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MPhil Courses

Postgraduate Study in MMLL


MPhil in European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures by Thesis


The MPhil in European, Latin American, and Comparative Literatures and Cultures (ELAC) By Thesis is a research course that provides students with the critical and theoretical tools to enable them to undertake an in-depth study of specific aspects of European literature and culture and/or Latin American and Francophone contexts.

The core course introduces students to a broad range of critical theory concepts and methods of textual analysis (and, if relevant, paleography). The course as a whole allows for in-depth study of specific cultures and contexts, and includes the writing of a thesis based on original research.

The majority of students will follow the MPhil by Advanced Study course.  The MPhil by Thesis course is for students falling under exceptional circumstances: it is designed for students whose already have a substantial level of familiarity with the study of literary texts or other cultural material in the relevant culture, and who already know the area they wish to research for their thesis. To be eligible for consideration, a student will need (a) an appropriate level of linguistic and/or cultural expertise and (b) a clear idea of the area in which the thesis will be written.  

Educational aims

The main aims of the course are:

  • to develop and test the ability to carry out a substantial advanced project of independent research in an area of literary, cultural or film and screen studies falling under ELAC, presented in the form of a 30,000-word thesis
  • to develop and test the ability to make a significant contribution to learning that reflects one academic year of dedicated Masters-level research.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the programme students will have:

  1. developed a knowledge of critical theory and methods of textual analysis (and, if relevant, paleography), and an ability to work with theory or specific critical approaches;
  2. developed a deeper knowledge of one or more areas of European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures and of the critical debates within that (or those) area(s);
  3. developed more advanced critical judgement and sensitivity to literary texts or other cultural material;
  4. demonstrated advanced skills in literary analysis (or the analysis of other cultural material);
  5. developed intellectual and practical research skills
  6. managed a sizeable research project (of 9 months duration, culminating in a 30,000 word dissertation) which will represent a considerable achievement in its own right and prepare students for longer research projects (in particular a PhD).


Students will follow some elements of the MPhil by Advanced Study, but formal assessment is by a 30,000 word thesis alone.

MPhil by thesis students will normally attend the Core Course in Michaelmas Term (which is attended by students on the MPhil by Advanced Study). There is the option of attending MPhil by Advanced Study modules, subject to the approval of the Course Director and relevant module leaders. 

Applicants may find it useful to look at staff research interests within the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics to find out more about potential supervisors in their fields of interest.


  • End of Michaelmas (winter) Term: Submission of developed thesis proposal and first 5000 words (precise content to be agreed with supervisor)
  • Early June: Submission of the thesis


Students following the MPhil by Thesis will normally have discussed their proposed research in advance with a staff member specialising in the relevant subject area, and this person or an equivalent will be appointed as supervisor throughout the year. It is expected that a student will be capable of largely independent work.  For equity, there are norms for the amount of supervision each student can expect to receive.  Seven hours of supervision throughout the course is provided.  Supervision for the thesis can be taken in half-hour units, as appropriate and as agreed with the supervisor. The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.  


The examination process is very similar to that of the PhD, and consists of two parts: scrutiny of the thesis by one internal and one external examiner, and a viva involving both examiners and the candidate. Some candidates may be asked to carry out corrections to their thesis which may mean graduating in October rather than in July.


Students receive the overall outcome of pass/fail.  No mark is awarded for the MPhil By Thesis.

Part-time students

It is also possible to take a part-time route for the MPhil By Thesis course, and the expected timeframe would be 21 months, with a thesis submission date of early June in the second academic year of study.

Part-time students will be required to attend the Core Course lectures and one Core Course seminar in their first term.  Students attend one Module in the Lent term of the first year. 'By Thesis' students do not submit essays for lectures, seminars or modules.  The rest of their first year and all of their second year is devoted to the thesis. The thesis will be submitted in early June of the second year.

Schedule for part-time students:

Early October, year 1: course starts

Michaelmas (autumn) Term, year 1: Core Course lectures and 1 mini-seminar

Lent (winter) Term, year 1: Students take one module (optional)

End of Lent (winter) Term, year 1: Submission of a developed thesis proposal

Early June of year 1:  Submission of first 5000 words (precise content to be agreed with supervisor)

End of Lent (winter) Term, year 2:  Short informal oral presentations and discussion

Early June of year 2:  Submission of the thesis.  Around two to three weeks later there is an oral examination (viva) on the thesis.