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Major in Comparative Literature


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.

Above all, 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.

Tracks within the Major

In our department we recognize that there are many different ways of thinking about literature from a comparative perspective. Accordingly, we offer two different tracks for the major:

1. The LANGUAGE AND CULTURE emphasis features comparative study across different national-linguistic traditions. The more traditional path, LANGUAGE AND CULTURE is recommended for students who wish to study abroad, pursue graduate studies in Comparative Literature, or who simply want to acquire in-depth knowledge cultures other than their own.

Students who choose LANGUAGE AND CULTURE designate two national-linguistic traditions, such as 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 chosen traditions.

2. A second emphasis of study, DISCIPLINES IN DIALOGUE, allows students to study culture across disciplinary boundaries as well as national ones. This track offers a manageable path for double-majoring in comparative literature and another field. DISCIPLINES IN DIALOGUE is also well suited to students who want to combine the critical study of literature and film with other interests, such as creative writing, performance, the visual arts, or philosophy.

Students who choose DISCIPLINES IN DIALOGUE designate one national-linguistic tradition and one other disciplinary focus (e.g. journalism, psychology, creative writing, philosophy, cinema studies, art history). In addition, we strongly advise students to complete their Foreign Language Requirement in a language relevant either to their national-linguistic tradition or to their disciplinary focus.