Department of Comparative Studies

The Public Intellectuals Program

The Public Intellectuals Program is an interdisciplinary program for students interested in advanced study and life as a public intellectual. While "public intellectual" often connotes a famous name, public intellectuals also include journalists, artists, architects, legislators, clergy, museum curators, environmental planners, community organizers, as well as teachers and scholars whose work defines, shapes, and influences public issues.

The program explores historical, conceptual, and practical relationships among such areas as public policy, mass media, literature, aesthetics, ethics, gender studies, culture, peace studies, global and local social movements, and rhetoric.

Our goal is to combine theoretical with concrete analysis and to strive for this integration in every core course, producing students who are theoretically confident and knowledgeable about the world they hope to understand and change.

The curriculum for the Public Intellectuals Program is organized as follows: (a) two semester-long required core courses; (b) two courses in public intellectual theory and method; (c) a minimum of three courses in the student's concentration; and (d) 15 credits in electives. These can be chosen from Ph.D. core courses or from other graduate programs in the university. A practicum, if undertaken, will count as elective credit, and the student’s advisory committee will determine the degree of credit. Students undertaking a practicum before the completion of the program core courses and/or before establishing an advisory committee must have the practicum approved and credits established by the Executive Committee.

The core curriculum is based on the principle that developing a reflexive awareness of one's own context and its implications is the cornerstone of any expression of political and social responsibility. Necessarily interdisciplinary, such awareness requires a theoretical understanding of history, of power, of psychical life, of politics, of philosophy, of literature and the arts, of society and culture, as well as a practical and empirical awareness of prevailing political and social structures. A diversity of approaches and disciplines is important, as well as representation of works and ideas from multiple cultural contexts and discourses.

The core courses (Public Matters I and Public Matters II) cover the general areas of knowledge for all students in the program, and arise from conversations in various program committees as well as course syllabi. The first course includes social, cultural, literary, and political theory, but also examples and case studies of what to do with that theory, both in scholarly work and in public intellectual activity. The second course picks up theories and themes from the first, continuing the conversation begun there, concentrating on applications and practice, including rhetoric and the processes of public discourse and action. A central theme of both courses is the public and public intellectuals in the context of the possibilities for social action within institutions and movements, and the two-semester core is designed to link up larger scholarly considerations of theoretical and global frameworks with the kind of concrete social, institutional, and public problems and issues our students will confront in South Florida and other localities.

Both courses are fully interdisciplinary in that they give priority to integration of disciplines, paradigms, approaches, and methodologies. Frequent guest lecturers are one way that this will be made possible. The courses do not, however, attempt to introduce all of the themes of the program. Rather, like other courses in the program, they seek ways of integrating the rigor and precision of particular disciplines with the breadth and heuristic value of interdisciplinary work.

The Public Intellectuals Program draws on the following concentrations:

Art, Literature, and Culture(s)
Environment, Technology, and Society
Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality
Global and Local: Movements and Transformations
Media and Communication
Peace Studies

Degree Requirements
MINIMUM STANDARDS: Ph.D. students will take a minimum of 51 credits in courses in three areas: required core courses in Comparative Studies; the three 7000-level CST courses that are the student's concentration; and electives from 7000-level courses or 6000-level courses within departments and programs. No grade lower than B may apply to the degree. To continue in the program students must maintain a B (3.0) grade point average on all work attempted toward the degree.

Grading: enrolled students and faculty teaching in the program will be notified that procedures for grading are as follows: A, A-, expected progress; B+ improvement needed; B, lowest passing grade. Distribution requirements

6 credits
Required core courses
6 credits
Public Intellectual Theory and Method courses
9 credits
Student’s major concentration
15 credits
3 credits
Advanced Research and Study
12 credits

PUBLIC MATTERS CORE COURSE: Students admitted to the program may take no more than six (6) credits before registering in the core course sequence. Students who do not complete a core course with a passing grade must retake and pass the course at the subsequent offering in order to remain in good standing.

QUALIFYING EXAMS: The Qualifying Exam consists of a written and oral component. The first component is a written exam given upon completion of the required coursework and is administered and evaluated by an exam committee.

In consultation with the student, the committee will compile a reading list from which the exams will be constructed.  This list will not be based solely on the student’s coursework, but will include as well readings that the exam committee deems foundational for the student’s program of study.  The successful completion of this written component will be followed by an oral exam within two weeks.  The oral exam examines, beyond the limits of the written exam, the extent of the student’s mastery of the material. 

Students who fail an exam may retake it one time only. Failure to pass the exam a second time results in expulsion from the program.

LANGUAGE/RESEARCH TOOLS REQUIREMENT: Proficiency is required in the use of two research tools. At least one of these tools must be a proven intermediate-level knowledge of a language other than English. The other tool, if not a language, should be demonstration of a skill relevant to life as a public intellectual, e.g., planning and organizing a public issue conference, publishing a substantial critical essay or journalistic work in a public venue, or developing a media production or live performance. This skill must be approved by the program director.

SATISFACTORY COMPLETION OF A DISSERTATION: After approval by the dissertation committee, the student will present the prospectus to faculty and students. The dissertation, an original research project, will be defended before the student’s committee and the public. Only the committee will vote on approval.

 Last Modified 4/10/14