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Master of Arts Program in History and Literature
at Columbia University in Paris

  • Welcome
    to HILI!
  • About
    the Program
  • Why HILI?
    Why Paris?
  • Careers
    after the MA
  • Application

Welcome to Columbia University's MA in History and Literature, affectionately known as HILI.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Merit fellowship deadline extended to February 28, 2015.

Featured Faculty 2015 - 2016

Carol Gluck (bio),George Sansom Professor of History at Columbia University (Fall)
A prize-winning historian, Professor Gluck’s most recent book is Words in Motion: Toward a Global Lexicon, coedited with Anna Tsing (Duke University Press, 2009). Thinking with the Past: Modern Japan and History, will be published by the University of California Press in 2015, and Past Obsessions: World War II in History and Memory is forthcoming from Columbia University Press. Among her recent articles is "The End of Elsewhere : Writing Modernity Now," American Historical Review (June 2011). She lectured this past year in Leiden, Heidelberg, Aarhus, Berlin, and colleges and universities across the United States.

Joseph Slaughter (bio), Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University (Spring) 
Joseph Slaughter teaches and publishes in the fields of postcolonial literature and theory, African, Caribbean, and Latin American literatures, postcolonialism, narrative theory, human rights, and 20th-century ethnic and third world literatures. Among many publications, his essay, “Enabling Fictions and Novel Subjects: The Bildungsroman and International Human Rights Law,” appeared in a special issue on human rights of PMLA (October 2006) and was honored as one of the two best articles published in the journal in 2006-7. His book, Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (Fordham UP, 2007), which explores the cooperative narrative logics of international human rights law and the Bildungsroman, was awarded the 2008 René Wellek prize for comparative literature and cultural theory. In 2016, he will serve as the President of the American Comparative Literature Association.

Gregory Mann (bio), Professor of History at Columbia University (Summer)
Gregory Mann is an historian of francophone West Africa. His book The End of the Road: Nongovernmentality in the West African Sahel is in press with Cambridge University Press. Drawing on research conducted primarily in Mali, the project analyzes the rise of novel forms of political rationality among governments and non-governmental organizations in the Sahel from 1946 to the late 1970s. His award-winning book Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the 20th century was published by Duke University Press in 2006. Mann's articles have appeared in the American Historical Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, the Journal of African History and Politique Africaine, among other publications. His writing on contemporary West African politics has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Review of African Political Economy, and in various media outlet.

About the Program

Columbia University’s M.A. in History and Literature is an innovative new program that explores the interconnections and intersections between history and literature, both as categories of cultural production and as scholarly disciplines. In the past thirty years the boundaries between history and literature have become usefully blurred, as literary scholars pursued the historical aspects of their texts and historians recognized the literary aspects of their narratives. The M.A. in History and Literature capitalizes on this propitious intellectual moment, enabling its students to address new methodological horizons that combine close reading of texts with expansive attention to historical context.

The program is held at Columbia’s Global Center for Europe, located at Reid Hall in the sixth arrondissement in Paris. Students are taught by eminent scholars in history and literature from Columbia University, and also choose from a wide variety of courses at France’s two top-tier graduate schools in the humanities and the social sciences: the Ecole normale supérieure and the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales.

An important part of the program is the consideration of literature itself as a field of moral, philosophical, sociological, and historical knowledge. Students develop a sophisticated awareness of theoretical and methodological issues. They also acquire the philological tools required for the interpretation of texts in print or manuscript form. This practical training includes hands-on sessions conducted at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Archives nationales de France. We expect many students to have an interest in French history and literature, but we also welcome students who wish to work on materials in other languages. M.A. courses are taught in English or French. Written work is normally done in English.



Why History and Literature?

There has been a convergence between the academic disciplines of history and literature in the past thirty years. Literary studies have become increasingly historical, while history has had its linguistic turn. The dialogue between literature and history has taken many different forms. In literary studies, there has been a re-evaluation of the traditional field of literary history, with greater attention paid to the historical evolution of genres and styles.

Now that a large corpus of literary texts is available and searchable online, the use of words and expressions in given contexts can be traced over time in great detail, which has led to a revival of philology as a key component of literary studies.  A great deal of attention is paid to the concrete conditions in which texts were written. This means looking at philosophical, rhetorical or poetic traditions, as well as material conditions, including the educational and social milieu, and the material constraints involved in committing something to writing. Historians have taken in the notion that history is a literary genre and are aware of the interplay between archival material and historical imagination.

There has been a remarkable development of the history of the book and the history of reading practices. The history of science has been transformed by the study of the rhetorical dimensions of scientific discourse. A similar evolution has characterized the field of intellectual history. Several thriving and inter-related fields like literary history, the history of the book, intellectual history, and the history of science are now history and literature hybrids. The MA in History and Literature introduces students to this set of fields by showing their interconnectedness.

Why Columbia in Paris?

As a Columbia degree taught in France, the MA in History and Literature offers an attractive and unusual combination of Ivy League and European academics. The curriculum is designed, administered, and for the most part taught by the Columbia faculty. It therefore reflects the intellectual values and standards of Columbia University. At the same time, the ability to take graduate courses at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and the Ecole normale supérieure (ENS) exposes students to a different style of teaching, which results in a broader and richer intellectual experience.

Paris is an ideal location for access to manuscripts and archival material, not only because of the collections located in Paris itself, but also because of the easy access by fast train to collections in other locations in France and Europe. A key component of the MA curriculum is an introduction to manuscript and archival research, which includes hands-on sessions held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Archives nationales de France, and the Institut mémoire de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC).

Literary history, the history of the book, and the history of science are very active fields in France, and some of the best and most innovative work in these fields is being conducted at our partner institutions, the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales and the Ecole normale supérieure. Students enrolled in the MA in History and Literature are given full access to graduate courses and seminars at EHESS and ENS, and full library privileges at ENS, which has the only open-stack research library in France.



The program provides sound footing for applications to professional schools in law, international affairs, journalism, or medicine. Graduates may seek positions in the United States or Europe in the diplomatic service, business, finance and banking, journalism, publishing, editing and translating, art and cultural organizations, international NGOs, and academic administration. The degree is also a valuable credential for students seeking admission to a doctoral program in history or literature


Application Deadlines for September 2015 Admission:

– Merit fellowship consideration deadline: February 28, 2015.
– Regular decision application deadline: April 15, 2015.


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