Comparative Literature

Curriculum and Learning Goals

Comparative Literature offers students a unique opportunity to study literary texts and the interactions between literature and other disciplines, including the arts, sciences, social sciences, and philosophy, across cultural and linguistic boundaries. By fostering an intellectual curiosity about and attentiveness toward the interconnections between the study of literary history, criticism, theory, and poetics, the interdisciplinary study of comparative literature requires students to read and analyze literature in the context of multicultural relationships in international and interdisciplinary contexts. Through the systematic comparison of literary works (broadly defined) from more than one culture or era, students of comparative literature develop a sophisticated understanding of what literature is; through the acquisition and application of interpretive methods gained from the study of related disciplines such as art, music, history, film, linguistics, science, and philosophy, they learn how to analyze texts in their sociological, political, linguistic and cultural contexts.

In consultation with an advisor, students who minor in Comparative Literature are expected to design an intellectually coherent program of study that focuses on the literary works and cultural contexts of at least two distinct cultures. While courses in fulfillment of this requirement may be drawn from a wide range of disciplines, the goal of the minor is to enable students to put the texts of different cultures and eras—and their contexts—in dialogue. This cultural and literary juxtaposition will culminate in a required capstone independent study designed by the student, approved by an advisor of the Comparative Literature program, and supervised by a faculty member of the student’s choice.

In keeping with The American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)’s definition of Comparative Literature, students minoring in Comparative Literature at TCNJ are “joined not by a national, linguistic, or methodological investment held in common,” but by a shared interest in the intercultural, interdisciplinary, and multicultural study of texts and their contexts and by an “interest in comparison as both a theoretical and a practical matter.” Like the Comparative Literature program at the University of Maryland, TCNJ’s program “embraces the study of nations and cultures around the globe through a concept of ‘text’ that extends beyond literary genres to include film and television, social discourses and practices, and other forms of cultural expression” and, like the program at the University of California, Berkeley, focuses on the nature of literature itself: “How and why is literature divided into different genres or different periods? How is literature situated within a given society? How is literature different from other domains such as philosophy or psychoanalysis or politics?”

Learning Goals

At the end of their program of study, Comparative Literature minors should be able to

  • analyze, interpret, and synthesize literary texts and traditions from a critical, theoretical, multinational and interdisciplinary perspective,
  • demonstrate the ability to look beyond their own linguistic, national, social and/or cultural horizons
  • engage in the practice of comparative literary analysis by writing about literary texts or other symbolic codes, contexts, and traditions from within a comparative framework and drawing conclusions about the significance of literary and cultural intersections and divergences/differences,
  • pursue a sustained investigation of the idea of literature itself by examining how literature has been defined in ways that are culturally, politically, philosophically, and/or sociologically influenced (by factors including, but not limited to, social class, physical and mental ability, race, ethnicity, and gender),
  • analyze, from a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective, how and why literary texts are categorized (in terms of traditions, periods, genres and movements), and how and why various texts, ideas, cultures, or traditions may have been marginalized or excluded from prevailing cultural definitions of “literature” or “the literary”
  • demonstrate familiarity with a significant body of texts within – and on the margins of – at least two literary traditions,
  • demonstrate awareness of the politics and pragmatics of literary translation,
  • demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the problematics of cultural diversity,
  • demonstrate awareness of the historical contexts and cultural specificity of texts and to the development of literary traditions, cultural values, modes of thought, and uses of language over time and across national boundaries,
  • explore and critique the cultural and historical frameworks that structure and influence literary texts and their contexts.

Students who meet these goals can employ the skills and information learned in their Comparative Literature courses to further their careers in a wide range of fields, including education, law, creative writing, international business, marketing, librarianship, editing, technical writing, publishing, communications, translation, history, international studies, literature, and philosophy.

Requirements for the Minor (5 course units):

ASL103, ARA201, CHI201, FRE240, FRE241, GER201, GRE202, ITL240, JPN201, LAT201, RUS252, SPA241, or the equivalent in another language

Three elective courses, chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Comparative Literature program. At least two of these electives must be 300- or 400-level courses.

CMP498: Capstone Independent Research in Comparative Literature

For more information, contact

Prof. Harriet Hustis, Dept. of English, Coordinator of Comparative Literature (hustis@tcnj.edu).