Major Overview

Extensive examination of the written word will demonstrate its crucial role in the historical, social, philosophical, and psychological processes that have come to shape contemporary society, as well as the capacity of language to inform reflection on human value and societal differences and to mobilize the creative imagination. As you explore the ins and outs of literature, from antiquity to present, you will navigate its historical and geographical contexts, analyze examples of literary production and their linguistic and cultural diversity, and study recent movements in literary and critical theory. We believe that a solid base of knowledge, critical practice, and strong linguistic endeavor are essential to professional life and creative production, as we encourage you to acquire abilities and knowledge in three different language areas.  


The educational goals for this major are as follows:

  • Critical Reading: you will be able to explore, analyze, and reflect critically on major works of world literature, philosophy, and criticism across a wide range of genres and time periods.
  • Writing: you will be able to express yourself creatively, clearly, coherently, and elegantly in order to produce effective writing in different genres.
  • Comparison and Contextualization: you will be able to analyze your readings within their historical, geographical, and generic contexts to make enlightening connections with other works on the basis of responsible and informed awareness of cultural and linguistic diversity. You will be able to demonstrate knowledge of traditional and recent methods in literary scholarship.
  • Languages and Linguistics: you will be able to read and write about works originally written in different languages.

Learning Environment

You will be exposed to a flexible, interdisciplinary, student-centered curriculum through small, reading-and-writing-intensive seminars. You will also be encouraged to shape your thinking by exploring related work in other disciplines and to apply your critical thinking and analytic skills in a professional internship experience. Mentored by your Comparative Literature professors and your individual advisor, you will finish with a complete portfolio of your work, as well as a senior thesis in your final year.

Major Components
Build Your Degree

With every single one of our majors, you’ll find a carefully curated medley of core courses and electives, which will provide you with the tools you need to establish an unshakeable foundation in the principles and concepts fundamental to your growth within your disciplines of choice. Many majors also enable you to specialize further within the broader area of study.

Core Courses

Core Courses

We aim to help you develop a range of skills, capacities, and modes of inquiry that will be crucial for your future since employers and graduate schools are looking for the critical thinking and innovative problem-solving skills that are associated with a liberal arts education, including sophisticated writing abilities, willingness to pose difficult questions, and an understanding of the historical and cultural contexts surrounding a topic or decision. You will take all core course and must choose two survey courses.

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With the elective courses that you choose from the following specializations and survey courses, we hope to help you establish a solid grounding in the historical context of both Western literature and the specific area of literature in which you wish to focus. 

See all Major Electives



The Comparative Literature major offers courses in the following specializations:

  • Authors
  • Theater and Film
  • Genres and Literary Movements
  • Cities, History, and Geopolitics
  • Theory and Gender
  • Classical Antiquity

See all Comparative Literature Specialization Requirements

Core Courses

Your introduction to the history of world literature and to the theoretical methods and key social and political questions that drive literary study will help pave the way for your successful completion of other Comparative Literature courses. Your exposure to the professional application of the skills learned in a literature major, and your organization of a portfolio of your work, will prepare you for your honors project and for a life after the degree.

CL1025 The World, The Text, And The Critic I

Considers closely three moments when the practice of writing changed radically in response to historical and cultural processes, from Ancient Greece to 1800 (specific contents change each year). Investigates the forces that inform creative imagination and cultural production. Places those moments and those forces within a geographical and historical map of literary production, and introduces the tools of literary analysis.

CL1050 The World, The Text, And The Critic II

This team-taught course opens up a historical panorama of European literature stretching from the 18th to the 21st century. It does not pretend to provide a survey of this period but rather showcases a selection of significant moments and locations when literary genres changed or new genres appeared. The idea is to open as many doors as possible onto the rich complexity of comparative literary history. In order to help students orient themselves within various histories of generic mutations and emergences, the professors have put together a vocabulary of key literary critical terms in the fields of narrative structure, style, and rhetoric.

CL2085 Theory And Writing

Examines the major tenets, philosophical perspectives, and critical orientations of literary theory from Plato and Aristotle to the present. Students study critical texts from literary and non-literary disciplines, schools, and voices that have come to impact the Western theoretical canon, including psychoanalysis, Marxism, Russian formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, feminism, queer theory, new historicism, and post-colonialism.

CL3020 Product'n, Translat'n, Creat'n, Publicat'n

Workshops a range of professional writing and presentation skills for the cultural sphere (cultural journalism, reviewing, grant applications, creative pitches, page layout). Students collectively produce and maintain a website of cultural activity in Paris. Practical work is placed in cultural and theoretical contexts, including introduction to the publication industry, legal contexts, and cultural studies.

CL3035 Contemporary World Literature

This course offers close engagement with recently translated fiction and poetry from around the globe. In addition to reading great contemporary writing, students are introduced to today’s new media landscape, which has taken on an increasingly important role in the promotion and evaluation of global literature. Units on the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

CL4075 Portfolio

Under the supervision of the major advisor, students prepare a portfolio of at least 5 essays from their major courses, along with relevant work in other courses, and identify, evaluate and justify the personal focus of their work in an introductory essay. Examined orally by a panel of faculty.