Curricular Innovation

We in the Comparative Literature Department at UMass Amherst pride ourselves in maintaining cutting-edge standards for our curriculum and classroom approach. By collaborating with other departments and institutions, employing media and communications technologies, and thinking beyond the bounds of the conventional classroom, Comparative Literature is continuously developing and improving our programs through creativity and innovation.

We also continue to build on our international strengths which enhance the educational experience for all our students. Key events in our community include the International Shakespeare Conference, the "The Content of the Form: Interventions into the Representation of War" sympoisium,  and the Multicultural Film Festival. The International Shakespeare Conference had over 30 participants from 22 countries and was well attended by our undergraduates. The symposium "The Content of the Form: Interventions into the Representation of War," brought together artists and scholars from the United States, Bosnia, and Cataluna and was extremely well-attended by Comparative Literature students and members of the local community. The Multicultural Film Festival, which brings not just films, but directors, producers, and actors from all over the globe, was and is consistently well attended by students from Comparative Literature and many departments. Our undergraduate journal mOtherTongue publishes creative writing and art by undergraduates in Comparative Literature and the Five College area. 

The Comparative Liteerature Department is also currently searching for a Director of Translation Training and Distance Learning, who should be in place no later than the Fall 2017.


We are currently  in the process of revising our undergraduate studies program, through which we highlight both new and redesigned courses. In addition to those courses listed below, other new courses are currently in the planning stages. These include Jim Hicks' "War Stories" and Annette Lienau's "Arabic Film," as well as new 300- and 400-level courses including a 300-level course on "What is Comparative Literature" and one or two Integrative Experience 400-level courses specializing in medieval, immigration, film, or translation, depending on the number of majors in those areas. Furthermore, our distance learning offerings are on the rise with more and more online versions. 

New Courses

  • CL 101H "International Horror" taught by Shastri Akella
    • Through an atmospheric approach to horror, we'll broaden our understanding of what counts as horrific. Some questions asked will be: What evokes fear and why? How does placement shape the specific depictions and meanings of fear?  How do disparate fear-representations find a universal echo of terror?
  • CL 291I "Images of the City: Istanbul" taught by Hande Gürses
    • Explore Istanbul's global role as a bridge between two continents, both physically and culturally - how this metaphorical identity has shaped and reshaped the conception of the 'self' and the 'other.'
  • CL 340 "Mystical Literature" taught by Jessica Barr
    • Explore mystical literature of various traditions. Reading these texts as literary expressions of union or contact with the transcendent, we analyze the ways in which they seek to capture what is usually considered to be an inexpressible, non-verbal experience. 
  • CL 391CN "Cross-cultural Communication and Neuroscience" taught by Maria Tymoczko
    • Neuroscience is transforming the way we understand perception, memory, learning, attention, and decisions. How do these new discoveries change the ways we understand cross-cultural communication, including literature as it moves across cultural boundaries? 
  • CL 691MA "The Idea of Writing in the Middle Ages" taught by Jessica Barr
    • In the Middle Ages, the word "author" meant something quite different from what we understand it to mean today. Explore the concepts of authorship and subject-construction through medieval visionary and dream literature, vernacular and Latin prologues, and romance. 

Updated Courses

  • CL 122 "Spiritual Autobiography" taught by Jessica Barr
    • Explore the individual psyche and growth of self-consciousness; what is the dark night of the soul and the role of suffering in personal growth?
  • CL 391SF "International Science Fiction Cinema" taught by Christopher Couch
    • Interested in both technical and cultural mplications of international cinema? Explore the world of science fiction through the art of SciFi film from the late 19th century to today. 
  • CL 393D "Native American Narrative Art" taught by Christopher Couch
    • Culture and performance, community and nation, human life and the natural world are all deeply ingrained in Native American Indian visual tradition. Explore how artistic and pictorial traditions are intimately bound to stories and histories of nations and families, religious and mythological conceptualization, and philisophical reflecton. 
  • CL 581/582 "Interpreting and Translation Research and Practice I/II" taught by Moira Inghilleri
    • The task of translating and interpreting texts is understood to include a social, cultural and ethical component as well as a linguistic one. This two-part course series introduces students to current research in translation and interpreting studies and to basic practical skills.

Online Courses

  • CL121 "International Short Story" 
  • CL 122 "Spiritual Autobiography"
  • CL 141 "Themes of Good and Evil"
  • CL 593 "Medical Interpretation" (offers training to both UMass students and practicing medical interpreters throughout the state)
  • CL 397G "Death and Dying" (medical humanities course)
  • CL 397M "The Mind and its Discontents" (medical humanities course)