Literary theory, literature, the arts, European languages, literatures, and translation are foundation for our Comparative Literature Program.

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Comparative literature and affiliated faculty are accomplished teachers, scholars and writers whose work appear in respected journals, as articles in scholarly magazines and a range of books. They work closely with students to help them shape their course of study from a wide range of possible materials.

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Program Overview

Comparative literature is the study of literature, theory, and criticism across the boundaries of language, nation, culture, artistic medium, genre, and historical period. Faculty in Oberlin’s program are drawn from the humanities, arts, and social sciences. The curriculum emphasizes these important areas of the discipline:

  • Literary theory
  • Literature and the other arts
  • East-West studies
  • European languages and literatures
  • Translation

Comparative literature lets students to integrate their studies in more than one discipline at once. Because the major requires a combination of depth, breadth, and creativity, students consult with advisors to create individualized curricular pathways that match their specific interests, demonstrate advanced proficiency in at least one other language besides English, and culminate in a capstone or honors project.

Program alumni have attended top graduate programs, received numerous Fulbrights and other fellowships, and gone on to successful careers in such fields as academia, journalism, film, nonprofit organizations, publishing, libraries, the arts, and teaching at all levels.

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Curriculum Overview

Comparative literature offers coursework for the major and minor. Students with an interest in the discipline should consult early on with their advisor and the program director to define an individual area of emphasis or inquiry. Majors are able to shape their course of study from a wide range of possible material. Because many different programs and departments contribute courses for the major and minor, advising plays an especially important role in student planning.

Students must take at least one 400-level course in a foreign language taught in the original language such as French, Spanish, or Russian. For the following four languages, the required level is 300: Greek, Latin, Chinese, or Japanese. Several courses presented for the major might focus on a specific period or movement (the Renaissance, modernism, surrealism), a genre (tragedy, lyric poetry), a problem (literature and the other arts, translation) or an approach (feminism, post-structuralism).

Outside of the classroom, students may attend our Translation Symposium and Lecture that brings in prominent comparatists to share their works and observations. Guest lecturers are also available to assist you in your study of a wide variety of literary works and learn about challenging, contemporary issues. We encourage students to study abroad for a semester or a year in one of the many Oberlin-affiliated programs. Study abroad will enhance your understanding of literature as it relates to language and culture.

Upcoming Comparative Literature Events

Comparative Literature News

Translating More Than Words

August 20, 2015
Annie Valocchi ’15 is spending her summer at Spannocchia, an organic farm and bread and breakfast near Siena, Italy, before she begins teaching English at an Italian high school this fall.