Undergraduate Program

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B.A. in 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 (For AY20-21, Olga Solovieva solovieva@uchicago.edu) 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 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 courses selected in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies divided into a primary field of four courses and a secondary field of three courses; 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.

The student will work with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to identify a primary field (four courses) and a secondary field (three courses). The primary field should be in a literature other than English.  A student might choose two literatures as the primary and secondary fields, in which case, the secondary field of 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.

The major in Comparative Literature is comprised of seven self-selected courses in the primary and secondary fields, two foundational courses in comparative literary theory and history, and two courses in comparative literature methods & topics, with a  BA project workshop serving as a capstone to the major.

  1. Prospective majors in Comparative Literature must complete the second-year sequence in a language other than English (for example: Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Persian, Spanish, Yiddish, etc.) or demonstrate language ability at an equivalent level through accreditation by the time they apply to the Comparative Literature program, typically by the end of the second year. Exceptions may be granted by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  2. Four courses in a primary field, or in closely-linked subject areas in more than one field. The primary field should be in every case literature in a language other than English.
  3. Three courses in a secondary field, or in closely-linked subject areas in more than one field. The secondary field may be literature in another language (including English), or else a discipline or area of intellectual interest (e.g. Math, Performance Studies, etc.) or literary theory, and must be cleared by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  4. One foundational courses in comparative literary theory and methods is required: CMLT 20109 Comparative Methods in the Humanities.
  5. Two 200-level special topics, methods, or theory courses in Comparative Literature (Must have a CMLT prefix, (ie: CMLT 200xx, 300xx)
  6. The B.A. Project & Workshop, CMLT 29801, as a capstone in their last year of study. The project should be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and is supervised by a faculty member of the student's choice in Comparative Literature and may be co-advised by a faculty member from another department.

NB: 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 (1400 Units):

  • CMLT 20109 Comparative Methods in the Humanities (100 units)
  • CMLT 29801 BA Project and Workshop: Comparative Literature (100 units)
  • Three foreign language courses at the intermediate level or above (300 units)
  • Four courses in a literature other than English, one of which can be in a closely related field (400 units)
  • Three courses in a secondary field, which can be literature in a different language (including English) from that of the primary field or another discipline (e.g., mathematics, performance studies, music); or literary theory (300 units)
  • Two 200-level courses in literary theory, methods, or special topics in Comparative Literature (200 units)

Foreign Language Requirement

The Comparative Literature major requires three language courses in a single language at the intermediate level (ie: 300xx, 400xx, 500xx) or above. Students are however, encouraged to continue their language study beyond the minimum required for the major.  The Department of Comparative Literature works closely with the University of Chicago Language Center and will help students achieve their individual goals in language acquisition by suggesting programs of study that will add to their language expertise as appropriate.

Note: Students who enter the program with advanced or native proficiency in a language other than English may instead substitute three courses in a third language, at any level, for the requirement of three language courses in a single language at the intermediate level. A student can provide proof of advanced proficiency in two ways. 

  1. A student may pass one of the College's Advanced Language Proficiency assessments in a foreign language, if available for the relevant language, for which a student must file the Language Petition.
  2. A foreign national can demonstrate advanced proficiency from formal schooling experience in a country other than the United States. Such a student should submit a petition with supporting documentation regarding formal educational experience to Catherine Baumann (Cobb 214, 773.702.8008, ccbauman@uchicago.edu).

BA Project

The BA capstone project is to be completed in the student's last year of study. The project should be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The BA project is supervised by a Comparative Literature faculty member of the student's choice and by the graduate student preceptor teaching the BA project workshop, CMLT 29801. The faculty advisor and graduate student preceptor will provide guidance and feedback on BA project drafts. Students must complete their formal application to the major by spring of third year and should identify a BA faculty advisor in Comparative Literature at that time.

One obvious choice for a BA project is a substantial essay in comparative literary study. This option should not, however, rule out other possibilities. Alternative examples are 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 comparative interests. Students are urged to base their project on comparative concepts and to make use of the language proficiency that they will develop as they meet the program's requirements.

This program may accept a BA paper or project used to satisfy the same requirement in another major if certain conditions are met and with approval from both program chairs. Students should consult with the chairs by the earliest BA proposal deadline (or by the end of third year, when neither program publishes a deadline). A consent form, to be signed by both chairs, is available from the College advisor. It must be completed and returned to the College advisor by the end of Autumn Quarter of the student's year of graduation.

Participation in the Program

Students should express their interest in the major as early as possible. The first step is to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to consult about a program of study. Applicants must submit an application form which consists of a list of completed courses and a list of courses in which they are currently registered. Special mention should be made of language courses or other language training that affirms a student's level of language proficiency. Each proposal will be evaluated on the basis of the interest of the student and his or her achievement in the languages needed to meet the goals of the intended course of study. Students will be notified by email of their acceptance to the program. Finally, students will need to formalize their declaration through my.uchicago.edu with the assistance of the College advisor.

Comparative Literature majors should demonstrate literary proficiency in a language (other than English) that is relevant to their proposed course of study (as indicated in requirement number one above). This requirement must be met at the time of application or shortly thereafter. Proficiency is measured by the completion of a second-year sequence (or above) in the language or by demonstration of an equivalent skill. Language ability is essential to work in comparative literature of whatever sort. The Department of Comparative Literature works closely with the University of Chicago Language Center and will help students achieve their individual goals in language acquisition by suggesting programs of study that will add to their language expertise as appropriate.

Grading

All courses to be used in the major must be taken for a quality grade of B– or higher, except for CMLT 29801, which is graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

Honors

To be eligible for honors in Comparative Literature, students must earn an overall cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher, and a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the major. They must also complete a BA essay or project that is judged exceptional in intellectual and/or creative merit by the first and second readers.

Advising

Students must consult on an ongoing basis with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for selection and approval of course work for the major. Students will need to regularly provide documentation of any approvals for the major to their College advisor for the necessary processing. Further advice and counseling will be available from the preceptor for the program and from the faculty member who supervises the student's BA project.

Undergraduate Publishing

Publishing experience is an important complement to our undergraduate training in Comparative Literature. Undergraduate Majors in Comparative Literature are encouraged to submit their outstanding work for publication in the undergraduate journals. Please see the list of undergraduate journals below and consult with the DUS about your intent to submit and your proposed submission.

Criterion
Description: "Criterion: A Journal of Literary Criticism seeks original, well-researched, and intellectually rigorous essays written from diverse critical perspectives and about texts from any time period or literary tradition."
Published by: Brigham Young University
Submission guidelines: 3000-6000 words.
Submission deadline: Submissions for the Winter 2021 issue will open in mid-December.

 

Digital America
Description: "An online journal that focuses on digital art and culture. Our focus remains on work that just doesn’t quite fit anywhere else. We celebrate experimental internet art that may never live in a gallery, and we look for new perspectives on popular culture, digital culture, and art."
Published by: University of Richmond
Submission guidelines: "Multi-media, film, audio, and new media pieces that engage digital art and/or culture with an eye toward the American experience."

 

Digital Literature Review
Description: "Our goal is to showcase the valuable contributions of hardworking, creative students from all over the world."
Published by: Ball State University
Submission guidelines: For the 2021 issue, the journal seeks "scholarly essays that consider food as a vehicle for exploring issues of inequity and empowerment, including but not limited to race, gender, class, ability, sexuality, and nationality." 2500-5000 words. 
Submission deadline:.Submissions for the 2021 issue are due by January 15, 2021

 

Forbes & Fifth
Description: "Unites works of research, creative writing, and scholarly articles under the banner of interdisciplinary collaboration."
Published by: University of Pittsburgh
Submission guidelines: Up to 25 pages.
Submission deadline: Two issues per year - deadlines in September/October and February.

 

Inquiries Journal
Description: "An open-access academic journal focused on publishing high-quality original work across a range of disciplines. In particular, our focus falls on the social sciences, arts, and humanities but we also consider pieces with broad cross-disciplinary appeal."
Submission guidelines: 1500-7000 words.

 

Kennesaw Tower
Description: "Our mission is to publish quality, scholarly work of advanced undergraduate students in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish."
Published by: Kennesaw State University
Submission guidelines: Writers must have taken at least one senior-level foreign-language course. 3000 words or less.
Submission deadline: September 1 for the following year's issue.

 

Madison Journal of Literary Criticism
Description: "A space for undergraduate students of literature to publish their scholarly work and engage in contemporary literary debates."
Published by: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Submission guidelines: 8-20 pages.

 

Nota Bene: Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Musicology
Description: "Seeks to publish essays of a high critical and rhetorical standard, written by undergraduate students from universities around the world. Essays in historical musicology, ethnomusicology, popular music studies, music theory, music education, and interdisciplinary subjects with a focus on the above are invited."
Published by: Western University
Submission guidelines: Up to 4000 words.
Submission deadline: December 6, 2020

 

Oswald Review
Description: "The Oswald Review is the first intercollegiate undergraduate journal of criticism and research in the discipline of English. Published annually, it accepts submissions in the field of English from undergraduates in this country and abroad. A faculty member's endorsement is required."
Published by: University of South Carolina Aiken
Submission guidelines: 10-25 pages.
Submission deadline: March 1.

 

Proteus: The Rutgers Comp Lit Undergraduate Journal
Description: The Rugers Comp Lit Undergraduate Journal accepts papers from undergrad students engaging with, but not limited to: literary criticism, philosophy, women’s and gender studies, queer theory, critical theory, and global literature.
Submission guidelines: Papers must be between 6 and 20 double-spaced pages (size 12 font, MLA or Chicago formatting).
Submission deadline: The submission period  November 1st, 2020 to February 1st, 2021 at 11:59 PM. 
Published by: Rutgers University

 

Sigma Tau Delta Review
Description: "The Sigma Tau Delta Review is an annual journal that publishes critical essays on literature, essays on rhetoric and composition, and essays devoted to pedagogical issues." The best piece of writing in each category receives a $500 prize.
Published by: Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society
Submission guidelines: All active undergraduate and graduate members of active Sigma Tau Delta chapters are invited to submit their work. 3000 words or less.
Submission deadline: May 10, 2021.

 

UC Berkeley Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal
Description: "Showcases the best undergraduate work in comparative literature across the nation as well as highlight more contemplative writing by students regarding multicultural issues, culture shock, or transnational experiences such as studying abroad."
Published by: University of California, Berkeley
Submission guidelines: 16-60 pages.
Submission deadline: October 15.

 

Xchanges
Description: "Xchanges is an interdisciplinary Technical Communication, Writing/Rhetoric, and Writing Across the Curriculum journal, which publishes two issues annually. Our Fall issue each year features undergraduate research. Our Spring issue features graduate-student research." 
Published by: University of New Mexico
Submission guidelines: 15-25 pages.
Submission deadline: June 30 for both issues.

 

The Word: The Stanford Journal of Student Hiphop Research
Description: "A fresh as hell student hiphop research journal that aims to embody the founding spirit and purpose of hiphop: providing a mode of creative expression and voice to marginalized communities, inspiring activism, and making a way outta no way."
Published by: Stanford University
Submission guidelines: Research papers - 2500-6000 words. Blog posts - 250-750 words. Also accepts audio, video, or visual art files.

 

Young Scholars in Writing: Undergraduate Research in Writing and Rhetoric
Description: "Publishes research and theoretical articles by undergraduates of all majors and years on the subjects of rhetoric, writing, writers, discourse, language, and related topics."
Submission guidelines: Up to 25 pages.
Submission deadline: April 8. 

 

 

Careers After Graduation

Many graduates of our program pursue Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and related subjects:

Boston College, Political Science

Cornell University, Romance Studies

CUNY Graduate School and University Center

Duke University, History

Harvard University, Comparative Literature

Louisiana State University, Comparative Literature

Pennsylvania State University, Comparative Literature

Princeton University, Comparative Literature

University of California Irvine, Comparative Literature

University of Pennsylvania, Comparative Literature & Theory

University of Pennsylvania, Political Science

University of Southern California, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture