Program Description

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. Students develop individualized dissertation topics 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. These have included projects ranging from the myth of the artist to illusion, confusion and the Romantic imagination, from  the hermeneutics of divination to the quest to fail, and comparisons between a wide variety of national literatures, such as  Polish and Irish,  Chinese and Indian, Russian and German, English and Portuguese along the African/Indian Ocean. Please see the Graduate Student section of the website for information about current research interests.

The University is famous for the vibrancy and intensity of its interdisciplinary studies and Comparative Literature students often work with faculty in many departments. The university is also renowned for treating 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 at which comparative literature students have presented or are scheduled to present their work include: Poetry and Poetics; Literature and Philosophy; Metaphor; Medieval Studies; Renaissance Studies; Critical Animal Studies; African Studies;  Modern France and Francophone Studies;  East Asian and Trans-Regional Histories; Western Mediterranean Culture, and Theater and Performance Studies.

Ph.D. students will 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 StudiesCenter for the Study of Race, Politics and CultureFilm Studies CenterPoetry and Poetics and at the Franke Institute of the Humanities.

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, in the U.S., Colorado College, Reed College, Rutgers University and Stanford University, and abroad, University College London, University of Paris, University of São Paolo, and Taiwan Normal University. Recent Ph.D.'s have earned positions at Indiana University and the University of Louisville, as well as jobs in consulting, software development, high school teaching, and established scholars among our alumni have published major books and articles, and contributed to the profession in, for example, the American Comparative Literature Association’s annual State of the Discipline Report. Please see our listing of Alums for further details.