Comparative Literature is a dynamic major whose own self-definition is constantly shifting. Once mostly limited to the study of western European literature and its Greco-Roman classical past, today Comparative Literature has become a global and interdisciplinary study both of literature in original languages and of other art forms (including film, television, visual arts, and opera, for example). Thus, we can define Comparative Literature as the study of literature and culture across national boundaries and throughout historical time.
Both the major and the minor in Comparative Literature allow students to combine courses Comparative Literature with courses in one or more national literature departments. All undergraduate Comparative Literature courses, both lower-division and upper-division, are taught in English; majors also take upper-division courses in at least one other literature in the original language.
Majors typically begin their study of Comparative Literature with courses chosen from our introductory course sequence (COM 1, 2, 3, and 4). This sequence provides both an overview of ancient to contemporary literature and offers intensive practice in analytical thinking and argumentative writing.
After completing courses chosen from the introductory sequence, each student's major coursework is divided between Comparative Literature courses taught in English and courses in the student's foreign language of concentration. Comparative Literature courses encourage students to take a broad view of a historical period, a theme, a genre, or a literary movement. The wide variety of options in the program permits great flexibility and encourages interdisciplinary connections among literature and philosophy, psychology, history, and the arts. Each student's plan of study must be approved by an advisor at the beginning and end of each calendar year.
One of the benefits of a major in Comparative Literature is that students are encouraged to study abroad, whether for a short summer program, for a quarter, or for the junior year abroad.
As many of our alumni can testify, a Comparative Literature major offers excellent pre-professional training, developing communication and analytic skills that prepare our majors for successful careers in such fields as journalism, publishing and teaching, as well as for graduate study in literature, law and business—and even science and medicine. Studying Comparative Literature can satisfy intellectual and artistic curiosity while preparing majors for successful professional careers in many different fields.