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Course Descriptions

Program in Comparative Literature

232 Bryan Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400121
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4121
(434) 924-7105

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. Comparatists believe that we arrive at a deeper understanding of literary forms, genres, and movements by situating them in international contexts and by exploring the ways in which works allude to each other and connect across national boundaries. Students in the Comparative Literature Program study the literatures of several cultures and national traditions, as well as the concepts underlying an understanding of comparative literature itself. Comparative Literature offers a flexible program of study that leaves the student considerable freedom to pursue his or her own interests while also promoting a broad-based, international, and interdisciplinary approach to the study of literature and culture. Faculty associated with the program currently include many distinguished scholars with national or international reputations.

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 relatively small size of the program, 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. Given the immeasurable gains in linguistic proficiency and cultural knowledge that can accrue from an extended stay overseas, students are encouraged to explore the various possibilities offered at the University of Virginia for study abroad.

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 program in comparative literature allows students to combine courses from several literature departments into a coherent program not limited to one language or national tradition. The pre-requisite for the major is a two-semester survey of European literature, CPLT 201-202. Comparative literature majors must take a minimum of two upper division courses in each of two different literature departments. At least two of these courses must include readings in one original language other than English. The remaining literature courses must include at least one seminar at 400-level or above and a course in literary theory (CPLT 351 or approved equivalent). The total number of credits required for the major, beyond the pre-requisites, is 27.

Distinguished Majors Program During the spring of their third year, students may apply to the Distinguished Majors Program in Comparative Literature. Students accepted to the program will participate in CPLT 493, a seminar dealing with an advanced topic in comparative literature. They will also enroll in CPLT 497/498, a two-semester program of reading and writing that concludes in the production of an honors thesis. The total number of credits required for the distinguished major, beyond the pre-requisites, is 30.

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 Rita Felski, English Department, Bryan Hall, , P.O. Box 400121, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4121; (434)924-7105; rf6d@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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