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African Languages and Literature

Administrative Unit:African Languages and Literature
College/School: College of Letters & Science
Admitting Plans:M.A., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.A., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professors Cowell (Arabic language, linguistics, literature, and culture), Olaniyan (African and African diaspora literature, literary theory, popular culture), Songolo (African and Francophone literatures, African and Francophone cinema, literary theory); Associate Professor Thompson (African languages, second language acquisition, African linguistics, African culture); Assistant Professors England (Classical Arabic poetry and prose, Modern Arabic literature), Nimis (Francophone Africa, Lingala language and popular music, the Global South) 


The mission of the Department of African Languages and Literature is to provide research and teaching in the areas of African languages, linguistics, literature, and oral traditions. 

The department is the only one of its kind in the United States; it offers curricula leading to both the master of arts degree and the doctor of philosophy degree. Candidates in the program have come from all over the world, including Africa.

Doctoral Minor 

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in other departments may obtain a minor in African languages and literature. The requirements are:

  1. At least 9 credits in African language and literature at the graduate level, as determined by the program.
  2. Reading proficiency in an African language
  3. GPA of 3.5 or better in the courses taken for the minor field


Applicants should have a minimum undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (out of a possible 4.0), though special cases may be considered for probationary admission. In addition to the online application, the department requires a transcript of previous university records, a statement giving reasons for wishing to pursue graduate study in the department, and three letters of recommendation. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are needed for fellowship applicants, but are not otherwise required for admission. There is no application deadline, but it is recommended that materials be submitted as early as possible before the intended date of entry.
The deadline to apply and be considered for funding is November 15.

Applicants who have not taken an undergraduate major in African languages and literature, or who are judged by the department to have deficiencies, may be assigned additional course work.

For those completing an M.A. in the department, admission to the Ph.D. program is determined by the M.A. committee upon successful defense of the M.A. thesis, and with consideration of performance in M.A. course work.

For more information: Christopher Harwood, Department Administrator, Department of African Languages and Literature, 1410 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-2487; fax 608-265-4151; afrlang@mailplus.wisc.edu; african.wisc.edu.