Sample PhD Programs

The Ph.D. in Comparative Studies is a relatively new program. Our first PhD student graduated in 2009, followed by several others in the succeeding years. Their doctoral work is diverse and focused on several different areas of research. Examples include archival practices, prisoner literature in Africa,  visual culture and terrorism, African American women’s narratives of addiction and recovery, Native American religious and cultural practices, Western and Buddhist philosophy, American religion and conservative politics, narrative and self-construction, Zen Buddhism, end-of-life narratives, girlhood and Evangelical religion, ethnicity and nationalism in post-Soviet Estonia, Persian literature, cultural issues related to organ transplants, radical African American scholarship, technology and changing perceptions of the human, and music and the production of affect.  Several graduates are employed in tenure-track positions (one in an academic library) and several in adjunct positions, several have accepted Post-Doctoral research positions, and several are in visiting assistant positions with the likelihood of tenure-track options in the future.   The Department is pleased with the success of its first Ph.D. graduates (see department website for more information about alumni


Two student programs are described on the following pages and are representative of the kind of interdisciplinary work that is done in Comparative Studies.


1.  The Shadow Rules of Engagement.  This research project analyzes the effects, particularly on citizenship, of visual representations of the “Global War on Terror.”  From the dissertation abstract: “Like all wars, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) (2001-present) has resulted in upheavals of culture and politics.  What makes the GWOT unique is the degree to which these disruptions coincide.  This dissertation explores their convergence in visual culture, a key medium through which Americans confront terror in everyday life.  The Shadow Rules of Engagement is an interdisciplinary project that integrates insights from cultural studies and political theory to provide a comprehensive account of the American visual culture of terror and how it shapes the experience of citizenship.”  


This student’s General Examination Areas are:

Critical, Social, and Cultural Theory

Visuality and Visual Culture



Language: French


Coursework (revised as all semester courses)

Comparative Studies:

(Required) 6390 Approaches to Comparative Cultural Studies I

(Required) 6391 Approaches to Comparative Cultural Studies II

7360 Theorizing Culture

7380 Theorizing America

8822 Seminar in Race and Citizenship: Formations in Critical Race Theory

8843 Seminar in Technology and Culture

8865 Seminar in Critical Trauma Theory

8866 Seminar in Culture and Capital

8892 Seminar in Performance and Politics


6762.01 Intro to Graduate Study in Drama and Performance

6776.02 Literary Criticism: From 1900 to the Contemporary Period

Political Science:

8194.01 Contemporary Political Problems


7780 Racial and Ethnic Differences

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies:

5620 Topics in Feminist Studies

7700 Feminist Inquiry: Theory

7710 Theorizing Race, Sexualities, and Social Justice

7720 Theorizing Power, Institutions, and Economies

7740 Theorizing Narrative, Culture, and Representation

8840 Topics in Narrative, Culture, and Representation



2.  Reconstructing America: Religion, American conservatism, and the Political Theology of Rousas John Rushdoony.  This dissertation explores the role of the conservative theology of Rushdoony, in particular, his development of “Christian Reconstructionism” and his influence on contemporary right-wing Christian movements in the United States.   Drawing on the theoretical work of Michel Foucault and Talal Asad, the project explores the boundaries between politics and religion in America, particularly as they have emerged from the post-World War II period to the present.  From the dissertation abstract: “the project questions basic assumptions about the nature of American conservatism and common beliefs about the boundaries between ‘mainstream,’ ‘marginal,’ and ‘extreme’ conservatives.”


General Examination Areas:

Critical, Social, and Cultural Theory

Religious Studies

American Studies


Language: French


Coursework (revised as all semester courses)

Comparative Studies

6390 Approaches to Comparative Cultural Studies I

6391 Approaches to Comparative Cultural Studies II

5691 Reformation Culture

5691 Religion and Media

5691 New Age and New Religious Movements

7193 Independent Studies in Religion and Culture

7370 Theorizing Religion

7888 Citizenship, Politics, and Social Movements

7888 Critical Pedagogy

7888 Studies in Orality and Literacy

8791 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Theory

8872 Seminar in Religious Studies: Right Wing Politics in American History

8872 Seminar in Religious Studies: Religion, Politics, and Power

8872 Seminar in Religious Studies: Religion and Sexuality


7193 Independent Studies in History of Christianity

7259 European Thought and Culture, 19th-20th Century

7901 Colloquium in the Philosophy of History, Historiography, and the Historian’s Skills


7827 Seminar in English Renaissance Literature