Comparative Literature

Information for Majors

Declaring the Major

Ideally during the course of the sophomore year, students interested in majoring in Comparative Literature should first meet with their academic adviser to map out what courses will fulfill the major requirements for Comparative Literature and to fill out the major declaration form. It is strongly advised that students consult the major planner form for assistance in this process.

Once the academic adviser has signed off on the major declaration form, the student should meet with the chair of the Comparative Literature committee to get his or her signature for the form as well.

Major Proposal

In the first semester of the junior year, students should write a one-page major proposal by September 15th. Spring/Fall majors should complete this by February 15th. This proposal should inform the Comparative Literature Committee of the following:

  • What are your proposed area(s) of focus for the Comparative Literature major?
  • What potential topics might you write your thesis on?
  • How does your proposed coursework support your major and potential thesis topics, as described?

Sample major proposal - Literature Track (PDF)
Sample major proposal - Interdisciplinary Track (PDF)

Qualifying Exam

Early in the second semester of the junior year, Comparative Literature majors will produce a list of 10 works (literary works, artworks, etc.; it can include works read as part of a class) that might provide the basis for a qualifying exam. The Committee recommends that students select works that will productively lead to the proposed thesis topic(s). The Committee (or its delegates) will write a qualifying exam from that list of works.

The qualifying exam will consist of two essay questions: one question will be drawn from the materials from Comparative Literature 201; the other question will be drawn from the list of works provided by the student. Students may also be asked to read a secondary source that will be included with the exam materials. The exam will be scheduled for a week late in the second semester of the junior year. The student can pick up the exam from the division secretary on the date announced and will be expected to return the completed exam one week later. The essays should be typed, double spaced, and can each be anywhere from 6 to 8 pages in length. Students will be expected to make specific reference to the works cited in the question so the exam is considered "open book." Students should not consult additional secondary sources for the exam.

Thesis Committee

Comparative Literature majors will normally have a thesis adviser from the division of Literature and Languages.

Students who choose the "allied field" option for the major should consult with faculty in the allied field about their potential thesis projects over the course of the junior year. They may then request that the first reader for the thesis be from that allied field but that may not always be possible. It is more likely to be possible when consultation with allied field faculty has happened early and often.