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Major in Comparative Literature

In order to obtain the BA degree in Comparative Literature offered at UMass Amherst, the eligible student should choose one of the three tracks offered. All emphasize analysis and comparison of works from several national literary traditions (one of which may be English), and the study of these works in their original language. The third track also explores the relation of literature to an extraliterary discipline, such as sociology, history, music or film.

Why major in Comparative Literature?

  • flexibility in shaping a course of study to fit students' own intellectual goals
  • excellent student-faculty ratio
  • intellectual diversity and a global curriculum
  • lively in-class discussions
  • regular advising sessions and a supportive environment
  • strong general education in the humanities

Skills Learned by students of Comparative Literature:

  • analytical, reading, writing, and advanced research skills
  • strong skills in at least one language other than English
  • ability to think critically in multiple languages
  • vision to develop new frameworks
  • deep appreciation for language, literature, and culture
  • PASSION, CURIOSITY, CREATIVITY

The Major Tracks

I. General Language-Literature

  • 6 courses in Comparative Literature (up to 2 may be at the 200 level, or 1 at the 100 level and 1 at the 200 level)
  • 4 upper-level courses in the major literature
  • 3 upper-level courses in the minor literature

II. Advanced Language-Literature with Work in a Third Language

Either:

  • 6 courses in Comparative Literature (up to 2 may be at the 200 level, or 1 at the 100 level and 1 at the 200 level)
  • 4 upper-level courses in the major literature
  • 2 upper-level courses in the minor literature.
  • 2 courses or 6 credits of elementary work in a third language, preferably ancient.

Or:

  • 6 courses in Comparative Literature (up to 2 may be at the 200 level, or 1 at the 100 level and 1 at the 200 level)
  • 3 upper-level courses in the major literature
  • 2 upper-level courses in the minor literature
  • 2 upper-level courses in a third literature

III. Literature and a Related Discipline

  • 6 courses in Comparative Literature (up to 2 may be at the 200 level, or 1 at the 100 level and 1 at the 200 level)
  • 3 upper-level courses in the major literature
  • 2 upper-level courses in the minor literature
  • 4 upper-level courses in the department of the related discipline

For a full description of film study as a related discipline, see Film Analysis.


Definitions and Stipulations

I. Related Departments

  1. National Literature Departments (English, French, German, Spanish, etc.): Only upper-level courses in literature (not literature in translation, film in translation, culture, advanced grammar, or conversation) may be counted for the major. To define "upper-level," CL recognizes each Department's definition as applied to its own major. Usually, courses numbered 240 or higher (200 for English) will count towards the major. Each student, however, should consult with an advisor as soon as any related questions arise.
  2. Other Departments in the Humanities or Social or Natural Sciences: For those students who opt for the program in literature and a related discipline, credit towards the CL major is usually granted only to those courses which count towards the major in the related discipline.
  3. Creative Writing: One course may be counted upon written petition to the Undergraduate Studies Committee in Comparative Literature.

 

II. Comparative Literature

  1. All Comparative Literature courses at or above the 300 level will count towards the major. In addition, one 100-level CL course and one 200-level CL course or two 200-level CL courses may be counted.
  2. The 4-credit course "The History of Literary Criticism" (CL394HI) is required of all majors.
  3. Students are strongly encouraged to take courses that focus on diverse geographical and/or linguistic regions, historical periods, and genres or media.
  4. No more than 6 credits of Independent Study courses may be counted towards the major.
  5. The Junior Year Writing requirement is fulfilled by a semester-long, junior-year writing course offered CHECK.

 

III. G.P.A.

  1. A minimum G.P.A. of 2.5 is required in all courses counting towards the major.
  2. No courses counting toward the major may be taken pass/fail.
  3. No courses graded lower than “C” may be counted toward the major.

IV. Honors

Comparative Literature is pleased to have several Commonwealth Scholars among our majors. See the Honors page, and contact your advisor or the PROGRAM Department Honors Coordinator for information.

 


Career paths for Comparative Literature majors

advertising • branding • copyeditor • corporate communications • consulting • education • film and television industry • graduate school • human resources • interpreter • IT journalism • law librarian • literary agent • marketing • medicine • multi-media production • online market research • proofreader • paralegal • publishing • public health • real estate broker • translator • theater industry • freelance writer • speech writer • technical writer

Some of the languages spoken in Comparative Literature at UMass

Arabic • Catalan • Early Irish • English • French • German • Greek • Hungarian • Italian • Latin • Malay • Polish • Portuguese • Russian • Spanish • Wolof • Yiddish

Comparative Literature majors have friends around the world

Our majors often study abroad during a semester, summer, or academic year.

Related programs at UMass

Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies • Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies • Medieval Studies Certification Program • Translation Center

Comparative Literature majors are often double majors in

Art History • Chinese • Classics • Communication • English • French • German • Italian • Japanese • Judaic Studies • Linguistics • Spanish


What Majors Say

"I chose Comparative Literature because of the freedom I felt it gave me in exploring a more interdisciplinary study of literature. I came to UMass as an English major, but after taking a CompLit class and reading more about the major, I decided a switch to CompLit would be the best choice for me. Every day I am so glad that I chose CompLit as my major, because it has made my experience at UMass the best it can be."
— Taryn Fernacz (Major: Comparative Literature, Certificate: Film Studies, Extracurriculars: Peer Mentor)

"I am a Comparative Literature major because I had been taking electives that interested me as an underclassman and I discovered that these courses all fell under the major. The nature of Comparative Literature is that it is fluid and adaptable, and it has been so nice to explore my interests through courses that are not regularly connected. And there are real gems within the department itself—I find that the first CompLit courses I took, two film courses, have taught me ways of thinking which I use to conceptualize materials in other classes and in reading and writing and film- and play- watching outside of school." 
— James Zebooker (Major: Comparative Literature, Minor: Latin, Certificate: Film Studies, Extracurriculars: Improv Comedy (Toast!), acting, screen and playwriting )

"I came to UMass as a Spanish major completely unsure of what direction I wanted to go with my studies, especially after graduating. My interest in translation and interpreting is what originally brought me to Comparative Literature, because it was the only major that focused on both these areas of language studies. The way the Comparative Literature major is structured made it easy for me to combine it with my Spanish major but also focus on many of my own personal interests. Besides the classes in translation and interpreting, classes like “The History of Animation” and some of my favorite English courses counted towards the major. I highly recommend that anyone in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts check out Comparative Literature if only for the great professors and the fun classes that you won't find anywhere else on campus." 
— Sarah Armstrong (Major: Spanish and Comparative Literature, Certificate: Interpreting Studies, Extracurriculars:Student Co-ops/ Earthfoods )