you must be able to work with two languages and literatures, out of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, modern Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

The MSt is attached to Oxford’s research centre in Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) and builds on the recent growth in scholarly awareness of the importance of translation to comparative and world literary study. This is what is meant by ‘critical translation’: not translator training, but rather an interest in the role played by translation and re-writing in literary history, and an alertness to the uses of translation in critical practice.

The core course will introduce you to key topics in comparative and world literature and translation studies, and give you the skills needed to develop your own arguments and pursue original research. It is taught by a weekly lecture and seminar in weeks 1-6 of Michaelmas (autumn) and Hilary (spring) terms. You will give presentations in the seminars (usually twice each term), and write a short practice essay (2,000-4,000 words) at the end of Michaelmas term: these formative assignments will not affect your degree result. Assessment is by a 4,000 word essay written at the end of Hilary term.

The list below provides an indication of the topics covered in the core course, though please note that it may vary from year to year:

  • histories of comparison
  • theories of comparison
  • worlds of comparison
  • figures;
  • genres and forms
  • migration, travel and encounter
  • translation studies and comparative literatures
  • translation and transmediality
  • translation and circulation
  • translingual and multilingual texts
  • untranslatables and universals
  • translational critical practices.

You will take one option course in Michaelmas term and one option course in Hilary term. These options are chosen from a wide range available in the faculties of Medieval and Modern Languages, English Language and Literature, and Oriental Studies. The options available will vary from year to year. For an indicative list, please see section 4.5 of the draft course handbook, which can be found on the department's course webpage.

Teaching for an option consists of regular 1-1 or small-group meetings, with feedback being given as appropriate; assessment is by written work of up to 7,000 words, to be submitted after the end of the term in which the option has been taught. Your options must focus on literature in different languages (eg, Arabic in one term, English in the other; or French in one term, Russian in the other). Some options span more than one language: in such cases, the course convener will advise you so that your choices cover an appropriate range.

Your dissertation may be on any comparative topic that involves your two languages of focus. You will work closely with a supervisor, starting at the end of Michaelmas term and continuing through Hilary term, though the bulk of the work will be concentrated in Trinity (summer) term. Your 10,000-12,000 word dissertation will be due in at the end of Trinity term.

If you wish, you may also choose to study another language at the Oxford University Language Centre. This opportunity is free of charge for students taking the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation, though it is not an assessed part of your MSt course.

Graduate destinations

It is anticipated that those who have successfully completed the course may proceed to doctoral work at Oxford or other institutions. Alternative career destinations may include publishing, journalism, teaching, or various kinds of international cultural work.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.75 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

You must provide evidence of proficiency in at least two languages (one of which may be English) to at least level B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or an equivalent standard for Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

Interviews may be held with candidates whose application requires clarification or further information in relation to one or more aspect of the entry requirements, such as those identified below as other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience.

References outlining academic potential and suitability to study for the intended course are secured before discussion with the applicant takes place. Interviews will be conducted by either telephone, face-to-face or Skype and there will be a minimum of two interviewers. Applications may be rejected without further direct contact with the applicant.


Publications are not expected.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

You will need to provide evidence of literary competence corresponding to your language skills. You may do this in your letter of application and submitted written work, as well as by the qualifications you have obtained. 

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the steering committee for the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation to provide appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the number of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes. 

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the steering committee for the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation in consultation with faculties in the Humanities Division, and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the research centre.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.


You will be able to participate in the rich research culture of Oxford’s Comparative Criticism and Translation research centre (OCCT). This includes the lively postgraduate-led discussion group, regular research seminars and workshops, the public events of Oxford Translation Day, and lectures by the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor in Comparative European Literature (recent incumbents have included Javier Cercas, Ali Smith, Mario Vargas Llosa, Elif Shafak and Umberto Eco).

You will have common room/study space in the centre. The academic mentor and the graduate teaching assistant who are attached to the course will help you to orient yourself in the research culture of OCCT and the wider university; and you will present your dissertation work-in-progress at a seminar day organised jointly with the OCCT discussion group in Trinity term.

You will also be able to attend seminars and other events from across the faculties of Medieval and Modern Languages, English Language and Literature, and Oriental Studies, thereby encountering a wide range of leading writers, critics, and theorists from within and beyond the University.

Oxford has internationally renowned libraries and archives. The combined collections of the Bodleian Libraries contain more than 11 million printed items, in addition to more than 50,000 e-journals and a vast quantity of manuscripts, maps, music and other materials. The libraries of the Taylor Institution, English Faculty, and Oriental Institute, as well as the Leopold Muller Library, hold focused collections within the area of the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation; every college also has a well stocked library.

The Bodleian Libraries, the University’s Research Skills Toolkit, IT Services and the Humanities Researcher Development Programme provide training in study and IT skills and career development. You can also learn an additional language at the Oxford University Language Centre.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

There also is a full graduate scholarship dedicated specifically to the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation and held at St Anne's College. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered for it.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£11,160

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of the course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living expenses. However, it is possible that work towards the dissertation, depending on the choice of topic, may require additional expenditure, for example on travel to a library where an archive is held.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are not required to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.


A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you.

You should describe the nature of your knowledge of two (or more) languages and literatures if this is not already obvious from your CV and qualifications. You should explain what interests you about the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation, and indicate the areas in which you are likely to want to take option courses. You should also describe the topic on which you hope to write your dissertation, showing an awareness of current scholarship in the field, and delineating the scope of the project and the research questions you wish to pursue.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • your description of the work you wish to do within the course, including the dissertation.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Your statement should focus on your academic achievements and interests rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each or one essay of up to 4,000

The written work should consist of an academic essay or essays. It should give evidence of your competence in two or more languages and literatures (one of which may be English). Clearly-highlighted extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible. Where necessary, a cover note may be attached placing an extract in a larger context.

Work should be submitted in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should generally be academic, though if you are returning to study after extended periods of non-academic employment then you are welcome to nominate professional referees where it would be impractical to call on your previous university tutors.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in both a group environment and independently.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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