College Bulletin 2023-2024 
    Jul 15, 2024  
College Bulletin 2023-2024

Comparative Literature



Désirée Díaz (Spanish), Coordinator
Cheryl Sharp, Administrative Coordinator
Deborah B Sloman, Administrative Assistant


Khaled Al-Masri (Modern Languages and Literatures, Arabic)
Rachel Buurma (English Literature)
Désirée Díaz (Spanish)
Sibelan Forrester (Modern Languages and Literatures, Russian)
William O. Gardner (Modern Languages and Literatures, Japanese)3
María Luisa Guardiola (Spanish)3
Alexandra Gueydan-Turek (Modern Languages and Literatures, French)
Haili Kong (Modern Languages and Literatures, Chinese)
Jeremy Lefkowitz (Classics)
Rosaria V. Munson (Classics)
Donna Jo Napoli (Linguistics)1
Bob Rehak (Film and Media Studies)
Benjamin Ridgway (Modern Languages and Literatures, Chinese)3
Olivia Sabee (Dance)
Hansjakob Werlen (Modern Languages and Literatures, German)

1 Absent on leave, Fall 2024.
3 Absent on leave, 2023-2024.

The comparative literature major is administered by a Comparative Literature Committee, made up of the coordinator and faculty representing the Classics, English Literature, Modern Languages and Lteratures, Film and Media Studies, Spanish, and Theater departments. The basic requirement for the major is work in two literatures in the original language.

The major in comparative literature is designed for those students who have a love for literature and a strong desire to write, and who are interested in literary critical research. This major is not for everyone:  it assumes a fair degree of discipline, independence, and self-motivation on the part of the student, especially in the development and writing of the thesis.

The Academic Program

In planning a comparative literature major, students should look at course listings in the Classics, English, Film and Media Studies, Modern Languages and Literatures, Spanish and Theater departments. In Classics and Modern Languages and Literatures departments, only courses numbered 011 or above may count as constituents of the comparative literature major. Of English courses numbered 009, only one may be counted for the major. Of courses in the Spanish department, only courses numbered 022 and above may be counted for the major. 

Major in Course

Ten credits in two or more literatures in the original languages, including a substantial concentration of work—normally four or five courses—in each of the literatures of specialization. The Senior thesis (described in the section on “Thesis/Culminating Exercise” section, below) does not count toward these 10 credits.

Students working in French, German, or Spanish may propose one course in translation as part of their program, as long as it is deeply relevant to their plan of study. Because of the greater time required to gain proficiency in languages less similar to English, students working in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or Russian may propose a program partly based on courses in translation and attachments (in the original language) to literature courses taught in translation, if courses taught in the original language are not available.

A 1- or 2-credit thesis of 35 to 40 pages for one credit, 50-60 pages for two credits, covering work in at least two languages (see “Thesis/Culminating Exercise ,” below).

An oral comprehensive examination, of 1 hour, during the final exam period of the senior year, based on the thesis and courses and seminars that the major comprises.

Honors Major

Four 2-credit preparations—3 seminars and a 2-credit thesis of 50 to 60 pages—in at least two literatures in the original language. One of the preparations may be used as an independent minor (in Russian or Theater, for instance) if the minor’s departmental requirements have been met. Minors requiring unrelated preparations such as biology or psychology are not allowed. All four honors preparations are necessary components of the comparative literature honors major.

A 3-hour written examination for each preparation, prepared by the external examiner, and a 30-minute oral based on the contents of the written examination, as well as an oral thesis examination with two Honors examiners


Honors Minor

Five credits in two literatures in the original languages, with a minimum of 2 courses in each of the literatures.

A 2-credit thesis of 50 to 60 pages, integrating preparations that have been done in two literatures in the original language.

Thesis / Culminating Exercise

All majors and minors will meet with the Coordinator of the Comparative Literature Program before the end of the junior year to review and assess the student’s program.

At this time, the student will submit a general thesis outline, and will propose two faculty advisers from appropriate departments. In some cases, the committee may ask that the thesis be written in whole or in part in the language of a literature studied other than English.

The  final draft of the thesis will be submitted no later than April 30 of the senior year, and it may be due earlier for Honors Majors.

Application Process for the Major and the Minor

Successful completion of an advanced literature course in each of the literatures of the student’s program of study is a prerequisite for admission into the Honors Program. A minimum grade of B is required.

Students applying for the (Honors) major will submit to the comparative literature coordinator a proposal of integrated study that sets forth the courses and/or seminars to be taken and the principle of coherence on which the program of study is based. The student will also submit a 6- to 10-page writing sample from a previously completed course. The committee will then review the proposal and the essay to advise the student.

In lieu of a traditional course, the Comparative Literature Committee will consider proposals for one or more research papers written as course attachments.

Sample: Comparative Literature Course Major

The courses and seminars that compose the comparative literature major’s formal field of study will naturally differ with each major. To give some sense of the range of possibilities available, a series of sample programs is offered.

Focus: The Black Atlantic (English and French)

1-credit thesis