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Course Descriptions

Program in Comparative Literature

317 Cabell Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400770
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4770
(434) 924-7738

Overview How is the character of Ulysses portrayed in Homer, Dante, Tennyson, and Joyce, and what do the different characterizations say about the civilizations and the authors who created them? Questions of this sort are fundamental to the study of comparative literature. The program is designed for the student whose literary interests lie beyond the confines of any one canon of literature. As the word comparative implies, the program permits students to combine courses from several literature departments into a coherent program, which is neither restricted to one national tradition nor to one language. Students will study the literatures of several cultures and national traditions, as well as the concepts underlying an understanding of comparative literature itself.

Faculty As might be expected with an inter-departmental program, the faculty represent a wide range of departments. Once a student has been accepted into the program, he or she is assigned a faculty mentor who works in an area of the student’s interest. Because of the small size of the program and the competitive nature of acceptance, students and faculty work closely together. There are frequent gatherings-such as guest lectures and informal thesis presentations by fourth year students-where faculty and students can interact.

Students In order to permit majors to develop a sense of participation in a common endeavor and ensure adequate advising, the Program in Comparative Literature is held to fifteen students per class. This means that all courses specific to the program are quite small and intensive.

There are three formal prerequisites for admission to the program. First, students must complete a two-semester survey of Western literature from antiquity to the Renaissance and from the Enlightenment to the present (CPLT 201, 202). These two classes cover Western literature from antiquity to the early twentieth century and emphasize learning through the study of recurring themes, as well as the texts themselves and the personal and social aspects of literature. Second, students must submit a brief writing sample that highlights their skills in literary analysis. Third, prospective majors must demonstrate sufficient interest in the goals of the program through an interview with a member of the comparative literature faculty.

Students who have graduated with a major in this program have been accepted to top graduate programs in comparative literature, English, Spanish, German, French, and classics, as well as top law and business schools. Moreover, the program is also an excellent foundation for a career in international relations.

Requirements for Major The major in comparative literature permits a student to combine courses from several literature departments into a coherent program not restricted to one national tradition or to one language. Students selecting this major take at least two advanced courses in a national literature other than English or American, with readings in the original language, and three additional major literature courses, one of which focuses on some other national literature(s). In the fall semester of the third and fourth year, all majors take a required seminar (or an authorized equivalent) that prepares them for conceiving and writing a thesis in their final year. A reading course is required in both semesters of the fourth year to ensure progress on the thesis. The total requirement, including the two program seminars and the year of thesis writing, is 27 credits beyond the prerequisites.

Requirements for Minor The minor consists of 12 credits beyond the prerequisite, including CPLT 351. Each student’s program must embrace at least two national literatures and must be approved by the director.

For more information, contact Elisabeth Ladenson, Department of French, 317 Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400770, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4770; (434) 924-7738; el3a@virginia.edu; www.virginia.edu/complit.

Course Descriptions


CPLT 201, 202 - (4) (Y)
History of European Literature from Antiquity to the Renaissance and from the Enlightenment to the Present
Surveys European literature from antiquity to the twentieth century, with emphasis on some recurring themes, the texts themselves, and the meaning of literature in broader historical contexts.

CPLT 351 - (3) (Y)
Topics in Comparative Literature
Explores a topic in literary theory and criticism. The seminar topic changes from year to year. Generally offered in the fall semester and required of third-year majors.

CPLT 493 - (3) (Y)
Seminar for Majors
Offered in the fall semester primarily for fourth-year majors. The seminar topic normally changes from year to year.

CPLT 497-498 - (6) (S)
Fourth Year Thesis
Two-semester course in which the student prepares and writes a thesis with the guidance of a faculty member. In the fall semester (497), the student develops a proposal and works out methodological problems in the form of a preliminary essay; in the spring (498), the student writes and submits the thesis in two drafts.

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