The goals below give a sense of what we hope Comparative Literature majors will know and be able to do by the time they complete the degree. These goals are presented throughout the course of study: in the introductory sequence, upper-division electives, language courses, and the capstone seminar.
Ways of Reading Literary and Cultural Texts
Students will be able to read critically literary and cultural texts in a range of genres and media (novels, poetry, drama, film, monuments, political discourse, popular culture, audio, etc.): reading critically entails the ability to identify generic or formal structures, philosophical investments, stylistic texture, rhetorical gestures, and the features of literary periods. In addition to close reading we encourage other methods such as reading for structures, for silences, for contradictions, for history, social difference, culture, and language. The attitude associated with this objective is an appreciation for the complexities of cultural work across a wide range of styles and forms.
Historical, Geographic, and Political Contexts
Students will demonstrate knowledge of historical, linguistic, and cultural contexts of texts as they are produced and received across national boundaries and in response to the dynamics of global movements and crises creating dynamic intersections of power, peoples, and aesthetic practices. An attitude cultivated in connection with this objective is a stance of intellectual openness and an ability to value cultural difference that not only overcomes essentialization and other forms of cultural condescension but moves beyond the celebration of difference for its own sake to a practice of critical awareness of the complexities of global literacy and citizenship in the 21st century.
Students will be able to use critical terminology and interpretive methods drawn from specific 20th- and 21st-century comparative and critical theories from multiple disciplines, including cultural studies, philosophy, ideology critique, anthropology, visual studies, and rhetoric. Ideally, students will move from application to creative appropriation and critique of critical models. Students will appreciate the value of theories as frameworks for understanding. They will become comfortable standing within any one single theory and eventually standing outside of, evaluating and manipulating multiple theories.
Students will be able to construct interpretive arguments from different rhetorical positions orally and in writing with increasing confidence and complexity over the course of the major. Through the course of the major students will move from writing short pieces to eventually producing major, multi-stage critical essays characterized by originality and a personal investment in disciplinary dialogues. Advanced courses, including the capstone seminar, allow students to take ownership of projects through independent research. They will also understand the portability of some of the features of good critical writing for other non-disciplinary forms of writing (dialogue, creative non-fiction, hypertext, reports).
Students will experience an extended encounter with at least one language other than English, including for most students a study-abroad experience. They will be able to work with literary and other texts in another language. When reading texts in translation students will come to see translation as a creative process through which texts are transformed and circulated. As a result students will understand the complexities of living in a multilingual world and better appreciate that to read, speak and write in a different language is to think and feel differently.