Undergraduate Program

B.A. Comparative Literature

The major in Comparative Literature leads to a BA degree and is designed to attract students who wish to pursue an interdisciplinary plan of course work focused on the study of literature as written in various languages and in various parts of the world.

One student might come to the University of Chicago with a strong background in languages other than English and want to work in two or more literatures (one of which can be English). Another student might have a strong interest in literary study and wish to address general, generic, and/or transnational questions that go beyond the boundaries of national literature offered in other literature departments. Or, a student might wish to pursue an in-depth study of the interrelationship of literature and culture, as well as issues that transcend the traditional demarcations of national literary history and area studies.

These descriptions of academic interest are not mutually exclusive. Each student will work with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to design a plan of course work that will suit his or her individual goals and that will take advantage of the rich offerings of the University.

Program Requirements

The requirements outlined below are in effect as of Autumn Quarter 2018 and will apply to all students in the Class of 2020 and beyond. Students in the Classes of 2018 and 2019 may request to switch to the new requirements if the updated program suits their interests and fits within their graduation plans.

Students interested in applying to the major in Comparative Literature should review the following guidelines and consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Comparative Literature. These guidelines are to assist students in developing a balanced and cohesive interdisciplinary plan of study.

The major is comprised of seven literature courses selected in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, one foundational course in comparative literary theory and methodology, two courses in literary theory, methods, or special topics in Comparative Literature, and a BA project workshop that serves as a capstone to the major.

A student works with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to identify a primary field (four courses) and secondary field (three courses). A student wishing to work in two literatures might choose two literatures as the primary and secondary fields (note: the second literature can be English). The secondary field might be a particular national literature or a portion of such a literature (e.g., poetry, drama, novel); another discipline (e.g., mathematics, history, film, performance studies, music); or literary theory.

Study abroad offers an attractive means of fulfilling various aims of this program. More than half of the major requirements must be satisfied by courses bearing University of Chicago numbers.

Summary of Requirements

3 foreign language courses at the intermediate level or above  (300)

4 courses in a literature other than English, one of which can be in a closely related field (400)

3 courses in a secondary field, which can be literature in another language (including English), another discipline (e.g., philosophy, performance studies, music), or literary theory (300)

CMLT 20109 Comparative Methods in the Humanities (100)

2 20000-level courses in literary theory, methods, or special topics in Comparative Literature (200)

CMLT 29801 B.A. Project and Workshop: Comparative Literature (100)

Total Units 1400

Participation in the Program
Students should express their interest in the program as soon as possible, normally before the end of the second year in the College, when virtually all the Common Core requirements have been met or are being completed. Begin by seeing the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who will consult with you about your ideas for a concentration. You will then need to submit a written proposal of about 1,000 words consisting of two parts. The first part should be a statement explaining what it is that you hope to do, and how the plan will fit into existing College offerings and Departmental requirements. The second part of the proposal should be a list of the kinds of courses you intend to take (with alternative choices, since courses appearing in the official list of college course offerings are not always available in any given time frame), indicating how they will fulfill the Department's requirements. Include also a list of relevant courses you have taken or are currently taking, including, importantly, language courses or other language training indicating your level of language proficiency. Your proposal will be carefully considered by the Department, which will want to take into account your interest in, and your achievement in, the study of languages needed to meet the goals of your intended course of study.

NB: The Department encourages its students to pursue even further language study. Work in elementary second or third language courses cannot, however, be counted toward the total of courses needed to complete the concentration.

B.A. Project  One obvious and appropriate choice for a B.A. project is a substantial essay in comparative literary study. This option should not rule out other possibilities, such as a translation from a foreign literature with accompanying commentary, or a written project based on research done abroad in another language and culture relating to your comparative interests. Students are urged to conceive their project in comparative terms, and to make use of the language ability built into the program's requirements.

Honors  Eligibility for honors requires an overall cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or higher, a G.P.A. of 3.50 or higher in the courses taken for the ComLit concentration, and a B.A. essay or project that is judged exceptional in intellectual and/or creative merit by the first and second readers.

Advising  In addition to retaining a College adviser, students in the program should continue to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Further advice and counseling will be available from the preceptor for the program and from the faculty member who supervises the student's B.A. project.