Undergraduate Program

B.A. Comparative Literature

The Bachelor of Arts in the Department of Comparative Literature offers qualified undergraduates the opportunity to pursue an interdisciplinary study of literature written in various languages and parts of the world.

Our alumnae and alumni have been successful in pursuing various career paths, including graduate studies at UC Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, and UPenn. For more information on our recent graduates and the difference that majoring in Comparative Literature made in their lives, please visit our Undergraduate Alumni News page.

The BA program in Comparative Literature is designed to attract, among others, three sorts of undergraduates : (1) students who come to the University with a strong background in languages in addition to English, and an interest in working in two or more literatures (one of which can be English); (2) students strongly interested in literary study who want to tackle general, generic and/or transnational questions across the lines of national literatures; and (3) students interested in the interrelationship of literature and culture, and other issues that transcend the traditional demarcations of national literary history and area studies.

These categories are not mutually exclusive. Plans of coursework will be individually designed in consultation with each student in such a way as to suit that student's needs and to take best advantage of the rich offerings of this university.

Typically, an undergraduate student wishing to work in two literatures might choose those two literatures as the major and minor fields (requirements 2 and 3). A student interested in literary study across national boundaries with a focus on generic and transnational questions might wish to create a major field along generic lines, such as film, the epic, the novel, poetry, drama, or opera; the minor field might be a particular national literature or a portion of such a literature. A student interested in literary and cultural theory might choose to have theory as either a major or minor field, paired with another field designed along generic lines or those of one or more national literatures. Courses in the various literature departments and in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities are obviously germane to the building of any individual program. So are courses in the Humanities Division and History extending beyond the usual definitions of literature: film, art, music, history, etc., as appropriate to the student's individual program of study. Study abroad offers an attractive means of fulfilling various aims of this program.

All students will be asked to take two quarters (requirement #4) of a sequence that introduces the theoretical, scholarly, and critical practices relevant to comparative literature. The first quarter, taught by a Comparative Literature faculty member, will be Introduction to Comparative Literature (CMLT 29701). The second quarter will be Comparative Methods in the Humanities (CMLT 20109). Critical methods classes taken prior to the 2012-13 inauguration of this sequence may count as the equivalents to one or both of the two new required courses.

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.

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.


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.