The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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What is Comp Lit?

What Our Students Say

I’m a fervent believer that literature reifies the essence of life. To me, regardless of the form it assumes or the place from which it hails, literature of all kind is invaluable. Comp Lit transcends discipline, geography, nationality, culture, and language, yielding the most extraordinary and holistic academic experience in the literary domain and beyond. The major magnificently enhances your breadth of study. It is complementary to any and all other curriculums no matter how divergent they may initially appear, though I’ve come to find its utility is supremely underrated.

As an aspiring graphic novelist, I felt it was necessary to study literature in order to learn about storytelling in an academic setting. I chose Comparative Literature as my second major because it allows me to do that across a wide variety of media, rather than strictly texts, and also lets me pursue my passions for language and art history. It is a flexible and dynamic course of study that enriched both my art practice and worldview. The advisors and professors were very helpful in integrating my Comp Lit curricula with my primary Studio Art major, which is demanding at times.

I had not imagined that I would be a Comp Lit major until somehow I went to the program director’s office in the second semester of my sophomore year. I still remember the time when she looked over my SPIRE page and said that I seemed so fitting for a Comp Lit major—my passion for languages and literature, and my identity as an international student from China.

I came to UMass Amherst knowing I wanted a career in translation, while also being interested in both linguistics and literature. So I began taking courses from both the Linguistics and Comparative Literature program, where I was introduced to the major and its different paths—one of which is the related disciplines track, where I study Comparative Literature, along with two languages, and, in my case, Linguistics.

I started out studying political science, then I changed to Comparative Literature. The moment I met with the program director, I knew it was for me. It was flexible, meaning I could focus on learning other languages, or doing a related discipline. My favorite part of Comparative Literature has definitely been the coursework and taking Spanish literature courses. In terms of job prospects, Comparative Literature has given me an edge because of the interests I have been able to pursue. Also, pursuing my interests has helped me better understand what I want to do in my career.

The Comp Lit program at UMass enabled me to explore themes and works that I had previously only watched with interest but never took the opportunity to engage with. In the past two semesters, I was given the chance to examine medieval literary works across multiple traditions, which was certainly an eye-opening experience in its own right. But as a Linguistics student, I was also motivated to research into the languages in which the original texts were composed.

The beauty of Comparative Literature is how it taught me to hone my intellectual focus without sacrificing my multidisciplinary interests. Even when my curiosity ran down numerous rabbit holes—translating Latin, completing a work-study at the Yiddish Book Center, spelunking through the publishing world in independent studies—Comp Lit guaranteed each one had a role to play in building a greater understanding of the way things are.