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Comparative Literature

The concentration in Comparative Literature enables students to study an illustrative range of literary topics and to develop a focused critical understanding of how cultures differ from one another and what those differences mean. Our courses provide opportunities to engage with literary works across linguistic and cultural boundaries, exploring the traditions and innovations of the literatures of the world. 

In the spirit of Brown’s Open Curriculum, a concentration in Comparative Literature affords great academic freedom.   Advanced literature courses from any literature department at Brown count for concentration credit. Any language —ancient or modern—supported at Brown may form part of a Comparative Literature concentration program.  All students take a course in literary theory and have the opportunity to complete a senior essay.

There are three concentration tracks  and requirements:

  • Track 1: Comparative Literature in Two Languages
  • Track 2: Comparative Literature in Three Languages
  • Track 3: Literary Translation

Genre and Period Requirements for all concentrators:

  • One course in each literary genre (poetry, narrative, and drama/film)
  • Courses must cover at least three different historical periods (such as, Antiquity; Middle Ages; Renaissance/Early Modern; Enlightenment; Modern: 19th-21st centuries).

Track 1: Concentration in Comparative Literature in two languages

Ten literature courses including:

  • COLT 1210 Introduction to the Theory of Literature
  • At least two advanced (1000-level) courses in each of the two literatures chosen
  • At least five courses from Comparative Literature and other literature departments (up to two 100-level courses may count in this category).

Track 2: Concentration in Comparative Literature in three languages

Ten literature courses including:

  • COLT 1210 Introduction to the Theory of Literature
  • At least two advanced (1000-level) courses in each of the three literatures chosen
  • At least three courses from Comparative Literature and other literature departments (up to two 100-level courses may count in this category).

Track 3: Concentration in Literary Translation

Ten courses including:

  • COLT 1210 Introduction to the Theory of Literature
  • COLT 1710 Literary Translation
  • At least one course in linguistics (including COLT 2720 Literary Translation and history of the language courses).
  • At least one workshop in Literary Arts
  • A least two advanced (1000-level) courses in each of the two literatures chosen
  • At least two courses from Comparative Literature and other literature departments (up to two 100-level courses may count in this category).
  • A senior thesis, eligible for Honors, consisting of substantial work in translation with a critical introduction.  Completing a thesis is required of all Track 3 students but does not guarantee departmental honors.

Notes:

Prerequisites in languages:

Students must demonstrate proficiency in the languages of their selected literatures. We recommend that prerequisite(s) for taking 1000-level courses in their languages be completed by Semester V.

Students working in non-European languages may be allowed more latitude; be sure to be sure to consult a concentration advisor about constructing an individualized plan.

Selecting literature courses in your language areas:

Readings must normally be in the original language. If English is one of your languages, courses need to be devoted chiefly to literature originally written in English.

Honors in Comparative Literature

Students in all tracks may earn honors in the concentration by successfully completing a thesis that is granted honors upon submission.  Completing a thesis in any track does not guarantee departmental honors. Honors are granted upon the recommendation of the two thesis readers.

Tracks 1 & 2.  Theses are analytical studies of literary topics, comparative in nature, based upon research, and usually between 50 and 100 pages. They are usually composed of 3 chapters, with an introduction and a conclusion.  Students are expected to choose a topic that involves work in each of the literatures of their concentration in the original language. 

Track 3. Theses consist of a substantial work in translation with a critical introduction outlining the method used and specific problems encountered, and commenting on the history of the original work together with other translations, if any.

(See detailed Guidelines for Honors Theses in Comparative Literature on Departmental website).

Capstone option

Students in Tracks 1 & 2 not taking Honors are urged, but not required, to complete a senior essay, which may be less extensive in scope and length than the Honors thesis but which should constitute an integration of some aspect of their study.

Transfer of Credits: 

 Two courses per semester of study abroad may be applied to the concentration, up to a total of four courses (for two semesters abroad).  A maximum of five courses from external venues (study abroad; transfer credits from other institutions, including summer study) may be applied to the concentration.

Joint or Double Concentration:

Joint or double concentration programs may also be arranged. Students may also combine a concentration in Comparative Literature with a teaching certificate in English or a modern language. A student interested in such a program should consult the advisor in the Education Department and the advisor in Comparative Literature as early as possible (preferably by Semester V).  In accordance with University policy, double concentrators are allowed a maximum overlap of two courses between concentrations.