Courses Recommended For First Year Students

Why Comparative Literature?

Reading, translating, thinking about how we use languages, asking questions about what's just and beautiful—these things help us build communities, and they are fundamental to our everyday lives. Comparative Literature takes root in them and helps you share and grow your interest in or commitment to them.

What is Comparative Literature?

Comparative Literature is an exciting interdisciplinary program that promotes the study of literatures in different languages and encourages reading in translation. It also explores relationships between literature and other areas of culture, disciplines, and practices, such as the visual and performing arts, philosophy, history, politics, religion, and the sciences. Among the critical perspectives that it fosters are rhetoric and poetics, translation and reception, film theory and media studies, colonial and postcolonial studies, theories of ethnic and national identities, gender and queer theory, and psychoanalysis.

Courses in Comparative Literature typically have no pre-requisites and satisfy a range of college requirements. We welcome everyone, regardless of your class standing, in our topics courses with high course numbers. We encourage you to explore the breadth of what we offer and to meet our wonderful faculty. If you would like to be more methodical about exploring Comparative Literature, we recommend either COLT 1: Read the World or COLT 10: Introduction to Comparative Literature.

Talk to us!

If you are looking ahead to a possible major in Comparative Literature, this is a good time to talk to us and your first-year advisor about developing competence in at least one language other than your mother tongue. This will help you could work with original materials, which we do require of all our majors. If you are already competent in two languages or more (congratulations!), Comparative Literature is a meaningful way to put your knowledge to use.

If you think about translation as an everyday thought process, as part of yours or your family's  life in society, and a literary activity—or if you would like to start thinking about it—talk to us about taking translation-themed courses in Comparative Literature and explore our Translation Studies minor.


Course Descriptions for First Year Students

First-year students are allowed to enroll in any of our courses:

COLT 01. Read the World @ 2 (F)

COLT 10: Intro to Comparative Literature:

  • COLT 10.28: Children on the Streets @10 (F) (F23 will be held in Reed 209) syllabus.pdf
  • COLT 10.11 : Male Friendship @ 10A (W)
  • COLT 10.27: Border Crossings @10A (S)

COLT 19.03: Translation and Censorship in Eastern Europe @10A (F) syllabus.pdf

COLT 19.05: Workshop in Literary Translation @3B (F) syllabus.pdf

COLT 46.01: The Jewish Family @ 2A (F) syllabus.pdf

COLT 64: Nazis, Neonazis, Antifa and Others: Elploring Responses to the Nazi Past @ 2 (F) syllabus.pdf


01. Read the World (F)

Do you know how to read? Faces. Words. Pictures. Bodies. Games. Books. People. What are you really doing when you read the world? This course teaches comparative methods designed to confront the (mis) understandings and (mis) translations that constitute reading across the world's languages, locations, cultures, historical periods, and expressive forms. Classwork consists of hands-on exercises that engage ancient and modern myths and materials drawn from various media: text, movies, video games, anime, and digital arts.

COLT 10.28: Children on the Streets (F)- this course will be on the timetable soon.

Child homelessness has been viewed as a persistent social problem throughout the modern world. Children living, working, and struggling to survive have been a visible part of the streetscape of New York, London, São Paulo and other major cities, attracting the attention of writers, artists, filmmakers and anthropologists. Some current and former homeless children have also found the means to depict their own experiences with homelessness. In this course we will be examining a wide range of texts featuring homeless children as protagonists. These texts will be an entryway into broader discussions about class, race, and ethnicity; the meaning of citizenship; gender and sexuality, and representations of the modern city. How have artists complicated the relationship between activism and aesthetics? What can we learn from comparing texts of different time periods, genres, and nationalities that treat a similar subject matter? We will be studying a diverse range of materials, including fairy tales, documentaries, novels, and ethnographies from the United States, Brazil, Morocco, England, and elsewhere.

19.03 Translation and Censorship in Eastern Europe (F)

Translation has been a target of censorship and control over several centuries. In this course, we will use Ukraine as a case study to trace and discuss the relationship between translation and censorship, with close references to other countries of Eastern Europe, in particular the Baltic states under Soviet rule and those belonging to soviet bloc, such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc., as well as new countries appeared in the place of old Soviet entities.  Carries the LRP language requirement and SOC distributive. 

COLT 19.05: Workshop in Literary Translation (F)

The course will function as a specialized workshop for students who would like to explore the craft of literary translation. In addition to opportunity to hone their translation skill by practicing the craft, students will get the chance to take part in discussions about the merit and quality of works of literary translation by studying and providing feedback on translations prepared by their peers. Occasionally, the instructor will distribute short samples of published translations or selections of texts of translation theory for consideration, to complement questions that emerge from classroom discussion. Carries the LRP language requirement and the INT or LIT distributive. 

COLT 46.01: The Jewish Family (F)

This course will explore the various narrative forms - novel, short story, essay, self-portraiture, drama, film, television (situation comedy) - in which the Jewish family is represented. In an attempt to transcend cultural stereotypes, we will examine how the rhetorical configurations of texts describe the varieties of Jewishness and the significance of Jewish cultural identity as embodied in the family. Special attention will be paid to the rewriting of biblical texts in twentieth century literature and the ethical issues they dramatize (particularly the keeping of the covenant). Examples will be drawn from a variety of literary traditions: American, Brazilian, French, German, Hebrew, South African, and Yiddish. Carries the LIT distributive. 

For more information about the major.

For more information about the minor in Translation Studies.