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Major in Comparative Literature


Inherently interdisciplinary, comparative literature is anchored in a commitment to the analysis and criticism of aesthetic forms (literature, cinema, visual arts and culture, new media) via approaches and methodologies that bridge traditional national and linguistic boundaries. Comparative literature is a creative discipline: comparatists draw their critical tools from a variety of sources in order to discover and address the cultural, ethical, linguistic, philosophical and/or political questions and pressures that motivate and find expression in cultural production. Closely allied with critical theory, literary theory, cinema studies and cultural studies, comparative literature is distinguished by a commitment to languages: comparatists tend to speak, read and think in and across multiple languages and they are attentive to the nuances of their own writing. In recent decades, comparatists have helped shape the field of translation studies.

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. We are united by our commitment to rigor and by our care for the questions we engage.

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 track features comparative study across different 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 linguistic traditions, such as Spanish and German; English and Japanese; French and Russian. In addition, the language chosen to fulfill the Language Requirement should coincide with one of these chosen traditions.

2. A second track, DISCIPLINES IN DIALOGUE, allows students to study culture across disciplinary boundaries as well as political and geographic 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 combine the study of one linguistic tradition with an additional disciplinary focus (e.g. journalism, psychology, creative writing, philosophy, cinema studies, art history). In addition, we strongly advise students to complete their Language Requirement in a language relevant either to their linguistic tradition or to their disciplinary focus.