PhD Minor in Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts

As of 2015-16, PhD students at Stanford may complete a PhD Minor in Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts, as a subplan within the PhD Minor in Humanities.

The Director of Graduate Studies for the PLA PhD Minor is Adrian Daub (German Studies).

The PLA PhD minor involves a proseminar, two courses in the minor field, two courses at the intersection, and an independent study. For full requirements, please click here.


What is the value of a Ph.D. Minor?

A Ph.D. Minor provides official certification of a rigorous curricular program, showing that you are qualified for high level interdisciplinary teaching and research. The Minor in Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts (PLA) provides both rigorous training in the student’s minor field and an exciting program of courses at the interdisciplinary boundary of philosophy with literature and the arts. Students in the program work together with faculty and fellow students in an exciting community of scholars from across Stanford humanities.

What will the Minor add to my scholarly profile?
Students who complete the Minor will have rigorous interdisciplinary training, providing real grounding in the scholarly standards and methods of their minor field (philosophy for students in literature and the arts, and literary or arts criticism for philosophers). They will be prepared for teaching and research that combines nuanced criticism with sophisticated philosophical analysis.

What are some important questions in the subfield?
Literature and the arts offer especially rich cultural artifacts, and the investigation of how they produce their many effects raises far-reaching philosophical problems, including questions about the nature of fictionality, the meaning and effects of figurative language, the nature of depiction, the role of the imagination, the nature and function of authorship, and many more. Many domains of philosophy (questions of value, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, etc.) can be explored in distinctive ways through the arts and imaginative literature.

What research opportunities are connected to the Minor?
Students are encouraged to join the graduate Focal Group in Philosophy and Literature, which provides opportunities to present work in progress to peers and faculty working in the area and to participate in scholarly exchange. The Minor also involves independent summer research (ideally conducted in the summer after the first year) leading to presentation in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Symposium. By the time of the dissertation, students should have the grounding necessary for genuinely interdisciplinary dissertation research.

What will be covered in the Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts Core seminar?
The Core seminar is team taught by a philosopher and a literary or arts critic. Different teams will focus on different questions (and different texts) at the interdisciplinary boundary, but the seminar will always have the goal of introducing students to a range of such topics. The Core seminar is an excellent opportunity to connect with other students across the humanities who are interested in philosophy, literature, and the arts. Because the seminar content will vary across teaching teams, it may be repeated for credit; repetition may count toward Minor requirements.

Are there events where I can learn more about Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts?
The DLCL Philosophy and Literature Focal Group sponsors an active program of events each year, including presentations of work in progress by Stanford graduate students and faculty, faculty book talks, and lectures and seminars led by prominent visiting scholars in the field. We also sponsor conferences exploring specialized topics. A list of past events can be found here.

What is the relation between the PLA track and the general Ph.D. Minor in the Humanities?
The PLA Minor is one track within the general Ph.D. Minor in interdisciplinary humanities. Students in the general track pursue a broad survey of cultural and intellectual history suitable for preparing scholars to teach in “great books” style programs. Students in the PLA track pursue a more focused program preparing them to operate as scholar/teachers at the interdisciplinary boundary of philosophy with literature and the arts. Students in both tracks come together to present work to each other at an annual Interdisciplinary Humanities Symposium (commencing fall 2016).

What is the Interdisciplinary Humanities Symposium?
The annual Interdisciplinary Humanities Symposium (commencing fall 2016) brings together students from both tracks in the Humanities Ph.D. Minor to present work on their scholarship and teaching. It is a venue for thinking through the role of the interdisciplinary humanist scholar/teacher in the changing university.

How do I declare the Minor?
Students must file one-page declaration of intent to the PLA Minor DGS and an “Application for Ph.D. Minor form” through their graduate department. (In the “Program of Study” line on the form, students should enter “Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts Subplan.”) Students should also schedule an initial meeting with the Minor DGS, who will assign a faculty advisor for the Minor after consultation with the student.

How do I join the focal group?
The Philosophy and Literature Focal Group is open to all comers. We encourage you to become a full-fledged member of the Focal Group; to do so, please email Joshua Landy ( To be added to the focal group mailing list for events, please email Dylan Montanari ( and Lanier Anderson ( (It is helpful to identify yourself as a student interested in the Minor.) Students may receive units for focal group participation by registering for DLCL 222, but you can also participate without registering for units.

What are the course requirements for the Minor?
All students in the minor take DLCL 333 (Core seminar in Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts), which explores key topics at the interdisciplinary boundary. Students then take at least four additional courses for a total of at least 20 units. This includes a two-course program of study in the minor field and two courses of special relevance to the intersection of philosophy with literature and the arts. Finally, the 20-unit total also includes independent summer units to support research for presentation at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Symposium.

What are the “courses of special relevance,” and how do I find out about them?
These are courses offered by Stanford faculty at the intersection between philosophy and literature or the arts. The committee in charge of the program surveys the curriculum each summer and identifies courses that are of special relevance to students working at the interdisciplinary boundary. The list of those courses (including for past years) can be found here. (N.B.: The listing also includes many undergraduate courses for students involved in the Philosophy and Literature major tracks; where appropriate (e.g., not in introsems) graduate students should register for such courses under a graduate number.) If you have a question about a course, or identify a graduate course you think should be listed, please direct your inquiry to the PLA Minor DGS or the program co-Directors.

Whom can I ask about courses in my minor field?
The first port of call should be your Minor Advisor (assigned by the PLA Minor DGS), who will usually have valuable insight into course offerings in the department(s) of your minor field. The Minor DGS is also available for consultation, and insight into structuring a helpful program of study can in addition be sought from the co-Directors, Joshua Landy (Comparative Literature, French) and Lanier Anderson (Philosophy).

If my Ph.D. is neither in philosophy nor in a literature or arts dept., can I still pursue the Minor?
Yes; but students in this situation may need to take more than 20 units and should consult with the Minor DGS. If your regular Ph.D. coursework does not involve substantial exposure to either philosophy or literary and arts criticism, then you should pursue a program of courses in both areas as part of your work toward the Minor.

Will I have a faculty advisor?
Yes; the PLA Minor DGS will assign a faculty advisor for the minor, based on a conversation about the shape of your interests and your advising needs.

If I have already declared a different Ph.D. Minor, is it possible to pursue a second one?
Yes; Stanford does permit students to complete multiple minors. Students are advised, however, that each minor must involve 20 units of unduplicated coursework. All minors must be approved by the home department, and students should plan carefully to ensure that their work in the minors does not delay their time to TGR (or to procure departmental approval for any delay).

Is it possible to earn both a Masters and a Ph.D. Minor?
In principle, yes; but units applied to a minor may not be applied to an M.A. degree. Students interested in the PLA Minor should probably choose between completing the minor and the (more involved) pursuit of a Masters in the minor field. Students working toward an M.A. in some further field, separate from both the home department and the PLA Minor, should plan very carefully to ensure all requirements can be completed before TGR.

Do the units for my Minor count toward my Ph.D. as well?
Yes; units completed for a Ph.D. minor count toward the 135-unit requirement for the Ph.D. degree. However, minor units may not be counted toward the separate (lower) coursework unit requirement within the major department; the 20 units counted toward the minor are “unduplicated” in that sense. If a student needs a course of special relevance (or some other course taken for the minor) to meet a departmental distribution or area requirement, the course may be counted for both a minor and a departmental requirement, as long as there are still 20 unduplicated units counted toward the minor.

Is it possible to transfer graduate units from another institution that count toward the Minor?
No; all units for the minor must be completed at Stanford.

Will the Minor be reflected on my transcript and diploma? How?
Yes; both your transcript and diploma will note that you have completed a “Ph.D. Minor in
Philosophy Literature and Arts.”

How late can I declare the Minor?
The Minor can be declared any time prior to TGR status. Students should note, however, that all units counted toward the minor must be completed prior to TGR, so they should plan carefully to complete all coursework requirements, including the Core Seminar (which is offered only in Spring).

I’m TGR and can’t enroll in more courses. Could I still complete the Minor?
No; unfortunately, units taken after advancement to TGR cannot be counted toward any Ph.D. coursework or unit requirements, including any Ph.D. minors.

I’m TGR and can’t enroll in new courses, but I have completed all of the Minor requirements except the Core Seminar. Is there anything I can do?
If you have taken at least 20 units of coursework falling under other requirements of the PLA Minor, and these do not duplicate any units counted toward the unit requirement for your major department, then you may petition the PLA Minor DGS to add the minor. Successful petitions will normally involve a plan to audit the Core seminar with active participation; success may also depend on how closely previously-taken courses correspond to minor requirements.

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