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History

What was it that led to the formation of a constellation known as Comparative Literature at UMass Amherst?

In the late 1960s, as the University made a transition from a small agriculturally oriented land-grant institution to a full-fledged research university, faculty members of four departments, Irving Rothberg (Spanish), Eva Schiffer (German), Paul Mankin (French), and Alex Page (English) proposed the establishment of a Program in Comparative Literature. This new program would serve to bridge the gaps between fields, to provide a neutral, interdisciplinary space for dialogue and scholarship that would embrace the global without neglecting the local, and to do what our discipline does best: cultivate a curriculum in literature and culture—with ties to the arts—that speaks to students of many linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Our work has earned us a reputation as a continual source of energy and innovation on behalf of the University. The University Translation Center, for example, was founded by faculty in Comparative Literature and is now thriving. Likewise, the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies has long been headed by a faculty member in Comparative Literature. One of our faculty founded the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival in 1993, now in its twenty-third season; we have faculty collaborating with the University without Walls; and we work with Commonwealth College (our University Honors Program) as advisors and teaching faculty.