Combining an apprenticeship in rigorous, traditional scholarship with exposure to the most advanced work in literary and cultural theory, the program in comparative literature at Chicago prepares students to compete successfully for academic careers in both national literature departments and programs that stress comparative or interdisciplinary study. All students take a two-quarter sequence in their M.A. year that provides a solid grounding in literary criticism and theory and poses some of the central challenges facing literary scholars today. Students design the remainder of their program to serve their own interests, either studying several national literatures (with primary emphasis on one) or exploring the relationship between literature and another discipline or art. Working closely not only with the faculty in comparative literature but also with other professors from the department of the University that best complements their interests, students develop individualized research topics that may range from the sociology of paraliterature to the hermeneutics of divination, from crime fiction in English and Chinese to comparisons between Sanskrit and Greek epic.
The University of Chicago is famous for the vibrancy and intensity of its interdisciplinary studies, and Comparative Literature students routinely work with faculty throughout the University. The University is also renowned for treating its graduate students as co-participants in the humanistic enterprise. Through a unique system of some forty interdisciplinary workshops offered annually, students and faculty together focus on topics of current interest, invite speakers from outside the university and share their own work in progress. Recent workshops of particular interest to students of comparative literature have dealt with poetics, American and European avant-gardes, empire, Renaissance literary studies after the New Historicism, rethinking East Asia, the history of the human sciences, ancient and modern rhetoric and poetics, and psychoanalysis.
Students find many opportunities for scholarly engagement in lectures, conferences, workshops, and other activities fostered by the University's many research centers and institutes. These include the Center for Latin American Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and South Asia Language and Area Center. Interdisciplinary centers include the Center for Gender Studies, Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, Film Studies Center, and Poetry and Poetics.
Advanced graduate students have the opportunity to apply for fellowships both in the Division of the Humanities and at the Franke Institute of the Humanities, which promotes individual and collaborative research at the University while also cosponsoring conferences on a broad range of topics. Advanced comparative literature students also have opportunities to teach in Comparative Literature and appropriate national literature departments.
We are proud of our placement record. Our Ph.D.'s hold tenured or tenure-track positions in a variety of literature departments at many colleges and universities both in the United States and abroad, including Amherst College, Brown University, the University of Maryland, Reed College, and the University of Texas. Recent Ph.D.'s have earned positions at such institutions as Duke University, Harvard University, the University of Memphis, the University of Missouri, and the University of Wisconsin. Please see our listing of Alums in the Graduate Student section of the website for further details.