Master's in World Literature

What is "World Literature"? Who decides on the answer to this question, which texts should be included? Which factors play a part? Does it make any sense to hold on to this rather vague concept? The World Literature degree program is about critically examining conventional definitions of "world literature" and redrawing the boundaries in view of the conditions prevailing in a globalized and media-driven world.

Developing new contemporary conceptualizations of the term "World Literature" permits a multitude of references to the cultural complexity of a globalized world and intense debate regarding the resulting questions and problems. In particular, these include the complex processes of canon formation, specific understanding of the world and cultural contact. The course is aimed at students holding a bachelor's degree in a philological subject, e.g. English Studies/American Studies or Romance Studies and students holding a degree in Humanities or Social Sciences (in the case of the latter, some BA requirements may need to be made up during the master's program). The aim of the master's program in World Literature is to teach students about key knowledge in European, North American and post colonial literature with a global perspective, giving equal consideration to diachronic and synchronic processes. Teaching also includes theoretical and methodological skills for research in the fields of comparative literature and culture, value formation and mediality.

Master World Literature
Basic information
Degree: Master of Arts in World Literature, Universität Bern
Number of credits: 120 ECTS credits
Degree programs:
  • Mono 120 ECTS credits
  • Major 90 ECTS credits


Offer for other degree programs:

  • Minor 30 ECTS credits
Combination possibilities: several
Duration: 4 semesters
Languages: 80% English and, depending on the course: German, French or Italian
Beginning studies: Fall or spring semester

The "World Literature" master's degree program consists of five modules in the mono and major and four modules in the minor. In each of these four or five modules, students need to earn a minimum number of ECTS credits. Generally, students need to select at least one or two courses per module or submit an independent piece of work. Here, students have the opportunity to extend the module according to personal interest, i.e. the individual students decide upon the number of credits they (would like to) earn. The only exception is module 5: "Master's workshop", which has a fixed number of 8 credits.

Module 1: Theory

ECTS credits (min. – max.): Mono: 8-18; Major: 8-15; Minor: 4-11.
The "Theory" module gives students a basic overview of the areas of literary theory, cultural theory and media theory, which are essential for studies and research in the field of World Literature.

Module 2: Literatures I

ECTS credits (min. – max.): Mono: 15-30; Major: 9-18; Minor: 5-14.
The "Literatures I" module enhances the skills required for independent research. This can be done as part of research work or projects, which are not directly related to the courses offered. For mono and major students, attendance at the master's workshop (module five) over four semesters is compulsory. Minor students must attend the master's workshop during the semester in which they undertake their autonomous studies.

Module 3: Literatures II

ECTS credits (min. – max.): Mono: 16-31; Major: 11-21; Minor: 7-14.
The "Literatures II" module enables students to acquire knowledge in individual philologies. This module focuses on specific literatures and scientific methods pertaining to literature.

Module 4: Interdisciplinary

ECTS credits (min. – max.): Mono: 15-30; Major: 13-20; Minor: 9-17.
The "Interdisciplinary" module enables students to undertake their analyses using theories, methods and subjects from non-literary fields. The module teaches methodological skills that enable students to undertake interdisciplinary-oriented work.

Module 5: Master's workshop

ECTS credits: Mono: 8; Major: 8.
The "Master's workshop" module serves to support students throughout the master's degree program in "World Literature" (mono and major), which is distinguished by a high degree of interdisciplinarity and independent working for students. Attending the "Master's workshop" ensures that students are prepared for and supported in their independent projects and written work. The "Master's workshop" brings together students who are doing independent written work, undertaking an independent project, or preparing for or working on their master's thesis; it is a place where they can discuss their projects.

The master's degree program in World Literature can be completed as a single-subject (mono) master's worth 120 ECTS credits, or as a major (90 ECTS credits) and a minor (30 ECTS credits).

The major can be combined with any minors taught in sufficient scope at the University of Bern. However, students are not permitted to have a major and minor in the same branch of study.

Study program structures
Mono program/major ECTS credits Minor ECTS
120         -        
90         30        

Individual academic requirements

The following academic qualifications are required for admission to the master’s degree program in World Literature (mono or major):

a) Bachelor's degree from a recognized university in one of the following branches of studies (in accordance with appendix 1 to the plan of studies):
  • Archaeology
  • German Language and Literature
  • English Languages and Literatures
  • French Language and Literature
  • History
  • Ibero-Romance Languages and Literatures
  • Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Italian Language and Literature
  • Classical Philology
  • Art History
  • Musicology
  • Nordic Languages and Literatures
  • Philosophy
  • Science of Religion
  • Slavonic Languages and Literatures
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology 
  • Theater, Dance and Film Studies
  • Comparative Literature 
  • Other Languages and Literatures
b) Bachelor's degree from a recognized university in a humanities or social science branch of studies, provided that the master's degree can be successfully completed with an additional maximum 60 ECTS credits.
Additional attainments can either be admission requirements which must be fulfilled in order to complete the master's degree program or admission requirements which must be fulfilled before admission to the master's degree program. The ECTS credits will be listed separately in the diploma supplement as extracurricular attainments. 

Please consult the admission requirements for the minor as presented in the plan of studies.

The bachelor's degree may not be more than ten years old. Exceptions are possible where justified.

Language requirements

Good to excellent knowledge of English and German is required as well as a good command of other languages used for tuition (particularly French, Italian).

There is no general exemption from the German test if you are not a native speaker. Any requests for exemption are considered individually.

You do not need to provide any evidence of proficiency in the respective language of tuition; you merely need to be able to follow courses in this language without any difficulty.

For questions regarding application and admission, please contact the Admissions Office.

Current UniBE students

Apply for a change to the M A in World Literature, Universität Bern by self-service as part of the re-registration for the next semester.
Renewal of semester registration → Self-service
Recognition of academic achievements
Procedure and timing of the renewal of semester registration

Application with a Swiss degree

Online application
Steps from application to registration

Application with an international degree

Online application
CHECKLIST - Documents for your application / Important information
Steps from application to registration

For questions regarding application and admission, please contact the Admissions Office.

As well as providing a cross-disciplinary scientific investigation of outlined issues, studies particularly aim to teach a sound, critical dealing with the various symbolic forms of expression in societies past and present, which is not only an essential requirement for science, but is also essential for all other relevant professional fields (cultural journalism, cultural management, cultural policy, etc.).