Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture Ph.D. Graduate Student Handbook


The Field of Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture at Cornell University offers the Ph.D. degree to students who wish to major in the literature, religion(s), and intellectual history of countries in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.  Students may pursue a variety of sub-specializations within this broad research area.


General Requirements

Courses of Study

 All students are required to a assemble a committee of no fewer than three Cornell faculty members who will supervise and direct their dissertation research, devise and evaluate their A Exams, and assess and approve their dissertation.  The committee will consist of a committee chair, and two minor members.  The committee chair must be a member of the ALRC graduate field.  The two minor members must be Cornell faculty members, but need not be in the ALRC field.  Students will normally choose a committee chair before they begin their doctoral studies.  They must add one minor member to their committee no later than the end of their second semester of study, and the other by the end of their third semester.  Students who have not already completed an MA program prior to entering the Asian Literature Religion and Culture field will be required to complete an MA as part of their doctoral studies.  To remain in good academic standing, all students be be certified annually by their committee chair as making satisfactory progress in fulfilling their degree requirements.

Second Year Colloquium

At the end of the final term of their second year, all students in the ALRC field will present their research to the field faculty and other interested observers in a public colloquium.  This is a set of conference style presentations, in which each student offers a short talk on one or more aspects of their ongoing research, followed by a question and answer session with the field faculty.  This is an occasion for students to gain practice and confidence in presenting their work to audiences more diverse and more remote from their own specializations than their committee members.

A Exams

After completing their coursework, normally by the end of their sixth semester in residence, students are required to complete their A Exams, which comprise both a written and an oral component.  Each committee member, in consultation with the student, will develop an exam question focusing on one or more sub-specialization relevant to the student's research.  The student will produce a written response to each of the three exam questions, and these written responses will be circulated to all members of the student's dissertation committee.  The process will culminate in an oral defense of all three written exam papers before the full committee.  After the oral defense, the committee members will evaluate the student's performance and determine if the student receives a passing grade.

Dissertation Defense (B Exam)

After completion of their dissertation, and all other degree requirements, students are required to complete an oral defense of their dissertation or B Exam.  The defense must be attended by all committee members, and is typically open to other field members and interested members of the public.  Students will present an oral summary of their dissertation work, and respond to questions from the members of their dissertation committee.  The exam will be administered and evaluated by the members of the committee, who will then convene to evaluate the student's performance.

Funding and Teaching Requirements

Most students who are accepted into the Ph.D. program are offered a multi-year financial aid package that combines guaranteed fellowships and teaching assistantships. The typical funding package includes two years of direct fellowship support, and three years of teaching assignments to fund their studies for a total of five years. 

Students are strongly urged to apply for any national or regional fellowships for which they may be eligible (Mellon Fellowships, Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) awards).  If an applicant is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident they may be eligible to apply for a FLAS award. FLAS awards are administered by the Asian area programs at Cornell: South Asia Program and Southeast Asia Program. The FLAS is an academic year award which covers tuition, individual medical insurance, and a living stipend.  For more information about the FLAS awards, other funding opportunities, or for a FLAS application please see the relevant area program web page.  All students are expected to pursue opportunities for both Cornell-based and external funding to supplement their funding support.  Information on available fellowships can be found here.

Most students are admitted with a funding package that includes two years of fellowship funding (with no teaching obligation), and three years of study funded by TAships or other teaching.  The first year of fellowship funding is ordinarily taken in the first year of the student's study, and the second year is fellowship funding is accessible only after the student has passed the A exam.  While we do not guarantee funding for students beyond their fifth year, we will seek where possible to provide students with additional support as needed to complete their doctoral studies.