The comparative literature major offers students the opportunity to combine study of literature in English with literature in one or more foreign languages. Students of comparative literature investigate fundamental questions about the nature, function, and value of literature in historical, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary contexts. Majors in comparative literature frequently integrate study abroad with courses taken on campus. Many comparative literature majors also successfully pursue double majors in related fields, such as French, Spanish, Philosophy, Creative Writing, History, and Theatre.
Students in comparative literature work closely with a mentor, normally chosen by the Junior year, to design an individualized course of study. Majors must take a minimum of ten courses as follows:
- Two LI-designated courses in comparative literature at the 200-level or above
- One LI-designated course in literary criticism at the 300-level or above
- Four LI-designated courses in English or American literature; at least two must be in the 300-level or above
- Three courses in the literature of one foreign language in which texts are read in the original language; at least one must be at the 300-level or above
In consultation with the mentor, students should plan their course of study so as to develop expertise in one particular period or genre while also acquiring a broad knowledge of literary history and criticism. To complete the major, students must take LC 498, the comprehensive examination in comparative literature. In exceptional cases, students who have established their proficiency in comparative literature may be invited to write a Senior thesis in place of the comprehensive examination.
First-year or second-year students considering majoring in comparative literature are encouraged to enroll in a 200-level course in comparative literature such as LI 212H (Introduction to Comparative Literature), LI 236H (Great Plays: History of Drama I), LI 237H (Great Plays: History of Drama II), LI 281H (The Rise of the Novel), or LI 282H (The Modern Novel).
The skills comparative literature majors acquire in textual analysis, imaginative and critical thinking, research and writing, and foreign languages provide a solid basis for a wide range of career paths and advanced degrees in areas including publishing, law, journalism, international relations and business, film and entertainment, and education. Students considering graduate study in comparative literature are encouraged to gain proficiency in a second foreign language.
For a minor in Comparative Literature a student must take six courses, at least three of which are at the 300 level. Of these, three must be LI-designated courses in comparative literature, and three must be courses in the literature of one or more foreign languages (including courses in translation).