Comparative Literature, LLC


The Major in Comparative Literature

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Comparative literature is the international, interdisciplinary study of literary and other texts as modes of human expression. Courses in Comparative Literature examine literary works from many national traditions, and also study the relations between literature and the other arts. The Comparative perspective includes insights from philosophy, history, linguistics, sociology, the media, and the other human sciences.

Three tracks lead to the B.A. degree in Comparative Literature. 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 COMPLIT

  • 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

What COMPLIT majors have

  • 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
  • P A S S I O N, C U R I O S I T Y, C R E A T I V I T Y

Possible career paths for COMPLIT 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 - personal assistant - publishing - public health - real estate broker translator - theater industry - writer: freelance, speech, technical

Some of the languages spoken in COMPLIT at UMass

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

COMPLIT 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 - Interdepartamental Program in Film Studies - Medieval Studies Certification Program - Translation Center

COMPLIT majors are often double majors in

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

The Major Tracks

I. General Language-Literature

  • 15 upper-level credits in Comparative Literature
  • 12 upper-level credits in the major literature
  • 12 upper-level credits in the minor literature

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


  • 15 upper-level credits in Comparative Literature
  • 12 upper-level credits in the major literature
  • 9 upper-level credits in the minor literature.
  • 6 credits of elementary work in a third language, preferably ancient.


  • 15 upper level credits in Comparative Literature
  • 12 upper-level credits in the major literature
  • 6 upper-level credits in the minor literature
  • 6 upper-level credits in a third literature

III. Literature and a Related Discipline

  • 15 upper-level credits in Comparative Literature
  • 12 upper-level credits in the major literature
  • 6 upper-level credits in the minor literature
  • 12 upper-level credits 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) woll 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. Courses at or above the 300 level will count towards the major. In addition, one 200-level CL course may be counted: the student must make arrangements beforehand to do reading in one or more languages other than English.
  2. TThe 4-credit course "The History of Literary Criticism" (CL394HI) is required of all majors.
  3. A Senior CHECK
  4. Students may count a maximum of two film courses for the CL segment of the major, one of which must be 400-level or above.
  5. Students are urged to take one non-Western humanities course, or one in Afro-American Studies..
  6. No more than 6 credits of Independent Study courses may be counted towards the major.
  7. The Junior Year Writing requirement is fulfilled by a semester-long, junior-year writing course offered CHECK.


  1. A minimum Q.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.

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 )

"I choose Comparative Literature because I believe that having a literary voice is the best way to communicate. CompLit allows for the understanding of other cultures and their interests and struggles on an international level. I believe CompLit is the best way to learn about other countries and cultures (without traveling of course) through informative memoirs, essays and other literary texts and it gives us a way to understand the choices of our modern world. For example, in "Imagining the City" with Professor Galasso, I learned so much about the poverty in Mexico City through various films and texts we read."

Whitney Heuschkel
( Major: Comparative Literature, Minor: English )


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