Comparative Literature Program Mission Statement
The Comparative Literature Program enables students to acquire expertise in two or more linguistic, literary, and cultural traditions, to examine their connections, and to develop strong analytical, critical, and writing skills through a cogent yet flexible curriculum tailored to the students’ individual academic interests. By helping students develop sophisticated linguistic and cultural literacy across national and disciplinary boundaries, Comparative Literature promotes a global and dynamic vision of literary and cultural phenomena, fostering appreciation of diversity across space and time, and a critical inquiry into reality, representation, and values.
Student Learning Goals for completion of the Comparative Literature Major
- Evidence of strong skills in two foreign languages and literatures, confirmed by ability to master complex texts belonging to different genres and humanistic disciplines.
- Knowledge of, and engagement with, the main trends in literary and cultural theories and methodologies.
- Advanced research and analytical skills in a comparative perspective, enabling students not only to perform a comparative examination of a given corpus of works but also to construct their own objects of study in a comparative framework and to select appropriate theoretical and methodological tools for their analyses.
- Ability to produce sophisticated oral and written argumentations on literary and cultural topics in comparative contexts.
- Critical understanding of diversity beyond a static appreciation of similarities and differences for their own sake, and ability to extrapolate implications from comparative analyses in view of a global perspective on literature and culture.
Thanks to the verticality of skills that the Comparative Literature Program curriculum develops in the gradual transition from the 1st-year core course CPLT 090 (“Introduction to Comparative Literature”) to the mandatory senior thesis (or honors thesis for eligible students), majors will be able to:
- Recognize the different aims, formal constraints, rhetorical strategies, and ideological underpinnings at stake in different literary genres through texts in two or more foreign languages.
- Show cultural and linguistic awareness through space and time, understanding the role of translation in cross-cultural communication, and connecting aesthetic considerations to wider transnational social and political questions whenever appropriate.
- Master a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to texts and adopt them for comparative textual studies able to go beyond simply mechanical applications.
- Produce original written and oral argumentations that bring together and engage with the skills mentioned above, framed by sophisticated thesis statements and sustained by a good balance of evidence and analysis.
- Extend the application of acquired comparative research and analytical skills from a paper on an assigned topic or on a subject discussed in class under the instructor’s guidance (a standard requirement for CPLT 090 and the other upper-level literature courses in the Comparative Literature curriculum) to a longer and more complex requirement like the mandatory thesis (30-40 pages for the senior thesis, or 50-60 pages for the honors thesis), in which the instructor’s role is far less “invasive” and more “maieutic”.