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 COLT 10: Introduction to Comparative Literature.

Talk to us!

Please join us for our Open House, 2-3 pm on September 8 in Reed Hall or get in touch with faculty listed on our website. When in doubt, send an email to Yuliya Komska, Program Chair.

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 07.18 Cyborgs and the Posthuman @ 11(W)

COLT 10: Intro to Comparative Literature:

  • COLT 10.26 Autobiography and Memory @ 2 (F)
  • COLT 10.25 : Story and Storytellers @ 2A (W)
  • COLT 10.27 Border Crossings @10A (S)

COLT 19.01 Translation: Theory and Practice (W)

COLT 19.03: Translation and Censorship @ 10A (F)

COLT 45 Quest for Utopia @ 10 (F)

COLT 51.01: Masterpieces of African Literature(S)

COLT 52.02 New Latin American Cinema @9L (F)

COLT 70.03 European Jewish Intellectuals @ 2A (F)

COLT 72 Global Literary Theory @ 12 (F)



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.


10.26 Autobiography and Memory (F)

This course investigates the relationship between literature, autobiography and memory.  We will read a wide range of autobiographies, fictions, and essays from the 20th and 21st Centuries that reflect on the acts of experiencing and remembering.  These texts also address connected topics such as home, childhood, exile, trauma, violence, prejudice, illness, the urban experience, and the process of writing.  We will start out with the European modernist tradition and trace how it is interpreted and cited at different times and in different places, be it in Germany, Brazil or Egypt.  We will also discuss foundational questions of literary analysis, e.g., what constitutes authorship, how different genres of writing intersect, why edition history and translation matter, and in which ways literary canons are constituted (or questioned).   

19.01 Translation (W)

Translation is both a basic and highly complicated aspect of our engagement with literature. We often take it for granted; yet the idea of meanings lost in translation is commonplace. In this course we work intensively on the craft of translation while exploring its practical, cultural and philosophical implications through readings in theoretical and literary texts. All students will complete a variety of translation exercises, and a substantial final project, in their chosen language.

COLT 19.03 Translation and Censorship

Translation in Ukraine has been inseparable from the formation of modern Ukrainian language and from the national identity of the Ukrainian people as a European nation. For this reason, translation has been a target of censorship and control, both in the Russian empire and later in the Soviet Union. In this course, we will use Ukraine as a case study to trace and discuss the relationship between translation and censorship over several centuries. We will begin with the appearance of Ivan Kotliarevsky's travesty of the Aeneid in the late 18th century, continue on to the 19th-century national Romanticism and the tumultuous 20th century, with such landmark events as the Ukrainian War of Independence, the rise and collapse of the Soviet Union, and the foundation of Independent Ukraine in 1991. This long view is crucial to understanding the current moment. In the 30 years of Independence Ukrainian translation of the literary, religious, and media discourses has played key roles on the battlefield between reactionary colonial mentality and nation-building postcolonial revision of Ukrainian identity. As a former colony of the Tsarist Russian Empire and the Bolsheviks' Soviet neo-empire, Ukraine remains of primary significance for Russia's Eurasian project today, and translations appear to be a mighty weapon in the present-day information wars. 

45 The Quest for Utopia (F)

Thomas More's Utopia  was long considered the ultimate paradigm of  the kind of vision that utopian thought can produce. But there is no question that More's narrative of Utopia  is just a particular example of a very dynamic and complex way to think about historical dead-ends and to envision alternative realities. In this course we will deal with the nature of utopian vision and with the particular dynamics that characterize utopian thought. We will also discuss present day utopias as we try to answer questions like: Is the idea of utopia really dying in our modern world? Are there new utopian visions being generated today, different from More's but with a similar function? What is the relationship between utopia and fantasy, utopia and history, utopia and revolution? What are the utopian constructs of our time and how do they shape our perceptions, our political options, and our social and personal actions?

72.01 Global Literary Theory (F)

Comparative Literature entails conscious engagements with theories of literature, language, and culture from throughout the world. This course ranges across some of the ideas that have been influential in shaping scholarly questions in a variety of languages. It also addresses the global dimensions of theory: rhetorics and ethics of comparison, world literature, and indigenous knowledges.

For more information about the major.

For more information about the minor in Translation Studies.