Requirements for the Comparative Literature Major

What we do:

The comparative literature major introduces students to the study of literature across departmental, national, and linguistic boundaries. Students devise their own course of studies in consultation with their advisor and with the director of the program, in relation to the major’s particular languages and concentration and mindful of the many and diverse courses that pertain to the study of literature.
These include, but are not limited to:

  • courses in literary history;
  • courses in particular literary genres, authors, or periods.
  • courses in the theory of literature;
  • courses in linguistics;
  • courses on the theory and practice of translation.
  • courses supplementing the study of literary texts offered in the humanities and social sciences.

Many courses combine or fall between these categories.

The requirements listed below pertain to students entering in the Fall of 2011 and later:


Majors in comparative literature shall complete a minimum of 10 units. All units must count towards the major in the departments in which they are offered (unless they are language courses, of which up to two 200-level courses may be counted toward the major):


Students shall take ‘‘World Literature’’ (CPLT 180) early in their studies.


At least three courses must be elected in a single department or program. In consultation with the advisor and director, students may choose to concentrate in the literature of a nation or a region or in a specific field of inquiry (e.g. literature & religion, translation, literature & politics, philosophical or theoretical inquires into literature, visual arts & literature, etc.). Majors assemble a group of concentration courses from literature or cognate departments (of which English may be one); when relevant, the student shall be obliged to satisfy departmental prerequisites for these courses.


a) Pre-modern study. Majors shall take a minimum of one course outside of the modern period (the major advisor will assist the student in selecting appropriate pre-modern courses).

b) Theory of literature. Majors shall take at least one course offering a theoretical perspective helpful to their particular course of study.

c) 300-level courses. Majors shall take two 300-level courses in at least two languages (of which English may be one), ideally one of them in their concentration.

d) Independent work. Majors shall either supplement one of their 300-level courses with an extra independent project or else enroll in a CPLT 350, CPLT 360 and/or CPLT 370.


There are two routes to honors in the major: Plan A entails writing a thesis and passing an oral examination, Plan B entails a dossier of essays written for several courses with a statement of connections among them and critical questions raised by them. Both plan A and plan B require a student to pass an oral exam.

To be admitted to the honors program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the department may petition on her behalf if her GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions.

N.B. For students who entered the College prior to the Fall of 2011:

See the requirements above, with the following amendments:

1) Foundation: It is strongly recommended that "World Literature" (CPLT 180) is selected.

2) Concentration: It is strongly recommended that at least three courses are selected in a single department or program.

Program Director

Please address any questions to the director of the program: Professor Thomas Nolden (