6: College of Arts and Sciences

General Information | Academic Information | Departments and Programs | Faculty

Afro-American and African Studies | Anthropology | Archaeology | Art | Asian and Middle Eastern
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Program in Comparative Literature

Course Descriptions

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 both the literatures of several cultures and national traditions, as well as the concepts underlying an understanding of comparative literature itself.

Faculty   In addition to the many faculty who teach courses throughout the University which are applicable to the comparative literature program, there are currently eleven faculty members who serve as mentors for students. A faculty mentor is assigned once a student has been accepted into the program. As might be expected with an inter-departmental program, the faculty represent a wide range of departments. Because of the small size of the program and the competitive nature of acceptance, the students and faculty work together in an environment of mutual respect and concern for literature.

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

There are two formal prerequisites for admission to the program. First, students must complete a two-semester overview that surveys western literature from Homer to Milton and from Milton to Proust. 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 study of the texts themselves and the personal and social aspects of literature. Second, 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. In addition, the program has graduated students who have been accepted to top law schools and business schools; 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 which 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 assure progress on the thesis. The total requirement, including the two program seminars and the year of thesis writing, is 27 credits beyond the prerequisites.

Entry into the Program in Comparative Literature is limited to fifteen students per class. The formal prerequisites for admission to the program are: (1) satisfactory completion of CPLT 201, 202; (2) sufficient interest in the goals of the program as demonstrated in an interview with a member of the committee. A faculty mentor is assigned to each student major in the program.

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.

Additional Information   For more information, contact Elisabeth Ladenson, Department of French, 317 Cabell Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-7738; el3a@virginia.edu.

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