Comparative Literature

Comparative literary study crosses the borders of individual national canons to explore works from different languages, cultures, and periods.

This may involve analyses of the relationships between literature and other artistic media, studies of genre, or reflections on different kinds of reading and interpretation. It may also take the form of interdisciplinary research grounded in connections between literary studies and other disciplines in the humanities or the social sciences.

By the middle of the sophomore year, each Comparative Literature major will develop an individual plan of coursework in consultation with a member of the faculty committee overseeing the program. This can take one of two forms:

  1. The student may select a group of eight classes in the Division of Literature and Languages that facilitate the study of a particular theoretical or historical problem (e.g., the concept of translation or the relationship between Enlightenment and Romantic understandings of poetry), or that focus on a subject best explored through the juxtaposition of two or more national canons (e.g., the twentieth-century realist novel in Latin America and the United States).

  2. The student may design an interdisciplinary track that includes at least six literature courses in the Division of Literature and Languages (two of these literature courses must be at the 300-level or higher in a language other than English) and three or more courses in an allied field. This could mean a group of classes from a standing department (e.g., Anthropology, Art History, History, Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, or Theater), or it could involve several courses from different departments united by a common concern or line of inquiry (e.g., work in film studies, Jewish studies, or women's studies).

All majors must pass a junior qualifying exam before starting the thesis. These exams will be tailored to each student's area of study.

If you are interested in becoming a Comparative Literature major or learning more about the major, please contact Ann Delehanty, delehana@reed.edu, Vollum 318.