The MA in History and Literature trains students in historical approaches to the study of literature and in the interpretation of texts for the study of history. It is taught at Reid Hall, Columbia’s campus in France, located in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, and it draws on the resources of local libraries and archives. Students also have access to the courses and seminars of France’s top two graduate schools in the humanities and social sciences: the Ecole normale supérieure and the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales. The program starts with the premise that literature and history owe their current forms to many past developments that both separated them and leave much common ground for interconnections. It introduces students to the main critical and theoretical debates at the intersection between history and literature, including the narrative qualities of historical writing, the linguistic turn in history, and the tension between history and theory within the literary field.
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 modern European languages, Latin, Hebrew, or Arabic. MA courses are taught in English or French. Written work is normally done in English.
To mark the launching of the MA in History and Literature, a roundtable discussion featuring speakers from Columbia, EHESS, and ENS, was held at the Columbia University Maison Française on October 9, 2010: History and Literature: The State of Play. Click here to see a video of the event.
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.
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
– Merit fellowship consideration deadline: January 30, 2013
– April 15, 2013 (regular decision application deadline; limited fellowships may be available).