General Information for Ph.D. degree in Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture
The Field of Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture at Cornell University offers the M.A./Ph.D. degrees
to students who wish to major in the literature, religion(s), and intellectual history of countries in East
Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Only on-line applications are accepted at Cornell University.
The on-line application
is available on the Graduate School web site
The absolute deadline for completed applications and test scores to reach the Graduate school is
January 10. However, earlier applications are encouraged to enable us to consider each
The Field of Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture is designed primarily for students who wish to obtain
a Ph.D. degree. Students entering with only a B.A. degree (or with an M.A. degree in another field) earn
their M.A. degree in Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture in the course of working towards the Ph.D. degree.
An M.A. thesis in Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture is required before proceeding to the Ph.D. degree.
Highly qualified students wishing to work only toward an M.A. degree are sometimes accepted, but Cornell
funding for such students is rare.
Applications should have a good reading and speaking knowledge (a minimum of three years of course work)
of an Asian language relevant for proposed specialization. Prior work in literature, religious studies, or
cultural history is desirable. Applicants with less language training might consider entering the M.A.
program in Asian Studies at Cornell, and then applying to Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture for the Ph.D.
degree after the M.A. program has been completed.
Students whose B.A. degree is from an institution where English is not the language of instruction should
obtain an M.A. degree from an English-speaking university before applying for a degree in Asian Literature, Religion,
and Culture. Students may apply for an M.A. degree in Asian Studies or in a literature field at Cornell, as well
as programs at other English-speaking universities.
All applicants must take the Graduate Records Exam (GRE). Most students who are admitted score above 319 in
the combined Verbal and Quantitative sections, the Verbal score should be 153 or above. GRE scores are valid
for only three years. Any exams taken before 2011 will not be accepted.
Foreign nationals, whose native language is not English, must take the TOEFL exam and score at least as
follows: Writing 20; Listening 15; Reading 20; Speaking 22. TOEFL scores are valid for only two years.
For the Fall 2015 admission cycle, we will only accept exams taken 2013 and later. Any applications where the TOEFL
scores are below the minimum listed here, FOR EACH COMPONENT, will not be eligible for review. Please note: as of
January 8, 2010, if you are a citizen of Singapore, or if you have received a degree from a university in Singapore,
you must now submit TOEFL scores. Cornell does not accept the IELTS, it cannot be used to substitute the TOEFL.
The Education Testing Service (ETS) will send results of the TOEFL and GRE directly to the Graduate School so long
as the applicant indicates Cornell's institutional code on the exam. Cornell's institutional code for all versions of
the TOEFL and GRE is 2098. There is no need for a department code. Scores must be submitted directly to the
Graduate School by ETS to be considered official.
Exemption form TOEFL: The TOEFL is not required of applicants who have studied full-time for two or more
years in a college or university where English is the language of instruction AND the college or
university is located in a country where English is the native language.
Each applicant must submit, along with an on-line application;
a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, college transcripts, and a sample of academic writing of
approximately 25 pages (in English). We do prefer that all materials, including college transcripts, be submitted on-line.
If they are submitted on-line, it is not necessary to mail a hard copy of these materials to the field office.
Applicants will scan their transcripts (see below for instructions and tips) and upload the documents into
the online application themselves as part of the submission process. All foreign transcripts must be translated to English by the institution or
university that issues them before they are scanned. The Selection Committee will weigh all of these materials
in addition to the student's academic background in making decisions on admission to the field. Please do not submit any additional materials that
are not expressly requested here. This would include CV's or resumes; and additional recommendation letters beyond the three required. If the
Selection Committee needs additional information or materials, we will contact the applicant.
Transcripts: Upload a PDF copy of transcripts (either official or unofficial) from the institution at which you
are currently enrolled and/or from any institution from which you have received or will receive a degree. All transcripts must be combined into
one document and uploaded. If it is against an institution's policy to send official transcripts to you, please request an unofficial copy for
yourself and scan that document. Paper copies will be accepted only if the first two options are not available to you. If you are subsequently
admitted and accept the offer of admission, we will require a formal and official paper transcript prior to matriculation.
Tips for uploading transcripts that may also be helpful:
Scan at the lowest dpi that results in a legible document (we recommend to use under 200 dpi whenever possible)
Ensure that the institution name and other identifying marks are not missed during the scanning process and that your scanned copy is clearly legible and can print on letter size paper (8 ∏" x 11")
Save your document as a PDF file
Scanning in "gray scale" or black and white may produce the best results
If the scanned file is too large then make a photocopy first (experiment with different settings until you find one that results in the most legible output) then scan the photocopy
Since all fields of graduate study at Cornell are competitive, you are
advised to write a thoughtful statement of purpose, select your referees carefully and inform them
of your goals, request your undergraduate records early, and complete your application as soon as
The Director of Graduate Studies and appropriate faculty members are happy to talk to or meet
with applicants, but interviews are not required for admission. We encourage applicants to
make person contact to learn more about our program. Please visit our on-line list of faculty
for a brief description of their research interests and e-mail addresses at
Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture Faculty
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. In order to
apply for fellowships (which are highly competitive) simply check the appropriate boxes in
the "Financial Support Application" part of the application form. Students are also urged
to apply for any national or regional fellowships for which they may be eligible, e.g. Mellon
Fellowships, Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) awards.
If the applicant is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident he/she 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.
Students will form a three-member Special Committee that will enable them to focus their studies
on a major field, a minor field, and an emphasis on theory and method. The Graduate School requires
that a student's Special Committee be constituted by the end of the third semester of graduate study.
The major field will be designated by specialization in a literary, religious, or intellectual tradition or traditions
within a single cultural or linguistic zone. The minor field will provide a basis for comparative work with at
least one tradition or discipline ancillary to the major field. The theory and methods emphasis will
provide competence in one or more theoretical orientations appropriate to the chosen area of specialization.
The first two to three years of the Ph.D. course are spent taking classes, learning to teach, and
writing an M.A. thesis. Students take four or five general courses covering both pre-modern and modern
aspects of their chosen major field and eight or nine specialized seminars in areas of interest.
Courses should be chosen in consultation with, and with the approval of, the student's Special Committee.
The M.A. thesis of approximately 50 pages usually develops out of a paper written for a seminar. Students
have the opportunity to participate in teacher training workshops and to teach for at least two
semesters in introductory courses, language courses and first-year writing seminars. At least
one year of experience as a teaching assistant is required as part of the Ph.D. training. Teaching
assistantships cover tuition, living stipend, and individual medical insurance.
Students in the Graduate Field of Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture will be expected to
give a short, formal presentation to the faculty of the field at the end of their second year of
study. This presentation could summarize a seminar paper, an M.A. thesis, or another work in
progress. The purpose of this presentation is to monitor a student's progress; to make suggestions
about additional course work for the third year if relevant; and to give students an opportunity
for professional experience.
Most students go to Asia during their third or fourth year to do dissertation research and
then return to Cornell for at least a year to finish writing the dissertation and to search
for a job. The Ph.D. course of study requires five to seven years depending on prior
training and language ability.
Fluency in one or more Asian language(s) sufficient for access to primary sources in the original
language(s) is required. This means reading, writing and speaking fluency in the modern language(s)
and appropriate study of classical language(s). Students will acquire reading knowledge of additional
language(s) deemed necessary by their Special Committees.
After demonstrating the above areas of competence, students will prepare for three qualifying exams
(oral or written and oral) in each of the areas of major field, minor field, and theory and method.
Students will arrange for a member of the Special Committee to represent each of these areas.
Terminal M.A. degree
Students who leave the field prior to completing the required areas of competency may seek a
Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture Faculty
Please feel free to contact the faculty member whose interests most closely match yours. For more
detailed descriptions, please see our complete
list of faculty.
Andrew Wilford, Southeast Asian Literature & Culture, Asian Religions;
The Asian Area Programs at Cornell
Students in the Graduate Field of Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture are members of the relevant
area program(s) at Cornell: East Asia Program,
South Asia Program, and
Southeast Asia Program, which provide a wide range of programs, opportunities for research and training,
and competitive fellowships for travel, language training and research.
For further information contact the Graduate Field Assistant by e-mail at: