History and Literature

Program Category: MA Programs
Program Director: Thomas Dodman
Associate Director: Keithley Woolward
Admissions Coordinator: Julia Bender
Website: https://historyandliterature.columbia.edu/
Degree Programs: Full-time in Paris: fall, spring, and summer: Free-standing MA

The MA in History and Literature trains students in historical approaches to the study of literature and in the interpretation of texts for the study of history. It is taught at Reid Hall, Columbia's campus in Paris.

As a Columbia degree taught in France, the MA in History and Literature offers an attractive and unusual combination of Ivy League and European academics. The curriculum is designed, administered, and primarily part taught by Columbia faculty. It therefore reflects the intellectual values and standards of Columbia University. The program starts with the premise that literature and history owe their current forms to many past developments that both separated them and leave much common ground for interconnections. It introduces students to the main critical and theoretical debates at the intersection between history and literature, including the narrative qualities of historical writing, the linguistic turn in history, and the tension between history and theory within the literary field. An important part of the program is the consideration of literature itself as a field of moral, philosophical, sociological, and historical knowledge. Students develop a sophisticated awareness of theoretical and methodological issues. They also acquire the philological tools required for the interpretation of texts in print or manuscript form.

Paris has exceptional collections of rare books and historical archives, housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Biblothèque mazarine, and the Archives nationales de France. The Institut mémoires de l'édition contemporaine, located in Normandy, is easily accessible from Paris. In addition, the national libraries and archives of France's neighboring countries are a few hours away by fast train. Students also have access to the courses and seminars of France's top two graduate schools in the humanities and social sciences: the Ecole normale supérieure and the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales. Practical training in textual analysis includes hands-on sessions conducted at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Archives nationales de France. 

We expect many students to have an interest in French history and literature or in the French-speaking world beyond Europe. We also welcome students who wish to conduct comparative study and work on materials in other modern European languages, Latin, Hebrew, or Arabic. Courses are taught in English or French; written work is normally done in English.

The program provides sound footing for applications to professional schools in law, international affairs, journalism, or medicine. Graduates may seek positions in the United States or Europe in the diplomatic service, business, finance and banking, journalism, publishing, editing and translating, art and cultural organizations, international NGOs, and academic administration. The degree is also a valuable credential for students seeking admission to a doctoral program in history or literature.

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a writing sample, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

The program invites applications from students who have, or will have received by the time of enrollment, a baccalaureate in any field within the humanities or social sciences, granted by a college or university of recognized standing. Prospective students should also have at least two years of college French or proficiency at the equivalent level, indicating an ability to read primary and secondary sources in French and to take part in class discussions conducted in French.

A minimum of three reference letters are required. At least two must be from academic sources. Applicants who have not been enrolled in an academic program for some time may also submit additional letters from supervisors or colleagues in positions of responsibility.

While the program is housed at Columbia's campus in Paris, applicants submit material through the GSAS online application system and its procedures as managed by the Admissions Office of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in New York. Applications sent by email or in paper copy will not be accepted.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.

Applicants who wish to be considered for funding are strongly encouraged to apply by the early deadline date, January 16. Please contact [email protected] for questions about HILI fellowship funding and application information. All applicants who submit prior to January 16 will receive a decision by late February.