Slavic Languages and Literatures

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures PhD graduate program is designed to train future scholars and teachers of Slavic languages and literatures. Students specialize either in literature or linguistics, combining a core curriculum with independent research early in their graduate career.

Students are admitted to the PhD or MA/PhD program only; the department will not consider applicants for the MA only.

Program in Literature and Culture

The program in literature and culture provides a thorough knowledge of the evolving literary canon along with attendant historical contexts while encouraging students to acquire expertise in literary and cultural theory.

Berkeley welcomes students with interdisciplinary interests. Slavic students may pursue official designated emphases in Film, Folklore, Women Gender and Sexuality Studies, Critical Theory, or Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, as well as individually designed areas of specialization. The Slavic Department works in collaboration with the departments of Comparative Literature, Linguistics, Anthropology, History, Theater, Music, Art History, and with the Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, which houses the Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies and The Caucasus and Central Asia Program.

The majority of students at Berkeley choose Russian as their major language. We encourage students who wish to explore the diverse literary and cultural traditions of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. We accept a small number of students who choose Polish, Bulgarian or BCS (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian) language and literature as their major field; in such cases, special programs are established and students do much of their graduate work independently. These students normally take Russian as a minor field. Berkeley does not administer a PhD Program in Czech, but Czech can be chosen as the second Slavic language.

Program in Linguistics

The Slavic linguistics concentration of our program has been considerably reduced in recent years. Because students of Slavic linguistics have to do most of the graduate work in individual meetings with faculty, we aim to admit students who already have advanced preparation in the field and who are able and willing to pursue an independent course of professional training.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Admission to the Program

We select our graduate students on the basis of prior academic achievement and promise of success in scholarship and teaching. Students admitted to the PhD program with an MA in Slavic or a related field from another institution are required to pass a screening (permission-to-proceed) examination. Students who have earned the MA degree from this department may receive permission to proceed to the PhD program following successful performance on the MA comprehensive examinations and demonstrated aptitude for advanced work. The department does not accept applications for a terminal MA program of study.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Total Normative Time

Total normative time is six years.

Time to Advancement


Russian Literature Concentration
SLAVIC 201Course Not Available (if applicable per proficiency)
SLAVIC 204Course Not Available
SLAVIC 210Old Church Slavic4
SLAVIC 222Descriptive Grammar of Slavic Languages4
SLAVIC 280Studies in Slavic Literature and Linguistics4
SLAVIC 281Proseminar: Aims and Methods of Literary Scholarship4
SLAVIC Literature electives, as per specialized study list
Russian Linguistics Concentration
SLAVIC 200Graduate Colloquium (if applicable per proficiency)0.0
SLAVIC 201Course Not Available
SLAVIC 204Course Not Available
SLAVIC 210Old Church Slavic4
SLAVIC 222Descriptive Grammar of Slavic Languages4
SLAVIC 280Studies in Slavic Literature and Linguistics4
SLAVIC 282Proseminar: Aims and Methods of Linguistic Scholarship (can be substituted by LINGUIS 100)4
SLAVIC Linguistics electives, as per specialized study list
Foreign Language(s)

Students of linguistics are required to demonstrate a reading knowledge of either French or German before taking the MA exams. They must demonstrate a reading knowledge of both before taking the PhD exams.

Students of literature are required to demonstrate a reading knowledge of either French or German before taking their MA exams. As an alternative, students of literature have the option to complete two semesters of a second Slavic language on a letter-grade basis. Students may, with prior permission granted on an individual basis and with a view to pursuing specific research goals, fulfill this requirement by studying a non-Slavic language from a region within the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (e.g., Armenian, Georgian, Estonian, and Hungarian).

Preliminary Exams

At the beginning of the semester in which the examination is taken, students who will take the PhD qualifying exam must file the Application for the Qualifying Examination. Note that it requires the names of the student's examination committee (including the outside member). It is advisable to consult with the graduate advisor and, for students of linguistics, with the faculty mentor, and committee members during the semester preceding the examination. By the Graduate Division rules, applicants must list at least three subject areas in which the candidate will be examined. Students in our department list their major and minor fields (literature) or three subject areas (linguistics) as well as the general field for all students: Russian language (or another major Slavic language). The completed form must be signed by the graduate adviser, and if applicable, the designated emphasis graduate adviser. The form is then submitted to the Graduate Division for approval.

In brief:

  1. Print and fill the form; if necessary, consult with the graduate assistant;
  2. Consult with the graduate advisor and, for students of linguistics, with the faculty mentor, and obtain the signatures;
  3. Make a copy for your department file and hand it to the graduate assistant; and
  4. Deliver the form to 318 Sproul Hall, Graduate Division.
Field Papers

Research Requirement (qualifying paper or publishable paper): All graduate students are required to submit an extended research paper (on a topic of their choice) to satisfy the departmental research requirement. Usually, but not necessarily, the research paper is a revised and expanded version of a course/seminar paper. It is expected that the paper will be of publishable quality, that is, it will meet the standards of a scholarly journal in its scope, originality, form, and technical format. In some cases, this paper may further lead to a dissertation topic. The paper is submitted to the graduate adviser at the end of the third year (or by exception, at the beginning of the semester which precedes the exam). The paper must be approved by the graduate adviser, who usually asks two or more faculty members to read it. Faculty members are expected to promptly read and evaluate the paper. In some cases, additional revisions of the paper may be asked, which makes timing essential.

Time in Candidacy


Advancement to candidacy is an important official procedure. To qualify for advancement, a student must have passed the qualifying examinations and completed all other requirements for the degree (course requirements and language requirements). For the application, the student, in consultation with the graduate advisor and, for students of linguistics, with the faculty mentor, will create a working title for the dissertation and select the dissertation committee members.


The dissertation prospectus is a detailed outline of the project. The department requires that a student complete an approved prospectus by the end of the semester following the PhD qualifying examination. At this point students begin registering for the required units through SLAVIC 299 (Directed Research), which is usually supervised by the chair of their dissertation committee, though units may be divided between members of the committee as approved by the graduate adviser.

The prospectus generally includes a justification of the topic and a description of methodology, objectives, available scholarly literature, the potential relevance of the work, and the structure of the dissertation and includes a working bibliography. Once this prospectus has been approved by the graduate advisor, a copy should be given to the graduate assistant for the student's file.


The doctoral dissertation represents the final demonstration, in the graduate program, of a student's research and scholarly abilities, and constitutes an original contribution to the field of study. It is an independent investigation undertaken with faculty guidance and evaluation, and as such it is important that this phase of graduate work be conducted with periodic consultation between the student and the dissertation committee members. The dissertation must receive the unanimous approval of the committee members in order for it to be accepted as final completion of the degree requirements.

During the course of work on the dissertation, it is the student's responsibility to initiate and maintain regular contact with the dissertation committee. Likewise, it is the responsibility of the faculty members to be available for consultation and to offer necessary direction, advice and suggestions for improvements in the research and writing. To ensure adequate and regular faculty/student contact time students enroll each semester in SLAVIC 299, dissertation writing course.

Normally a student will be expected to complete the dissertation within two years after being advanced to candidacy. Each semester, the graduate adviser, in consultation with the dissertation chair, reviews the student's work to determine if acceptable progress is being made. Failure to make progress in the research and/or writing of the dissertation may result in the lapsing of a student's candidacy, as regulated by the dean of the Graduate Division.


Literature, Linguistics and Culture:


Slavic Languages and Literatures








Faculty and Instructors

* Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


* Lyubov (Luba) Golburt, Associate Professor. Pushkin, Russian literature and art of the 18th and 19th centuries, Derzhavin, Turgenev, history and literature, historical novel.
Research Profile

Darya Kavitskaya, Associate Professor. Phonological theory, opacity, contrast, Slavic phonology, phonetics/phonology interface, field linguistics (Slavic, Turkic, Uralic).
Research Profile

Eric Naiman, Professor. Sexuality, history, comparative literature, Slavic language, ideological poetics, history of medicine, Soviet culture, the gothic novel.
Research Profile

Anne Nesbet, Associate Professor. Culture, film studies, Slavic languages, early Soviet culture, Sergei Eisenstein, silent film, Soviet film, GDR history, children's literature and Stalinism, the Soviet Union, American minority movements.
Research Profile

Irina Paperno, Professor Emerita, Professor of the Graduate School, Advisory Committee Chair. Russian language and literature, intellectual history.
Research Profile

Djordje Popovic, Assistant Professor. Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav literature; Danilo Kiš; Dubravka Ugrešić; critical theory (Frankfurt School); intellectual history.
Research Profile

Harsha Ram, Associate Professor. Russian and European romanticism and modernism, Russian and European avant-gardes, Russian, European, Near Eastern and South Asian poetic traditions, Indian literature, Italian literature, Georgian history and literature, theories of world literature, literary theory, comparative poetics, genre theory, literary history, comparative modernisms and modernities, vernacular and high culture, cultural and political history of Russia-Eurasia and the Caucasus, postcolonial studies, theories of nationalism, imperialism and cosmopolitanism, the city and literature .
Research Profile

Edward Tyerman, Assistant Professor. Early Soviet culture, Soviet internationalism, cultural connections and exchanges between Russia and China, Russian and Soviet Orientalism, theories and experiences of post-socialism, politics and aesthetics, subjectivity and self-narration .
Research Profile


Myrna Douzjian, Lecturer.

* Ellen R. Langer, Continuing Lecturer.

Klara Libman, Lecturer.

Anna Muza, Senior Lecturer.

Antje Postema, Lecturer.

Eva Soos Szoke, Continuing Lecturer.

Katarzyna Zacha, Continuing Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Ronelle Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Professor of the Graduate School. Slavic languages and literatures, Balkan Slavic dialectology, Balkan linguistics, language contact, oral tradition, Parry-Lord theory of oral composition, South Slavic epic singers, issues of language and identity.
Research Profile

David A. Frick, Professor Emeritus. Slavic languages and literatures.
Research Profile

Joan Grossman, Professor Emeritus. Slavic languages and literatures, Russian symbolism and decadence viewed especially as a cultural process, questions of literary evolution, and Russian modernism .
Research Profile

Olga Hughes, Professor Emeritus. Slavic languages and literatures, literature and culture of the 20th century, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Remizov, autobiographical prose, history and literature of Russian emigration, Russian literary developments and cultural life of the early 20th century .
Research Profile

* Robert P. Hughes, Professor Emeritus. Critical theory, comparative literature, Slavic languages and literatures, Pushkin, Russian and European modernism, Russian poetry, Nabokov, Russian prose in the 1920s, Khodasevich's poetry, forms of autobiography, Andrei Belyi.
Research Profile

Olga Matich, Professor Emeritus, Professor of the Graduate School. Slavic languages and literatures, Russian symbolism and post-Stalin literature, women in Russian literature, Zinaida Gippius, Russian emigre literature, conceptualization of love in Russian culture, theory and practice of private life.
Research Profile

Johanna Nichols, Professor Emeritus. Slavic languages and literatures, Slavic languages, syntax, historical linguistics, typology, including historical typology, linguistic geography and areal linguistics, languages of northern Eurasia, particularly languages of the Caucasus.
Research Profile

Walter Schamschula, Professor Emeritus. Slavic languages and literatures, influences of cultural contacts on Czech literatures, especially Germanic, movement and migration of literary themes and topics in Europe, Czech cultural history and theory of literature, theory and practice of translation.
Research Profile

Alan Timberlake, Professor Emeritus. Slavic languages and literatures, descriptive grammar of Russian, chronicles.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

6303 Dwinelle Hall

Berkeley, CA 94720-2979

Phone: 510-642-2979

Fax: 510-642-6220

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Luba Golburt

6106 Dwinelle Hall

Head Graduate Advisor

Edward Tyerman

6112 Dwinelle Hall

Graduate Admissions

Seth Arnopole

Graduate Student Services Advisor

Seth Arnopole

6313 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-9051

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