School of Interdisciplinary Studies Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature offers the opportunity to study literatures in two languages and gain a working knowledge of a third, while encountering a range of world literatures. The program is founded on three introductory courses, Introduction to Comparative Literature, World Literature: From the Beginning to 1700 A.D., and World Literature: 1700 to the Present. In addition to focusing on particular languages, students may work in areas such as Cultural Studies, Feminist Thought, Folklore, Literary Theory, Philosophy of Aesthetics, Postcolonial Studies, Queer Studies, Rhetoric, and Visual Culture. Career opportunities include Screenwriting, Journalism, and others that require working with multiple languages and cultures.

The purpose of the Comparative Literature Program is to foster cooperation between the Department of English and the School of Languages and Cultures. The program achieves this purpose by encouraging the study of literature, by promoting the study of a second or third foreign language, and by sponsoring courses and dissertations that cut across national boundaries. Comparative Literature recognizes that some fields - classics, medieval studies, Renaissance, post-colonial - are inherently comparative and seeks to facilitate the work of students and scholars in these fields. The program also recognizes the role of other disciplines-particularly history and philosophy, but also the social sciences and psychology in developing theoretical approaches to literature. While recognizing the value of cultural studies and linguistics, and encouraging investigations based in these disciplines, the program recognizes that other areas make these disciplines their priority. By contrast, Comparative Literature takes as its special mandate the teaching and comparing of world literature, not only as social documents but also as works of art whose full appreciation depends on the study of languages, an understanding of diversity and globalization, and an appreciation of various media.

By virtue of the Program's ability to draw on the curricular strengths of several academic departments, we have the flexibility and resources to accommodate individualized plans of study for qualified students. Each student has the opportunity to do graduate-level work in the original language in the following literatures: British, Chinese, French (both continental and francophone), German, Classical Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latin (classical and medieval), Portuguese (Luso-Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (both Peninsular and Spanish/American), and American literature. In addition, the student may work in areas such as Cultural Studies, Feminist Thought, Folklore, Literary Theory, Philosophy of Aesthetics, Postcolonial Studies, Queer Studies, Rhetoric, and Visual Culture. In addition to the body of knowledge and methodology appropriate to each individual program of study, students acquire a familiarity with the history, methods, and bibliography of Comparative Literature through a core seminar (ENGL 660/FLL 630, required of all incoming students in their first semester) and with the corpus of critical approaches and literary theory. In coursework pertaining to their special areas, students are strongly encouraged to design their research papers along comparative lines.

For graduate students, Comparative Literature Program offers the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.  Students should apply directly to the program through the Graduate School.  With approximately ninety faculty members in two departments, of whom a dozen or so regularly participate in Comparative Literature, the graduate program allows cross-disciplinary studies in a variety of areas, including literature, visual aesthetics, women's studies, philosophy, Afro-American and Latino studies. A range of financial resources are available to fund graduate students. Our graduate students come from China, Egypt, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Spain, India, the United States, and many other countries. 

Charles Ross: Director, Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Angelica Duran: Director of Admissions, Professor of English and Comparative Literature

The Steering Committee of the Program in Comparative Literature consists of Charles RossAngelica DuranShaun HughesBeate AllertElena Coda and Daniel Hsieh.


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Alumna Catalina Florina Florescu has a new edited collection, Disjointed Perspectives on Motherhood, from Lexington Books, am Imprint of Rowman & Littlefield.  Click here for more information.

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From 1593 to 2014: Restoring Sidney’s Arcadia

Charlie Ross

For two hundred years Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (1590) was the most popular piece of original prose fiction written in English. Today, however, even Sidney scholars fail to master the intricacies of its many subplots and often skip the poems interspersed in the text.

Shakespeare scholars know that Sidney borrowed the Gloucester plot in King Lear,and students of English literature know that Arcadia prompted works by two of the first original female authors in English: the Countess of Montgomery’s Urania (1621) and Anna Weamys’ A Continuation of Sidney’s Arcadia (1651). But few bother to read Sidney’s difficult, highly patterned, and rhetorical English.

To remedy modern neglect of Sidney and his important heroic romance, Professor Charles Ross is working on a project to publish a text in modernized English that comes as close to the original as possible without losing clarity, and to create a coordinated, freely accessible, fully annotated edition of the original 1593 Arcadia. The open-access on-line edition will use modern spelling and advanced search features In addition, annotations will highlight Shakespeare’s borrowings and also the rhetorical “schemes” that structure Sidney’s original prose.


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