Undergraduate Program

Comparative Literature

What is Comparative Literature?

Comparative Literature is the interdisciplinary study of literatures and cultures from different critical perspectives and from different national groups. In the broadest sense, it gives you the tools to compare and contrast the experiences, identities, and material products of people in other places or at other times.

What can I do with Comparative Literature?

Are you interested in busting stereotypes?

Do you want to explore literatures in a global context?

Do interdisciplinary studies of film, pop culture, and urban life appeal to you?

Do you want to find out how people your own age deal with global culture?

Have you thought about why national identity, gender, and community concern us all today? What do others think of the culture of the United States? Do they provide us with alternative views?

Do you think dialogues across cultures are instrumental in understanding today's issues and tomorrow's decisions? What language might we use to have those dialogues? With whom might we wish to have them?

Is being culturally informed high on your list of priorities? If you study abroad at any time this should be at the top of that list!

What can Comparative Literature do for me?

It can provide you with the critical tools to look at and form intellectual opinions about:

Who studies Comparative Literature?

Students choose to major in Comparative Literature for many different reasons. Generally, students whose interests in languages, literatures, or cultures traverse national boundaries find a rich variety of material in the CLT program. Additionally, the interfaces of technologies and cultures, the artifacts of popular culture, literary and cultural theories that address global concerns, international cinema, gender studies, race and class issues, and crossovers between written texts and music, and/or art all fall under the auspices of studies in CLT.

Comparative Literature at the University of Rochester offers students great flexibility in designing an individual concentration both broad in national and historical diversity and rich in depth. There are a significant number of courses to choose from in a variety of literatures and cultures, and national traditions.

Students can elect either to pursue work in a foreign language (or two), or to complete some of their coursework in English.

Comparative Literature is by definition interdisciplinary. Students who pursue work in Comparative Literature, whether through a cluster, a minor, or a major, will gain in-depth knowledge of several different national cultures and a deeper sense of how those cultures interact with their neighbors, their linguistic and geographic regions, and the world.

Those who study Comparative Literature will acquire valuable skills in literary analysis, cultural awareness, and critical thinking, argumentation, and writing. Sensitive to the manner in which different national groups conceive their identities in an era of globalization, students of Comparative Literature aim at international awareness through humanistic inquiry.

What kind of foreign language work is required?

That depends on the student. You can do work in Comparative Literature either with advanced-level language courses, or you can do all your work in English.

Students with interest and proficiency in foreign languages can do work in Comparative Literature in two ways: you can construct your major with a concentration on the literature and culture of two national areas (see below), in which case you can do advanced-level courses in both languages, or you can do one area in the original language and one in English. Any course that is listed or cross-listed under the "CLT" rubric is taught in English; that includes literature, culture, and film, as well as theoretical or special topics courses.

Below is information on:

Major Requirements 

Complete list of comparative literature courses >

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Minor Requirements

In consultation with the comparative literature faculty advisor, students choose five courses representing an area of concentration in the field. Students can define that area according to their own interests and educational and career goals.

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Comparative Literature Clusters

Introduction to Comparative Literature
Explore the relations among literature, culture, and literary and cultural theory.

Comparative Cultural Studies
Learn literary and cultural analysis with specific attention to national cultures. Students may choose to focus on one national tradition or they may choose a comparative framework.

Comparative Film Traditions
This cluster encourages cross-cultural exploration of national film traditions. In consultation with the undergraduate advisor, students select courses that treat similar or related issues within a relatively restricted historical scope.

Gender and Literary Studies
This cluster offers a variety of feminist approaches to the study of literature and film. Student choose a historical focus on one literary tradition, or pursue comparative analysis of national traditions.

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Study Abroad 

Students are strongly encouraged to study abroad in one or more of the national areas of their academic interest. Generally speaking, coursework undertaken abroad will count toward a major or minor. The program advisor will be able to approve specific courses before the student's study abroad.

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Contact Information

For more information about programs in comparative literature, contact the Comparative Literature Program Head Professor John Givens at johngivens@rochester.edu.

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