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Comparative Literature

Associate Professors DAVIS, SCHEINER; Adjunct Associate Professor HUGHES (director);
Visiting Assistant Professor CLARE 

Comparative methods in literary studies can be seen as the contribution by the humanities to a broad transformation of university disciplines beginning in the early 19th century; a new perception of phenomena in the life sciences (anatomy, psychology), and social sciences (jurisprudence, linguistics, anthropology). The change of perspective was motivated by the need for more systematic relationships within already existing bodies of knowledge, as well as for new connections between objects apparently foreign, alien to one another. Finally, in what might be felt as an ethical dimension, one desires to relativize one’s own parochial certainties, and to rethink these from a cosmopolitan, and international, viewpoint. 

The comparative literature program is true to these traditions, while attentive to the necessity of revision, change, renewal, of its offerings on the basis of the experience of the multiplicity of literary forms, as well as current work in literary theory and criticism.

The program insists that every course examine works from different linguistic and cultural areas and periods and/or from different disciplines. We call attention to the origin and diffusions of genres, themes, and movements, and the relation between literary and other art forms. We require reading fluency in original languages (as well as translations) for all upper-division studies (seminars, thesis), and expect that students become acquainted with and capable of employing critical methods of textual analysis.


Eleven units (in addition to language courses below level 306 and in addition to senior thesis work other than 431) required:

  • 100 Introduction to Comparative Literature — 2 units.
  • Two units in courses listed (or cross-listed) as Comparative Literature 200, 220, 351, or 352 — 2 units.
  • 210 Introduction to Literary Theory or EN250 Introduction to Literary Theory — 1 unit.
  • 300 Practice in Comparison — 1 unit.
  • 310 Junior-Senior Seminar — 1 unit.
  • Two courses above 300 level in literature, including one course in a foreign language at level 306 or above and either a second such course in a foreign language or an advanced English course — 2 units.
  • 391 Advanced Literary Theory or 390 Theory and Practice of Translation — 1 unit.
  • 431 Senior Thesis. Prerequisite: Comparative Literature 310 — 1 unit.

Senior students will be permitted to do a creative writing project or a translation project as a thesis under certain conditions and with approval of the program advisor.


Comparative literature majors who have a special interest in the study of literature and other disciplines may elect this program. They must fulfill all the requirements of the comparative literature major AND:

  • A minimum of three units in the other discipline appropriate to their program of study including an introductory or methodological course (one or two units) in the other discipline;
  • Students are strongly encouraged to take topics courses listed as CO 220 or CO 352;
  • The thesis must reflect the course of study; and
  • All of the above courses and the thesis topic must be approved by the program advisor.

Comparative Literature Courses

CO100 Introduction to Comparative Literature

What is literature? What are genres? How should they be read, interpreted and evaluated? What social and personal functions does writing have? How is writing related to oral tradition? How do writers compare themselves to others (admiration and imitation, rejection, transformation)? Study of literary of texts from ancient to modern and from a variety of languages and cultures. Emphasis on close reading of literary texts as well as critical research, analysis, and writing. Meets the Critical Perspectives: The West in Time requirement.

2 units — Davis, Hughes

CO103 Poetry Reading as a Service to the Community

(Not offered 2015-16).

.25 unit

CO118 Order and Chaos in Art

Since very early in the history of the Western philosophical tradition and up to the present, art has often been debated in terms of order versus chaos, and has been considered a privileged arena on which to probe ethical questions. The border between what is beautiful and what is good is a fertile ground for students beginning a liberal arts education. In addition to sharpening an awareness of the fact that even such intimate feelings as the aesthetic experience are theoretically constructed, students will be encouraged to articulate different approaches to account for the artistic phenomenon. An important connection between things personal and things political will come to the fore. Students will be introduced to the thoughts and works of major Western philosophers and poets, from Plato and Aristotle, Nietzsche, Kant and Schiller, and Baudelaire, Gide, and Thoreau. Students will record their personal reflections on art objects and will be encouraged to present them to a community of peers, both in short papers circulated within the class and in class presentations to which other classes will be invited. (A First Year Experience offering, Blocks 5-6. Enrollment is limited to entering first-year students.) (Not offered 2015-16).

Prerequisite: First years Only.

2 units

CO141 Philosophy & Literature

(Not offered 2015-16).

1 unit

CO200 Topics in Comparative Literature

Intermediate level consideration of various topics in comparative literature. Topics might include a single genre, a period or a theme. Texts usually in English but with reference to non-English materials within the competence of students. (May be offered as a January half-block.)

Also listed as Arabic 320 and Classics 220 and Chinese Language 250 and Dance Theory 224 and English 223 and English 280 and Race and Ethnic Studies 200 and Feminist & Gender Studies 206 and Feminist & Gender Studies 220 and Film and Media Studies 200 and Film and Media Studies 205 and French 316 and French 317 and Film Studies 205 and German 211 and German 220 and German 320 and German 334 and Italian 320 and Japanese 252 and Asian Studies 250 and Philosophy 262 and Psychology 120 and Southwest Studies 253 and Theatre 200 and Theatre 221 and Theatre 223 and Theatre 224.

1 unit — , , ,

CO210 Introduction to Literary Theory

Introduction to the major twentieth-century theories of literature, including such approaches as formalism and structuralism, hermeneutics, reception theory, feminist theory, psychoanalytic approaches, post-structuralism and new historicism. Study of important theoretical texts as well as literary works from a variety of language traditions, exploring the ways in which theory informs possibilities of interpretation.

Also listed as English 250.

1 unit

CO220 Topics in Comparative Literature: Literature and Other Disciplines

Intermediate level consideration of various topics in comparative literature with particular emphasis on comparisons between literature and other disciplines. Topics might include a particular period or theme. Texts usually in English but with reference to non-English materials within the competence of students. (May be offered as a January half-block.) (Not offered 2015-16).

.5 to 1.5 units

CO300 Practice in Comparison

Deepening of comparative reading and critical writing begun in 100. Specific topics, themes or genres as well as texts to vary from year to year. Designed to promote the 'practice' and encouragement of more sophisticated textual work, greater perception of literary issues, and clarity of writing.

Prerequisite: consent of instructor or Comparative Literature 100.

Also listed as English 380.

1 unit — Hughes

CO310 Jr. Seminar in Comp Lit:

Preparation for the senior thesis; opportunity for students to discuss their work, the work of their colleagues, and theoretical texts of common interest in a workshop setting. Examination of what it means to engage in the study of Comparative Literature and, in particular, of current issues and debates within the discipline. Contextualizing of students' work within a larger, disciplinary framework.

Prerequisite: Junior standing, reading knowledge of a language other than English, and a 300 level course in English, or other literature, or consent of instructor.

1 unit — Scheiner

CO351 Advanced Topics in Comparative Literature

Since the earliest records India and the West have encountered each other in traveler's logs, historical accounts and a range of literary genres. In the eyes of the other these cultural and geopolitical bodies have been imagined as the end of the earth, land of opportunity, spiritual destination and center of depravity. This class looks at a range of such constructions of the other in texts from India, Pakistan, England, the United States and Portugal to better understand their long interrelated histories. Selected readings may include Rudyard Kipling's Kim, Ruth Jhabvala's Heat and Dust, W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, Gita Mehta's Karma Cola, and Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Prerequisite: 200 or 300-level lit course in CO, EN, or other literatures or consent of instructor.

Also listed as Film and Media Studies 303 and Music 398 and Spanish 307.

1 unit — Arroyo-Rodriguez, Ben-Amots, Krzych

CO352 Topics in Comparative Literature: Literature and Other Disciplines:

Examination of post-communist political and economic changes in Eastern Europe, Central Europe, and Russia following the fall of communism through the lenses of political theory, economic theory, and literature. Exploration of how literature not only reflects and comments on political and economic developments but also enacts them.

Prerequisite: 200 or 300-level literature course in Comparative Literature, English or other literature course; any 100 or 200 level Political Science course or Consent of Instructor.

Also listed as Film and Media Studies 200 and Spanish 316.

1 unit — Ruiz

CO390 Theory and Practice of Translation

This course will combine the practical experience of translating literary texts with reading and discussion in the rich field of translation studies. The first third of the block will be devoted to exploring the questions that translation raises about language, literature, authority, and power, both through readings and through exercises in translation and in translation criticism. The second third of the block will consist of translation workshops and discussion of the more practical issues of translation. We will end the block with a discussion of translations themselves as a cultural force, and with individual research projects on translation. or AN 258, and a 300 level course in a foreign language (or equivalent); or consent of instructor. (Not offered 2015-16).

Prerequisite: Comparative Literature 210 or English 250 or Anthropology 258 & a 300 level Language course (or equivalent) or consent of instructor.

1 unit

CO391 Advanced Literary Theory

In-depth study of important 20th-century movements of thought about literature and art. Topics vary from year to year and may include Russian Formalism, semiotics, New Criticism, phenomenology and hermeneutics, reader response criticism, psychoanalytic theory, feminist theory, post-colonial theory, queer theory and gender theory., and another, 200-level literature course, or consent of instructor.

Prerequisite: 210 (or English 250) or consent of instructor.

Also listed as Italian 321.

1 unit — Davis, Righi

CO400 Independent Readings in Comparative Literature

Opportunity for advanced students to do guided research, specialized topics or thesis preparation.

Prerequisite: consent of instructor or Comparative Literature 300, May be arranged any block.

.5 to 2 units

CO410 Research Topics in Comparative Literature:

Opportunity for students, either individually or as a group, to engage in research in collaboration with and under the supervision of a faculty member.

Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

1 unit

CO431 Senior Thesis

Thesis subject chosen by student and approved by Comparative Literature Program Director. Choice of subject, research, outline and writing completed in this course.

Prerequisite: Comparative Literature 310, Required for Majors.

1 unit — Scheiner