Main content start

Program Overview and Timeline

Students in MTL take coursework in a variety of disciplines: literature, history, philosophy, cultural anthropology, law, political science, etc., depending upon their interdisciplinary interests. Half of the course work is in literature, the other half in non-literary fields of the student’s choosing. Students may include courses on theory, film, etc. as part of the literature component, with the approval of the Director.


  • As an interdisciplinary program (rather than a department), MTL does not have its own faculty.
  • Our students work with faculty across the University, although primarily with faculty in the humanities or humanistic social sciences.
  • The extensive list on our website is made up of those faculty who have worked with one or more of our students in the relatively recent past.
  • But students can and will work with faculty who are not on that list. It depends entirely on the student’s areas of academic interest.

For more information about the Student/Advisor Relationship, read through our advising handbook here

Structuring Coursework

If you can find faculty to work with and courses to take, MTL is likely to be able to accommodate your interests.

Please remember that you need to configure your program of study so that half of the course work (8 courses) falls under the category of “literature,” and the other half (8 courses) falls under the category of “interdisciplinary” or “non-literature” courses (e.g. history, philosophy, anthropology, law, political science, etc.)

Is MTL Right for Me?

The most important thing for you to do in order to determine whether or not MTL is the right program for you is to browse the offerings in the Stanford departments from which you would probably take courses to see if the faculty and the course offerings would support your particular interdisciplinary focus. You may also want to visit interdisciplinary program or institute sites to see which faculty are affiliated (e.g. Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ethics and Society, the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies). You can access the various websites using the A-Z menu on the Stanford Home page (

Connecting for more information

The current students are an excellent source of information about the program. You may want to browse the list of current students and their interests, and e-mail one or more of them whose interests seem to intersect with yours to see whether they think Stanford would prove to be a good place for you to pursue your particular academic interests. (Please be concise when you outline your interests. You are less apt to get helpful responses if you send lengthy queries.)

You can also check the names of faculty on the MTL Committee in Charge and contact one or more of them to see what they think about the compatibility of your interests with the MTL program. Department websites generally list the e-mail addresses of their faculty members.


Timeline to PhD Degree Progress


First Year
  • MTL 334A: Concepts of Modernity I
  • MTL 334B: Concepts of Modernity II
  • MTL 334C: Intro to Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Coursework over next 2 years includes 8 courses in modern literary studies, 8 in non-literature departments
  • Competency in first language certified
  • Submit Preliminary Interdisciplinary Statement
  • Begin work on Qualifying Paper
Second Year
  • Coursework continues
  • English 396L, Laboratory in Pedagogy
  • One quarter Teaching Assistantship (TA) in English
  • Qualifying Paper completed and presented
  • Application for Ph.D. Minor, if appropriate
  • File for Ph.D. candidacy / file Interdisciplinary Statement
  • Form Orals Committee and begin reading
Third Year
  • Required coursework completed (all incompletes cleared)
  • One quarter as TA in English or other department
  • Competency in 2nd language certified
  • Oral Exam passed
  • Form dissertation Committee and develop dissertation topic
  • Students with prior MA file for Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status (student no longer enrolled in courses)
Fourth Year
  • Dissertation research and writing
  • Students without prior MA file for TGR status
  • Apply for dissertation fellowships
Fifth Year and Beyond
  • Dissertation Colloquium after first chapter
  • Dissertation research and writing
  • Teach PWR if offered position; apply to teach PWR
  • Apply for fellowships
  • Defense of dissertation
  • File dissertation
  • Apply for research and teaching positions