B.A. Comparative Literature
The Bachelor of Arts degree program in the Department of Comparative Literature offers qualified undergraduates the opportunity to pursue an interdisciplinary plan of course work focused on the study of literature as written in various languages and parts of the world. The program is designed to attract, among others, three sorts of undergraduates in particular: (1) a student who comes 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) a student strongly interested in literary study who wants to tackle general, generic and/or transnational questions across the lines of national literature upheld by most English and other literature departments; and (3) a student interested in the interrelationship of literature and culture, and in issues that transcend the traditional demarcations of national literary history and area studies.
These categories are not mutually exclusive. Plans of course work 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 (one of which can be English) 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: Problems, Methods, Precedents.” The second quarter will be a free-standing but related course taught by an advanced graduate student. Students are expected to take both courses in the same year. 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 (see next paragraph). 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.
Guidelines for Fourth Year Students in Comparative Literature
The BA Project
You may fulfill the BA requirement in Comparative Literature in one of two ways. You may either write a long paper or you may do a translation and provide a critical apparatus to accompany it. Either way, your final project should ideally display evidence of your ability to read at least one language other than English.
The BA project should be approximately 30 pages long.
- Finding an Advisor
In choosing an advisor, it is a good idea to approach not only professors who study topics similar to the one you wish to write on, but also people with whom you have already studied and whom you find personally appealing. By the end of the first quarter, your faculty advisor must orally consent to advise your BA paper. It is your responsibility to report your advisor's consent to the departmental head and to your preceptor. If you experience any trouble finding a suitable advisor, please consult your preceptor as soon as possible.
- The Structure of a BA Paper
The paper should develop one overarching argument. There is a tendency among undergraduates, who typically feel much more comfortable writing shorter essays, to want to make their BA papers into collections of smaller papers loosely grouped around a theme. Resist this temptation! The BA paper is a unique opportunity for you to delve into your research more deeply than you have ever done before. It is best to choose a topic about which you think you could probably write approximately 15 solid pages. As you learn more about your topic, the amount you are able to say about it will surprise you! (We promise!) During the first quarter, spend time not only doing preliminary reading, but also talking with your preceptor and faculty advisor. They will help guide you toward a reasonably-sized paper topic. Do not be surprised if the first time you see your preceptor, he or she tells you you have generated enough ideas to fuel 8 theses. The second time, maybe you will have narrowed your topic down to 3 theses' worth. Keep narrowing and honing as you read and discuss your topic with your advisors.
- Requirements for Translators
If you are doing a translation, the translation may take up the bulk of your project. However, you will also be required to write a short (at least ten page) paper detailing some translation issues you encountered and how you overcame them. Translators must also have faculty advisors and should, by the end of the fall quarter, determine what they intend to translate.
- Choosing What to Translate
Pick something you really like! Ideally, your translation should fill a gap in available translations. You may wish to undertake a translation because of the deficiencies in available translations of a work or because the work you choose has never been translated. As examples, you may translate a short story, a play, a poem or poems, or a section of a novel. This list, however, is not exhaustive.
- Requirements for Translators
Whether you are translating or writing a paper, you must, by the end of the sixth week of fall quarter, turn in a short (approximately two-page) paper proposal to your preceptor as one of your assignments in the weekly Fall Quarter Workshops. After workshopping this proposal and receiving feedback from the preceptor, you must submit the proposal to your faculty advisor. The purpose of the proposal is to help guide your reading and research. You may get partly through your research and realize that you are actually interested in a slightly different aspect of your topic than the one you had originally planned to discuss in your paper. That's fine. You are not irremediably bound to abide by the proposal. Nevertheless, if you have articulated in your proposal where your interests lie, you will be better able to direct your reading.
Once you have decided on a topic, enlist the help of your advisor and put together an extensive bibliography. As part of the Fall Workshops, you must hand in to your preceptor a copy of this preliminary bibliography.
Translators will be expected to produce a critical bibliography during the second quarter (once they have finished translating). It is advised that while you are translating you not read other translations of the piece you are working on. Once you have finished your translation, you are encouraged to look back and compare your translation with other people's.
- Reading and Research: CMLT 29801 (Papers especially)
Begin to research your topic no later than winter vacation. Read about every aspect of your topic; even read about things that on their surface seem only tangentially relevant to your topic. Learn about the time period in which your authors wrote; learn about what they ate and wore; learn about the political climates in which they lived; learn about the literary traditions on which they drew. All these things will make you a more erudite person and will make your paper richer and more substantial. In short, read very widely; immerse yourself in your research, and become an expert on your topic. (It is also a good idea to take notes while you read).
- Fall Quarter Workshops
All students are expected to attend weekly workshops in the Fall Quarter. In these workshops, you will read about comparative methodologies and you will prepare and submit drafts of both the proposal and the bibliography. It is important that students complete their applications before or during Spring Quarter of the third year so that the preceptor can contact students about scheduling a day and time for Fall Quarter Workshops.
- Winter and Spring Quarter Workshops
It is expected that your first draft will be less polished than your final paper. However, the more finished a draft you can present, the better and more helpful the comments you will receive. The second draft should be a complete and fully researched draft, and must include editorial changes you have made in response to the comments you received at your first presentation. This is not - of course - to say that you must incorporate into your paper every suggestion you get in your first session. However, your second draft should demonstrate that you have read and seriously considered the comments of your preceptors and peers.
Obviously, the criticism you level at your classmates' papers should be constructive and politely worded. Also, we ask that you hand your paper in on-time so that others will have ample time to read your draft and comment on it carefully. Please proofread all drafts before you hand them in. (This does not mean pressing the "spell-check" button on your computer; it means printing your paper out and reading it through carefully to catch typos, grammar mistakes, etc).
- Concluding Admonition & Encouragement
Finally, writing a senior thesis should be an enjoyable experience. This task allows you to research and write a paper that will be beneficial to you. Should you consider continuing your studies at the graduate level, this paper, for example, would be a good candidate for the writing sample of graduate applications. Consequently, you should choose a topic that you will look forward to working on for the better part of your fourth year. Please remember that the Comp. Lit. faculty advisor and preceptors are here to help you with any aspect of your project.
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, Boris Maslov. 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.
Program Requirements. Students thinking of applying to Comparative Literature should study the following set of guidelines and also consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Comparative Literature named above. These guidelines aim at helping students define a balanced and coherent interdisciplinary plan of comparative literary study.
- Language ability must be demonstrated by the completion of a 200-level sequence in a language other than English, or by demonstration of equivalent skill. This requirement should be completed, or well on its way to completion, by the time of application to the program, normally the end of the second year. See "Participation in the Program" for further details.
- Six courses in a primary field, or in closely integrated subject areas in more than one field.
- Four courses in a secondary field or in closely integrated subject areas in more than one field.
- Two designated critical/intellectual methods courses, taken in the same year, including “Introduction to Comparative Literature: Problems, Methods, Precedents.” 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.
- One course, CMLT 29801, consisting of the B. A. project and workshop. The project will be supervised by a faculty member of the student's choice, with that faculty member's consent and the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies; that faculty member may be but need not be on the faculty of Comparative Literature. A graduate student in Comparative Literature will serve as a tutor or preceptor for the B.A. workshop.
Summary of Requirements: Concentration:
6 primary field courses
4 secondary field courses
2 critical/intellectual methods courses
1 B.A. project and workshop (CMLT 29801)
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.
The courses in critical/intellectual methods (CMLT 20801, 24501, 24901, 27000 and 28100) may also be used toward the fulfillment of 6 courses in the major field or toward 4 courses in the minor field if their materials are appropriate for those purposes, but the total number of courses presented for the concentration or major must nonetheless add up to 13.
Click here to download the Comparative Literature Major Application.