Inherently interdisciplinary, comparative literature begins with the insistence that any artifact of culture—be it a canvas, a poem, a film, or a novel—requires active attention and engagement. At the same time, where the national literatures designate their subjects by language or nation, comparative literature allows a pluralistic approach that bridges linguistic and cultural boundaries. Closely allied with literary and critical theory as well as with contemporary trends in globalization studies and cultural studies, comparative literature nonetheless can be defined neither in terms of a specific methodology nor a specific canon of texts.
What defines comparative literature is its open-ended spirit of inquiry. Students of comparative literature create their subject matter by determining the meaning and method of their comparative approach.
Emphases within the Major
In COLT we recognize that there are many different ways of thinking about literature from a comparative perspective. Accordingly we offer two different emphases for the major.
One emphasis, LANGUAGE AND CULTURE, features comparative study across different national-linguistic traditions. This emphasis is recommended for students who wish to study abroad, attend graduate school in Comparative Literature, or who simply want to gain an in-depth understanding of one or more foreign cultures.
A second emphasis of study, DISCIPLINES IN DIALOGUE, allows students to combine literary study with work in a non-literary tradition. The Disciplines in Dialogue track offers an alternative for students considering a double major in literature and a non-literary field. It is also well-suited to students who want to combine literary study with creative writing, performance or the visual arts.
The LANGUAGE AND CULTURE Emphasis
Language and Culture students designate two national-linguistic traditions: e.g. Spanish and German; English and Japanese; French and Russian. In addition, the language chosen to fulfill the Foreign Language requirement should coincide with one of these national-linguistic traditions.
The DISCIPLINES IN DIALOGUE Emphasis
Disciplines in Dialogue students designate one national-linguistic tradition and one other disciplinary focus (e.g. creative writing, philosophy, cinema studies, psychology, art history). Courses taken in this disciplinary focus may be spread out across several subject codes, with the approval of the Undergraduate Advisor. In addition, we strongly advise students to complete their Foreign Language Requirement (see below) in a language relevant either to their national-linguistic tradition or to their disciplinary focus.