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Comparative Literary Traditions

Comparative Literary Traditions

Co-Directors:Dr. Jacob-Ivan Eidt, Dr. Laura Eidt 


The study of literature and culture in a comparative context provides a rich environment for the development of a perceptive, well-rounded reader, writer, and thinker. CLT students learn to interpret and evaluate literary and cultural products from multiple origins and in languages other than their own. They are trained to present persuasive arguments, to master and use different theoretical and methodological tools, and to engage in dialog with scholarly voices both within the field of Comparative Literature and in other modern (and classical) language fields. CLT students undertake substantial writing and original research projects in multiple linguistic traditions in preparation for careers both within the academy and beyond.


Comparative Literature is dedicated to the study of literature in the broadest possible framework interlinguistic, intercultural, and interdisciplinary. Defined broadly, it is the study of "literature without walls." So its about making comparisons and connections between all sorts of literary and cultural realms. It is the study of literature

  • -  across national borders and national languages
  • -   across time periods
  •  -  across genres
  •   - across boundaries between literature and the other arts (music, painting, architecture, dance, film, etc.)
  •  - across disciplines: literature and psychology, philosophy, science, history, politics, etc.


You will enjoy studying comparative literature if you:

-   enjoy reading

-   like to question what you read and experience

-   are interested in other languages, cultures, and ways of thinking

-   prefer a program of study that allows you a maximum amount of flexibility and independence

A major or concentration in Comparative Literature is an excellent foundation for further work at the graduate level in almost any field. It also prepares students to work in any field where critical thinking, strong writing skills and foreign-language competence and a sophisticated understanding of cultural difference and diversity are called for. CLT also works very well as a double major. Since a double major allows sharing of up to four courses (12 hours), certain combinations of majors (CLT and English, Drama, Classics, Modern Languages) may result in a reduction of the total number of courses required for one of the majors. Moreover, because of the flexibility of the program, your CLT major can be a complement to your other major, allowing you to further investigate a topic that you are already focusing on in your other field, from a different perspective or in the comparative mode. For example, an English student who studied the works of James Joyce for senior novel could write a CLT thesis comparing James Joyce and a German or French avant-garde writer. An art/CLT double major could write their thesis on a connection between a work of art and a literary text or film. Even fields of interest for which no courses are offered at the moment (e.g. Scandinavian literature or Russian film) may be accommodated within the CLT major.


Requirements for a Concentration:

-          2 international courses at the 3000-level (MCT 3309, the epoch courses, etc.)

-          3 more courses, any combination of international courses (at any level) or the survey courses MCTF3305, MCTG3305

*** Note that many CLT courses are cross-listed in other departments, and can be counted both for that major and for a CLT concentration or double-major. This is especially true for Modern Languages and English.

Requirements for the CLT major

  • MCT 3309 Introduction to Comparative Literature
  • three epoch courses, from at least two epochs (Medieval, Early Modern, Modern)
  • one literary tradition course in the students chosen foreign language
  • one literary survey course in a different linguistic tradition (taught in English: MCTF 3305 or MCTG 3305), or another lit trad course in a second foreign language. (Note: if your area of interest is, e.g. film, music, or drama, you could substitute here a survey course from another department)
  • two focus courses in particular linguistic/literary/artistic traditions
  • MCT 4347 Seniors Thesis or MCT 4349 Honors Thesis
  • 一个选修课

The Thesis

The purpose of a senior or honors thesis in CLT is to allow students to reflect on intersections of either two different literary traditions, or intersections of literature and other arts, with the goal of synthesizing elements from several of their courses. Thus, the thesis asks students to focus explicitly on a comparative aspect of literary study. For example, they may choose to discuss the use of a common motif in two or more texts, examine the differences of a literary epoch in two linguistic traditions, analyze how a visual work of art is transposed into a poem or story, or show how music and text interrelate in an opera or in a poem set to music.

The senior thesis is preferably written in the first semester of senior year, or in the semester that they aren't writing another thesis for their other major. Students register for 3 thesis hours in that semester. The thesis may draw on, expand, or otherwise incorporate papers written in other courses, with the consent of the instructors and the thesis director. It must be comparative in nature, i.e. involve at least two different linguistic traditions or discuss interrelations of literature and other arts. As all papers, it must have a clear, sufficiently narrow focus and a well-defined and well-supported thesis.

The Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive exam is an oral exam that should be taken in the last semester of the senior year. Its main goal is to function as a way for students to structure, to divide up, and to provide a narrative of, the unfolding of European literature in important comparative moments. The exam should reflect your course work and your personal interest, and can (and should) be closely linked to the focus of your thesis. Students are also encouraged to use the comps presentation to make connections between the various the courses they have taken at 亚博yaboApp, including from other departments (e.g. philosophy or even science). The student will be asked to give a 15-20 minute presentation on either:

a)      at least three comparative moments in 2 or more national literatures of his or her choice

  1. for this option you would select three historical periods ( e.g. Middle Ages, Romanticism, Modernism) where influences, cross-contaminations, parallels etc. are obvious, either between two or more national literatures or between literature and the other arts, like music, painting, film.
  2. You give a broad overview of those comparative moments and their place within European history, with three specific textual examples of the connections (e.g. German and French medieval poetry; Becquer and Wordsworth [Spanish and English Romantic poets]; and European avant-garde movements)

b)      one particular historical epoch, with consideration of at least 3 media (choosing from literature, music, visual arts, or film)

  1. for this option you would focus on one particular period, and discuss it in great depths
  2. your three comparative moments would need to involve at least three different media, e.g. if your focus period is Modernism/Avant-garde, you could do: a German and a French silent film; an Expressionist poem and painting; Expressionism vs. Surrealism in art and poetry; or the influence of Sigmund Freud or Einstein on Modernist literature.

The students presentation will be followed by questions from the audience (professors and other CLT students).

The grade will be given based on the following criteria:

  • clarity
  • breadth and substance of information presented
  • in-depth discussion of examples
  • style of presentation (loud, clear, minimum of reading off of notes, visual aids where needed)