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What is Comparative Literature?

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Comparative Literature is trans-national, trans-medial, and transcultural.

It is a discipline built on pursuing connections—connections between different aesthetic forms, cultural traditions, and ideas. Tracing those connections wherever they lead is what we mean by “comparison,” whether we are following a theme across national and linguistic borders, studying filmic adaptations of literary texts, or inquiring into the places where disciplines intersect.

The “literature” in Comparative Literature refers both to literature as it is traditionally conceived—as fiction, drama, poetry, and literary nonfiction—and also to visual culture and cultural production more broadly.

But fundamentally the discipline of Comparative Literature is also a practice, a habit of learning, a way of studying literature, film and culture without arbitrarily stopping at national or linguistic borders. We acknowledge that the world is interconnected. When we follow ideas across borders we assume, not that the world should come to us, cater to us, or be translated into our language, but rather that it is our responsibility to explore the world, to seek to understand cultures on their own terms, to find commonalities and respect differences.

A language requirement that asks students to begin the journey toward fluency in more than one language marks this fundamental value. We take the steps we can to read and view cultural texts in their original languages; when we cannot, we pay careful attention to what is gained and lost in translation.

Comparative Literature is both an individualized program of study with a high degree of flexibility and a strong cohort of faculty and students with shared interests and values.