Comparative Literature, Bachelor of Arts College of Letters & Science

The Major Program

Comparative Literature is a dynamic major whose own self-definition is constantly shifting. Once mostly limited to the study of western European literature and its Greco-Roman classical past, today Comparative Literature has become a global interdisciplinary study of literature in original languages and other media (including cinema, television, fine arts, and opera, for example). Thus, we can define Comparative Literature as the study of literature and culture across national boundaries and throughout historical time.

The Program

Both the major and the minor programs in Comparative Literature allow students to combine courses in one or more national literature departments with courses in Comparative Literature. The introductory course sequence (COM 001-COM 004) provides both an overview of ancient to contemporary literature and film and offers intensive practice in analytical thought. In addition, any one of the courses in the sequence satisfies the university composition requirement. All readings in undergraduate Comparative Literature courses are in English, but majors take upper division courses in at least one foreign literature in the original language.

Students majoring in Comparative Literature choose a first and second literature of concentration, one of which may be English. After the introductory sequence, each student's major course work is divided between courses in the two literatures of concentration and Comparative Literature courses. These Comparative Literature courses encourage students to take a broad view of a historical period, a theme, a genre, or a literary movement. The wide variety of options in the program permits great flexibility and encourages interdisciplinary connections among literature and philosophy, psychology, history, and the arts. Each student's plan of study must be approved by the major advisor at the beginning and end of each calendar year.


All Comparative Literature majors and minors must consult with their advisor, individually, at least once at the beginning and once at the end of each academic year.

Major Advisor

Consult the Department office.

Career Alternatives

A Comparative Literature major offers an excellent enhancement to pre-professional training, preparing students for graduate study in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and other science fields as well as law and  business, besides of course journalism and publishing, teaching, or graduate study in literature.

Honors & Honors Program

Students, who meet the grade point requirement for graduation with honors and complete the requirements established by the College of Letters and Science, may be recommended by the department for graduation with high honors or highest honors on the basis of an evaluation of their academic achievements in the major and in the honors project in particular. Entrance into the honors program requires that a student have completed at least 135 units with a minimum grade point average of 3.500 in courses counted toward the major.

Candidates must write a senior thesis under the direction of a faculty member approved by the major advisor. For this purpose, in addition to fulfilling all other major requirements, honors candidates must enroll in 6 units of COM 194H during the first two quarters of the senior year.

Teaching Credential Subject Representative

See the Teaching Credential/M.A. Program.

Education Abroad Options

The department of Comparative Literature encourages students to study abroad, in the Summer Abroad program, the Quarter Abroad Program, or the Education Abroad Program. With the approval of a major advisor, applicable courses taken abroad may be accepted in the major or minor programs.

Graduate Study

The Comparative Literature Program offers the Ph.D. degree with a strong emphasis on individual research under the supervision of a faculty member. Candidates for the Ph.D., in addition to research of a comparative nature, study three literatures (one of which may be English and/or American) in the original languages, acquiring an extensive knowledge of the overall development of one. Students may choose to focus on a special topic instead of on a third literary tradition.

Within this framework, each student's program will be tailored to individual interests, and may center on a major historical period, such as the Renaissance or the modern age; a genre, such as lyric poetry, epic, drama, or the novel; or any other special emphasis approved by the Graduate Advisor.


For admission to the Ph.D. Program candidates should have an undergraduate major in literature and reading ability in three foreign languages. The Group requires three letters of recommendation and a sample of recent written work, and it is recommended that students submit their GRE scores.

Preparatory Subject Matter
COM 001Major Works of the Ancient World4
or COM 002 Major Works of the Medieval & Early Modern World
COM 003Major Works of the Modern World4
or COM 004 Major Works of the Contemporary World
Two other lower division courses in Comparative Literature; selected from COM 001-COM 053C excluding the COM 010 series; cannot include the two required courses in the COM 001-COM 004 series:8
Fairy Tales, Fables, & Parables
Myths & Legends
Literature of Fantasy & the Supernatural
Utopias & Their Transformations
The Short Story & Novella
Travel & the Modern World
Introduction to Women Writers
Dramatic Literature
Introduction to Poetry
Humans & the Natural World
Animals in Literature
Ethnic Minority Writers in World Literature
Literature of East Asia
Literature of South Asia
Literatures of the Islamic World
It is recommended that students who do not use a European language toward the major take one of the remaining required lower division courses in the COM 053 series, preferably the COM 053 course that relates to the region of the language the student is using to satisfy the upper division language requirement in the major.
Foreign Language
Sufficient preparation to ensure satisfactory performance at the upper division level.0-30
Preparatory Subject Matter Subtotal16-46
Depth Subject Matter
Choose five upper division Comparative Literature courses including at least one course in a major period (such as COM 164A, COM 164B, COM 164C, COM 164D), movement (such as COM 168A, COM 168B, COM 169) or genre (such as COM 160A, COM 160B, COM 161A, COM 161B, COM 163, COM 166A, COM 166B) and including the following required courses:20
Introduction to Critical Theoretical Approaches to Literature & Culture (recommended for the junior year.)
Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature (to be taken in the spring quarter before graduation.)
Three upper division literature courses in a language other than English. 12
Two additional upper division literature courses in Comparative Literature or in any other program including English or literature in translation.8
Depth Subject Matter Subtotal40
Total Units56-86